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Humanities DC Awards Vision Grants to 13 Projects

An after-school writing lab, a course in dance journalism, mapping segregation in D.C. and an array of digitization projects were among the 13 winning proposals selected this year to receive grant funding up to $20,000 by Humanities DC for its Vision Grant program.

The 13 recipients were invited to the Uline Arena in Northeast last Friday for one of the first in-person reception and presentation events hosted by Humanities DC in seven years.

Joy Ford Austin, Humanities DC executive director, said she was as excited as the grantees this year and glad to bring back the presentation event.

“It means a lot to me to see the anticipation and to share my joy of the opportunities that lie ahead for you,” she said.

More than 50 nonprofit organizations competed for a grant this year, and 52 made it to the review process.

“Of all the years I’ve been here — and that’s 20 years that I’ve looked at the cadre of grants — you had stiff competition,” Austin said to the recipients. “There were excellent proposals that did not get funded, so, again, I congratulate you for the high-quality work you gave us.”

The grants will provide financial and capacity-building resources for projects that offer innovative interpretations of life, history and culture for public audiences in D.C. It is one of roughly 10 grant funding, capacity-building and cultural awareness programs provided by Humanities DC, and this year there was more money to give away.

“For years and years, we gave $5,000 and then $10,000. I think all of you are in good shape today,” Austin joked, before passing along grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to each awardee.

Grant awardees from neighborhoods across the District will be using the funds to document life in the District. As each shared the highlights of their projects, their enthusiasm often caused them to exceed their two-minute time limit and left other grantees offering ways to collaborate.

Among the grantees are Roadwork, a multiracial coalition that puts women’s culture on the road, plans to interview sign language interpreters and deaf community members in a video with a particular focus on the a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock and Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, the group’s first sign language interpreter.

Kindred Spirit will examine the people, places, and landscapes that inspired D.C. artists and educators Hilda Wilkinson Brown and Lillian Thomas Burwell, who worked and lived in D.C. during segregation.

Washington Informer Charities was represented by Chairman Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer, who said she was thrilled and encouraged by the grant Washington Informer Charities received to digitize the print archives of the newspaper started 55 years ago.

“I realize all of you [grantees] will need to research stories The Washington Informer has covered, but they are in newspapers buried in cardboard boxes in a storage unit,” Barnes said. “This grant will allow us to begin digitizing those newspapers, share them with the Humanities Digital Archives so that we can provide a richer narrative about life and culture in D.C.”

Austin said she is looking forward to receiving more funds to give to more organizations in the coming years.

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