Meet the New Class of MacArthur Fellows — N. Jamiyla Chisholm

Colorlines, 09.26.2019

Many of the new “geniuses” are people of color, and the McArthur Foundation says they “give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts.”

On Wednesday (September 25), the McArthur Foundation announced the 2019 MacArthur Fellows, also known as the “genius grant” winners. People of color were heavily represented on the list of 26 thinkers and problems-solvers, which includes activists, legal advocates, historians, scientists and writers. Each grant comes with a $625,000 award, which is distributed over five years and comes with zero strings.

“From addressing the consequences of climate change to furthering our understanding of human behavior to fusing forms of artistic expression, this year’s 26 extraordinary MacArthur Fellows demonstrate the power of individual creativity to reframe old problems, spur reflection, create new knowledge and better the world for everyone,” John Palfrey, MacArthur president said on the organization’s website. “They give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts.”

Visual artist Jeffrey Gibson, whose work challenges the erasure of Indigenous art traditions from the history of Western art, said in the announcement: “I didn’t grow up seeing people like me in positions of power. And so, it’s important for me to spread my work as far and wide as I possibly can so that other people like me can see it and know that they’re able to accomplish whatever it is they set their minds to.”

In addition to Gibson, the class of 2019 also includes the following people of color: Graphic novelist Lynda Barry, artists Mel Chin and Cameron RowlandRestorative Justice Project lawyer sujatha baliga, historians Saidiya Hartman and Kelly Lytle Hernández, landscaper and public artist Walter Hood, writer Valeria Luiselli, urban designer Emmanuel Pratt, neuroscientist Vanessa Ruta, anthropologist Jenny Tung, and poet and fiction writer Ocean Vuong.

This MacArthur Foundation video introduces the 26 new MacArthur Fellows for 2019: