By AFRO Staff

Morgan State University announced that its James H. Gilliam, Jr. College of Liberal Arts (CLA) received a $150,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to advance community-based efforts and programs to address the critical challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Morgan grant comes as part of nearly $5 million that the Henry Luce Foundation has awarded nationwide to rapidly address COVID-19-related needs, and relieve budget shortfalls during these unprecedented times.

The Center for the Study of Religion and the City (CSRC) at Morgan worked with the Black Church Food Security Network, BUILD Baltimore: Turnaround Tuesday workforce reentry program, and others to develop the successful grant proposal. The CSRC will steward the grant by tapping its existing network of community-based partnerships and alliances as a direct pipeline of access providing aid to Baltimore City communities that have been grossly impacted by COVID-19. Coinciding with other recently announced COVID-19 related relief awarded to Morgan, portions of this funding from the Luce Foundation will also be used to provide Morgan students with research stipends to help document and reflect on the work being executed through the CSRC.

The award is part of $5 million that the Henry Luce Foundation dedicated to providing relief for COVID-19 related needs. (Photo courtesy of Morgan State University)

“We are profoundly thankful to the Henry Luce Foundation for its support as we work collaboratively to mend our most vulnerable communities at a time that we find ourselves the most challenged,” said David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University. “The important work that the Center for the Study of Religion and the City is engaged in underlies Morgan’s mission-driven commitment to community-based research, and as a result of this support, strengthens the connections fostered with the communities that we serve.”

Grant disparities in cities like Baltimore have led to a disproportionate consequence in the wake of COVID-19 ranging from higher fatality rates to increased incidence of unemployment and more. Building upon and strengthening relationships with Baltimore’s religious organizations and civic groups, the CSRC will actively create pathways to access resources among partner groups who have established track records of just cause and fiscally responsible work. Researchers consisting of Morgan students and faculty will be aligned with grant recipients thereby relieving CSRC community partners from the rigorous documentation work required for archival purposes, enabling them to focus on the immediate tasks at head: serving the urgent needs of Baltimore City residents.

“We are grateful to Morgan State University and its Center for the Study of Religion and the City for their willingness to partner with the Henry Luce Foundation’s Theology Program in an initiative that involves rapid responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of U.S. cities and regions,” said Luce Foundation Program Director Jonathan VanAntwerpen. “Driven by the ideas and creativity of our partners, and attentive to local needs and networks, these efforts are taking multiple forms. Involving both direct support for community-based organizations and aligned efforts to give voice to the experiences of vulnerable and underrepresented communities during the pandemic.”

Led by Dr. Harold D. Morales, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Morgan, the CSRC inspires, shapes and supports student research and field work throughout Baltimore through partnerships with diverse religious groups, scholars, activists, community organizations, and policymakers. The CSRC serves as an epicenter for critical research from diverse disciplines and institutions, non-academic partners, undergraduate students and potential graduate students.

“We are honored to have the Henry Luce Foundation’s support, for the opportunity to continue Morgan’s service to Baltimore, and to work with our community partners to address the City’s most pressing needs around food, shelter and health during this time of crisis,” said Dr. Morales.  “Religious communities have been routinely castigated for being ‘super spreaders’ during COVID-19, yet in cities like Baltimore, these same religious communities have historically played a pivotal role on the frontlines working with our most vulnerable populations. We aim to show solidarity with those who are suffering and help bridge the gap where deficiencies exist.”

In addition to the grants and stipends for Morgan’s researchers, a stipend is also being allocated for CSRC project manager Amrita Bhandari, a graduate student in Morgan’s Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management. This will help manage and process the allocation of grants, researchers and documentation of work during the 2020 summer.