In October, HumanitiesDC awarded eight grants of $5000 each for projects that will explore what it means to be a Washingtonian and encourage dialogue between groups of residents who normally are isolated from one another. Each project will incorporate the civic reflection model, a proven structure for community conversation that sees an assembled group participate in a “text” (which could be a reading, a song, a work of art, etc.) and then engage on the issue at hand using the “text” as a common starting point.
The Center for Inspired Teaching received the grant for the second consecutive year for their outstanding youth program, Real World History. The program takes DC public school students outside the classroom to engage directly with the history in their local communities. The project is intergenerational, connecting young students with seniors. The students will learn about the Great Migration through interviews with older Washingtonians, and they will prepare for these conversations by exploring the artwork of Jacob Lawrence, and by reading Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns.
Intergenerational dialogue is a common theme for this year’s Who’s a Washingtonian? projects. The Metropolitan DC Health Consortium has launched a project that will bring middle school students from the Shaw neighborhood together with older residents of the Crestwood neighborhood. The young participants will interview the seniors, and will learn from their aspirations, inspirations, and life stories. Project leaders hope that stories of perseverance in the face of adversity will help the students meet their own challenges.
The Washington Performing Arts Center will bring young Washingtonians and seniors together around a mutual appreciation for gospel music. The program, titled Deep River, will culminate in a video created from edited oral history interviews.
Other projects will focus on bringing longtime Washingtonians together with newcomers to the city. In conjunction with the upcoming premiere of the webseries Districtland, the DC Independent Film Festival (DCIFF) will host a conversation aimed at new millennial residents and young adults who have grown up in the District. Districtland is intended to be an honest look at how many young professionals live their daily lives in a booming, but sometimes socially isolating Washington, DC. DCIFF’s conversation will give real DC residents the opportunity to voice their opinions on just how honest the portrayal is.
The Madison Terrace Cooperative will also bring together an audience of new and longtime residents, this time to help tell the story of Washington’s shifting demographics from the perspective of a single block. The project, 5500: A Changing Block, will focus on the Madison Terrace Building. Residents, local business owners, university professors, and Greater Greater Washington founder Dave Alpert, will weigh in on recent changes to the neighborhood. The final product will be a feature length documentary film offering a unique perspective on housing affordability and economic development.
American University’s Women in Film Collective will bring their Community Voice Project (CVP) to the Anacostia Community Museum to address how the neighborhoods of greater Anacostia are reconciling issues of gentrification, revitalization, and suburbanization with their existing culture and history. The project will pair student filmmakers with community historians and storytellers in a partnership designed to blur the lines between media makers and subjects. The resulting digital stories will be archived and displayed by the CVP, the Anacostia Community Museum, and HumanitiesDC’s DC Digital Museum.
The Daniel Alexander Payne Community Development Corporation will initiate a collaborative project between two downtown religious congregations. The project will use sociology, comparative religion and politics as lenses through which to examine historic relations between the city’s African-American Christian and Jewish congregations. The project will result in a culminating public event, and will seek to continue the conversation online.
Finally, the Abacus Project Inc. will bring African-American and Afro-Cuban jazz musicians together to discuss the historical development of each group’s unique styles. The program will go beyond the music, documenting the stories of the men and women who bring it to life. The collaboration will produce a documentary film aimed at asking musicians such questions as, “Why did you come to DC?”, and “Why do you stay in DC?”
These projects will be underway throughout 2016. We’ll have the details on all public events and final products as they become available.