Last week Latino Rebels shared the story of the following email from the National Endowment for the Humanities regarding an NEH application submitted by “Sup!,” a kid’s cooking and culture show produced by Global Knickers and Webisode Production students at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC):
The email, shared with Latino Rebels by one of the show’s creators, was explaining why the NEH had rejected a funding application for the web show. At one point, the author of the email questioned why the two hosts (siblings who are half Dominican) “are of Latino descent.” According to Beth Baunoch of “Sup!,” she and her colleague “were dumbfounded by the feedback we received from the NEH about their race being a possible issue instead of an asset.” (You can read Baunoch’s full email response to Latino Rebels here.)
As Latino Rebels prepped last week’s story for publication, it reached out to the NEH to ask if the email was sent to “Sup!” and if it wanted to respond to it. Late last week, LR received this email from Karen S. Mittelman, the NEH’s Senior Program Officer in Division of Public Programs. Here is the full email:
Thank you for your inquiry about the “Sup!” Children’s Cooking Program. There has clearly been a misunderstanding about the National Endowment for the Humanities’ evaluation of this project. Let me assure you that NEH would never reject an application because of the ethnic background of a project participant.
Our evaluation process is confidential, and we do not share specific information about the evaluation of an application with anyone other than the project director named in the application. However, I can tell you that every proposal submitted to the Division of Public Programs is reviewed by a panel of outside experts, who are asked questions about the strength of the humanities scholarship anchoring the project, the quality of the project team, its potential audience reach, and its likely contribution to public understanding of the humanities. In the case of the “Sup!” children’s program application, all of the reviewers saw great potential in the creative approach and the intention of introducing children to diverse cultures through food. There were serious concerns about many aspects of the program, but the most important from the perspective of the NEH were panelists’ comments that the humanities content, scholarly team and media team all needed to be substantially strengthened before the project merited NEH support.
I hope this addresses your concerns. You may also be interested to know that the NEH has a long history of supporting projects that illuminate the history and diverse cultures of Latinos, from outstanding works of academic scholarship and museum exhibitions to popular PBS documentaries. Most recently, NEH partnered with the American Library Association to develop film screenings and public discussion programs around the themes of the PBS series Latino Americans (supported by NEH and produced in collaboration with Latino Public Broadcasting) in more than 200 communities nationwide. We were also a major funder of Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950, a landmark exhibition that will open next month at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and features some of the most significant works of Mexican art in the United States.
The Division of Public Programs staff is also available to answer questions about our application process and to work with applicants as they develop their proposals. Should Dr. Baunoch decide to re-submit her application for the “Sup!” program, a member of my staff would be more than happy to work with her on a re-submission.
Karen S. Mittelman
Director, Division of Public Programs