Acclaimed Poet, Rising Graphic Novelist and Native Language Revivalist Among 2016 MacArthur Geniuses of Color

By Sameer Rao Sep 22, 2016

Scientists, fine artists, writers and a financial services pioneer feature among The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s 2016 class of Genius Grant Fellows.

Of the 23 fellows announced today (September 22), 11 are people of color. Those whose work directly addresses race and racism in America include:

– Human rights lawyer Ahilan Arulanantham, director of advocacy and legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, who challenged undocumented immigrants’ detention and access to legal council in various court cases

– Linguist Daryl Baldwin, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma member and director of Miami University of Ohio’s Myammia Center, who works on prominent Native linguistic and cultural revival projects

– Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose plays "Appropriate" and "An Octoroon" investigate the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow

– Art historian Kellie Jones, whose curated exhibitions and scholarly work specifically highlight lesser-known Black artists 

José A. Quiñones, founder and CEO of Mission Asset Fund, which helps marginalized and impoverished people build formal credit histories based on informal lending circles common in other cultures

– Poet Claudia Rankine, whose book "Citizen" and other works interrogate racism’s common, subtle impacts on Black people

– Sculptor Joyce J. Scott, who uses beadwork and jewelery in pieces that comment on racism

– Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, whose works (including DC’s new Chinese "Super-Man") incorporate Chinese culture and immigrant experience into "traditional" comic narratives 

Click on each awardee’s name to access their MacArthur Foundation video profile. Other grantees of color are scientists Jin-Quan Yu, Manu Prakash and Subash Khot

All awardees receive a no-strings-attached $625,000 grant, distributed over five years, in recognition of both their exceptional contributions and future potential. Read the full list of winners here.