On September 10, 2021 Michigan Humanities will honor and celebrate outstanding contributions to the humanities in our state in Mackinaw City, Michigan. We will recognize and celebrate individuals, schools, universities, libraries, community organizations, groups, foundations and corporations who have advanced the humanities in Michigan through leadership, education and advocacy. Our award categories for this year are: Outstanding Humanities Organization, Humanities Champion of the Year-Individual and Community Impact Partner of the Year 2020. As our deadline to submit nominations approaches on June 18, we wanted to talk to two of our past recipients in 2020: the author and poet M.L. Liebler and the Director of The Museum of Ojibwa Culture/Marquette Mission, Shirley Donivan-Sorrels, to learn about what receiving these awards mean to them and their organizations. We invite you learn about these two recipients’ projects and what these awards meant to them by reading below.

Professor Liebler, can you share with us about the work of your organization and the communities that it seeks to support?

I direct The Detroit Writers’ Guild (formerly The Detroit Black Writers’ Guild). Our mission is to bring the literary arts to writers and audiences in Metro Detroit with an emphasis on the City of Detroit. We host a website announcing new books by Michigan writers, publishing opportunities and various reading series. Our original series are: Poets & Pies, The All Access Café for Differently Abled Writers & Musicians, The Midtown Literary Walk, The St. Clair Shores Literary Walk by the Lake, Detroit Tonight Live at The Music Hall, Poetrypalooza at Macomb College and The Open Field Series at Wayne State.

What did it mean for you and your organization to have received this Humanities Award?

Receiving the Michigan Arts Leader Award raised the visibility of the Detroit Writers’ Guild significantly in Metro Detroit and across the State of Michigan. This award made many people aware of the cultural work we are doing.

Ms. Donivan-Sorrels, can you share with us about the work of your organization and the communities that it seeks to support?

The Museum of Ojibwa Culture/Marquette Mission offers a vibrant public space where visitors and community members alike can come together to learn and discuss the historical and humanities aspect of our exhibits and engage in discovery and cultural experiences both past and present. The path of our ancestors is brought to life in an atmosphere of respect for their contributions, helping us to understand the present, amidst the broad cultural diversity that brings distinction to our community. We present the vivid history of life, when the Ojibwa, Huron and French lifestyles met in St. Ignace. It is a place where visitors from all over the world can “step into history” through interactive displays, exhibits and programs, that are grounded on the foundation of helping our guests to truly experience area history and to create meaningful connections.

We play a critical role in sharing history and providing contextual meaning to the rich history of our area. Our American Indian history has not always been accurately told in this country or state. Indigenous perspectives on the creation of the United States of America have typically been underrepresented. We are continuously working to move forward, authentically representing Indigenous voices inside our museum space. Close partnerships with Indigenous peoples of the area have been developed over the years and we strive to create opportunities for them to share their stories in a supportive and caring atmosphere.

We reach out to area Indigenous communities to build lasting relationships. Indigenous people are included as project partners in every step of our grants and exhibits. Collaborative partnerships are based on mutual respect and are an essential component in consideration for projects and programs involving Indigenous content. We believe in open communication pathways to share knowledge and ideas with Indigenous peoples and ensure their wisdom and knowledge is incorporated in all we do. This is done with the direction of the Elders who are the knowledge keepers and they help us to use the best methods of portraying the Indigenous culture and stories. We have a strong outreach also into Canadian Aboriginal communities across our border and many of their people come and share traditions and culture through workshops and festivals.

What did it mean for the Museum to have received this Humanities Award?

Receiving the prestigious Community Impact Partner of the Year Award was a true honor for our museum and validates the important work we are doing in our community and beyond. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve our community, through our excellent exhibits, festivals, cultural workshops, economic and educational contributions. A large part of our success is due to the Michigan Humanities Council grant funding for our humanities related exhibits that not only tell the struggles of the Indigenous peoples but also their triumphs in rising above the struggles. Michigan Humanities has also recognized the importance of our expansion of educational knowledge on the Ojibwa Culture. We received a grant in 2015 from MHC related to the Ojibwa Clan System of Government sculpture exhibit that took an international award. Thank you, Michigan Humanities.

This Community Impact Award confirms the importance of our working collaboratively with Indigenous communities and also in assisting in preserving our rich heritage and history. A special thank you goes out to our partners in our projects, our staff, and community members who take part in bringing our exhibits and projects to life.

To learn more about our 2020 and/or prior Award recipients click here

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Michigan Humanities.

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