The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship is commonly known as a “genius” grant that recognizes “exceptional creativity” in various fields. It comes with no-strings-attached awards of $625K each, distributed over five years.
The selection process is kept mostly confidential, but about 20-39 fellows are picked every year with the hopes of the money and recognition helping recipients create more innovative work. Past winners include notable figures such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Claudia Rankine, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, but the beautiful thing about the fellowship is that many of the folks who win it are less well-known.
William J. Barber II
Rev. William J. Barber II is the leader of the resurfaced Poor People’s Campaign, first organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.. The movement lifts up issues of poverty, racism and voter suppression through a series of rallies and demonstrations.
Diaz is a poet who draws on her experience as a Mojave American and Latina to challenge the mythological and cultural touchstones underlying American society.
Gupta is a violinist and social justice advocate who provides musical enrichment programs to the homeless, incarcerated, and other under-resourced communities in Los Angeles.
This community organizer is creating a model of grassroots action that gives individuals facing incarceration, their families, and their communities an active role in their defense. His work with the Silicon Valley De-Bug organization—which he co-founded in 2001—provides resources for and tells the stories of low-income, minority, incarcerated and disenfranchised communities.
Kaphar is an artist whose paintings, sculptures and installations explore the intersection of art, history, and civic agency. Many of his works re-situate and re-contextualize Blackness throughout history.
Keene is a fiction writer and professor whose works explore the ways in which historical narratives shape contemporary lives while re-envisioning these narratives from the perspective of those whose voices have been suppressed.
With a background as an actor and spoken-word poet, this playwright portrays the lives of individuals and communities grappling with economic and social changes—both current and historical.
Okpokwasili is a performer, choreographer, and writer who creates multidisciplinary performance pieces that draw viewers into the interior lives of women of color, and particularly of African and African American women.
Tsang’s work as a filmmaker and performance artist combines documentary and narrative techniques with fantastical detours into the imaginary. Tsang’s work also explores hidden histories, marginalized narratives, and the act of performing itself.
Tsao is a neuroscientist who has explored several aspects of visual processing, such as perception of depth and color. Her most notable line of research has focused on uncovering the fundamental neural principles that go into recognizing a face.
As a planetary scientist, Stewart-Mukhopadhyay sheds light on planet formation and evolution.