On January 17, 2017, MHC joined the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and their partners in acknowledging a National Day of Racial Healing. The day is part of WKKF’s larger Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation effort, intended to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change to address the historic and contemporary effects of longstanding racism and belief in racial hierarchy that have dominated the educational, economic, social and legal discourse for centuries.
“Communities, organizations and individuals are being asked to acknowledge that there are still deep racial divisions in America that must be overcome,” said Dr. Gail Christopher, senior advisor and vice president for TRHT at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We have to come together to heal and commit to truth telling, engaging representatives from all racial, ethnic, religious and identity groups in genuine efforts to increase understanding, communication, caring and respect for one another.”
With this charge, what can the humanities contribute to dialogues, understanding, and actions toward racial equity? At MHC, a first step has been to support our communities in examining histories of race, ethnicity, and cultural identity through our program Heritage Grants: Exploring the History of All Michigan’s People. By looking at difficult histories and engaging communities in the present day, the 54 cultural organizations funded by the program are making authentic voices more visible and offering stories that tell a more dynamic story about Michigan and its residents. For example, in St. Ignace, the Museum of Ojibwa Culture is working with local tribes to come to terms with the devastating effects attending residential boarding schools had on their cultures and way of life. The Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives is preserving the city’s African American history through an oral history project that will form the foundation for their collections. Down the street, in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood, some of the city’s Latino youth worked to find their voices by contributing a vision for their community through a new mural that enlivens a once dilapidated wall. Across the state, publicly engaged humanities project such as these are working to tackle difficult topics, affirm their identities, and reflect on the past in order to create new narratives in the present.
In honor of the National Day of Racial Healing, MHC invites you to learn more about the work our grantees are doing on the ground to support healing, racial equity, and the humanities by reading some of the stories they have written for our blog. You can find them here: http://www.michiganhumanities.org/heritage-grants/heritageblog/
Together, new narratives are possible. In the coming months, we will launch a comprehensive website that will help share the stories our grantees have uncovered as we work with communities across the state to ensure that narratives about Michigan’s past, present, and future represent the authentic voices of all Michigan’s people. In the meantime, you can read about the projects funded in 2015 and 2016 below:
– Joseph S. Cialdella, Ph.D. is a Grants Officer at the Michigan Humanities Council.