When Alabama Humanities Foundation unveiled The Alabama Colloquium in 2017, organizers hoped it would be a refreshing departure from a traditional annual luncheon awards format. What happened next did not disappoint.
The board of directors chose four Alabama Humanities Fellows as its inaugural class, joining all past Alabama Humanities Award winners, who were inducted as a group.
Those Fellows – Kamau Bell, Rod Fraser, Cassandra King and Judge Myron Thompson – along with moderator Michel Martin of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, took center stage in a lively conversation that had the audience laughing, musing and critically thinking about life in Alabama.
While all four fellows are distinguished in diverse careers and successes, they shared a common thread. All four have ties to Alabama, and they were not shy about their impressions.
“I thought the Colloquium was a resounding success,” said Fraser, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Enstar Group. “It beautifully cut across the lines of diversity. Intellectually, the doors were wide open. Anything went. That was my impression. No constraints, that was my principal reaction”.
“I took it as a great compliment,” Fraser said. Being chosen in the inaugural class of Fellows was a “distinct honor. I have always respected the organization, and being selected was a high honor.”
King, a best-selling author, agreed. “Being a part of the inaugural fellows class was unquestionably one of the great experiences of my life. What an honor to be onstage with Kamau Bell, Rod Fraser, and Judge Thompson; and then to be interviewed by the incomparable Michel Martin! Most of all, I was uplifted by the enthusiasm of the vibrant community I met and their dedication to promoting the humanities in Alabama.”
Bell, Emmy Award winning host of CNN’s United Shades of America, surprised the audience with a special financial pledge to the teachers who won the Jenice Riley Memorial Scholarship, obviously moved by what he experienced that day.
“It was truly inspiring to sit onstage with a group of people who, although we may not have a lot in common on the surface, all believe in the goodness and the potential of Alabama. People who all know that Alabama is a place that values diversity of voices and perspectives. And people who are all using their privilege to uplift the people who need uplifting the most. I was honored, humbled and excited to be there.”
Judge Myron Thompson agreed. “The State of Alabama has such a rich history and culture. We are extremely fortunate to have the Alabama Humanities Foundation as a deep source and inspiration from which all citizens can draw. To be one of its first Fellows is both a great honor and a heavy responsibility.”
“We couldn’t have asked for a better debut of a new event for our state,” said AHF Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. “It captured precisely what humanities is all about – inspiring, teaching, critical thinking. It was provocative, entertaining and enlightening all at the same time. Our fellows and our moderator were ideal in their roles as examples of humanities’ impact. And we couldn’t be prouder of their success and that of our first Colloquium.”
Colloquium Chair Trey Granger called the event “a real success and provides a strong foundation upon which the humanities can be celebrated annually in Alabama. The Alabama Humanities Fellowship is designed to honor those persons who boldly contribute to the cultural fabric of our great state, and the Colloquium will be the cornerstone event of Alabama Humanities Foundation that allows all of us an opportunity to listen in upon a marvelous and enriching conversation.”
Granger noted, “Alabama is home to a rich and diverse culture of people – including artisans, jurists, writers, industrialists, educators, performers, designers, culinary craftsmen and philanthropists. The opportunity to bring four noted but diverse Alabamians together on one stage for an inspiring conversation highlights the robust aspects of Alabama culture while underscoring the many components of our common humanity.”
“We look forward to an enhanced offering for the 2018 Colloquium,” Granger said, “and we remain confident that the Alabama Colloquium will soon become one of the premier events on everyone’s calendar.”