Founded in 1974, the nonprofit Illinois Humanities is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities. It provides free humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration.
Illinois Humanities presents the Beacon Award annually to an individual or organization who has been a champion for—or investor in—the humanities in Illinois, elevating the work of humanists in ways that have improved the quality of the state for its residents.
“Advocating for access and inclusion—through libraries, through the arts, through economic and community development—is not something I took on, it was something I was born into,” Hall said, upon learning about receiving the award. “Equity and fairness were central values in my family. Coming to Chicago 20 years ago gave me the opportunity to work alongside people across the state who understand that the arts and humanities are strengthened to the degree that they are accessible and reflective of all our histories and experiences. It is both humbling and energizing to be honored by the community of thinkers, makers, and doers that I so deeply respect and whose work has guided and anchored mine.”
Illinois Humanities will present the Beacon Award to Hall on May 17 at the Public Humanities Awards Ceremony in Chicago. In addition to Hall, three others who exemplify the humanities in action across the state will receive Public Humanities Awards at the event: Chicago radio producer, journalist, and activist Stephanie Manriquez, executive director of Contratiempo and executive producer of Lumpen Radio; Rebecca Ginsburg, director of the Education Justice Project, associate professor of education policy, organization, and leadership at University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne, and co-founder of the Illinois Coalition for Higher Ed in Prison; and librarian, historian, and archivist, Alyson Thompson, library director of Marshall (Ill.) Public Library.
Illinois Humanities said all of the 2023 honorees “highlight the role of libraries and access to stories in this national moment where the question of who has access to stories and whose stories get to be told is front and center.”
“I can’t think of a more timely and impactful group of honorees to acknowledge this year,” said Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Illinois Humanities. “At a time when books are being banned, histories are being censored, and people who are incarcerated are kept from reading, these awardees have worked to create and protect the ‘windows and mirrors’ we all need to be part of a just society.”