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Threat of Extinction: Language Activism and Preservation

Bob Holman, Vincent Medina, Odilia Romero Hernández, and Virginia Carmelo
In conversation with linguist Leanne Hinton
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Episode Summary

The essence of who we are is wrapped up in our language. What is human knowledge lost when a language goes extinct? Why should we care? Join ALOUD for a freewheeling conversation among language activists working to reclaim indigenous languages in California and Mexico. For the first time together on stage, this unique group of participants includes master linguist and language preservationist Leanne Hinton; Native California language activist Vincent Medina and Virginia Carmelo; Odilia Romero Hernández, Zapotec language rights activist; and poet/activist Bob Holman, co-producer of the PBS documentary, Language Matters.

Simultaneous interpretation was provided by Antena Los Ángeles.

This program was produced as part of The Getty's Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative.

Participant(s) Bio

Bob Holman has played a central role in the spoken word and slam poetry movements of the last several decades. He is the author of 16 poetry collections, most recently Sing This One Back to Me. He is a co-founder and co-director of the Endangered Language Alliance, and his study of hip-hop and West African oral traditions led to his current work with endangered languages. Holman is the producer and host of various films, including The United States of Poetry and On the Road with Bob Holman. His most recent film, Language Matters with Bob Holman, won the Berkeley Film Festival’s 2015 Documentary of the Year award and aired on PBS in January 2016. Holman is currently working with language revitalization centers across Alaska and Hawaii, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. He has taught at Columbia, NYU, Bard, and The New School. He was the original Slam Master and director at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and the founder/proprietor of the Bowery Poetry Club.

Vincent Medina is an indigenous language activist and a leader of the movement to revive Chochenyo as a spoken language. He served as the assistant curator at Mission Dolores in San Francisco and works to change the narrative of Indian history to focus on Native resistance and survival. Vincent is a contributor to the publication News from Native California and author of the blog “Being Ohlone in the 21st Century.”

Odilia Romero Hernández is an indigenous Zapotec from the village of Zoogocho in the northern mountains of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, and is based in Los Angeles, CA. She is the Vice Binational Coordinator of Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales/Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB). She served six years as Binational Women’s Issues Coordinator of FIOB and, for more than a decade, has worked with indigenous Mexican and binational organizations in the areas of human rights and cultural and political education. She has been published in many academic papers that appear in “Otro Saberes: Collaborative Research on Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Cultural Politics” and “Indigenous Migrants and Language Barriers in the United States”, as well as “Mujer rebelde: testimonio de Odilia Romero Hernandez”.

Virginia Carmelo was born in Orange County, California, and raised in Fullerton, California. In 1998, Carmelo and her family began endeavors to revitalize Tongva tribal song, dance, and regalia. In 2004, Virginia began research of the Tongva language. From 2001 to 20012, Virginia served as a Tribal Council Member of the Gabrielino/Tongva Nation, the tribe indigenous to the Los Angeles Basin. She served as Tribal Chair from 2006 to 2010. Virginia lives in Anaheim, California.

Leanne Hinton is a professor emerita of Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and an advisory member of the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival. She works with endangered languages as an advocate and practicing trainer in the field of language revitalization. With other language activists, she has helped found organizations devoted to language revitalization and helped design language learning methods that are now used worldwide. Hinton has written, edited, and co-edited numerous books and articles on Native American languages and language revitalization, including her most recent Bringing Our Languages Home, and The Routledge Handbook on Language Revitalization.

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