Three weeks ago, Mass Humanities celebrated a milestone. We gathered at the State House to honor the organizations receiving “The Vote” grants for projects that explore voting rights. Legislators joined our staff and board to learn about events planned for libraries, YWCAs, and museums. In my remarks, I praised the grantees for their bravery. In a time of deep polarization, they chose to bring neighbors together in public spaces to discuss the past, present, and future of American democracy.
I’m sure you’ll understand me when I tell you: three weeks seems like an eternity ago.
The COVID-19 crisis disrupts our way of life in unprecedented ways, not all of which we can fully understand. Governor Baker’s state of emergency prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people. Social distancing is a duty, so the best laid plans must change.
In the coming weeks Mass Humanities will focus on responding to COVID-19’s immediate impact on our partner institutions and the communities they serve. We invite you to fill out this survey to identify needs for your organizations.
Tell us how we can help you and your communities. Mass Humanities is committed to supporting you in these challenging times.
One thing will not change: Mass Humanities stands with its grantees. Projects currently funded by a Mass Humanities grants can request extensions at any time without penalty. We will continue to issue payments on schedule. Just as they are in calmer times, our staff is available and eager to work with grantees to find solutions. We believe the humanities can sustain us through this difficult time.
Due to this uncertainty and our focus on responding to the immediate needs of our grantees and partners, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our upcoming Spring Project Grant round until summer 2020. We regret the disruption this may cause for organizations preparing Letters of Inquiry for the March 23 deadline. Your Letter of Inquiry will remain open for you to edit in the online system. The next deadline for Local History grants is April 1. The next deadline for Reading Frederick Douglass Together grants has been moved from April 1 to May 1. Information is available at masshumanities.org.
Finally, while we cannot meet in person, we can stand together as participants in our democracy. The stresses caused by this crisis test all of us, but the heaviest burdens will fall on those already facing significant hardships. We’ve also read the stories this week about xenophobic outbursts targeting people of Asian descent. At their core, the humanities provoke us to imagine a better, more tolerant world, and to work toward making it a reality. In this difficult time, let us commit to that world and to each other.
Wishing safety and good health to you and your families,