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$67,500 In Art For Social Justice Grants Awarded By Cambridge Arts

$67,500 In Art For Social Justice Grants Awarded By Cambridge Arts

$67,500 In Art For Social Justice Grants Awarded By Cambridge Arts

A dance performance and town hall asking: How do we make Cambridge “a more inclusive and equitable place to live?” An all-Asian American ballet company centering their unique perspectives. A dance, poetry and video performance about being “othered” due to racism, gender bias, immigration prejudice and LGBTQ issues. Monthly live hip-hop showcases. The annual Cambridge Carnival with its grand costume parade celebrating Afro-Caribbean cultures.

These are among the nine projects that have been awarded Art for Social Justice Grants totalling $67,500 by Cambridge Arts and the City of Cambridge. (Full listing below.) This is the second year of the funding program—grants are $7,500 each—which supports projects that present the themes and ongoing work of social justice to the Cambridge public through the arts.

Overall Cambridge Arts and the City are distributing grants totaling $266,143 to 53 artists and cultural organizations this year through three funding opportunities that Cambridge Arts offered last fall—including Local Cultural Council Grants, Organizational Investment Grants, and Art for Social Justice Grants.

Each year, the City of Cambridge contributes substantial funding to support local artists, cultural workers, and arts organizations through the Cambridge Arts Grant Program. This support is coupled with funding received through the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s statewide Local Cultural Council Program.

The Art for Social Justice Grants were developed to support artistic projects that positively impact and elevate issues related to health, education, food, housing, laws, information and digital access, transportation, political and economic opportunity and agency, environmental health, public safety, civic participation and activation of public spaces. In particular, Art for Social Justice Grants seek to reflect the interests, visions, and participation of those who have historically been underserved and underrepresented, including but not limited to those who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, others who identify as people of color, and people with disabilities.


Dolly Arjun
Grant Award: $7,500
Adavi Myah is an art collective made primarily of and led by caste-oppressed and Dalit (pejoratively known as Untouchables) people from South Asia, mostly from India. Our art is inspired by our beliefs, histories, and experiences and influenced by Ambedkar, Periyar, and our Dravidian (Afro-Indigneous) ancestors. Caste-based discrimination is one of the oldest and most brutal forms of hierarchical social organization. Dalits are considered among the lowest in this social structure and make up over 250 million people. If we include those considered “slaves” in the caste system in addition to those considered Untouchables, this oppressive system will include over 1 billion people. In short, upper caste people make up a minority of the South Asian population. Despite the severity and numbers of people caste oppression affects, many in the U.S. are unfamiliar with this. This is due to narratives about the South-Asian/Indian subcontinent created in the U.S. by an upper-caste immigrant population, often excluding the perspectives of caste-oppressed and indigenous peoples. Especially in Cambridge, we see the rising influence of “mainstream” (upper caste) culture from South Asia which ignores the internal hegemonies that get exported from places such as India. These limited narratives come to the US and present themselves as “diversity” when in fact these representations only represent the minority of privileged people.

Asian American Ballet Project
Grant Award: $7,500
The Asian American Ballet Project seeks funding for its debut performance at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center scheduled for July 7, 2023. With this first performance we hope to embody our mission: to put Asian American dancers on stage: together – in an all-Asian American ballet company for the first time; telling – stories from our unique perspective; and transforming – how audiences see Asian American dancers onstage, from unexpected to accepted. Our debut program will consist of 3 acts. In the first act the dancers will perform classical pieces from the ballet canon, in the second act, the dancers will perform a unique story ballet with Asian characters, the Emperor and the Nightingale, and in the third act, the dancers will perform contemporary works by Asian American choreographers.

Cambridge Carnival International, Inc.
Grant Award: $7,500
Cambridge Carnival International is a nonprofit grassroots organization led by a diverse and committed board and Carnival Committee and supported by volunteers. The committee and board, and administrative staff of Cambridge Youth Steel Orchestra are of Caribbean ancestry and other minority groups. Our slogan is "By the People, For the People," and that is how we define community. We work with approximately 100 volunteers in organizing and supporting our mission. Our core program is the annual Cambridge Carnival festival, is a colorful and festive celebration that is rooted in African traditions. Carnival secretly allowed public communication and cultural bonding for the Afro-Caribbean cultures from as far back as the 1600s. This year we celebrated 28 years of bringing a fun, and culturally diverse event to the City of Cambridge. The festival, now a Cambridge institution, attracts thousands of people and is the largest festival in Cambridge. The highlight of the festival is a grand costume parade accompanied by rich rhythmic musicality promoting all types of cultures that can be seen as revelers masquerade through the streets of Cambridge in dazzling handmade costumes, dancing to the beat of Carnival. Cambridge Carnival is the most unique event in the city of Cambridge. The Carnival attracts an audience of close to 100,000 people, due to COVID, the past 2 years we have downsized Cambridge Carnival festival, however, we have been attracting at least 50,000 people. About 70% of our attendees from the festival are from Cambridge, or used to live in Cambridge, or have family in Cambridge.

Cambridge Hip-Hop Collective
Grant Award: $7,500
The Cambridge Hip-Hop Collective is seeking funding for a series of Bridgeside Cyphers, a monthly hip-hop event in Cambridge that has been running since 2017. The Bridgeside Cypher is a live hip-hop experience for local rappers, singers, and musicians to collaborate in a public, improvised format. We define a cypher as a gathering of rappers, singers, beatboxers, and/or musicians taking turns freestyling and performing in a circle. What started as an informal gathering of street performers in Graffiti Alley has since transformed into a concert series with featured performances and live instrumentation.

Cambridge Jazz Foundation
Grant Award: $7,500
Cambridge Jazz Foundation (CJF) is organizing the 8th annual jazz festival to bring the surrounding communities together in an acknowledgment and celebration of the only American art form referred to as "jazz." The three-day event starts with our annual gala (Honoree to be Announced). Followed by two days of local, national, and international jazz musicians performing for more than 10,000 festival attendees. The festival features a scholarship presentation to a graduating high school senior and our very own CAMMY award ceremony which recognizes and honors members of our community who strive to make the world a better place with their acts of kindness. Past recipients have included teachers, police officials, city workers, musicians, non-profit leaders, as well as others. CJF features a children's area filled with activities and a very popular face-painting activity. In addition, our signature jazz museum is designed to educate and entertain by focusing on past and present jazz greats.

Marguerite Hicks-Gyewu
Grant Award: $7,500
The first "Jazz Booth" came about when I was a Community Fellow at Mass College of Art and Design 2018-19. We were charged with making a piece of work for our community. "The Booth" was exhibited at The Cambridge Jazz Festival in summer of 2019. It was a first attempt and a work in progress The booth was motivated by two things; When my father passed, I inherited his vast collection on jazz records. I have a sentimental attachment to my father's record collection and wanted to do something meaningful with it. I also have a love for cover art and liner notes that goes back to my childhood.

Anna Myer/beheard.world
Grant Award: $7,500
Our collaborative of nine dancers, three poets and two filmmakers want to create and perform a piece where “belonging” and “othering” intersect, opening a window into underlying parts of tribalism and bias that keep us divided. The multi-media performance piece will feature five local storytellers who have experienced being “othered.” Focusing on racism, gender bias, immigration prejudice and LGBTQ issues, the storytellers will include an African American man, a trans woman, a gay White man, Black woman, and an Asian immigrant—all who personally have firsthand experience with these challenges. Each person will be filmed for several minutes telling their story about being othered. At the performance, all six will be projected as video “strips” on a large 20’x20’ portable screen. One by one their image will be illuminated more brightly as their story is broadcast. Dancers will choreograph and perform solos or duets to the six stories. Then choreographer Anna Myer will build on the solos and duets with interlacing and partnering the whole troupe, iconizing belonging. There will be two performances. The first two performances will be at the Dance Complex. A week later the third performance will take place on the basketball court at Morgan Park, converted to an open-air theater which we have successfully done many times in Cambridge and other communities to allow for a larger and mixed audience. We intend to precede the outside performance with free refreshments in the spirit of breaking bread together.

New England Film Orchestra
Grant Award: $7,500
We are requesting funds for our Black History Month concert in February at First Church in Cambridge. The program includes works from past and living composers and includes presentation on the lives and works of these composers, and how this music has influenced American orchestral music today.

Nailah Randall – Bellinger
Grant Award: $7,500
Who We Say We Are is a choreographic, multimedia town hall on citizenship that centers the question: “How do we create an authentic community that mirrors our aspiration to be a more inclusive and equitable place to live? And how do artists, and specifically dancers, lead the way. After an impactful performance of the Harvard-commissioned work Initiation– In Love Solidarity followed by discussion at the Multicultural Arts Center in the Spring of 2022, Cambridge Arts Council has invited the company to be artists-in-residence with the City of Cambridge which entails commissioning support of this new work and a platform to be presented in multiple formats around Cambridge in the spring of 2023.This project will also bring attention to and amplify the work that the City is doing through the Cambridge Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative (CAEII), addressing the need to create an environment that reflects the values of anti-racism, equity and inclusion within the City of Cambridge.
Page was posted on 3/22/2023 10:31 AM
Page was last modified on 3/22/2023 10:49 AM
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