West Shore Community College opens its Humankind Series on Sept. 12, at 7 p.m., at the Ludington Public Library with a focus on Cuba, “Dreams, Promises, and Realities: Life in Cuba and the US.” The series will open with a presentation by author, artist, and MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” recipient, Ruth Behar, a professor at the University of Michigan.
Cuban and American, raised in New York and now a Michigan resident, Behar’s program, “Returning to Cuba: Real and Imaginary Journeys” examines her own—like many others’—complicated notion of home. She will read from her works, including her most recent book, the young adult novel “Lucky Broken Girl.”
Prior to Behar’s presentation, the Ludington Library will also hold an open house at 6 p.m., with the tastes and sounds Cuba. Both events are free and open to the public.
Under WSCC’s direction, this year’s series will include presentations, readings, exhibits, a Cuban-African concert, and movies exploring how Americans and Cubans want much the same thing. “This includes good healthcare, freedom to practice their beliefs, freedom to create, education for their children, good work, and an ability to earn what they need to build lives for themselves and their families,” says Dr. Brooke Portmann, one of the series’ organizers.
“The dreams and even the promises of Cubans and Americans are much the same. But the realities on what is delivered, how it is delivered, and who delivers it vary between the two nations. This series will look at the dreams and the realities.”
Humankind will continue Oct. 1, at 7 p.m., at the Ludington Public Library, with a presentation by University of Michigan sociologist Silvia Pedraza. Through many beautiful slides capturing religious imagery, Pedraza will explore how religious images and practices changed as politics evolved under Castro. Like Behar, Pedraza fled Cuba because of hard times under Castro’s leadership.
The exhibit. “Cuban Posters from Politics & Films,” will open Oct. 1, and close on Dec. 6, at the college’s Manierre Dawson Gallery. On Nov. 7, at 7 p.m., at the college, Elisa Shoenberger, owner of the collection and an historian based in Chicago, will discuss how these posters reflect the rich visual language of graphic design and reveal some of the production challenges that their makers faced in Cuba. She’ll also share how she obtained the posters through special permits from the Cuban government.
On Oct. 30, at 7 p.m., political scientist Yvon Grenier will explore the realities of being an artist in post-Castro Cuba. While anticipation was great about the opportunities for artistic freedom, reality hasn’t quite lived up to the expectation. But, as Grenier will argue, its suppression isn’t always the fault of those in governmental positions.
The Grammy-nominated Pedrito Martinez Group will perform Afro-Cuban music and more on Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m., at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts in Manistee. Martinez was born in Havana, but now lives in New York. He has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, and Sting. Tickets are required for the event.
On Oct. 15, the movie “Before Night Falls” opens Humankind’s mini-film series, Movies at the Vogue, in collaboration with the Vogue Theatre Manistee.
The first film is based on an autobiography by Cuban writer and playwright Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990), an early sympathizer of Fidel Castro, but later a critic of Castro and the 1959 revolution. Featuring Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp, the movie traces Arenas’ childhood, his move to Havana in the 1960s, his problems with the law for his sexuality and his art, his exodus out of Cuba in 1980, and his death in 1990. The movie begins at 6 p.m., and a discussion follows.
This part of the series will end on Nov. 15, with the second movie at the Vogue, “Tocando la Luz (Touch the Light).” The movie tells the stories of three blind women as they attempt to navigate social support systems in modern Cuba. While they often feel lost on their individual journeys, each one ultimately finds herself. In doing so, each reveals deeper aspects of Cuba’s contemporary life and culture.
Two more movies will be shown at the Vogue Theatre in the second part of Humankind including “Community Doctors” on Feb. 12 and “Thirteen Days” on March 10.
An exhibit of photography by American photographer Lorne Resnick will open on March 23 through April 17, with an analysis of what Resnick’s images reveal by the Chicago-based artist and teacher Carmello Esterrich on April 9.
April 13 will feature a lecture by Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha, author of “What the Eyes Cannot See,” a Great Michigan Read Project.
The series will close on April 16, with an exploration of the fate of the Kirtland Warbler. The warbler calls both the Caribbean and the U.S.—Michigan, in fact—home. The tiny bird is at the mercy of differing ecological interests and policies. More information about these events will be announced in November.
All Humankind events, except the Pedrito Martinez Group concert, are free and open to the public. The series is underwritten by the WSCC Student Senate, the Michigan Council for Arts and Culture, and the Michigan Humanities Council.
Additional sponsors and venue hosts include the WSCC Performing Arts Series, the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, the Vogue Theatre Manistee, Pentwater Township Library, and Mason County Libraries, both Ludington and Scottville.
Follow the series at Facebook.com/humankindWSCC and humankindWSCC.org. Emails can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information about the series, contact Brooke Portmann, Dean of Arts and Sciences, at email@example.com or 231-843-5866.