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Humanities Festival examines the strength of American Democracy

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Throughout its brief history, the Buffalo Humanities Festival has explored big ideas. This year's festival, which runs Thursday through Saturday, takes on the theme of "Democracy."  David Castillo, Director of the Humanities Institute, has his concerns. "Democracy is unsustainable. I would even say, unthinkable, without a self-aware, critical citizenship."

"We need thinking citizens. We need self-aware citizens," Castillo said.

"Much of the effect of the current 24-hour news cycle, and the social media effect when it comes to news, has to do with precisely the opposite."

Castillo and the Institute's recently-named Executive Director Christina Milletti outlined the 2019 Festival during a visit to WBFO.  They encourage attendees to bring an open mind and to take a closer look at their own views.

"Information is not knowledge. Information is not understanding. Information supports knowledge and understanding," Milletti said.

"You need a good sense of how to critically work through material that's being offered to you, to be cautious about who's delivering that material to you."

The Humanities Festival kicks off Thursday with "Democracy and the Legacy of Racism: Ibram X. Kendi and Chenjerai Kumanyika in Conversation." The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at Asbury Hall at Babeville. There's no admission charge, though registration is required.

Friday's Spotlight Speaker is Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone who takes the stage at Asbury Hall at 8 p.m. for his talk, "Democracy in the Age of Post-truth."

On Saturday, a series of panel discussions will be held at Buffalo State's Rockwell Hall. Dozens of scholars and thinkers will share their perspectives on a wide range of topics related to Democracy.

"There's a real successful and vibrant overlapping of approaches that, I think, will keep someone pretty busy," said Milletti in describing Saturday's events.

"Democracy is such a huge theme that the best way we felt to engage this theme is by spreading the wealth, making sure as many voices as possible are heard," said Castillo.

A Festival pass admits visitors to all of Saturday's events, including a day-ending reception with music and beer provided by Community Beer Works.