Ancestors unKnown supports the Humanities

 In Current events

By Dana Saxon

With so much anxiety and fury circulating about the President’s recently proposed budget, it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the calls to action. So many important agencies and programs are threatened by this administration. If they get their way, the United States will be nearly unrecognizable by 2019.

While I’ll make every effort to fight against all of these shameful proposals, I’d like to offer a special shout of support for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Founded in 1965, NEH is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the U.S. According to their website, “NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans.” With an annual budget of less than $150 million, they fund books, lectures, documentaries, archiving projects, and all types of education initiatives. Just a browse through the NEH Grant Opportunities is an inspiring exercise.

Ancestors unKnown received an early show of support from NEH with a small grant in 2013, just when I needed the encouragement to get started.

When I first had the inkling of an idea about Ancestors unKnown, the organization’s focus and name were still unclear. I referred to it as “some kind of student-oriented program that teaches young people about where they come from.” The lack of name was good enough for an idea that might not even have a chance to succeed. Who would fund something like this? How could I be sure people would care about an organization that prioritized history and heritage?

Naturally, I looked at the availability of government funding. Because, if I could diversify the organization’s funding with some private and government funds, the idea could have a chance (as annoying as managing a government grant may be, they can be substantial enough to make the headache worthwhile).

So what’s the right agency to ask for funding, the Department of Education? Nope.

NEH clearly stood out as the fairy tale funder for Ancestors unKnown, with its delightful mentions of history, heritage and education all over its website. I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged. With this number of opportunities that I could access in the future, my budding organization felt instantly validated.

I started small, receiving a mini-grant from NEH shortly after the organization was named Ancestors unKnown. And since then, I’ve kept an eye on the big grants, foolishly waiting for the right time to apply for a larger sum of money. Because another thing happened when I discovered NEH funding priorities – I took for granted that these opportunities would always exist.

Last week, NEH Chairman, William D. Adams, released a statement in response to the President’s budget proposal:

“The budget requests no funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for fiscal year 2018, which begins on October 1.

We are greatly saddened to learn of this proposal for elimination, as NEH has made significant contributions to the public good over its 50-year history.”

NEH’s elimination is a heartbreaking prospect.

So please, for all of humanity and the humanities, include NEH in your outcry against the many issues that we’re facing. Call, mail, visit or picket your local congress people. Let them know this matters before it’s lost in the troubling shuffle.

Our history is at stake.

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