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Sunny Nash Wins Grant to Present School Cultural Heritage Program

October 4, 2016
Sunny Nash, Author-Journalist

Sunny Nash, Author-Journalist-Photographer

Sunny Nash will present a cultural heritage preservation program in Spring 2017 at Smith Elementary School, renamed in 2015 in honor of Bobbie Smith, the first African American elected to the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education.

“Everyone has a legacy, even children,” said Sunny Nash, three-time winner of Arts Council for Long Beach Professional Artist Fellowships (2003, 2009 & 2014), a 2016 Arts Council for Long Beach Micro-Grant, and recipient of a 2016 American Business Women’s Association Shine Award. “Being a journalist, I am comfortable with research, fact-checking and history, integral components in constructing news and legacy, Nash said.

The cultural heritage preservation program for K-5 students at Smith Elementary will include a literary reading, from Nash’s book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, select articles from her nationally syndicated newspaper column about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement. The book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as a book for understanding U.S. race relations, and recommended by the Miami-Dade (Florida) Public Library System for Native American Collections.

“I hope to acquaint students with the responsibility of controlling, documenting and preserving legacies they can start building right away,” Nash said. “This can be the beginning of what they leave to the American national treasure. I began building my own legacy at that age. If we convince students early enough how important it is to evaluate and edit their life choices and activities, and to document and preserve artifacts representing those choices and activities, we can change the world.”

Based on her recognition in U.S. race relations research, Sunny Nash writes a popular blog: Race Relation in America.

Nash will also host an interactive lecture, demonstrations, student discussions and an Exhibition, How a Child Builds Legacy, supported in part by the Arts Council for Long Beach; Alta Cooke, the first African American principal of a Long Beach high school, David Starr Jordan; and the City of Long Beach, California.

Bobbie Smith, for whom Smith Elementary was named, said, “I am very pleased to have Sunny Nash present her work and interact with students at Smith Elementary. I have known and worked with Sunny on many projects through the years and appreciate her dedication to contribute to the culture of Long Beach.”

Bobbie Smith Front of School

Bobbie Smith – Bobbie Smith Elementary School, named in her honor in 2015; Smith was the first African American elected to the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education, where she served 16 years as president; Smith was the first African American women elected to public office in Long Beach, California; and Smith was the First African American Head Librarian and Faculty Senate President at Long Beach City College. (Photo: by Sunny Nash)

Smith Elementary Principal Monica Alas said, “Mrs. Bobbie Smith has been a role model to all of my students since the school was re-named in December of 2015. Her partnership with Sunny Nash will benefit our students with the exhibition highlighting authentic published journal entries and unique art collection.”

Sunny Nash earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Texas A&M University; a Postgraduate Diploma in Online Instruction and Technology from the University of California, San Diego; and an Adjunct Professor Graduate Certificate from the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University through the Poynter Institute. Nash studied Visual and Information Literacy at the Simmons College, Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston, Massachusetts; and Career and Technical Education at Texas A&M University. Nash earned Research Methodology and Digital Records Preservation certificates at the U.S. Library of Congress and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in Washington DC; Texas State Library and Archives in Austin; Idaho Commission for Libraries in Boise; and the University of London.

Nash completed U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Certificate programs in Cultural Heritage Management; Cultural Resource Management; Archaeological Collections Management; Archaeology Interpretation; Interpretive Archaeology; Communications and Records; and Archaeology Administration, Law and Ethics. Recently, Nash wrote a DOI Cultural Heritage Case Study about the preservation of her childhood home. Her study reveals the historical relevance of a family that seemed typical during the mid-twentieth century when Nash was the age of Smith Elementary students to whom she will be presenting the cultural heritage preservation program.

“When I was growing up, I certainly did not think my family and my home were significant,” Nash said. “And the house does not and has never contained anything of any commercial value. However, my mother taught me to start saving little pieces of our existence and that is what I did, including family stories I heard from the elders. I want to show Smith Elementary students how to preserve and organize their journal entries, digital data, artwork, photographs, keepsakes, report cards, ticket stubs, concert programs and memorabilia to create a lasting record of how they spent their lives, similar to collections of notable historical figures archived in repositories. I want students to understand, though, that they do not have to be famous or have a lot of money in order to build a legacy they can be proud to preserve for posterity.”

The wisdom of her construction contractor, Julian Narro, led Nash to realize that her modest wood-frame childhood home may have more purpose than a shelter for commonplace household belongings her late parents left behind. “The home may have historic importance if rehabilitated properly,” Narro said. “We have to be careful not to change things too much and to use replacement materials that match the original construction materials.”

Building on her DOI Cast Study, Nash’s cultural heritage program at Smith Elementary will look beyond the structure and examine what may be commonly mistaken for junk. Although the contents of her childhood home have no resale value, Nash will demonstrate that select items in the house possess historical characteristics, as do items she will encourage the students to preserve. To demonstrate the historical worth of their collections, she will exhibit published column reproductions, based on her own childhood memories.

Students will be instructed in simple methods of preservation, care and storage their personal treasures.

Roscoe slide

Uncle Roscoe’s City by Sunny Nash Illustrated by Internationally Renowned Swedish Artist, Rolf Laub


Drawn from her childhood, Nash’s newspaper articles were originally published in the State Lines Section of Texas Magazine in the Sunday Edition of The Houston Chronicle, and syndicated nationally by Hearst, Knight-Ridder and Black Conscience Syndication of New York.

“To most people, these articles would simply be old faded newspapers,” Nash said. “But to research scholars, these old faded newspapers represent historical archaeology. And even if they do not represent anything of any scholarly value right now, I think we should get our students into the habit of cultural preservation and historical archaeology, saving what they feel should be kept because we do not know what researchers will be looking for in the future. Preservation helps all of us become stewards of our culture and society, and gives us a sense of pride and desire to protect our neighbors and communities.”

Sunny Nash’s journalism and photojournalism are collected by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, Schomburg Center in New York, Library of Congress in Washington DC, U.S. Presidential Libraries, university archives, academic collections and international libraries and museums. These items represent Nash’s life in the home where she grew up with her parents and maternal grandmother, Bigmama. “At the time I was writing these articles about my family, home, neighborhood and dreams, I had no idea they would ever serve any educational purpose, be syndicated all over the world or be collected in a book,” Nash said.

From 2005-2008, Nash won YMCA grants to conduct after-school classical music, literature and photography programs in Southern California elementary  schools. Nash also won grants to conduct literary and photography programs in Houston, Cleveland, New York, Newark, Santa Fe, Nashville, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

For decades, Nash–who completed several U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) programs in First Amendment Rights, Communications and Law, Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), Forensics, and Population Genetics–has conducted literary and photography workshops in juvenile and adult criminal justice facilities around the country; published articles on juvenile justice; contributed to scholarly publications on crime; and spoken nationwide to diverse audiences on reducing crime through participation in the arts, historical projects and cultural preservation.

Sunny Nash designed Juvenile Art Programs to Help Center's Students

Sunny Nash Designed Juvenile Art Program in Mask Making to Help Juvenile Center’s Students Learn New Methods of Expression

“These activities have important effects on students–encouraging them to appreciate and protect the culture of their communities,” Nash said. “I want people to lift their vision, and develop a sense of worth other than financial and not think of their world, their existence in the world and the people in their world as disposable commodities. I want them to see this place where we all live as our world, a place we need to care for and build legacy around, based on human values, and not simply on monetary wealth.”

Sunny Nash Producer of the Year Award

Sunny Nash Producer of the Year Award

In 2006, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., invited Sunny Nash to join Harvard University’s African American National Biography, an eight-volume collection published by Oxford University Press in 2008 and now online. Winner of a 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Award to moderate the national series, Created Equal, Nash was also a 2015 finalist for a Guggenheim Award, nominated by former Houston Chronicle publisher, Tony Pederson. Recognized by Women in Photography International, Nash’s photographs are currently touring internationally with the Smithsonian Exhibition, Reflections in Black: a history of black photographers, 1840-present, published as a reference volume in 2000 by W.W. Norton in New York. Nash’s historic photographic and document reproductions, and oral histories, The Peterson Legacy, exhibited at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, won a 2014 Ottis Lock Endowment Award & Research Grant. Nash received the Charter Communications 2004 Television Producer of the Year Award and, while under contract at the University of Texas Health Science Center UTTV, she won a nomination for the Robert F. Kennedy Documentary Journalism Award.

Through its mission: To foster creativity and culture, enlivening communities and enabling a thriving economy, the Arts Council for Long Beach is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that promotes and advocates for the arts, helps fund Long Beach, California, artists like Sunny Nash, arts organizations and arts projects, and encourages private individuals and donors, to give and support artists and projects like the cultural heritage preservation program Nash will be presenting next year to students at Smith Elementary School.

© 2016 Sunny Nash
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