Changing the Narrative


Announcing Major Funding for a Multi-Program Initiative to Address Racism and Racial Bias in Virginia

African American Heritage  •  Culture & Identity  •  News  •  TRHT

Students attend a master class by Civil Rights icon Ruby Sales at UVA  Photo by Stephanie Gross.
Students attend a master class by Civil Rights icon Ruby Sales at UVA Photo by Stephanie Gross.

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) at the University of Virginia has been awarded $899,435 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for “Changing the Narrative.” The two-year project aims to broaden and reframe narratives of Virginia’s past by engaging local communities and youth in addressing the present-day challenges of racism and bias. It is part of the Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) effort.

“Changing the Narrative” will use the humanities-based tools of story and storytelling to help Virginians create bridges between the past, present, and future to advance racial healing in six key locales: Norfolk, Richmond, Arlington, Harrisonburg, Roanoke, and Charlottesville. These sites span the state’s urban geographical diversity, and several have large populations of school-aged children meeting requirements for free or reduced meals in school.

Through sharing and exploring diverse stories of Virginia, VFH programs are designed to help Virginians learn about each other, honoring differences, connecting through commonalities, and affirming the humanity we all share. “Changing the Narrative” will focus this process on racial healing in particular, through a variety of award-winning VFH programs including the Virginia Center for the Book, BackStory, Encyclopedia Virginia, With Good Reason, and African American Programs. Additionally, VFH will use $100,000 of the funding to provide larger grants to local or regional nonprofits in Virginia addressing the topic of racial healing in innovative ways.

Key elements of “Changing the Narrative” include:

  • Twenty-four author residencies coordinated by the Virginia Center for the Book to bring diverse-background authors to middle-grade and young-adult student audiences in the six designated communities;
  • Six BackStory podcasts to contextualize contemporary issues of race and representation through the lens of American history, reaching hundreds of thousands of listeners;
  • Fifteen classroom visits, in three of the designated communities, in which Encyclopedia Virginia will present and explore Google Expeditions and other digital tools for place-based storytelling;
  • Two summer institutes for up to sixty teachers, selected from the six designated communities, resulting in narrative-changing, community-specific lesson plans for K-12 students;
  • Up to six VFH grant-funded programs in two cycles of grant giving, in at least three of the designated communities.
  • Two workshops and one or more presentations about the project at the 2018 National Humanities Conference in New Orleans, using the K–12 humanities consortium to facilitate similar work by other state humanities councils across the nation.

“Since its founding in 1974, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has sought to tell more democratized narratives about the history and culture of Virginia,” said VFH executive director Matthew Gibson. “This grant marks a watershed moment in that longstanding commitment, providing robust funding for a multi-year, multi-program, multi-community, and multimedia approach to one of the Commonwealth’s most pressing contemporary challenges.”

“The grant from the Kellogg Foundation will be revolutionary for VFH and the Commonwealth, making great strides in addressing the challenges of racism and bringing healing in Virginia. There is a significant need in the communities identified and across Virginia to engage audiences in local discussions about race and bias,” said Tucker Lemon, VFH Board chairman. “We plan to leverage this great opportunity by encouraging diverse involvement and additional investment in programming like ‘Changing the Narrative’ from our many stakeholders in the years ahead.”

About TRHT

Launched in 2016 by the Kellogg Foundation, Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) is a comprehensive, national and community-based process to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change, and to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism. It seeks to unearth and jettison the deeply held, and often unconscious, beliefs created by racism – the main one being the belief in a hierarchy of human value. Learn more at http://HealOurCommunities.org.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

About VFH

The mission of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) is to connect people and ideas to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement. VFH reaches an estimated annual audience of 23 million through community programs, websites and digital initiatives, grants and fellowships, radio programs and podcasts, the Virginia Folklife Program, and the Virginia Center for the Book. To learn more, visit VirginiaHumanities.org.