Four Black ‘Geniuses’ Included in MacArthur Fellowship Class of 2014

The 2014 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship were announced Wednesday morning, and the new class included four African-American visionaries whose works have had major impacts on today’s society.

The MacArthur Grant is commonly referred to as the “genius” grant and gives each of its recipients $625,000, which is paid out in equal quarterly installments over the course of five years.

One of the major perks of the fellowship money is that there are no restrictions on how its recipients are allowed to use it.

The MacArthur Foundation deemed 21 individuals worthy of the “genius” grant, including four African-Americans.

Steve Coleman, a 57-year-old jazz composer and saxophonist from Allentown, Pennsylvania, was one of those recipients.

According to the MacArthur Foundation website, Coleman’s musical talents are “expanding the expressive and formal possibilities of spontaneous composition.”

His improvised performances are truly unique as they update “iconic musical idioms in the creative traditions of luminaries like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker by infusing them with melodic, rhythmic and structural components inspired by music of the larger African Diaspora, as well as from the continents of Africa, Eurasia and the Americas.”

In addition to his incredible musical abilities, the MacArthur Foundation also celebrated Coleman’s generosity.

Throughout his career, Coleman has been adamant about giving back to the community and mentoring those who need him.

Terrance Hayes, a 42-year-old poet from Pittsburgh, was also included in the 2014 class of MacArthur Fellows.

The writing professor at the University of Pittsburgh crafts incredible poems that dive deep into issues of race and gender.

His poems have also taken a closer look at family structures in America and provided rhythmic commentary on current events.

One of his notable works, according to the MacArthur Foundation website, is Arbor for Butch.

The poem “plays off of pecha kucha, a Japanese business presentation format in which twenty images connected to a single theme are narrated for twenty seconds each.”

The websites goes on to explain that Hayes used this form along with sculptures of Martin Puryear to do something truly innovative with his poetry.

“Hayes links the visual with the sonic and the lyrical in an affecting consideration of what it means to be a father and a son,” the website added.

Then there is artist Rick Lowe of Houston.

The unconventional 53-year-old artist’s latest project is transforming an entire neighborhood.

A long-neglected neighborhood in Houston serves as his canvas for what has become an inspiring public art project.

Lowe teamed up with other artists to restore a block and a half of “derelict properties – twenty-two shotgun houses from the 1930s. – in Houston’s predominantly African American Third Ward and turned them into Project Row Houses.”

The Project Row Houses now don a community support center and several art venues.

The project brought new life to the neighborhood and led Lowe to launch similar projects in other cities across the U.S.

Those cities include Los Angeles, New Orleans and North Dallas.

Lastly, the 2014 class of MacArthur Fellows welcomed Jennifer L. Eberhardt.

Eberhardt’s passions are not rooted in the arts.

Eberhardt is a 49-year-old social psychologist from Stanford, California, and an associate professor at Stanford University.

Eberhardt has been “investigating the subtle, complex, largely unconscious yet deeply imagined ways that individuals racially code and categorize people.”

Her work focuses mainly on connections to race and crime.

Eberhardt has been able to give the world concrete proof that stereotypic associates between race and crime have had a major impact on the way minorities are treated by police and sentenced for crimes.

She is now working closely with law enforcement agencies to “design interventions to improve policing and to help them build and maintain trust with the communities they serve.”


Jennifer L. Eberhardt

Jennifer L. Eberhardt