Council Launches Initiative to Create Cultural Conversations

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. / May 31, 2017 – Amid burgeoning cultural conflict, a growing need for civil discourse is the focal point of an initiative Journey in the New South: Conversations on the Legacy of Race and Ethnicity in North Carolinapresented by the North Carolina Humanities Council (the Council).

The Council and three community partners are collaborating to present public humanities projects that advance dialogue around issues facing certain cultures, identities and taboo topics. All projects have the same objective: to create safe spaces for cross-cultural interactions that foster a deeper understanding of the challenges and contributions of others.

“With its diverse population, North Carolina offers a rich environment to capture stories of race and ethnicity,” said Paula Watkins, the Council’s executive director. “The public humanities provide a social and historical context for contemporary issues and we are proud to offer both financial support and guidance to facilitate these conversations.”

Details of Journey in the New South programs:

  • SpiritHouse, a Durham, NC-based organization that works to empower those affected by discrimination and the school-to-prison pipeline, is hosting Harm-Free Zone Southern Regional Book Study. Over four months, 160 individuals from 48 organizations across 14 states will read and discuss Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice In Prisons Around the World, in which author Dr. Baz Dreisinger describes her research of incarceration that includes prisons in North Carolina and the south. The Council sponsored a meet-and-greet with Dr. Dreisinger on May 7 and is now helping plan a large-scale convening of all participating regional study groups on June 27. “We hope that by creating this opportunity to study and discuss the institutional polices of incarceration and the damage of systemic racism surrounding people of color, we can create a Durham that is more accountable to all its residents,” said Nancy Wilson, SpiritHouse’s executive director.
  • Eboné Lockett, a high school teacher in Charlotte, NC, is leading a three-month after-school program designed to engage more than 150 students from a range of area schools in open and honest dialogue about race, ethnicity and gender. Students will receive interactive training, attend discussion sessions and facilitate student forums, in anticipation of a multicultural festival being held later this summer. “These events and workshops will focus on teaching communication and leadership skills,” Lockett said, “and will allow students of all backgrounds to come together and think critically about their shared human experiences.”
  • The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC) will co-host Latinx en el Nuevo Sur, a conference on June 2-3 at UNC Charlotte to explore questions about what it means to be Latinx in the South and offer professional training and networking among Latinx arts and culture leaders from nine southern states.

“The public humanities help people discover and develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their communities,” Watkins said. “Journey in the New South reflects the variety of ways the Council works to achieve that mission, by providing funding, fostering new partnerships and tapping resources and relationships cultivated during our 45 years of work across North Carolina.”

For additional details about Journey in the New South, visit

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA HUMANITIES COUNCIL: The North Carolina Humanities Council promotes understanding of and appreciation for the humanities, including literature, history, art, music and philosophy that can transform how the citizens of North Carolina see themselves, their communities and their state. Through grantmaking and programs such as “Let’s Talk About It” and “Road Scholars”, the Council advocates for lifelong learning and thoughtful dialogue about all facets of human life, and facilitates the exploration and celebration of the many voices and stories comprising North Carolina’s culture and heritage. The Council is a non-profit agency governed by a diverse, 23-member board of trustees, and is the state affiliate program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional information is available at


Amanda DeWeese
704.374.9300, ext. 2237

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