By Richard Hack
Jacqueline Woodson, Mary Gray and Isaiah Andrews, all out-members of the LGBTQ community, have each been named “geniuses” by the MacArthur Foundation. They are among the 21 honorees this year, each of whom received a $650,000 grant.
Any listener of National Public Radio (NPR) or the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is well acquainted with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a regular contributor to both media platforms. Every year, the MacArthur Foundation gives away $260 million in grants and impact investments. The MacArthur Fellows Program, a division of the Foundation, annually selects between 20 and 30 individuals, working in any field, who have shown “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” and are citizens or residents of the United States.
Children’s author Jacqueline Woodson, 57, has won many awards during her acclaimed career, but none that have come with over a half-million dollars attached. And the timing could not be better. Last year, Woodson created Baldwin for the Arts in Brewster, NY. Created specifically for people of color, Baldwin for the Arts is a colony of writers, visual artists, and composers who are at the embryos of their careers.
“I learned very young what it meant to be in a space where I felt 100 percent inside my body, and be around people I didn’t have to explain to,” Woodson said. A space like [Baldwin for the Arts] would allow people to start thinking about the importance of self-care and this kind of attention to creation of their own art,” she said. Woodson lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her physician spouse Juliet Widoff and their children.
Anthropologist Mary Gray, 51, has spent years studying the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. She is a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, which explores, and shapes the way we use technology.
“This is for every queer kid out there,” Gray told NBC News when informed of her grant. “The last thing I would have thought was that the work I do would be acknowledged in this way.”
Isaiah Andrews, 34, is a professor at Harvard University’s School of Economics. His research focuses on econometrics, including weak identification, model misspecification, and selective reporting. A Massachusetts native, Andrews hopes to use his grant to put a “spotlight on the importance of thinking carefully about statistical methods” that are developed and can contain hidden biases.
“I hope that my getting this grant will help to demonstrate and show that there is room for success from a wide variety of folks in the economics profession,” Andrews said.