Rapid-Response Grants Program

“The Art, Politics and Publics of Black Faith” Rapid-Response Grants Program



With support from the Henry Luce Foundation, Columbia University’s Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS) is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for a rapid-response grants program that will provide funding to scholars, religious and civic leaders, and culture workers (i.e. artists, critics, media makers) developing projects that engage with and bring together the fields of black studies and the study of religion. The goal of this RFP is to support work that engages with some aspect of black life—spanning the religious, cultural, political, and social—in order to think critically about the history and contemporary significance of “black faith.” 

In light of recent diagnoses that call attention to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black communities, the project asks: What does it mean to theorize “black faith” in the midst of a crisis that has been referred to as a “black plague?” Such questions have only been amplified in recent days, with the renewed and sustained protests that have grown in response to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. While both the pandemic and protests cast new light on longstanding racial asymmetries, the relevance of faith in contemporary black life is a pressing question. That is, what is the shape, texture and object of black faith in a moment of protracted death?

CARSS’s rapid-response grants program invites proposals for projects that take up such questions within and across the fields of black studies and the study of religion. Here “black faith” is understood expansively as spanning both sacred and secular registers. Faith, as such, is conceived of as a language—a capacious set of ideas and practices—that has taken shape within religious contexts and in the form of spiritual practices, but which has also been invoked by activists, artists and thinkers who have identified as agnostic or even anti-religious.

Objectives and Eligibility

CARSS ‘s rapid-response grant program will provide funding ($1000-5,000) to individuals (i.e. academics, religious and civic leaders, and culture workers) working on projects that in some clear way wrestle with the question of “black faith.” A few larger grants (up to $10,000) may also be awarded to projects that involve collaborations between scholars and practitioners (i.e. artists, religious and civic leaders) and projects that are based within organizational settings. Proposals may be academic or research-oriented, but they may also attend to more practical concerns or be grounded in local communities. Generally speaking, this RFP aims to support work that 1) highlights the experiences and voices of individuals and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and 2) considers the significance of such work within the fields of black studies and the study of religion. 

Potential ideas for projects might include, but are not limited, to the following: 

  • Oral history projects, and especially ones that examine the faith experiences of black LGBTQ people and communities 
  • Research projects that examine the impact of COVID-19 on black communities, including black religious communities 
  • Art (eg. visual, literary, musical, etc) and media-making (i.e. digital, audio-video, social media, etc) projects that explore spirituality and/or religion in the context of the African diaspora  
  • Research projects that explore some dimension (historical or contemporary) of the African American religious experience 
  • Writing projects on race, religion and/or spirituality that are addressed to non-academic audiences 
  • Programmatic initiatives that foster dialogue and engagement with religion in contemporary black life 


  • Proposals should include clearly a defined scope, set of goals and objectives 
  • Proposals should clearly address black studies and the academic study of religion 
  • Proposals should have a basic timeline for work to be completed within 12 months 

Application Requirements:

  • Completed Application form 
  • CV/Resume for all persons participating in the project
  • Three-page Proposal Narrative, with timeline
  • One-page budget, with brief narrative 
  • One Letter of Recommendation (to be submitted separately via email to [email protected])


All materials should be submitted via the online application form by 11:59pm EST on September 15, 2020.  


  • Early August 2020: Call for Proposals 
  • September 15, 2020: Deadline for submission of proposals 
  • Early October 2020: Award Notifications 


Please direct any questions about the application process to [email protected], with a copy to Derrick McQueen, CARSS Associate Director, at  [email protected]

Support for the rapid-response grants program is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.