WITNESS: Underground Railroad - Stories of Sanctuary - Competitive Award
In 2016, VocalEssence WITNESS welcomes artist Melanie DeMore to help us explore the Underground Railroad in Minnesota—specifically how our state has been a place of sanctuary for refugees from the time of slavery through today. As part of this project, Melanie will help record absent narratives of those who have found sanctuary in Minnesota, and these stories will be shared in video and written form to explore the concept of sanctuary as part of the WITNESS School Program.
$300,000 the first year is for a competitive grants program to provide grants to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Minnesota.Of this amount, $50,000 in the first year is for a grant to the city of St. Paul to plan and design a garden to commemorate unrepresented cultural gardens in Phalen Park in the city of St. Paul and $150,000 in the first year is for a grant to Ramsey County to develop and install activity facilities in Ramsey County parks for culturally relevant games that are reflective of the current demographics in Ramsey County.The Minnesota Humanities Center shall operate a competitive grants program to provide grants for programs, including but not limited to: music, film, television, radio, recreation, or the design and use of public spaces that preserves and honors the cultural heritage of Minnesota. Grants made under this paragraph must not be used for travel costs inside or outside of the state.
- A minimum of three absent narratives are collected and shared with teachers, WITNESS Teaching Artists, and the greater community.
- VocalEssence will build and strengthen relationships with more than 3 community partners.
- WITNESS Program Teachers report they have been provided the content, tools and training to share absent narratives and incorporate them into their teaching.
- WITNESS Teaching Artists report feeling prepared with the tools and training provided to incorporate absent narratives into classroom workshops, and that they had a voice in the development in the teacher resource guide.
Outcome 1: VocalEssence collected three absent narratives to share with the community through the VocalEssence WITNESS program and Teacher Resource Guide. The narratives included interviews of three individuals—Saida Hassan, an immigrant from Somalia whose parents are refugees, Sharon Harper, who’s great-great grandfather helped emancipate approximately 50 slaves from Missouri to Minnesota, and Magnolia Yang Sao Yia, a Hmong immigrant and child of refugees. They were distributed on DVD with the Teacher Resource Guide along with related activities for students. Outcome 2: VocalEssence WITNESS built partnerships with IFP-MN, the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Pilgrim Baptist Church in Saint Paul (a church founded by Sharon Harper’s ancestors), the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Kamau Kambui Circle for Cultural Learning, who will provide underground railroad simulations to students participating in VocalEssence WITNESS. Outcome 3: Eighty teachers attended the WITNESS Orientation Seminar and received a teacher resource Guide containing the absent narratives and related activities. At the seminar, they learned strategies for implementing VocalEssence WITNESS. The effectiveness of the training will be evaluated at the end of the school year as part of the final program evaluation. Outcome 4: Roxane Wallace was hired as the WITNESS Teaching Artist representative for the Teacher Resource Guide writing team. All other teaching artists participated in a Teaching Artist Retreat on August 17, 2016 where they were able to give input into the final version of the guide.