We are pleased to announce our latest awards made to our new Open Humanities and Soul of the City grantees, who are joining an impressive collection of peers striving to improve the quality of life for District residents every day. We received a record-breaking 49 applications for funding across the two grants—a tremendous response to the value of the humanities in our city. Ultimately, we selected 9 organizations to become Open Humanities grantees and 3 to join Soul of the City. Combined, we awarded $138,190.00 in total funding for this round of grant-making.
Our grantees work in every Ward of the city, and we could not be more proud of them. Please join us in congratulating our Open Humanities grantees, who bring the humanities to life, and our Soul of the City grantees, who use the humanities to educate and empower our youth to take part in the cultural life of our city. Read on to meet this year’s grantees and learn about their exciting projects!

2017 Open Humanities Grant

Organization: Hola Cultura

Project: Las Paredes Hablan/Walls that Talk: Four decades of DC Latino Muralism

“Las Paredes Hablan/Walls that Talk: Four decades of DC Latino Muralism” marks a new phase in Hola Cultura’s work chronicling DC’s Latino street art tradition. Since 2012, Hola Cultura has produced a web-documentary; an online map of 30 DC Latino murals; articles; essays; videos; and photos documenting the inspiring stories behind the murals. We seek HumanitiesDC’s support to keep exploring the past and continuing story of DC’s Latino street murals.

Using a tested methodology of combining online and face-to-face community events, “Las Paredes Hablan/Walls that Talk” will expand the public’s knowledge, foster interest in and help preserve our community’s history. Working with humanities scholar and pioneering DC muralist, Carlos Arrien, Hola Cultura will update its research and map, aiming to add 10 murals to the map—both new and historic ones. In consultation with experts, this research will allow Hola Cultura to create the guided bus tour and inaugurate it during Hispanic Heritage Month this fall.

Organization: Many Languages, One Voice

Project: La Esquina/The Corner: An Oral History of the Men at the Mt. Pleasant 7-11 Store 

Next to the 7-11 store at the intersection of Mt. Pleasant and Kenyon Streets is a modern-day Tally’s Corner – Elliot Liebow’s classic book about life on a DC street corner in the 1960s.  For close to 40 years, Latino men – mostly Salvadoran – have gathered here to spend their days and evenings telling stories, joking, philosophizing, and sharing news. Along the sidewalks surrounding the corner, Latina women sell mangos, tamales, and others foods from back home.  This corner recreates the public spaces of small town parks and plazas across El Salvador.  The men’s presence has been a constant amidst continuous neighborhood change. Using ethnographic research (participant/observer documentation and oral history interviews), photography, and creative writing, this project will capture the past and present of this corner as one story in the history of Salvadorans in DC.  The project team brings together a bilingual and intergenerational group of scholars, artists, and community members all rooted in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood with the goal of starting a dialogue and catalyzing a larger community discussion about our presence in a city in the throes of dramatic demographic change.

Organization: African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation

Project: dc1968

When most people think of DC in 1968 they think of “the riots” which occurred after the assassination of Dr. King on April 4.  The popular conception is that “the riots” destroyed the city and that it wasn’t until the expansion of Metro and the infusion of new development in the 1980s that the city flourished. This popular conception is historically inaccurate and does a grave disservice to all Washingtonians.

dc1968, a curated and crowdsourced website, will transform the public’s perception of the city by providing a historically accurate and nuanced understanding of that extraordinary year by creating a digital 365 Days of History calendar for 2018.  dc1968 will have rich daily content covering 12 themes—activism, architecture, arts, belief, institutions, media, nature, politics, public space, schools, sports and technology. dc1968 will explore these themes across race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, ability, ward and neighborhood.

dc1968 will serve as the central site for Washingtonians and others seeking to learn about the city in 1968, and a vital connector to other organizations also commemorating the 50th anniversary of 1968.

Organization: Street Sense

Project: Homelessly in Love

Everyone needs love.  Homelessly in Love is a documentary that follows the lives of homeless single women, single men, couples and families living in the District. The project was started in the spring of 2015 by Ariane Mohseni and Lalita Clozel, two lifelong friends who wanted to help change the narrative on people whose stories are often overlooked in favor of broader media narratives.

Our partners at Street Sense thought we would have a hard time getting people to open up to us to discuss their personal lives. But they quickly opened up to us, because instead of asking them about what made them different – about the extreme hardships they had endured – they asked them about one subject everyone can relate to: love.

Angie, one of the subjects of our documentary, said it best: “We need love, we need caring, we need sincerity, we need sex. Those are the things that people want whether they are homeless or not. They are necessities for living a human life because they are things that make us humans.”

Organization: Mosaic Theater Company of DC

Project: Mosaic Public Programing

Working alongside humanities scholar and Howard University lecturer Otis Cortez Ramsey-Zöe, Mosaic will enrich the DC community by providing expanded dramaturgical offerings and robust community discussions to accompany each production in Mosaic’s Mainstage Series in Season Three. The Mainstage Series will consist of eight probing plays from the US and beyond, providing more than 22,000 audience members in the DC region with the opportunity to take part in conversations about the intersection of arts and humanities. Ramsey-Zöe will bring his academic background as a scholar of theater arts to critically research these plays, elucidating the particular historical, philosophical, and literary underpinnings of these works, ultimately helping to shape the audience’s’ experience. His research will inform the creation of written material for audience members including robust program notes and study guides for students. He will also work as an ad hoc member of Mosaic’s Public Programming committee, collaborating with board members including James Early, retired Director of Cultural Studies at the Smithsonian, and Pamela Pinnock, founder of “A Continuing Talk on Race” at Busboys and Poets, to curate panel discussions for each production which will feature community leaders and stakeholders in the content of the plays. A selection of post-show panels will be recorded and shared with our wider community.

Organization: SNCC Legacy Project, Inc.

Project: SNCC Legacy Project, Black Power Chronicles

The Washington, D.C. Black Power Chronicles (DCBPC) was founded as a community-based history documentation program in March, 2016 by the SNCC Legacy Project. Our purpose is to collect, document, interpret and present the stories and impact of the Black Power Movement in Washington, DC as told by Black Power veterans and their supporters who created and shaped the Black Power era (1966-86).

DCBPC has enjoyed a warm welcome into DC. We have held 12 public monthly forums attracting over 300 diverse volunteers who joined working committees and provided resources and support. In June, 2016, with support from the DC Humanities Council, DCBPC produced an hour-long live broadcast commemorating the June 16, 1966 Call for Black Power.  Two hundred attended the event and seven black Power veterans presented their memories of the historical days in DC.

Organization: Washington Area Performing Arts Video Archive

Project: WAPAVA REEL Time: A Historical Look at DC Theatre over 25 Years

WAPAVA REEL Time: A Historical Look at DC Theater over 25 Years is a video project that will document WAPAVA’s work in archiving live DC-area theater for 25 years and explore the historical changes that have occurred within DC theater. The video will highlight key archived productions representing significant moments in the DC-area theater community, while examining such topics as the number of theaters, diversity, and themes of productions.

The video will serve as a tool for extending the reach and use of the WAPAVA archive in three significant areas: educational programs at the K-12 and university levels; specialized study in theater history for both academic and creative research; and audience development and enrichment for the theaters of the DC-area. The goals, and ultimately the benefits of this project are: 1) to promote access to a significant resource for educators/students in understanding how contemporary theater responds to social conditions, changing technologies, and tradition; 2) to increase awareness of DC’s rich performing-arts history among the community of theater scholars to redress the historical record for the future; 3) to offer DC-area theaters and community organizations a means of developing audience interest and enhancing theater-goers’ experience, thus contributing to awareness of the humanities in the nation’s capital.

To accomplish our goals, we will host screenings of the film at DC Branch Libraries, DC-area colleges, universities and local performing arts high schools, and engage the DC-area theater community to promote the video project.

Organization: Women in Film and Video

Project: The Last Days of Brookland Manor

THE LAST DAYS OF BROOKLAND MANOR is a 60-minute documentary examining the impact of redevelopment and gentrification on the lives of DC’s low-income families through the lens of the Brookland Manor community in northeast DC where residents are organizing to protect their homes as the complex’s owner seeks to build a new market rate development. At stake is affordable housing for dozens of multi-generational families whose three, four and five bedroom units are not in the new plan as well as access to this type of affordable housing for future residents. Currently at 545 affordable units, the developer plans to bring back 265 affordable units with 200 for seniors-only. It is unknown if any of the 18 new three bedroom units will be affordable, a change which reduces critically needed family-sized affordable housing units from the city’s inventory.

You’ll meet Cheryl Brunson, a 20-year resident and disabled grandmother caring for her two grandkids; Minnie Elliott, president of the Tenants’ Association; Dorothy Davis who has three generations of her family living at Brookland Manor; and others. The film will also explore the developer’s point-of-view as the company works to re-imagine the neighborhood and broaden its tenant base. This documentary touches on themes of social justice, community organizing, gentrification, civil rights, and District history by exploring our characters’ daily struggles to keep their homes. Filming began in 2016 and will end with the start of construction of RIA DC in 2018.

Organization: Us Helping Us, People Into Living

Project: Us Helping Us:  The Story of HIV/AIDS in Black Gay Washington, D.C.

This project aims to tell the story of Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc., and, through our story, document the larger history of HIV/AIDS in Black gay Washington D.C.  In 1985, amidst nation-wide hysteria over a new disease devastating the White gay community, Rainey Cheeks started a support group for Black gay men living with HIV/AIDS. That group, which met in his apartment living room, evolved into Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc. At a time when newly diagnosed could expect to die within 6 months, UHU advocated that people could live with AIDS if they adopted a holistic approach to their health that involved the body, mind, and spirit. Under the leadership of Dr. Ron Simmons (a support group member who became Executive Director), UHU become the largest gay identified, Black AIDS service organization in the Washington, D.C. area.  For more than 30 years, UHU has been the hub of the Black Gay community’s response to HIV/AIDS. Through this project, we aim to produce a short film, document our history and the history of HIV/AIDS in Washington’s Black gay community, and spark an inter-generational dialogue among the elders of the community and a younger generation of Black gay men who have only known HIV as chronic disease people live with.



2017 Soul of the City Grants:

Organization: Critical Exposure

Project: Soul of the City: Critical Exposure Fellowship and Youth Internship

Critical Exposure uses the humanities to help youth understand themselves and the human experience while giving them the tools and confidence they need to change the world around them. Our Youth Internship and Fellowship programs teach and inspire low-income youth to harness the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for positive changes in their schools and communities. Critical Exposure serves youth primarily from DC Wards 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 who are in desperate need of opportunities to explore their artistic talents, develop their leadership skills, and raise their voices. Our programs draw on a variety of humanities themes – such as civics, anthropology, ethics, history, and social justice – to help students understand the human experience on a local, national, and international level. Through this learning process, students become confident, community-oriented leaders who understand their capacity to create deep, long-term change.

Organization: Atlas Performing Arts Center

Project: Soul of the City: Atlas City @ Peace

City @ Peace is the Atlas’ out-of-school youth development program for teens and young adults ages 14 to 24. City @ Peace students come from diverse backgrounds, from all eight Wards. and include students attending school as well as older and disconnected youth. The program uses the performing arts to bring to life the stories of individual participants. Central to the program is the teens’ examination of their own and others’ attitudes, customs, values, histories, beliefs and traditions. The youth examine issues and conditions that unite and divide them and together identify ways to better understand one another; appropriately respond to their challenges; and develop productive, supportive relationships. While exploring and having an open dialogue about these issues in a safe, collaborative, welcoming environment. The youth also receive training in the performing arts and create original theatrical productions that blend dance, spoken word and music. The arts curriculum provides the tools for self-expression, enabling participants to tell their own stories in ways that are coherent, moving and artistic.

Organization: Peace Thru Culture

Project: Soul of the City: Peace thru Culture Corps

Peace thru Culture is proposing a partnership with Humanities DC and our Peace thru Culture Corps summer program which prepares youth age 14-16 with leadership skills, civic engagement, global awareness, and critical thinking skills.  The PtC Corps curriculum design is based on nearly a decade of providing global education programs to children and youth in under resourced communities in Washington, DC.  Our hands on interactive program is six weeks and allows participants to explore cultures, civic engagement practices, global ideas and an opportunity to share their finding with peers through the final project, Global Youth Meetup.

Although we will serve 20 youth through the PtC Corp Program, we will engage three times the amount of youth through the multiplier effect of the Global Youth Meetup.  Youth from other organizations will be invited to attend the Global Youth Meetup where they will have an opportunity to participate in civic engagement workshop, cultural master dance and art classes and the opportunity to meet youth from other cultures.

The Global Youth Meetup program will be recorded for the Peace thru Culture You Tube Channel, shared with youth organizations and Humanities DC to use in their digital libraries for reference and assistance in promoting the ideals and values presented through this program.