Michigan is a state with many stories. Some stories have been told often, and others not at all. Numerous stories have historically been told from the perspective of people who did not live the experiences first-hand or feel the consequences of the actions and events that determined the course of their ancestors.
In the spring of 2014, the Michigan Humanities Council embarked on a challenging journey to explore diverse stories told in authentic voices, with the goal of sharing and validating the genuine experiences and history of all of Michigan’s people. By providing innovative grants and capacity building support to grassroots organizations, MHC established connections between history and present day, between elders and youth, between public and academic audiences, and between old narratives and new stories. This exemplary effort also nurtured a network of new collaborations and partnerships throughout the state of Michigan dedicated to understanding and addressing the challenges and opportunities in diminishing inherent bias and advancing racial equity.
With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Michigan Humanities Council established the Heritage Grants Program to support projects that explore local histories at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and cultural identity in Michigan. Grants of up to $25,000 are awarded to nonprofit organizations to support exhibits, digital projects, oral history programs, documentaries, youth and intergenerational engagement, facilitated dialogues, cultural ceremonies, community conversations, and other activities that aim to share the history, experiences, vitality, and authentic voices of Michigan’s diverse and historically underrepresented groups. The audiences are multi-generational and involve people from diverse backgrounds.
Each project is required to have a digital component, which MHC collects to share and preserve through a digital portal. By exploring history at local and state levels, projects examine connections between past inequities, present-day barriers to success, and opportunities for advancing racial equity today.
Judges praised the project for its variety, from exhibitions to oral histories and documentaries, all focused on the voices of the state’s diverse, multi-generational, and underrepresented groups, and for its “innovative approach to grant making that seeks to diminish inherent bias and ensure that all voices and stories are heard.”
This program won a Schwartz Prize in 2016 for outstanding work in the public humanities. To view the full nominating statement please click here.