By Sarah Northam
Texas A&M University-Commerce will host a lecture series during the 2015-2016 academic year that focuses on the history of Latino Americans. The series is sponsored in part by a grant awarded to Texas A&M University-Commerce Libraries from the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities. According to the American Library Association, the grant Latino Americans: 500 Years of History “is a nationwide public programming initiative that supports the exploration of the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape the United States over the last five centuries.” A&M-Commerce Libraries is one of 203 institutions in the United States that were offered a grant. Out of that number only 55 institutions were awarded the maximum amount of $10,000.
The American Library Association states that institutions from across the United States “are receiving grant funding, resources and support to host festivals, collect oral histories, facilitate informed discussions and hold other public events about Latino American history and culture.” The foundation of the various programs created through the Latino Americans: 500 Years of History is the documentary film “Latino Americans” which was created for PBS and funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The six-part documentary film has won several awards and examines the history of Latinos in the United States from the 16th century to the present day. (Learn more about the series here.) The university will receive a copy of the documentary, which will be the centerpiece of several programs including a documentary viewing followed by a scholar-led discussion panel.
A&M-Commerce Libraries will utilize grant funds to bring four nationally-recognized speakers to campus for three programs during October which is of Hispanic Heritage Month. Several faculty members on campus will participate in the programs as well. Dr. Robert Rodriguez, assistant professor of political science, will host a discussion of one of the documentary episodes on campus during the fall semester, and in the spring he will conduct a program at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas. Dr. Christopher Gonzalez, assistant professor of literature and languages, will serve as panel moderator for two of the visiting speakers in the fall, and in the spring he will present a program titled “Redrawing the Borders of Comics, Latino Style” during National Library Week. Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Mark Moreno, and Dr. Chris Green, associate professor of curriculum and instruction will both host programs during the spring semester.
The library coordinated and collaborated with several departments across campus including the ¡Profes! grant, the Office of Hispanic Outreach, and the Departments of Political Science, Literature and Languages, Curriculum and Instruction, and History to apply for the grant. The library was also able to collaborate off campus with the adult literacy program Commerce Plaza Comunitaria, which offers ESL and Spanish literacy instruction as well as GED preparation in Spanish. Gilberto Hernandez, ¡Profes! grant coordinator, states “This is certainly a great day to be a Lion! We are very excited to be a part of a project that will educate our community about the rich and diverse history of our Latino roots. The ¡Profes! grant is a proud sponsor of this project as we believe in fostering an environment that encourages scholarly discussions about Latino culture, history, and education. “
A&M-Commerce Director of Libraries, Greg Mitchell, states, “Understanding the contributions of Latinos throughout the years is vital to our appreciation of Texas and U.S. history and culture. As a state and as a nation, we have been made stronger because of our diversity. The university libraries have welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with others on our campus in this effort to share the importance of our Latino heritage.”
Sarah Northam, head of research and instruction services at James G. Gee Library, will serve as the project director. She will be responsible for overseeing grant funds and coordinating activities sponsored by the grant.