Luce grant funds CCNY’s Baldwin centenary, Whitman anthology & “Harlem as Muse” project

New works celebrating literary giant James Baldwin’s centennial, evoking Walt Whitman’s poetic genius, and highlighting The City College of New York’s “Harlem as Muse” storytelling project for emerging fiction writers are in production, thanks to a two-year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.  

The Luce Foundation’s $55,000 award to The Foundation for City College, Inc. is supporting the three projects curated by The City College’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. Notable alumni of the MFA program include New York Times Bestsellers and Pulitzer Prize winners such as Walter Mosley, Oscar Hijuelos, and Ernesto Quinonez.

Following are summaries of the projects in progress.

Harlem as Muse: An Archives Storytelling Project.” Previously funded by the Luce Foundation, this project mobilized creative writers in Harlem and beyond to tell stories which in turn inform public discourse. Its graduate archive courses teaches writers how to uncover facts and histories from the CCNY archives and use them as inspiration for their own stories. “Our archives work continues to engage and welcome the Harlem community,” said Michelle Valladares,  assistant professor in the English Department and director of the MFA Program. “We also plan to offer courses and maintain an active website that will serve as an archive of these new projects.”

“Whitman on Walls Anthology,” an initiative to edit and publish a compilation of poems generated by CCNY’s 2022 “Whitman on Walls: a Collaboration with Compagnia de’ Colombari” exhibit. The latter was a multimedia event directed and conceived by Karin Coonrad. It highlighted CCNY MFA graduate poets performing their poems, in their own vernacular, that “talked back to passages from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.”  The Luce funding is covering the editing and publishing expenses of the Whitman anthology. Walter (Walt) Whitman Jr. was a poet, essayist, and journalist. He is considered one of the most influential poets in American literature.

“Spotlight on the Interdisciplinary Pedagogy of James Baldwin: A Multimedia Curriculum” is the third Luce-funded project. It celebrates the famed Harlem native’s centennial. The CCNY MFA Program’s contribution will be an exhibition and symposium this fall on Baldwin’s work. 

“As an esteemed novelist and essayist whose work was extraordinary in content and craft, a civil rights activist, public speaker and orator, Baldwin’s message has reached audiences all over the world,” said Valladares. “One hundred years after his birth, he remains a figure of international importance, and he is far more beloved, perhaps, than at any time in his life as indicated by the frequent references to his work in diverse contexts. Since we are located in Harlem it is both an honor and duty for the MFA Program and the English Department at CCNY to celebrate Baldwin and his work.”

She added that CCNY’s English Department and Division of Humanities and Arts will host many events to highlight this auspicious year. The Luce grant runs through December 31, 2025. 

About The City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. Education research organization Degree Choices ranks CCNY #1 nationally among universities for economic return on investment. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi (now Lightcast) puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 15,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. This year, CCNY launched its most expansive fundraising campaign, ever. The campaign, titled “Doing Remarkable Things Together” seeks to bring the College’s Foundation to more than $1 billion in total assets in support of the College mission. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Jay Mwamba
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