Watson College of Education Professor Presents at Smithsonian

Friday, September 02, 2016

Donna DeGennaro, a professor in the Watson College of Education, presented at the Smithsonian in September as part of the Hispanic Heritage Month.

The event highlighted the work produced by youth participating in Unlocking Silent Histories, the nonprofit DeGennaro founded in 2013. USH creates opportunities for indigenous youth to critically analyze how they are represented in the media and to creatively express their worlds from their perspectives through documentary films. USH also contributes to the promotion of cultural understanding by connecting youth across generational and geographical boundaries. The organization partners with the Maya Traditions Foundation.

“This once-in-a-lifetime invitation reaffirms the value of our work to amplify indigenous voices and identities,” said DeGennaro. “I am humbled and honored to be part of this event, and more elated to have Maya indigenous representatives here to directly and authoritatively speak about their identities and cultures.”

USH program leaders shared the philosophical and theoretical foundations of USH that include how the USH program inspires native youth to create media representations, stemming from unique indigenous worldviews. In staying true to USH’s youth-driven mission and vision, the USH leaders were the main presenters, DeGennaro added. The group made a presentation at UNC Pembroke after the Smithsonian exhibits.

“While I had been developing this concept for over 10 years, USH was only in its third year as an organization when we received this invitation,” said DeGennaro. “In such a short time, this important cultural institution – instrumental in preserving world heritages – recognizes Unlocking Silent Histories’ vital aspiration: to open spaces for indigenous youth to capture, represent and revitalize their cultures and languages through film.”

The program, titled “Maya Creativity and Cultural Milieu,” was featured at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York City and Washington, D.C. The USH film screenings and discussion were Sept 10-11 in New York and Sept. 15-18 in Washington, D.C.

--Venita Jenkins


DeGennaro and group

The program presenters, from left to right: Carlos (USH), Marisol (MTF), Matea (MTF), Donna (USH), Carmen (USH), Chema (USH), Celina (MTF), and Elena (MTF)