Early this morning, the MacArthur Foundation announced their 2015 “genius grant” fellows. Among them: noted journalist, author, and Washington City Paper alumnus Ta-Nahesi Coates.
Coates was one of 24 people—ranging from writers and artists to chemists and classicists—selected as a 2015 MacArthur fellow. The annual grants are awarded to “talented” individuals who the foundation thinks “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Coates—whose latest book, Between the World and Me, and Atlantic cover essay “The Case For Reparations,” earned him wide acclaim and recognition this year—is in good company, with photographer/video artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, poet Ellen Bryant Voigt, and playwright/composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and stars in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton.
Though Coates doesn’t live in D.C. anymore—he’s currently splitting his time between New York and Paris—he’s a national correspondent for the Atlantic, which is headquartered in D.C. And he isn’t the only fellow in this year’s class with local ties. Environmental health advocate Gary Cohen, who co-founded and is the president of Health Care Without Harm, based in Reston, Va. (Cohen, however, lives in Boston), is another one of this year’s fellows, as is classicist Dimitri Nakassis, who grew up in Gaithersburg, Md., but now resides in Toronto, where he’s an associate professor at the University of Toronto.
The annual grant is a pretty sweet deal for those selected—not only do recipients get “genius” bragging rights, but they get an unrestricted $625,000 grant. The MacArthur Foundation’s only stipulation is that its fellows use it to continue to do what they do best.
Of course, we here at City Paper have our own bragging rights as Coates is now the second alum to go on and win the prestigious award. In 2002, investigative journalist Katherine Boo, who was a City Paper staff writer from 1989 to 1990, was named a MacArthur “genius grant” fellow.
Photo courtesy John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation