A Sugar Land-based non-profit has received a $10,000 grant to create a traveling exhibit about Black history and contributions in Fort Bend County.
The Society of Justice & Equality for the People of Sugar Land, also known as S.O.J.E.S., has long advocated for the memorialization of the Sugar Land 95, victims of convict leasing whose remains were found on school district property in 2018.
The grant comes from the Honeyland Fund, the philanthropic branch of a Black culture festival that launched in Sugar Land last year.
When the Honeyland Festival came to Sugar Land last year, S.O.J.E.S. reached out to organizers to share the history of the Sugar Land 95. During a welcome ceremony, festival organizers acknowledged Fort Bend's Indigenous and Black history, including the Sugar Land 95.
In a statement, S.O.J.E.S. president Robin Cole expressed her appreciation for the grant.
"This is a testament to the mission S.O.J.E.S. has been committed to achieving all along: To tell the untold story of Sugar Land and Fort Bend County, and how and why they came to be the places we know today," she said in the statement.
One of the goals of S.O.J.E.S is to create a museum about convict leasing and mass incarceration. The organization's vice president Debra McGaughey said the traveling exhibit is the first step toward this goal.
"When we found out that they had decided to award us $10,000, it was amazing and wonderful," McGaughey said in an interview with Houston Public Media.
The exhibit will include panels starting with Fort Bend County's early history and leading up to the discovery of the Sugar Land 95. The organization plans to unveil the first phase of the exhibit during a Black History Month event at the Fort Bend University Branch Library on February 12.
"Without the labors of those Americans who were convict laborers, without their work, Sugar Land would not be what it is," McGaughey said. "And so we want that story told."