Buffalo is tackling the topic of democracy this weekend at the annual Buffalo Humanities Festival, with a wide range of speakers, events and discussion opportunities. The festival has a new theme each year, and it has covered topics like migration, the environment, gender and more over the years. During the weekend of Sept. 19-21, it will discuss questions about the democratic crisis and how we can use history to reimagine a democratic future.
Dr. Jennifer Desiderio, English professor at Canisius College and a Steering Committee member of the Buffalo Humanities Festival, helps plan and organize the festival and has done so for the past four years. Along with the rest of the Steering Committee, she helps bring in a diverse range of speakers who have a connection to the theme.
This year, the committee has compiled a schedule of activists, authors, and community leaders, as well as educators from local institutions including Canisius College, Humanities New York, Niagara University, SUNY Buffalo State, and the University at Buffalo. On Friday, Sept. 20, the spotlight speaker Matt Taibbi will be presenting on democracy and the media. Taibbi is a Rolling Stone journalist, New York Times bestselling author, and the co-founder of the Buffalo-based alternative biweekly newspaper The Beast.
“It’s an opportunity for the local colleges to invite people into the classroom experience and hear a lecture on something they might be interested in. It’s a nice opportunity to try to open up the doors of higher education to the community,” Dr. Desiderio commented.
Dr. Desiderio will also be presenting on Saturday, Sept. 21 on Walt Whitman, the poet of democracy. Coincidentally, this year is the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth.
“Most people, if they love an American poet, it’s usually Walt Whitman,” Dr. Desiderio said, “so I thought it would be a good chance to talk about him and his affinity for democracy.”
In addition to creating awareness about the humanities, it also builds a community between the departments of different universities and colleges.
“As a humanities professor in the English department, this is such a nice event to celebrate the creativity and the energy of these disciplines and what they have to offer,” Dr. Desiderio said. “They give us a wonderful lens to look at different themes, and so it’s that lens of human experience. I think often times, especially in the STEM world, it’s often gets overlooked or ignored, so it’s a nice reminder of that.”
Dr. Desiderio would like to encourage everyone to purchase a ticket through their website or their Facebook page. Especially considering the current political climate, it is more important than ever to participate in events that cultivate conversations of new ideas and different perspectives.
“It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon,” Dr. Desiderio said.
Lead image: Photo credit – Chuck Alaimo