QCity Metro, JCSU among Knight Foundation grant recipients

The grants went to organizations pushing for digital transformation and inclusion.

QCity Metro joins 25 newsrooms nationwide to receive a $20,000 grant to adopt, manage or upgrade their digital platforms.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation last week announced its second set of grant recipients, part of a $2 million, three-year initiative to strengthen digital publishing solutions in newsrooms, particularly those with a local focus and serving communities of color. 

QCity Metro Publisher Glenn Burkins said grants have become “invaluable” to local new publishers as advertising dollars have shifted to the big technology companies, such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. And like a growing number of local newsrooms, QCity Metro also looks to its readers for financial support, primarily through membership in its Press Club.

Already a recipient of a Knight Foundation grant to cover Charlotte’s Historic West End neighborhoods, QCity Metro will use the latest award to launch a new addition to its website — a resources and lifestyle portal.  

Burkins said that although “guides” for navigating Charlotte already exist, QCity Metro’s will have a primary focus on the city’s Black culture.

When the portal launches, he said, readers can expect to find new and existing directories, local festivals and events, and articles about Black-owned restaurants, businesses, churches, neighborhoods and people. 

“It will be helpful for people who are living here, but even perhaps more helpful for people who are moving to Charlotte, who want to understand the city better,” Burkins said. “We kind of see it as serving a dual purpose.”

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With a year to launch as stipulated by the grant, Burkins said the QCity Metro team is getting started immediately, focusing on technology, content and project management. 

QCity Metro, he said, is constantly looking for ways to improve, which starts with securing funding for an operation that carries “significant” expenses, including the production of its Morning Brew newsletter, salaries and technology costs. 

“We launched this site in 2008 with a vision of producing a website that will keep Charlotte’s Black communities informed, and this is just simply part of that growth,” he said. “This is an ongoing process; everyday we wake up we’re thinking, how we can be better at fulfilling our mission?”

$75,000 for Johnson C. Smith University:

Community members walk through the Johnson C. Smith University RCLM37 exhibit, one of the schools latest projects aimed at archiving and sharing Charlotte’s history of housing. (Photos: James B. Duke Memorial Library, Johnson C. Smith University)

Last week, the Knight Foundation also announced more than $1.2 million in grants for Charlotte organizations working toward digital inclusion, bridging the digital divide, and those using immersive technology to recreate Charlotte’s rich history. 

Johnson C. Smith University, one of eight recipients, was awarded $75,000 for its “A Virtual Sense of Place: African American Urbanism,” a web-based augmented reality exhibit, which is poised to tell the history of Charlotte’s Black neighborhoods and the Historic West End. 

[Related: JCSU virtual-reality project to showcase Black neighborhoods torn apart by urban renewal]

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Monika Rhue, JCSU’s director of library services, said the grant money will go toward the project’s user experience, including a 2-D website and 3-D exhibition for spectators.

The project will bring to life stories of displacement but also of rebuilding and resilience, while using cutting-edge technology and historic artifacts from former and current residents of the Brooklyn and Biddleville neighborhoods. 

Rhue said funding from places like the Knight Foundation is “very important” because it enables Charlotte’s Black history to be shared with the greater community.

“To be able to tell the story in what I consider your non-traditional way, it takes dollars to be able to do that,” Rhue said. “There’s a lot of our resources that are involved, so without support from foundations and grants, we will not be able to be innovative and creative in telling these stories.”

Researchers are currently collecting oral history accounts and community input for the project, with in-person sessions scheduled for July 12 and 26 at Allegra Westbrooks Branch Library, located at 2412 Beatties Ford Rd.

Sarafina Wright
Sarafina covers Historic West End under a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. She earned a journalism degree from Howard University. Email news tips to sarafinawright@qcitymetro.com or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @sarafinasaid.

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