Stories that make our hearts beat faster

Ohio Humanities Program Officer Aaron Rovan's dog, Barbie, lays on a brown couch with a copy of Step by Step. Colored hearts overlay the image along with the Ohio Humanities logo.

This Valentine’s Day, we’re excited to highlight our love for Ohio’s stories and storytellers.

Stories connect Ohioans, strengthen communities, and foster democracy.

From a bilingual podcast series highlighting Central Ohio’s rich Bhutanese-Nepali community, to a documentary about our state’s longest-running lesbian bar, to a month-long festival in Cleveland celebrating the world’s first superhero, Ohio Humanities is proud to support storytellers who share diverse stories from communities across Ohio all year round.

Here are a few recent projects that make our hearts beat faster:

The Bhutan Memory Project, funded by an Ohio Humanities Spark Grant, is a series of bilingual podcast episodes researched, recorded, and published by high school students from Columbus’s Bhutanese-Nepali community. These students explored the importance of farming and land stewardship, different experiences in education, mental health outcomes, and Bhutanese-Nepali student success stories. Chandana Adhikari, Kailash Mishra, Ashlisha Sharma Prasai, and Arati Chapagai foregrounded the importance of storytelling for memory and healing at their premier event in December. Their stories inspire hope and remind us to listen to the multitude of perspectives around us.

Superman’s Cleveland Project Directors Katie Trostel and Valentino Zullo at a comics-making workshop at Cleveland’s West Side Market

In autumn of 2023, the month-long festival Superman’s Cleveland celebrated the legacy of Superman’s creators, Cleveland natives Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Authors, scholars, and comic book fans participated in book discussions, comics-making workshops, interviews with creators, and more, commemorating the world’s first comic book superhero. The festival was co-hosted by the Rust Belt Humanities Lab at Ursuline College and the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library with support from an Ohio Humanities Ignite Grant. Superman came alive with hands-on experiences and in-person interviews—letting us know that there’s so much more to our superheroes than meets the eye.

Former Summit Station owner Petie Brown (left) and filmmaker Julia Applegate (right) share a laugh while posing with a letter commemorating the unveiling of the Ohio Historical Marker for Summit Station, Ohio’s longest-running lesbian bar

We’re looking forward to Free Beer Tomorrow, a documentary currently in production that will tell the story of Summit Station, Ohio’s longest-running lesbian bar. This past year, with support from Spark and Ignite grants from Ohio Humanities, interviews with bartenders, patrons, scholars, and more as well as a public storytelling event have explored and celebrated lesbian culture in an era where bars were one of the few safe-havens from an oppressive and homophobic world. In June 2023, a historical marker commemorating the bar’s former location was unveiled at an all-day celebrationa heart-warming, colorful testament to the vibrancy of a community that has survived, thrived, and is now telling its story.

Finally, Step by Step: How the Lincoln School Marchers Blazed a Trail to Justice, a new children’s book from Ohio Humanities and Daydreamers Press, tells the story of one of the longest sustained demonstrations of the civil rights movement. When the Hillsboro, Ohio, school board refused to integrate the town’s elementary schools after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, a group of mothers and children marched daily to the white elementary school and attempted to enroll their children while the their legal case—aided by NAACP lawyers Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley—became one of the first national test cases of the Brown decision. Step by Step tells this story from the perspective of 12-year-old Joyce Clemons, now 81, one of the women who marched for integration for two years as a child. New York Times bestselling author Debbie Rigaud and Carlotta Penn guide young readers as they follow in Joyce’s footsteps and learn how brave mothers and students just like them changed the course of history. Click here to learn more and get your copy of Step by Step today!

Happy Valentine’s Day!