Charlotte resident and LGBTQ+ activist Jermaine Nakia Lee received a $50,000 grant from the inaugural ASC (Arts and Science Council) Founders Grant program. According to the ASC Charlotte website, the grants are meant to “support visionary artists who build and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to community in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by directly engaging residents through relevant and innovative cultural experiences.”
“There is no art without artists,” City of Charlotte Arts & Culture Officer Priya Sircar says. “The Infusion Fund partners understand that artists and creatives are the lifeblood of our community’s cultural life, and we are pleased to recognize the outstanding contributions of these individuals through the unrestricted support provided by the inaugural Founders Grants.”
Lee is the founder of Charlotte Black Pride, a nonprofit organization that primarily focuses it energies on supporting queer people of color in Mecklenburg county. Lee is also a songwriter, playwright and stage producer and helped to found the KUUMBA Academy, a fellowship program for LGBTQ+ artists.
“This form of trust-based grant-making is representative of how ASC continues to place creative individuals at the center of our funding opportunities,” said ASC President Krista Terrell. “I am grateful for the investment from the Infusion Fund that allowed ASC to launch this meaningful grant program to provide local artists with the time and resources they need to continue to build community.”
When Lee was told he would be one of the six recipients of the ASC grant, he felt overcome with emotion.
“One of the representatives from the Arts and Science Council, Adam, called to tell me personally, and I broke down crying,” Lee explains. “I felt like I got a hug from the community.”
The grant was classified as “unrestricted,” meaning Lee has the freedom to utilize the $50,000 however he sees fit. He decided to use the money to revive one of Lee’s greatest and favorite projects: a Broadway-style play titled ‘For the Love of Harlem.’
The play centers around several important figures of the Harlem Renaissance and takes attendees through a musical journey through New York City in the 1920s.
“Many of the pioneers of the Harlem Renaissance were queer … they were queer in lifestyle, culture and behavior in the 1920s, which is incredible they were that unapologetically themselves,” Lee offers. “It’s so enlightening and empowering to know the biggest movement in African-American culture was spearheaded by Black, queer people [and] it is important to me my community understands these people they love were a part of a community they sometimes hate.”
Other recipients of the Arts and Science Council grant include:
- MyLoan Dinh
- Hannah Hasan
- Robin Tynes-Miller
- Camerin Watson
- Dammit Wesley