The Cleveland Humanities Festival is underway at venues throughout Northeast Ohio. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on the series of lectures, recitals and readings that will examine the historical impact of immigration through the lens of the humanities.
The artistic and educational events include an opening keynote from Harvard history Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., as well as playwrights and authors discussing their work and their cultural heritage.
This year’s festival is being put together by Peter Knox, director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. He says the topic of immigration was chosen last year and is not a reaction to recent immigration orders issued by the White House.
“I mean, this is not a political event. This is not about President Trump’s immigration policies. Immigration is not a recent phenomenon; it’s been going on for millennia. One of the things that people might want to consider as they debate the topic now is to consider the historical context.”
Knox hopes people from all political viewpoints attend the Humanities Festival, although he says there will likely not be speakers advocating for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“When we were planning this event, I think it’s safe to say that the wall was a distant object in the imagination. And so there wasn’t any attempt to try to highlight one particular point of view or another.”
Knox adds that former Mexican President Vicente Fox will give a free address on immigration reform as part of the festival.
“When we first invited President Fox, we invited him as the former president of Mexico who is the head of a cultural institute he’s founded. And we were hoping to hear about issues from the perspective of the former head of state of the country on our southern border and issues related to that. Obviously, that’s taken on a different color in light of the U.S. election and President Fox’s colorful expression of some of his opinions of the policies advocated by our current president.”
Professor Knox adds that the budget put forth yesterday by President Donald Trump – which would cut all funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities – seems to be less about finances and more about ideology. He is “cautiously optimistic,” however, that House Republicans will part company with the Trump administration, given what Knox sees as strong support for the humanities in Congress.
Events in the Cleveland Humanities Festival run through April 24, and also include an evening of Scandinavian folk music and a TED Talk on “A Tale of Two Americas.” Sign-up information is here.