Mass Humanities Announces Second Round of Expand Mass Stories Grants

Special to the Journal

Mass Humanities announced today it has awarded $713,876 in Expand Massachusetts Stories (EMS) grants to 42 cultural nonprofit organizations across the Commonwealth, including grants to two projects in Lynn/North Shore totaling $34,020. The funded projects will surface new narratives about the people and ideas that shape Massachusetts.

Rooted in Mass Humanities’ mission to create opportunities for the people of Massachusetts to transform their lives and build a more equitable Commonwealth, the new EMS initiative kicked off last year with support to projects across the state that included audio tours, documentary films, oral histories, and public events. The new grant program will strive to promote an equitable and inclusive society that recognizes all people’s perspectives, especially those that have been marginalized and underrepresented.

Funded projects in in Lynn/North Shore include: 

• A $16,000 grant to LEAP for Education for The History of Youth Activism in Lynn, a student-led exploration of the history and role of young change-makers in the local community. The project will Expand Mass Stories by engaging Lynn middle school students who will learn about what it means to be an activist. The students will research local young people who played this role, and develop a student-created exhibit at the Lynn Museum where they’ll share what they’ve learned with the community. “The History of Youth Activism in Lynn” seeks to collect, interpret, and share narratives about youth activists in the city of Lynn. The emphasis on voices and experiences that have gone unrecognized is met, as young people have largely gone unnoticed for their work due to societal norms that undervalue youth voice.

• An $18,020 grant to Salem State University Foundation for Documenting the Multiethnic Russian-Speaking Community in the North Shore and Greater Boston, an oral history project by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS) at Salem State University focused on the history of this Massachusetts community and the lived experiences of its members. The project will Expand Mass Stories by using oral history methods to explore the lived experiences and migration stories of Russian-Speaking community members and the various challenges and successes they have encountered. The project will highlight the challenges many immigrants face as they try to build new lives in a foreign and often bewildering cultural landscape and their ambivalent relations to their countries of origin. These stories will speak to universal themes and will resonate with the experiences of many other immigrant groups in the state.

For a full list of grant recipients, visit: https://masshumanities.org/mass-humanities-announces-second-round-of-expand-mass-stories-grants/

This latest round of funding will continue to focus on projects that surface and share the histories and experiences of traditionally overlooked communities. The majority of funded projects include leadership roles for people who identify as BIPOC, a sign of progress towards one of the central goals for this new grant program.

“At this critical juncture in the history of our state, we see these projects as the sparks for a much needed reimagining of our past and a new vision for our future,” said Brian Boyles, Executive Director of Mass Humanities. “We believe Massachusetts can only truly thrive when all residents participate in creating, learning and sharing the stories of Massachusetts.”

A non-profit based in Northampton, Mass Humanities provides grants to more than two-hundred organizations across the state each year. The EMS initiative provides up to $20,000 to nonprofit organizations. 

The grants are made possible through Mass Humanities’ partnership with Mass Cultural Council, the state’s cultural agency, as well as a two-year, $700,000 partnership with the Barr Foundation that was announced in August.

“Since the adoption of the Agency’s Racial Equity Plan one year ago, Mass Cultural Council has prioritized making decisions that ensure our investments are made equitably across the cultural sector,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director of Mass Cultural Council. “We are so pleased that our partners at Mass Humanities are joining us down this path and celebrate the important voices and stories that today’s EMS recipients will soon share with all of us in Massachusetts.”

Support from the Barr Foundation will contribute to Mass Humanities’ efforts to share the stories of the impacted communities with decision makers and audiences across Massachusetts.  

“I extend my congratulations the recipients of the Expand Massachusetts Stories initiative,” said SueEllen Kroll, Senior Program Officer for Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation. “We at Barr are proud to support the creation, collection, and sharing of community stories that contribute to a more inclusive narrative and understanding of the Commonwealth’s history, culture, and people.”

In addition, Mass Humanities strived to fund projects led by members of the communities where the stories originate, and projects based in smaller organizations. Of the 42 grants, 62% have people who identify as BIPOC among their project leadership; and 60% of the organizations funded have operating budget under $500,000 and 48% have operating budgets under $350,000.

“To make lasting change, we need to respect and support the storytellers and storytelling spaces where traditions and narratives take root,” said Boyles. “We hope that these important voices and community-based organizations can lead the way in reckoning with our history.”

Organizations interested in learning about future grants should follow Mass Humanities on social media @masshumanities and visit their website.

Mass Humanities, a non-profit based in Northampton, conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life throughout Massachusetts. Since its founding in 1974, the organization has provided millions of dollars in support of thousands of humanities projects across the Commonwealth. Established as the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Mass Humanities is an independent programming and grant-making organization that receives support from the NEH and the Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as private sources. For more information, visit www.masshumanities.org.

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