The Maryland Humanities Council Announces First Round of Grantees for the Humanities Fund for Baltimore

January 11, 2016

The Maryland Humanities Council (MHC) has awarded grants to five nonprofit organizations in the first round of its new special grant program, the Humanities Fund for Baltimore. Nonprofit organizations that received support are Afrikan Youth Alchemy; CityLit Project; the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work, Promise Heights; the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland; and Writers in Baltimore Schools.

The Humanities Fund for Baltimore was developed to support local nonprofit organizations that will create public programs that use the humanities to respond to, interpret, and shed light on the unrest of April 2015. Funded programs will bring people together to understand the many contexts for the unrest, support humanities programs that educate young people and adults about the history and the roots of economic and racial inequality in communities of color in Baltimore City, and tap into and build on work already being done by others in the community.

“Both the peaceful protests and the violence in Baltimore that followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody this past April responded to decades of structural racism and inequity in housing, education, and economic opportunities. The Maryland Humanities Council believes that the equity that needs to be created here in Baltimore, and across much of the nation, can begin with the humanities. The humanities—especially history, the law, ethics, and philosophy—can give us the contexts for understanding and addressing these problems. We are certain that these five inspiring projects will help move us toward a better future in Baltimore,” said Phoebe Stein, Executive Director of the Maryland Humanities Council.

The second round of the grant program opens on January 15. Nonprofit organizations, community associations, and faith-based organizations are eligible to apply for funding. All projects must be rooted in one or more disciplines of the humanities; engage communities impacted by structural racism in Baltimore; enlist the participation of humanities scholars or experts; be free and open to the public; and occur between April 15 and September 15, 2016.

To learn more about MHC’s Humanities Fund for Baltimore, including full eligibility requirements and application information, visit

The Humanities Fund for Baltimore is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the “Common Good,” an NEH initiative that seeks to bring the humanities into the public square and foster innovative ways to make scholarship relevant to contemporary issues. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this release do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

First Round Grantees

Afrikan Youth Alchemy
Documentary Film: Inequity in Housing
Award: $5,000

The Afrikan Youth Alchemy seeks to develop urban youth to become agents of positive social change. Support from the Maryland Humanities Council will help fund a documentary film made by youth and incorporating youth perspectives that investigates the public housing crisis in Baltimore and gives a historic perspective on how housing inequity and segregation began in Baltimore. This film is intended to capture the dynamic energy of grassroots organizing while allowing residents to vocalize their struggle and resiliency. The perspectives of three to five current public housing residents will be integrated with those of historians, such as Antero Pietila (author of Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City). It will be designed to serve as a tool for educational institutions, community organizations, and resident associations to open discussions and support advocacy. In addition, this film will be screened for free during workshops in West Baltimore and East Baltimore locations.

CityLit Project
Anniversary of an Uprising with Claudia Rankine
Award: $5,000

CityLit Project, with partners Enoch Pratt Free Library and Maryland Institute College of Art, will present acclaimed poet Claudia Rankine to commemorate National Poetry Month and reflect upon the Baltimore uprising’s anniversary. Rankine’s latest book, Citizen: An American Lyric, is a treatise on race in America written in light of the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner deaths, and was published just months before Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore. Events will feature free readings by the poet, conversation and student-facilitated Q&A sessions at the Brown Center on MICA’s campus on April 15, 2016 and at the epicenter of the uprising at the Pennsylvania Avenue branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on April 16, 2016.

Promise Heights, University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work
Seeds of Promise Book Club
Award: $4,691

The “Seeds of Promise Book Club” is an after-school book club for 80 high school students and young adults who reside in West Baltimore. It will provide an academic exploration of the events that led up to the April 2015 uprising through reading two books, writing, discussion, and community programs. From February to July this year, students will read Monster by Walter Dean Myers and The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. This project aims to use these readings and discussion to engage participants and explore the environment that led to the current conditions that impact boys and men of color, such as racial inequality, the justice system, and mass incarceration. Support from the Maryland Humanities Council will help provide free books to book club participants.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture
All Baltimore Voices: Stories About & Beyond the Unrest
Award: $5,000

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will recognize the one-year commemoration of the Baltimore unrest through exhibitions, public programs, art workshops and a special oral history project, “All Baltimore Voices.”  This project will incorporate three components – storytelling, oral histories, and spoken word – to capture the cultural expressions, values and beliefs before, during, and after the April 2015 unrest, in an attempt to answer the question, “How have younger generations been impacted by the city’s turmoil?” From March to June 2016, this project intends to collaborate with audiences to address decades of structural racism and inequity to go beyond the initial outbursts and address direct issues in housing, education, and economic opportunities in predominantly African American communities.   

Writers in Baltimore Schools
Black Words Matter
Award: $5,000

Black Words Matter is an outgrowth of Writers in Baltimore Schools’ (WBS) annual programming, founded in part by longtime students of the program. Support from the Maryland Humanities Council will enable WBS to hold a series of three youth-focused “Write-Ins,” which will allow youth to express their thoughts and emotions. During these Write-Ins, contemporary poetry speaking to the issues of police brutality and race in America will be read aloud and discussed, followed by writing prompts to inspire their own creative writing. Students can share their writing at the Write-In’s open mic and all pieces will be showcased online at Additionally, Press 421 – a small press in Atlanta – will publish Black Words Matter, an anthology of poems from Baltimore’s youth.

Press Release