The Sacrifice Zone

Three RU-N Groups Awarded Prestigious New Jersey Council for the Humanities Grants

The New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH) recently awarded grants to three Rutgers University–Newark organizations to help them advance projects that could have long-lasting impacts on local and state residents. 

RU-N was overrepresented among this years’ winners, taking home nearly one-quarter of the 16 grants handed out by NJCH this round, which totaled nearly $200,000.

The Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience won a $15,000 NJCH Incubation Grant to continue to develop a plan for compiling and sharing information about Munsee Lunaape (Lenape) Ceremonial Stone Landscapes (CSLs), an ancient network of trails, ceremonial sites and historic markers spread across New Jersey.

The Institute’s goal is to support the Munsee Lunaape documentation and preservation of these area Native American sites, and communicate their history and cultural/historical significance to the state’s residents and policy makers for the benefit of Native and non-Native peoples in New Jersey and beyond. 

"The original proprietors of this region purposely shaped New Jersey’s landscape to communicate necessary information to future generations,” said Price Institute co-Director Jack Tchen. “At this moment of reckoning with historical injustices, our goal is to preserve and interpret this endangered cultural resource in a way that privileges the living history of this landscape, in principled collaboration with and support of the state’s Indigenous population, and educates the wider public about its significance.”

RU-N's Queer Newark Oral History Project (QNOHP) also received a Humanities Council award—a $15,000 NJCH Action Grant—to host panel discussions, an oral history bootcamp and a community listening session to spread awareness of oral history methods and highlight the importance of preserving local LGBTQ+ history.

The grant comes as QNOHP celebrates its 10th anniversary.

"We're looking forward to holding public events with the Newark LGBTQ Community Center and Newark Public Library to celebrate what we've done; address important issues for the LGBTQ community; and to help train faculty, staff, students and community members in trauma-informed oral history practice,” said Associate Professor Mary Rizzo, Principal Investigator for the grant and a QNOHP advisor. “In Spring 2022, we’ll conduct a community listening session, which will help us plan the next 10 years of the project.”

We’re excited about receiving this NJCH grant, which is a validation of the important work we’re doing around the film to raise awareness for environmental justice.

Finally, Talking Eyes Media, whose principals, Julie Winokur and Ed Kashi, co-direct RU-N's Newest Americans project, won an $18,000 NJCH Action Grant to support screenings of and facilitated discussions about a documentary film titled, The Sacrifice Zone, featuring Maria Lopez-Nuñez, a local activist fighting for environmental justice, who as part of the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), is working with her Newark community to build a just and sustainable future.

The film grew out of Newest Americans. Winokur was inspired to make it after taking ICC’s “Toxic Tour” of Ironbound industrial sites and co-teaching an Honors Living-Learning Community class with Lopez-Nuñez, where students did research on environmental-justice issues in the Ironbound. The documentary, which premiered at the Montclair Film Festival with an NJTV broadcast, won the Eric Moe Award for Sustainability at the DC Environmental Film Festival and has been seen by thousands of people across the country.

"We’re excited about receiving this NJCH grant, which is a validation of the important work we’re doing around the film to raise awareness for environmental justice,” said Winokur. “Each screening is followed by a robust discussion that delves into the disproportionate pollution burden suffered by frontline communities. NJCH has been a big supporter of our work over the past year, and this recognition will help us offer our programming to schools, legislators and community organizers all around New Jersey.”

NJCH awards have indeed been a vital lifeline and engine for ambitious public humanities programming throughout the state. 

The Council’s Incubation Grants help organizations plan, research, develop and prototype projects and events, while Action Grants assist organizations in implementing a wide array of humanities-based projects, including public programs, exhibitions, installations, tours and discussion groups. In this capacity, NJCH supports and acts as a resource for cultural and service-oriented nonprofit partners as they bring the public humanities to residents of New Jersey, harnessing the power of the humanities to strengthen communities.

Learn more about NJCH’s June 2021 grant winners here.