AHA Grants Help Humanist Groups take Action

In March 2020, the American Humanist Association awarded $10,000 in grants to our local chapters to support eleven unique projects aimed to spread humanist values. Although the pandemic caused many challenges, our awardees were determined to move forward with their work. We’re proud to share their success and progress, and encourage AHA Chapters to apply for the 2021 grant cycle ending January 31, 2021.

Continued to Serve

In Colorado, Jefferson Humanists attracted new members at a safe distance with a Colorado Public Radio sponsorship, allowing them to promote their group over air and share their now virtual events with a wider audience. From June to August, they earned a ten percent increase of Meetup members, sixty-seven new Facebook followers (double what they earned in all of 2019), and more activity on their website. Over the summer, they aired thirty-six spots broadcasting this message:

Support comes from Jefferson Humanists, creating a secular community in Jefferson County. Providing opportunities to find friends, share ideas, and do good; online at jeffersonhumanists.org or Jefferson Humanists on Facebook.

Joyce Lackie wrote in September about how important it was for her group, Humanists of Greater Portland, to provide Al Otro Lado (AOL) with essential office equipment and materials to help them serve refugees. Although the AOL building was closed due to COVID-19the copier still churns out hundreds of pages for each client seeking asylum and the staff greatly appreciates having a reliable machine to make their work easier.

Going Virtual

The Florida Secular Leadership Summit is a biennial event for the organizers of all humanist groups in Florida to exchange ideas, network, and learn together. Florida Humanist Association adapted their 2020 grant to host the event virtually. On Friday, July 10 they held a social evening event and then Saturday, July 11 hosted a full day of presentations, discussions, raffles, and fun. I had the pleasure of joining to talk about attracting younger people to our movement and the benefits of becoming an AHA chapter. Coalitions and summits are a great way to strengthen connections among groups to gain more humanist representation at the state level.

The Black Nonbelievers of DC converted their two-day Legacy symposium into a five-part online program, vastly expanding their audience outreach. Legacy uncovers a lineage of Black non-belief throughout American/African-American diasporic history and connects it to the values and lived experiences of Black non-theists today. You can enjoy the series on the Black Nonbelievers YouTube Channel:

Part I (Author, Prof. Chris Cameron): “Black Freethinkers of the Civil Rights Era”
Part II (Verdell A. Wright): “Good God Gone”
Part III (Dr. Sabrina Dent): “Reimagining Community”
Part IV (Author, Andrew Seidel): “American Christian Nationalism”
Part V (Author, Prof. Chris Cameron): “Black Freethinkers from Slavery to the Harlem Renaissance”

Changing Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland‘s Sidewalk Science from an in-person activity to a YouTube program took a lot of technical planning, but they were dedicated to making science education more accessible to the public. They recruited several scientists (including group organizer and long-time science communicator Scott Thompson, biologist and newly elected AHA board member Abby Hafer, physicist Mike Albrow, astrophysicist John Doty, physicist and philosopher Ivan Phillips, and chemist and author Joanne Reid) to discuss topics ranging from the radiation emitted by neutron stars, to newly discovered human organs, to COVID-19 issues, to space-travel and beyond. Speakers gather topics from the news, their research, and viewer questions. Watch previous or live episodes of Sidewalk Science here.

Although Humanist Forum’s grant proposal to bring in new speakers was interrupted by COVID-19, they connected with speakers from across the country online using Zoom and are continuing to move forward with their programming into 2021. Find their upcoming events on Meetup here (and more online programming from other AHA groups).

Postponed Events Due to COVID-19

Some grant timelines needed to be extended or postponed to when we can meet in person or to accommodate populations impacted by the pandemic. The Humanists of Linn County will hold their education symposium online in 2021 to make it easier for speakers and attendees to participate. To become more visible within their community, the Stanislaus Humanists will wait to use their grant money to participate in a variety of festivals, parades, and farmers’ markets in the Modesto and Turlock area in California. They’re currently preparing merchandise and educational materials to share when it’s safe to gather again. Similarly, North State Humanists successfully moved its children’s science programs online but is still working on outreach materials and tabling equipment for when they can represent their group at community events.

To not further burden students adjusting to schooling changes, End of the Line Humanists delayed their annual essay contest about evolutionary biology and its relevance today. In February 2021 they will reopen a call for submissions and review essays in the fall so they can celebrate the winners at their February 2022 Darwin Day event. Pittsburgh Freethought Community needed to coordinate with Carnegie Mellon University and local police agencies, as well as wait until the legislative session opened again, to move forward with their Casa San Jose community resource center partnership. We look forward to learning more about their progress on Pennsylvania legislation enabling all residents to apply for drivers licenses and better policies with regard to police interactions with ICE.

We’re immensely proud of all the diverse and innovative programming coming out of our chapters. The AHA Chapter Grant Fund provides much needed resources to help chapters get the word out about humanism. In the years to come, the AHA is looking forward to providing even more local group support opportunities to help our chapters further humanism throughout the country.

If you’re inspired by the work of our chapters, join us! To find or start a group near you, even if that means virtually for now, please visit https://americanhumanist.org/get-involved/find-or-start-a-chapter and get in touch with me, Emily Newman, at field@americanhumanist.org. See you in 2021!