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MacArthur Foundation announces 25 recipients of $625,000 fellowships

Desmond Meade, who TIME 100 celebrated as one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World, two years ago, was among the MacArthur Fellows Class of 2021 announced Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Desmond Meade, who TIME 100 celebrated as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World," two years ago, was among the MacArthur Fellows Class of 2021 announced Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The MacArthur Foundation announced Tuesday 25 recipients this year of $625,000 fellowships to support talented individuals.

"The MacArthur Fellowship is a $625,000, no-strings attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential," the Foundation's website states. "Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthurs Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefits of human society."

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Among the MacArthur Fellows announced were people engaged in activism for civil rights and human rights, writers, artists, lawyers, historians, scientists and filmmakers.

Civil rights activist Desmond Meade, who championed voting rights for formerly incarcerated citizens in Florida, was on the list, along with Nicole Fleetwood, an art historian and curator, whose museum exhibition "Marking Time" collected artwork made by incarcerated people.

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Jordan Casteel, an artist capturing everyday encounters in recognition of shared humanity, was also on the list, along with poet and lawyer Reginald Dwayne Betts, who has promoted the humanity and rights of individuals who are incarcerated or have been incarcerated, and Ibram Kendi, a historian and writer who has studied racism and advocated against it.

Some science recipients included Lisa Schulte Moore, a landscape ecologist, who has worked with farmers on sustainable agriculture systems, and Michelle Monje, a neuroscientist, who has worked on pediatric brain cancer research to improve therapies for patients.

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Computational virologist Trevor Bedford who developed tools for real-time tracking of virus evolution and the spread of infections, also made the list.

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The Foundation credited him as a "critical source of information about the genetic origins and divergent strains of the virus."

"I don't know how to feel," Bedford told The Washington Post. "The only reason any of this is happening is because of the pandemic, and it can feel like this is me getting these awards on top of millions of people. So it's hard for it to be, like, a good thing by itself."

Married documentary filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera, who worked together on The Infiltrators based on two young undocumented activists who get arrested on purpose to educate detainees about their rights and organize a campaign to stop deportations, each received a fellowship.

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"There are things you dream of, but two MacArthur fellowships in the house is not one of them," Rivera told The Post. "I never, never dreamed of that."

The media coined the term 'genius grant" in 1981 for the MacArthur Fellows, and the name has stuck around since then, but the Foundation does not use the name, calling it "both too narrow and too broad to describe MacArthur Fellows."

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