For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading history. As a boy, I remember vividly reading the journal of Massachusetts Bay colonial governor John Winthrop. The 17th century English lexicon took some getting used to, but I felt a strange and deep connection to something intangible yet distinctly American across the centuries. Every time I lecture on the Puritans, I still think of the journal I read as a boy.

As I grew older, I never much questioned any assumptions to pursue a life with history. In an era of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) emphasis in American colleges and universities, for those of us laboring in the humanities, defending our existence is normative. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin even suggested this past August, not facetiously, replacing history instructors with Ken Burns documentaries as a fiscally responsible strategy.

Within this challenging context, California Humanities is a welcomed statewide organization promoting the humanities in the Golden State. As a nonprofit organization and statewide affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, California Humanities is devoted to creating “a state of open mind” among the state’s diverse 38 million inhabitants. To realize this goal, California Humanities funds a variety of grant opportunities to develop public programming in the humanities for educational institutions and non-profit organizations. One of California Humanities’ recent initiatives is the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative.

Titled “On the Road,” the series features Pulitzer Prize winning authors in conversation and dialogue with notable thinkers, “examining contemporary issues to guide California along the path to a vibrant future.”

Of much appeal to Kern County residents and contemporary debates over farm labor overtime legislation, the Fresno Art Museum is hosting an event titled “The Farmworker Movement in California: From Chavez Onwards,” at 7 p.m. Sept. 28. The event will feature Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Miriam Pawel, who has authored two recent books on Cesar Chavez and the farm worker movement, as well as Teatro Campesino founder Luis Valdez, historian Dawn Mabalon, and Latino media personality Samuel Orozco. The event is free and open to the public.

Grant writing can be difficult and California Humanities has created a new “Quick Grants” program to help streamline the grant writing process, making it easier for organizations to apply. For college and university faculty, the Kern High School District, as well as other local nonprofit organizations, the new “Quick Grants” program will be of much interest. Part of its Humanities for All initiative, this new grant will “support locally initiated public humanities projects that respond to the needs and interests of Californians, encourage greater public participation in humanities programming, particularly by new and/or underserved audiences, and promotes understanding and empathy among all our state’s peoples in order to cultivate a thriving democracy.”

California Humanities is very focused on expanding its reach into rural California, particularly the southern San Joaquin Valley. The Quick Grants program funds proposals in the range of $1,000 to $5,000 and will be awarded three times annually. The first grant deadline is Oct. 25. For this grant series, California Humanities is especially interested in funding projects that target underserved audiences for humanities programs, as well as proposals that examine California’s “legacy of racial and ethnic relations, including the relationship between communities and law enforcement authorities.”

The Levan Center for the Humanities at Bakersfield College is supportive of collaborative efforts with other local educational institutions and nonprofits interested in working together to advance humanities projects within our diverse service community.

Anyone interested in applying who would like to discuss ideas or possibilities for collaboration are encouraged to contact me directly at 661-720-2065 or orosales@bakersfieldcollege.edu. For more information on California Humanities, visit calhum.org. For more information about the Levan Center for the Humanities at Bakersfield College, visit bakersfieldcollege.edu/levancenter.

Dr. Oliver A. Rosales is professor of history at Bakersfield College and an advisory board member of California Humanities.