Buffalo Humanities Festival looks to open a dialogue of change

Sep 20, 2018

As is the case each year, the Buffalo Humanities Festival is organized around a specific theme. This weekend's event, which begins tonight, is called "Revolutions." According to Professor Elizabeth Otto, Executive Director of the Humanities Institute, finding partners and presenters wasn't difficult. "People are fired up and ready to talk about change. Definitely."

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Two authors, Safiya Umoja Noble and Siva Vaidhyanathan, offer talks tonight at the Downtown Central Library focused on the digital revolution. Otto says they will challenge assumptions about social media. One view argues search engines have worked to reinforce racial stereotypes. The evening is presented by Humanities New York. 

Friday night the venue shifts to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery where spotlight speaker Angie Thomas takes center stage. Thomas is the author of the young adult bestseller The Hate U Give.

"It's allowing us to bring young people in a way that perhaps we haven't in the past," said Professor David Castillo, Director of the Humanities Institute.

Thomas' novel, Castillo says, has "the empowering effect of storytelling and it's a call for young people to use their voice to denounce hate and to bridge barriers in a way that brings us all together."

Performance artist Dan Hoyle begins a Saturday full of events at Buffalo State College. Hoyle creates "journalistic theater," Otto says.

"We love the Buffalo Humanities Festival because even though our work as professors on (UB's) North Campus is really rich and exciting with the students, it's great to come into town and to do something with our friends and partners at other local colleges and universities, and to reach out to the general public, to create an event that is fun and accessible and gets people thinking and talking."

Panel discussions featuring scholars, experts and activists run throughout the day. Recreational activities are also sprinkled throughout the schedule.

"We'll keep adding elements such as free beer from Community Beer Works. Free music from the Autonomous Vehicles," said Castillo.

Partnering on the festival are Canisius College, Buffalo State, Niagara University and the UB Humanities Institute.