minnesota department of health

MDH seeks partners for Emmett Till health and recovery project

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is requesting proposals from community-based organizations seeking to serve survivors of historical trauma, as part of the Emmett Louis Till Victims Recovery Program.

The Minnesota Legislature established the Emmett Louis Till Victims Recovery Program in 2023 to address the health and wellness needs of victims and survivors of trauma, their families and their heirs.

The one-time, $500,000 in grants will be awarded by MDH in consultation with the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, which is based in Minneapolis.

“We are very appreciative of this opportunity to work with the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation to implement this innovative program and get this help out into the community to support those affected by historical trauma,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham.

The grants will serve survivors, victims, and their family members who experienced historical trauma resulting from events such as assault or another violent physical act, intimidation, false accusations, wrongful conviction, a hate crime, the violent death of a family member or experiences of discrimination or oppression based on the victim’s race, ethnicity or national origin.

“As family members of Emmett Till, we are still impacted with trauma by the injustice and tragedy experienced by many others since his lynching in 1955,” said Deborah Watts, co-founder and executive director of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. “With this being the first of its kind in the nation, we hope it can be a permanent or sustained program and serves those in need for many years to come and serve as a north star or blueprint for turning tragedy into triumph that other states can follow.” Watts is also Emmett Till’s cousin.

Projects eligible for consideration include those addressing physical health, mental health, cultural, spiritual and faith-based needs, as well as projects promoting healing, cultural awareness, remembrance and legacy preservation.

MDH and the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation will award grants through a competitive process. Applicants must be community-based organizations that can describe experience providing trauma-informed, culturally competent and responsive support or services to survivors of trauma and the impacted families and heirs of victims and survivors.

“We are truly honored and appreciate the opportunity to work with MDH and the entire team assembled to develop the competitive request for proposal,” said Watts. “We will work to ensure the intention of the legislation is preserved and that Minnesotans, especially those underserved impacted black and indigenous families' health and wellness needs are served by racially and culturally competent, trauma-informed and responsive providers according to our vision when designing the legislation.”

Grant awards are expected to start this summer.

In 1955, Emmett Louis Till was kidnapped, tortured and lynched at the age of 14 in Mississippi. The murder and the acquittal of the confessed murderers galvanized the civil rights movement. For more information about his life and impact, visit the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation.

For more information on the request for proposals process, visit the Emmett Louis Till Victims Recovery Program web page.


Media inquiries:
Scott Smith 
MDH Communications
[email protected]

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