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UMBC major partner in NEH grant on Baltimore race narratives

A $225,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded to the College of Arts and Humanities at University of Maryland (UMD) and the Maryland Humanities Council will fund a series of public programs that are designed to explore the way citizens of Baltimore are thinking about the narratives that influence the life and identity of the city. Major partners will include the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Dresher Center for the Humanities, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

The initiative, Baltimore Stories: Narratives and the Life of an American City (Baltimore Stories), seeks to establish a model that utilizes humanities scholarship— literature, history, philosophy, communication, art and cultural studies—to produce print and digital materials that help frame and contextualize narratives of race in American cities. The project will also shine a spotlight on the ongoing, collaborative work being done in Baltimore neighborhoods by universities and non-profit organizations.

“During the uprising, Baltimore residents had lively conversations about the stories that shape our perceptions of each other,” said Sheri Parks, co-project director of the initiative and associate dean for research and interdisciplinary programming in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland. “We are elated to use this grant as a platform to continue these conversations.”

The NEH announced yesterday $21.8 million in grants, including $3.6 million devoted to new “Humanities in the Public Square” grants that support community discussions on the relevance of the humanities to civic life.

“We are honored to answer the call that NEH Chairman Adams issued earlier this year to use the humanities to ‘take up the grand challenges of our time,’” said Phoebe Stein, co-project director of the initiative and executive director of the Maryland Humanities Council. “The equity that needs to be created here in Baltimore, and across much of the nation, can begin with the humanities as they give us contexts for understanding and addressing this inequity and the narratives that undergird it. The humanities facilitate the conversations that can ultimately contribute to solutions.”

UMBC will host three interactive public events in Baltimore and a day-long culminating session on campus. At two workshops, participants will create their own digital stories and join in a community media project. The events will offer community members from a variety of neighborhoods opportunities to explore how Baltimore narratives shape their lives and build on partnerships established at the Imagining America conference. A culminating event will highlight potential ways to advance our diverse communities.

“Narrative or the collectives of stories we tell ourselves and each other is also a major focus of the humanities, so we hope to help citizens investigate and contextualize the past, present and future to uncover truths and move communities toward reconciliation,” said Parks.

“This is a great opportunity to work together with UMD-College Park, the Maryland Humanities Council, and the Pratt Library, as well as our many community partners in Baltimore, on issues that affect us all,” shared Scott Casper, dean of the UMBC College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

“This project will showcase the many ways that humanities scholarship and teaching at UMBC connect to civic life in Baltimore,” said Jessica Berman, director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities. “We look forward to working with our partners, and especially those in the community, to help explore Baltimore’s diverse stories.”

Image courtesy National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Posted: December 16, 2015, 2:49 PM