Across the nation, Black churches have shut their doors because of the challenges brought upon from the COVID-19 pandemic. Will these churches reopen? Probably not without help.
A new fund will provide a lifeline to these shuttered churches and help elevate issues for those affected by natural disasters: The Preserving Black Churches Project, which the National Trust for Historic Preservation introduced on MLK day, will provide $20 million to preserve and restore Black churches across the United States. According to Newsweek, the money from this fund was primarily donated by the philanthropy organization Lilly Endowment.
As noted on the National Trust’s website, the money is not just for the sake of repairs, but to “reimagine, redesign, and redeploy historic preservation to address the institutions’ needs and the cultural assets and stories they steward.” African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund executive Brent Leggs offered a few words to ABC News:
“The centerpiece of Black communities starts with the Black church,” African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund executive Brent Leggs told ABC News. “Black churches are exceptionally important in American democracy, not only for their legacy in civil and human rights but also for their role in uplifting civic identity and community empowerment.”
St. James AME Church will receive $100,000 as one of the first recipients of the project’s emergency fund. Just last month, the church was unfortunately destroyed by a tornado that killed 20 people. This project plans to assist more than 50 Black churches nationwide over the next three years.
The National Trust also reiterated how meaningful the Black church is to America as a whole:
“Black history is American history and it is our responsibility to cultivate spaces to engage with it,” the fund’s website stated. “We must ensure that everyone has the opportunity to draw inspiration and wisdom from African American historic places.”
In addition to preserving and renovating Black churches around the country, the fund also has other initiatives in mind:
- Establish a new national grant fund to provide direct funding to Black churches for capital, staffing, and operations
- Create a Rapid Response & Emergency Grant Fund to address imminent threats to Black churches
- Provide targeted assistance and support to Black Churches serving as sites of conscience, memory, justice, and reconciliation
- Model innovative stewardship and build capacity for Alabama’s Civil Rights Churches
- Amplify historic Black churches through digital documentation, storytelling, and media relations