National Endowment for the Arts Names Three Californians 2020 National Heritage Fellows

Pictured: West African diasporic dancers Dr. Zakarya and Naomi Diouf and radio producer and radio network builder Hugo N. Morales, California recipients of the 2020 National Heritage Fellowships.
Left and center photos © RJ Muna. Right photo courtesy of Radio Bilingüe.

SACRAMENTO, CA – The National Endowment for the Arts announced today the recipients of its 2020 National Heritage Fellowships, including three California-based artists. Dr. Zakarya Sao Diouf and Naomi Gedo Diouf of Oakland/Castro Valley and Hugo N. Morales of Fresno are among the nine recipients to be honored this year. These lifetime honor awards of $25,000 are given in recognition of both artistic excellence and efforts to sustain cultural traditions for future generations. In addition to their artistic value, each of the Heritage Fellows’ art forms also reflects the community they come from and the history of the tradition.

Dr. Zakarya Sao Diouf and Naomi Gedo Diouf are West African diasporic dancers from Oakland/Castro Valley. One of the first native-born Africans to begin teaching traditional Senegalese dance in the U.S., Zakarya’s pioneering work in the preservation, presentation, and transmission of African culture has contributed to the Bay Area’s reputation as a center for African diaspora dance and music. For 28 years, Naomi taught West African dance at Berkeley High School, designing the first public high school African American Studies Department curriculum in African dance. Originally from Senegal and Liberia respectively, Dr. Zakarya Diouf and Naomi Diouf have contributed to the practice and performance of West African dance, drum, and culture in African diasporic communities for more than four decades. Click here for 2020 National Heritage Fellows Dr. Zakarya Sao Diouf and Naomi Gedo Diouf’s full biography.

Hugo N. Morales is a Radio Producer and Radio Network Builder from Fresno. He is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Radio Bilingüe, the National Latino Public Radio Network. Today, Radio Bilingüe is the leading Latino public radio network and content producer in U.S. public media, with 24 stations and 75-plus affiliates serving more than a half million listeners weekly. It is a curator of Latino culture through series like Línea Abierta and Raíces: Art Moments on Radio and major festivals of mariachi and Norteño-Tejano music, with teaching workshops for youth. Morales is the 2020 recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship, presented in recognition of an individual who has made a significant contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage. Click here for 2020 National Heritage Fellow Hugo N. Morales’s full biography.

“California’s National Heritage Fellows continue to celebrate the rich cultural traditions of our diverse communities,” said Anne Bown-Crawford, California Arts Council Director. “We are proud to congratulate Dr. Zakarya Diouf, Naomi Diouf and Hugo N. Morales as well-deserved recipients of this lifetime honor. Each is an ambassador for the artistic and creative legacies of our history, carrying them forward as cultural bearers for future generations to identify with, connect to, and build upon.”

Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the statewide partner to the California Arts Council in serving the folk and traditional arts field, Executive Director, Amy Kitchener, says, “We are thrilled to see the inspiring stories and contributions of Dr. Zakarya Diouf, Naomi Gedo Diouf, and Hugo Morales recognized by the Arts Endowment. Each of these awardees have been leaders in their field for many years, representing the deep cultural practice and robust leadership within the African diasporic and Latinx communities across the state of California. These awards affirm the beauty, creativity, and national relevance of the artists, practices, and histories of these communities.”

The annual celebration of the new class of National Heritage Fellows will take place virtually this year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information about this event, including the date, will be available from the National Endowment for the Arts at a later time.

“Each year the Heritage Fellowships highlight the distinct living traditions of communities around our nation, as well as how our fellows instill a sense of pride, beauty, and cultural continuity through their art,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “The National Endowment for the Arts is pleased to recognize these outstanding artists with a National Heritage Fellowship.”

Forty-nine California artists and culture bearers have been recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship since its start in 1982. Click here for the full list.

To read the full announcement from the National Endowment for the Arts, including the list of all 2020 National Heritage Fellows, click here.

About the National Heritage Fellowships
The National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Including the 2020 class, the Arts Endowment has awarded 449 National Heritage Fellowships, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms, including bluesman B.B. King, Cajun fiddler and composer Michael Doucet, sweetgrass basketweaver Mary Jackson, cowboy poet Wally McRae, Kathak dancer and choreographer Chitresh Das, and gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples. More information about the National Heritage Fellows is available on the Arts Endowment’s website.

Fellowship recipients are nominated by the public, often by members of their own communities, and then judged by a panel of experts in the folk and traditional arts. The panel’s recommendations are reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, which sends its recommendations to the Arts Endowment chairman, who makes the final decision. The deadline to submit a nomination for the 2021 class of National Heritage Fellows is July 31, 2020. Visit the National Endowment for the Arts website for more information and to submit a nomination.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

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The California Arts Council is a state agency with a mission of strengthening arts, culture, and creative expression as the tools to cultivate a better California for all. It supports local arts infrastructure and programming statewide through grants, initiatives, and services. The California Arts Council envisions a California where all people flourish with universal access to and participation in the arts.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Jaime Galli, Larry Baza, Lilia Gonzales Chavez, Jodie Evans, Kathleen Gallegos, Stanlee Gatti, Donn K. Harris, Alex Israel, Consuelo Montoya, and Jonathan Moscone. Learn more at

The California Arts Council is committed to increasing the accessibility of its online content. For language and accessibility assistance, visit

Liz Auclair, Arts Endowment

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