By Ally Cooper
In April, dozens of participants gathered to celebrate Joseph Jackson, Carol Dana, Wendy Allen, and Literacy Volunteers of Franklin and Somerset Counties – all recipients of the Maine Humanities Council’s 2022 prizes for contributions to public humanities.
The Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prizes, which have been awarded annually since 1988, went to Joseph Jackson and Carol Dana. The prize recognizes Maine residents who use the humanities to foster connection and engagement; emphasize diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and justice; and engage with communities that have traditionally had the least access to humanities resources.
Jackson, a published poet who was formerly incarcerated, is now a leading advocate within the criminal justice community in Maine. He serves as Director of Leadership Development at Maine Inside Out, Executive Director of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, and Campaign Advisor for Maine Youth Justice.
Portland Poet Laureate Maya Williams introduced Jackson: “He’s the type of person who is willing to advocate for you because he loves you. His love for his fellow formerly incarcerated folks and folks currently incarcerated, his art and advocacy, is beautiful.”
Before reciting his spoken poem, “Go Free,” Jackson said, “One of the most important ways that [art] impacts people is connection, through what I call a visceral reaction to the image, and whatever the art is distributing. You can touch it as a human being, and begin to understand on a deeper level what people are going through.”
Carol Dana has served as Language Master of the Cultural and Historic Preservation Department for the Penobscot Nation since 2002. She is known for her work on the Penobscot Dictionary, which was the start of a decades-long journey to preserve the language. She told the audience a story about how students used to be punished for speaking the language, contributing to its near-extinction.
Darren Ranco, Penobscot Nation anthropologist and academic, said, “Carol Dana is simply a national treasure. I mean that both in its conventional sense, but also as a citizen of Penobscot Nation – our nation’s treasure.”
The Maine Humanities Council (MHC) also awarded a Facilitator Prize, which celebrates a facilitator who demonstrates excellence in their practice and in their commitment to engaging and supporting Maine’s communities. Wendy Allen, the award recipient, serves as a coordinator for the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition.
MHC Associate Director Samaa Abdurraqib said, “[Wendy] is a brilliant facilitator – we hear this all the time from the people that she works with. She fosters agency and power within her participants.”
Allen became a facilitator while in residence at the Southern Maine Women’s Re-Entry Center. “I’m passionate about helping others by sharing my experience, strength, and hope from active addiction into recovery,” she said.
Literacy Volunteers of Franklin and Somerset Counties (LVFSC) received the MHC Program Partner Prize. The prize celebrates an MHC partner or grantee organization that includes the humanities in its work and its mission, engages with communities to design its programs, and brings resources to people under-resourced in the humanities. Executive Director Barbara Averill accepted the prize on behalf of LVFSC, which continued its mission throughout the pandemic by delivering books to participants’ homes, offering transportation, and facilitating hybrid, virtual, and in-person conversations.
Maine Humanities Council is the Maine affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and partners with communities, schools, libraries, and hospitals to foster conversations and critical thinking across cultural, economic, and social boundaries.
Learn more about the Maine Humanities Council at /mainehumanities.org.