At Humanities Guåhan we believe in the power of sharing stories! One way we encourage such sharing is by hosting Community Conversations throughout the year.
Community Conversations invite and engage diverse community members to participate in exploratory conversations that encourage deep learning and inquiry. Each conversation becomes an opportunity to gain and share knowledge, raise and address critical questions on important issues, and empower one another to be civically engaged.
We can’t promise the conversation series will lead to new public policies. Rather, our goal is that every participant ends a conversation with newfound clarity and inspiration to affect change in our respective organizations and communities.
What is Civic Reflection?
An innovative approach that has been successfully implemented by humanities councils across the country, civic reflection engages citizens in humanities-based discussion of important issues that affect civic life. Through civic reflection, individuals are invited to step into a hospitable space where they may critically think and talk about the values and choices we make while living together as a community. Conversations begin with a focused discussion of a selected reading— an essay, poem, chant, film or other text. Trained facilitators guide participants through a reflection process that encourages critical analysis, participant questions and self-expression.
Humanities Guåhan and Civic Reflection
Humanities Guåhan first used the civic reflection model in 2010 with our project “8,000 How Will It Change Our Lives?” Community Conversations on the US Military Buildup in Guam, partially funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities We the People Initiative.
Through this project, Humanities Guåhan encouraged island residents to examine the impact of the relocation of military personnel and their families from Okinawa to Guam through humanities-based conversations on related themes of service, leadership, community, identity and power.
In late 2017, Humanities Guåhan presented the program Speaking to Water and Creating Community: Civic Reflection with Pacific Islanders in Guam, which was part of a larger National Endowment for the Humanities Initiative, The Humanities and the Legacy of Race and Ethnicity in the United States. The stories, chants, songs, poetry and personal narratives from the Speaking to Water/Kuentusi I Hanom digital collection served as the main "texts'' for facilitated discussions with CHamorus and other Micronesians about shared cultural pasts, differing colonial histories that have shaped current misperceptions and divisiveness, and the need to re-imagine relationships in more positive ways for the betterment of our island. These community conversation series continued into 2020 until in-person programming was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early 2020, as a response to the ongoing pandemic, we recognized the need to create opportunities for people to remain connected while practicing social distancing measures.
Humanities Guåhan therefore piloted an online conversation series via Zoom that was open to the public and included Pacific Islanders and other community members in Guam, as well as those with ties to the island who live in places like Taiwan, Seattle, San Diego and Texas. Given the success of these virtual community conversations, we will continue to foster these discussions on important issues that affect civic life in Guam and the larger region.
HG has partnered with numerous community organizations in presenting these conversations including Mañe’lu, Micronesian Resource Center One Stop Shop, Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Recovery Center, Department of Corrections, Department of Youth Affairs, University of Guam and Guam Department of Education among others.
Since 2010 we’ve featured distinguished authors, scholars and poets from Guåhan and Micronesia as guest speakers at large community conversation events. Additionally, these guest speakers were involved in weeklong literary tours that included writer’s workshops, reading events and presentations in schools and at public community centers.