In 2003, 588 hopeful applicants sought cash from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for various projects. Sometimes they got what they wanted.
NAME: Waris Rashaad Banks
GRANT APPLIED FOR: Young Artists Community Service Program; city offers up to $2,500 to artists between the ages of 18 and 30.
MONEY NEEDED FOR: Brothers Write, a summer workshop for young African-American men
BACKGROUND: Banks, now 30, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1998 and interned for the Village Voice in 2002, according to his résumé. “When I read or write, I unlock and open new doors,” he wrote in his artistic statement. “These passageways are endless, much like a house of mirrors.” Banks submitted “In the Tee-Ball Leagues” with his application, an essay about getting bullied when he was 9. “It was like they ground my feelings into the dusty baseball diamond until their words, mixed with the dust, choked me and burned my throat,” he wrote.
PLAN: Banks’ workshop would “improve students’ writing skills while exposing them to positive alternatives of self-expression,” according to his project description. “Many young black men feel ‘silenced,’ as if their voices are not important,” Banks wrote. The program would show them that “existing within the margins does not mean they must remain silent or powerless.”
AMOUNT ASKED FOR: $2,729.80
UPSHOT: Banks is living in Rochester, N.Y., and plans to move back to D.C. He wants to reapply for a grant upon his return: “I think many black men shut down because we don’t have the language to express this rage, this anger, this confusion, this paranoia,” he says. “Writing is one way to get that out.”