2016 Heritage Grant Recipients

Heritage Grantees2017
African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County : 
Living Oral History: African Americans in Washtenaw County ($23,075; Ann Arbor)
Living Oral History: African Americans in Washtenaw County will capture oral presentations from specific individuals to document the life and work of African Americans from 1925-1995 in Washtenaw County.  These interviews will serve as a road map to what African Americans witnessed, experienced, shared, and contributed in building the community as we see today. The new collection will serve as a historical resource for communities in the region for years to come. Funding will also allow the project will be expanded to include an Exhibit based on these stories, helping to share them with a wider audience.


Arts League of Michigan: Passage to Paradise ($25,000; Detroit)
Project includes digitization of an oral history collection based on the voices of African Americans who lived during a “Golden Age” of artistic and economic development in the tri-city nexus of Saginaw, Idlewild and Detroit from roughly 1915-1960.This digitized collection will reveal the intricate connection between these three communities, extending the previously recorded oral histories of Saginaw workers to blend them with a new Idlewild oral history. The recordings will be paired with original poetry to bring a new perspective to these stories. The collection will be hosted on a website at the Carr Center, epicenter for Paradise Valley cultural preservation in Detroit. A two-day public presentation of the collection—consisting of poetry readings, a youth workshop, and public discussion—will round out activities around this historic collection.


Baraga County Historical Society:  A History of Tribal Gaming in Baraga County  ($25,000; Baraga)
The project will examine the impact of Indian gaming and its relationship with Ojibwe culture and history in Baraga County and the State of Michigan.  In 1982 the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community licensed the first Native American-owned gaming establishment in the United States that included table games.  In the subsequent 33 years, Indian casinos have become common nation-wide.  In cooperation with members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Baraga County Historical Society will collect oral histories from persons involved in early casino development. By uncovering this history, the project will help dispel misunderstandings and inaccuracies about how and why Tribal gaming evolved from the voices of tribal members in the Keweenaw Bay region.


Buckham Fine Arts Project: HerStory Project  ($25,000; Flint)
The HerStory Project will take place inside Genesee County’s short-term juvenile detention, GVRC. It is a collaborative arts and women’s history based project that will build on the gender-based program for detained girls offered by the Buckham/GVRC Share Art Project over the past 4 years. Weekly 90-minute workshops will introduce stories, poetry, prose, song, and choreography by or about women. These works will serve as a catalyst for students to develop and share their authentic voices, their creativity, and their personal narratives mainly through Spoken Word Poetry, but also through theatre and dance. Special attention will be paid to identity-construction through the intersecting lenses of gender, race/ethnicity and class. An emphasis will also be placed on viewing the city of Flint, Genesee County, and the state of Michigan—past, present and future—through the eyes of women and girls. The HerStory Project will empower young women to not only tell their unique histories and to connect with the history of their communities, but also to take ownership of their futures. Moreover, it aims to promote a greater understanding about the experiences of incarcerated youth. Participants’ creative works will be collected, edited and published in a digital ‘EBook’ and in paperback format.


Burma Center: Finding a New Home in America ($25,000; Battle Creek)
The Burma Center’s project is the creation of an audio visual traveling exhibit to tell the story of ethnic Chin Burmese refugees who have resettled to the United States. The exhibit will first chronicle the history of Burma that led up to the State Department authorizing Burmese refugees to resettle to the United States. From there, the exhibit will chronicle the stories of several ethnic Chin Burmese refugees who have resettled in Battle Creek. Their oral histories will be recorded and worked into the exhibit, along with photos documenting their lives. The history of the ethnic Chin Burmese refugee resettlement to Battle Creek is an important story to tell in order to educate the community, preserve the stories of the refugees for future generations, and to reduce discrimination and preserve cultural identity.


Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Regional Commission: Potawatomi Interpretive Homestead ($3,161.40; Escanaba)
The Central Upper Peninsula Planning and Development (CUPPAD) Regional Commission, in partnership with the Hannahville Indian Community Cultural Committee and Potawatomi Heritage Center, will promote historical and cultural awareness by creating an interpretive exhibit along the U.P. Hidden Coast Recreation Heritage Route, a local designated Pure Michigan Byway. CUPPAD will assist the Hannahville Indian Community Cultural Committee and Potawatomi Heritage Center in designing an interpretive exhibit to be located along the U.P. Hidden Coast route in Cedar River, the last Potawatomi homestead of the Hannahville Indian Community before being located where they are today. A smaller, but otherwise identical, sign will be on display at the Potawatomi Heritage Center. Included on the exhibit will be a QR barcode linking visitors to an oral history video further illustrating site significance while also incorporating Potawatomi language.


Chaldean Heritage Foundation: Chaldean Oral History Project  ($24,978; Metro Detroit)
The project has three parts:  collection of analog and digital documentation, collection/transcription of oral histories, and production of a documentary to describe and illustrate the life of the large and growing Detroit-area Chaldean community both in its former homeland in Mesopotamia/Iraq, and in its 100-year life in southeast Michigan.  The project will share the story of the group’s beginnings as part of a multi-ethnic society in Iraq, now dispersed following the 2003 invasion and the current war in Iraq, and how they have adapted and contributed to life in Michigan and American society over the course of the past century.


Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan: Lake Huron Discovery Tour: Explore Our Native American History  ($25,000; Alpena)
In conjunction with the second annual Lake Huron Discovery Tour (LHDT) scheduled for October 7-10 and in recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day (October 10), this year Michigan Arts and Culture Northeast (MACNE) and its many partnering organizations plan to emphasize northeast Michigan’s rich Native American Heritage along the US 23 Heritage Route. In the week leading up to the LHDT, MACNE will work with libraries and schools to hosts guest presentations and demonstrations by Native American tradition bearers and scholars. The presentations will be followed by facilitated discussions and video-recorded interviews about our Native American heritage and how these communities changed into what they are today. Throughout the weekend, tradition bearers and scholars, along with a traveling exhibit, will relocate to other communities and locations, including sites that have special meaning to Indigenous people. Video vignettes will be posted online shortly following the recordings and become part of a collection of stories for local libraries, the Besser Museum and other interested parties.


Council of Asian Pacific Americans: Connecting Asian American Immigrant Communities  ($25,000; Metro Detroit)
This project will conduct a series of community conversations in the Asian American immigrant population to help bridge the cross cultural communication gaps between parents and children and to document the stories and experiences of this immigrant community through a 10-15 minute film on the impact of the Asian American community in the Southeast Michigan region. The grant will be used to bring together multiple generations in this community for a series of dialogues around different themes related to assimilation, in hopes of fostering stronger communication between youth and their parents as well as empowering youth to embrace their ethnic identity and find ways to share it in mainstream spaces.


David L. Head Foundation: Tracking Advancement: 100 Years of Progress?  ($25,000; Detroit)
Tracking Advancement: 100 Years of Progress? will extend the life of a seminal 1915 publication, The Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress through identifying and interviewing descendants of those represented in the Manual, commemorate the efforts of the individuals and groups highlighted in the text and who have sought to retain its prominence in our state’s history and engage in important dialogue concerning the contemporary progress of black people in Michigan. The project will work in collaboration with The Historical Research Repository, Inc., Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH) The Detroit Historic Sites Committee (DHSC), The Michigan Historical Center (MH) and the History Department at Wayne State University.


Flint Odyssey House: Youth Photovoice Project  ($25,000; Flint)
The Flint Odyssey House, Freedom School Program, will implement the Youth Photovoice Project (YPP) to create discussion, dialogue, and artistic exhibits to teach and educate the community about the cultural and historical “lived” experiences of elders in the Flint African American community. Using images as points of focus for both teaching and discussion, Photovoice provides a platform for two important transfers of cultural identity and cultural education, 1) oral history transfer and 2) archived image transfer. This preserves critical historical and cultural information needed for generations to come in the African American community as well as the community at-large in Flint. Youth participants will identify and primarily interview African American elders who lived through the Jim Crow/Civil Rights Era.


Focus: Hope: In Pursuit of Hope  ($25,000; Detroit)
The project will use videography and photography to collect oral histories from residents of the HOPE Village, a predominately African American Detroit neighborhood, and form those oral histories into an exhibit which will travel to local suburban and urban venues, coupled with opportunities for dialogue sessions across racial boundaries about the exhibit.  Neighborhood youth involved in Focus: HOPE’s photography and leadership program will photograph significant landmarks and buildings in and around the HOPE Village.   Through neighborhood town halls and community groups, residents interested in talking about their experience and recollections about the neighborhood will be identified. Neighbors will interview these residents, using a “photo voice” approach, asking residents to reflect on the photos, and describe both their recollections of and the deeper meaning and lessons drawn from the places and people depicted in the photos.  A focal point for the interviews will be the 1967 Detroit Rebellion, which started just blocks from the neighborhood, and played a formative role in the recent history of the neighborhood.    Residents will consider how race has shaped the neighborhood, and what we have learned from the past history of racism and inequity which will help us in the future.


Foundation for Muskegon Community College: Native American Heritage Month Celebration  ($22,100; Muskegon)
This project will build community awareness that will promote cultural understanding and the importance of equity.  We want our students and community to know, understand, and appreciate the rich history of Native Americans and their contributions, both past and present.  We will engage our community through displays, speakers, a mini powwow with traditional dancers, a musical performance, a film, and a key note speaker.  For fall 2016, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie is being adopted by all 12 Muskegon Area District Libraries as a Community Read; there will be book discussions at several libraries.  To connect with this, the project will Mr. Alexie to Muskegon to speak about his work and his life and augment the other components of the project.  His writing centers on the experiences of contemporary Native Americans as “Indigenous Outsiders.”  His candid approach to current issues will help to promote dialogue about the experiences, cultural diversity, contributions, and struggles of Native Americans in Michigan and our local area.


Heritage Works: Detroit Griot  ($25,000; Detroit)
Detroit Griot is designed to engage people of Detroit and surrounding communities in the exploration of cultural and oral traditions as well as personal and community histories. Detroit Griot begins by introducing Malinke and Wolof oral traditions to young Detroiters by hosting griot Assane Kouyate and his accompanists via a one-year residency. From the lineage of Kouyates that served the Malian King Sounjata Keita in the 1200s, Mr. Kouyate is from a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa. The project will use the positive, transformative nature of the arts and humanities to build connections between youth, elders, traditional and contemporary oral art forms, and African American, African, and other Detroit area communities. Oral historian Leslie Williams, President of the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society, will train youth in collecting personal and community histories. Youth will then work with Kouyate to weave those Detroit narratives with songs, poetry, and stories in the West African Griot tradition, creating a work of orature. With additional input from new media and digital scholar Mike Magadin, the youth will craft these stories into symbolic documents and videos that bring new contexts to Detroit history and youth voices.


Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission: Fountain of the Pioneers Public Education  ($22,434; Kalamazoo)
The project will partner with the Match-E-Be-Nash-E-Wish Band of the Pottawatomi Tribe to create engaging methods to present an accurate history of American Indian occupation of the region. The need for this interpretation stems from a controversial statue which depicts Euro-American conquest of the regions, without telling the Indigenous history of the site. Interpretation will be located in Bronson Park and at corners of the 1821-1829 Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish reservation where Kalamazoo now stands. With Next Exit History internet mapping the Pottawatomi’s own words and images will tell their story of Euro-American betrayal, resistance to removal, cultural re-engagement and community stewardship.


Latin Americans United for Progress: Nuestra Comunidad Hispana  ($25,000; Holland)
This collaboration started as an initiative to share the stories of Hispanic Americans who came to Holland and have settled in the community.  The stories will be collected prior to National Hispanic Heritage Month when the community will celebrate its rich Hispanic heritage.   Community stories (oral histories) will be collected at the Herrick District Library with audio recordings made using linear PCM recorders (following Library of Congress best practice guidelines for recording spoken word for archival preservation.) Participants will be photographed and have the opportunity to share their story.  Interviews will be conducted in Spanish and English, depending on which language participants’ feel more comfortable using to share their experiences.  The community portraits, interviews, transcriptions and translations will be permanently archived in the Genealogy Department at the Herrick District Library (HDL) in Holland.


Living Arts: Dia De Los Muertos:  Our (Hi)stories  ($20,748; Detroit)
Living Arts’ Teatro Chico performance series will organize “Dia De Los Muertos:  Nuestras Historias, Our (Hi)stories” as a contribution to the range of activities already taking place surrounding this observance in Southwest Detroit. Components of the project will include: 1) A series of 10 art-making workshops led by Detroit-based visual artists Kia Ixchel Arriaga and Erin and Monte Martinez. These will be held at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center (FREC) in the Mexicantown Mercado and at other community spaces like schools, church spaces, and places of business, as coordinated by the Project Advisors. 2) The creation of two large-scale “living” ofrendas (or altars), constructed gradually throughout the month of October from objects made at the community art-making workshops by youth and adults. These will be installed at the FREC. 3) A digital story telling project capturing, in video, audio or in writing, the unique ways in which local Southwest Detroit residents have kept Dia de Los Muertos traditions alive, both in their past and currently. 4) A celebration on Saturday, October 29th from 5 pm-8 pm at the FREC to display the two finished ofrendas and conduct more workshops and a series of community performances (similar to what is normally seen at a Teatro Chico performance).


Michigan Opera Theatre: Create and Perform: A Cultural Collage  ($19,061; Dearborn)
In partnership with the Arab American National Museum (AANM), Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) will deliver its successful Create and Perform programming to a class of middle school students in the Dearborn Public School District. Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States and the school district has an Arab American student population of nearly 84 percent. The goal of “Create and Perform: A Cultural Collage” is to use art and artistic expression to explore local Arab American culture, history, and community, filtered through the eyes and experiences of Dearborn teen and pre-teens. Over a series of 30 school sessions, students will work with multiple professional artists and educators to create an original performance piece using MOT’s method of arts-infused education and collaborative creation. The students will use art to generate a production that focuses on their own cultural questions, observations, and stories.


Niles History Center: Profiles and Portraits: African Americans in Niles  ($24,915; Niles)
The Niles History Center (NHC) along with several area partners, is spearheading a project called Profiles and Portraits: African-Americans in Niles’ Past, Present and Future. This collaborative project expands a community history engagement initiative that aims to uncover and share stories of African-Americans in Niles from the 1850s to the present. The largely untold story of African-Americans who arrived as part of multiple networks such as the Underground Railroad and settled here has lessons with tremendous potential to address issues facing the community of Niles. The support systems, family structures and community dynamics of Niles led to the establishment of black-owned businesses and a “corridor” which included a school, church and Michigan’s first African-American Masonic lodge. To discover, analyze and disseminate this history so that it can be applied to the present, three products will be produced: a digital resource database, a local history exhibit and a walking tour. A celebratory program will be held a year from the program’s start.


Right Start Up: Upper Peninsula Digital History Initiative  ($25,000; Hancock)
Right Start UP of Hancock, Michigan, in collaboration with the Finnish American Heritage Center of Finlandia University and Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly of Hancock, Michigan, will be carrying out the UPDHI to promote intergenerational dialogue and local community engagement with topics related to the cultural and historical diversity that is characteristic of the areas within the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The UPDHI is a community project that will pair youth volunteers with older adults of the community to plan, record, edit, produce and disseminate the older adult participants’ video life histories. Dissemination will include the creation and hosting of an interactive website navigable by geographic area of participants and discussion topic; presentations at local venues with project participants; social media dissemination through series of short video clips on specific topics; and live radio call-in sessions to incite open discussion about key socio-cultural and historical topics of local interest. In addition to creating a valuable cultural heritage resource, the UPDHI is expected to promote community connectedness, an increased a sense of well-being among the older adult participants, civically-engaged learning and pride among youth volunteers, and intergenerational dialogue on key current issues related to multi-culturalism and immigration, inciting tolerance and empathy.


River Raisin National Battlefield Park Foundation: Anishnaabek Journey Toward Understanding  ($25,000; Monroe)
A team of 8 Michigan educators, National Park Service educational staff and Odawa historical experts will embark on an actual Journey Towards Understanding, together traveling the historic paths of native peoples to develop lesson plans and educational activities that will teach American History through the eyes of the Anishnaabek (Odawa, Ojibway and Potawatomi) of the Great Lakes.   During the first year of the project, a minimum of 500 elementary and junior high students in three Michigan counties will pilot test the lesson plans and participate in educational activities to broaden student understanding of America’s struggle with racial equity, social justice and conflict resolution relating to American Indians. Target student populations include American Indian students in Emmet County and underserved minority students in priority schools located in Monroe and Wayne Counties. The metro Detroit area has the highest percentage of native people in Michigan, making it a prime location to focus the project. Emmet County is the homeland of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, a federally recognized Indian tribe, making it another ideal location.  Upon successful completion of the pilot program the educational materials, curriculum and lesson plans will be made available to all schools throughout the State of Michigan through Social Studies professional development networks and nationally through the National Park Service.


Tibbits Opera House: Yemeni in Coldwater  ($25,000; Coldwater)
This project seeks to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Coldwater’s Yemeni-American population through a major exhibit, activities and opportunities for youth, and related public programming. The project will explore the history of the Yemeni community and invite the Yemeni to share their experiences for the purpose of improving cross-cultural understanding. The entirety of this project will continue to foster much needed conversations and relationships that began during the first grant project. This year’s programming continues to adhere to a broader goal of creating a more accepting and inclusive community for the benefit of all people living in Coldwater. Activities in the last grant round brought to the surface negative views from community members concerning the Yemeni population in Coldwater. The upcoming project addresses this issue in the most direct way possible, challenging those misconceptions through personal stories, artistic expression and dialog.


University of Michigan – Dearborn: Oral Histories of Iranian-Americans in Michigan  ($24,830; Dearborn)
The aim of the this project is to video-record, archive and make available digitally oral history interviews with Iranian-Americans who reside in Michigan or for whom Michigan was an essential part of their life experience.  The grant will support to essential activities:  initiating the oral history project and educating the local Iranian-American community and general public about how the history of Iranian-Americans in our state connects with story of Iranian-Americans and the Iranian Diaspora around the world.


Wayne State University, Department of Theatre and Dance: Detroit 1967: From Page to Stage   ($19,400; Detroit)
Detroit, 1967: From Page to Stage brings young audiences together to read, reflect, and transform local history into a theatrical production. Faculty and students from the Wayne State University Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance will engage high school students in a year-long creative project that will promote learning and understanding of the unique experiences of African Americans during the Detroit uprisings of 1967. Wayne Theatre will collaborate with Old Redford Academy High School students to use the play Detroit ’67 by Dominique Morisseau as a tool to teach and perform the history of the Detroit Rebellion. In the Fall of 2016, high school students, guided by WSU teaching artists, will read the play and conduct research into the history of the time period. Research will be enhanced by field trips to the Charles H. Wright Museum, the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Institute for the Arts. These field experiences will bring the history to life for the students, and encourage them to create a personal interest in processes of historical research and interpretation. In the Winter of 2017, students will use oral and written histories from individuals with stories and memories about the unrest in July of 1967, collected on the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 1967 Online Archive, to develop a theatrical piece to perform at their school, at WSU, and local museums. This pivotal moment in the history of Detroit will lay the foundation for further discussions throughout the rehearsal process through post-show discussions at performances.


West Michigan Asian American Center:  Newcomer Legacy  ($23,375; Grand Rapids)
This video project is comprised of filming interviews with local Vietnamese community members about how they arrived in West Michigan and describing their experiences overcoming racial barriers. This will include acclimating to the area, along with culture and language barriers, explaining their strengths and difficulties. The contributions to the community will be enhancing the stories of the Vietnamese and bringing acculturation to the forefront showing the strengths of this group which has overcome social and racial barriers.


West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology:  Teen Documentary on African American Music  ( $22,300; Grand Rapids)
The West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology will engage urban high school students to research, develop and produce a documentary on the history and contributions of African American music in Grand Rapids from post-World War II through present day. The students from Grand Rapids Public Schools will be part of WMCAT’s Teen Arts + Tech Program, working in the video production lab two-days-a-week after school. Students, who will have had at least one year of experience in art + tech at WMCAT, will be paid a stipend for working on the project. Under the guidance of Mike Saunders, a WMCAT teaching artist, professional film producer and local DJ, teens will connect with partners like the Grand Rapids Public Library and Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives to research the musical history of the African American community in the later half of the 20th century through today. This research will lead to the development of a short documentary that will trace musical contributions and make connections to today’s musical landscape within West Michigan’s African American community. The project will begin in September, 2016 with a finished product and public screening to coincide with Black History Month in February, 2017.


Ypsilanti District Library: Ypsilanti African American Oral History Archive  ($25,000; Ypsilanti)
Between the Civil War and WWI, Ypsilanti was home to a vibrant African American community that transformed our region’s future. Unlike their white counterparts, most of this history is not etched into buildings or recorded in books. Instead, the historical record is remembered by the people who lived and still live here. This project will preserve these remembered stories in a local oral history archive, starting by digitizing and permanently preserving a set of almost 50 oral histories recorded in the 1980s by the prominent black professor, historian, and activist A.P. Marshall. Local historians will build on this collection by adding an additional 5-10 contemporary oral histories, collecting the stories of people born in the 1920s and 1930s who have spent their lives on Ypsilanti’s south side. Finally, the Ypsilanti District Library and the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County will host historical lectures and community events, publicizing the oral history project while raising awareness about the African American contributions to building the city we love today.


Ypsilanti Housing Commission: Historic Parkridge Project  ($25,000; Ypsilanti)
The Historic Parkridge Project aims to thoroughly research, document and create an interpretation plan for the Parkridge Homes site in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  In 1941, the Ford Motor Company received a contract from the United States Army Air Corps to aid in the wartime effort by utilizing their automotive and assembly line expertise to manufacture B-24 Liberator Bombers. The Willow Run Bomber Assembly Plant, comprised of an airfield and approximately five million square feet of manufacturing space, was constructed in Ypsilanti and operations began in 1941.  To staff the plant, 100,000 workers arrived in Ypsilanti, which had previously been a relatively quiet agricultural community, and a housing shortage quickly followed. Efforts to construct integrated public housing were rejected by the Detroit Housing Commission and the National Housing Agency. In 1943, celebrated African-American Architect, Hilyard Robinson was contracted to design temporary worker housing for the African-American workers and eighty multi-family residential units were constructed.  Despite the intended temporary nature of the development, the demand for public housing did not lessen after World War II ended and the Parkridge Homes development remains in use today. The blighted nature of the housing development has been well-documented over the last 70 years and the area has now become “last resort” housing, as well as a known hotbed of criminal activity.  Although the development is historically significant for its connection to the Willow Run Bomber Assembly Plant, African American history in Ypsilanti, the Civil Rights Movement, and architect Hilyard Robinson, the present condition of the development and the urgent need for quality affordable housing for Ypsilanti’s residents necessitate the demolition of the existing structures and new construction of affordable housing. To ensure that this important story is preserved, the Ypsilanti Housing Commission will embark on a project to meticulously research, document, and interpret the history of the Parkridge Homes Site and its impact on the Ypsilanti community.