Author and MacArthur Fellow Jesmyn Ward Wins 2nd National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward attends the 68th National Book Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 15, 2017 in New York City, NY, USA. Photo by Dennis Van Tine/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images) 

MacArthur “Genius” grantee Jesmyn Ward took home the National Book Award prize for Fiction Wednesday, marking the second time she has won the prestigious award.

She took the top prize for her book Sing, Unburied, Sing,” a Mississippi-based family epic that, according to the New York Times, “grapples with race, poverty and the psychic scars of past violence.” She previously won the fiction award in 2011 for her novel “Salvage the Bones.”

Critics have compared her writing to works by greats like Toni Morrison and William Faulkner. In her acceptance speech Ward said that she had received her fair amount of rejections for her subject matter.

“Throughout my career, when I have been rejected, there was sometimes subtext, and it was this: People will not read your work because these are not universal stories,” she told the audience. “I don’t know whether some doorkeepers felt this way because I wrote about poor people or because I wrote about black people or because I wrote about Southerners. As my career progressed and I got some affirmations, I still encountered that mindset every now and again.

Eitherway, she added, many people were able to connect with her characters and stories: “You looked at me, at the people I love and write about, you looked at my poor, my black, my Southern children, women and men — and you saw yourself. You saw your grief, your love, your losses, your regrets, your joy, your hope.“

Earlier this year, she was a recipient of a MacArthur ”genius grant“ from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Source: https://www.essence.com/culture/jesmyn-ward-second-national-book-award-sing-unburied-sing

Washington State University Scholar Cornelius Adewlale to be Awarded $100,000 Bullitt Environmental Prize

Cornelius Adewale (photo via seattletimes.com)

via jbhe.com

Cornelius Adewale, a doctoral student in the School of the Environment at Washington State University, has been selected to received the Bullitt Environmental Prize from the Bullitt Foundation. The prize, which comes with a $100,000 grant for continued research, is awarded to individuals who have “extraordinary potential to come powerful and effective leaders in the environmental movement.”

A native of Nigeria, Adewale’s research focuses on improving the environmental impact of agriculture. He hopes to develop methods to reduce chemical fertilizers but produce more food.

“Without food in their bellies, people have no time for anything else,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. “Cornelius is working at the leading edge of research to find ways to produce more food, even as we fight climate change and dramatically reduce the use of pesticides.”

“I am trying to change the way we farm,” said Adewale.

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2017/11/washington-state-university-scholar-to-be-awarded-the-bullitt-environmental-prize/

Former NASA Administrator and Astronaut Charles Bolden to Receive 2017 Nierenberg Prize at UC San Diego

Charles Bolden, Former NASA Administrator and Astronaut (Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via ucsdnews.ucsd.edu)

by Brittany Hook via ucsdnews.ucsd.edu

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden Jr. has been selected as recipient of the 2017 Nierenberg Prize.

While many young people dream of becoming a NASA astronaut and exploring space, only a select few actually make this dream a reality. Some seemingly “fall into” this remarkable career path. One of those people is retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden Jr., who spent 34 years serving in the Marine Corps and 14 years as a NASA astronaut (1980-1994), logging more than 680 hours in space during four space shuttle missions, twice as commander and twice as pilot.

In honor of his remarkable career and lifetime of service to science, his country, and the public, Bolden has been selected as recipient of the 2017 Nierenberg Prize by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. All are invited to attend the award ceremony and a presentation from Bolden in a free event on Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment.

Bolden grew up in the segregated South and overcame great obstacles to become a transformative leader. He is the first African American to serve as NASA Administrator, a position he held from July 2009 to January 2017 which was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During his time at the helm, Bolden oversaw a new era of exploration with science activities including an unprecedented landing on Mars by the Curiosity rover, launch of a spacecraft to Jupiter, and continued progress toward the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

UC San Diego News sat down to chat with Bolden about his incredible journey, from his early days in science to space and beyond.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in science?

Charles Bolden: I always liked taking stuff apart and putting it back together, but I think I became seriously involved in seventh grade, in middle school when my seventh-grade science teacher Mr. J.P. Neal not only encouraged but almost mandated us to participate in science fairs in school. I fell in love with it and I never missed a science fair after that.

Q: Have you ever followed up with that teacher to let him know the impact he had on your life?

CB: I periodically see him when I get back home. And I frequently mention him and my seventh-grade math teacher Mr. King Benjamin Lindberg Jeffcoat in my talks when I discuss the people who inspired me and who were responsible for changing my life. Continue reading

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward Receive 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grants

2017 MacArthur Fellowship Recipients Dawoud Bey, Rhiannon Giddens, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Tyshawn Sorey and Jesmyn Ward (Photo collage via blavity.com)

via blavity.com

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s fellowship, better known as the “genius” grant. 24 fellows were chosen, whose professions range immensely across the board. There are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers, and architects.

What they all have in common is that each of the recipients has been selected for having “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation “as an investment in their potential,” paid out over five years with no strings attached. This year, there were six black recipients of the amazing award:

1. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, painter living in Los Angeles

“Njideka Akunyili Crosby is visualizing the complexities of globalization and transnational identity in works that layer paint, photographic imagery, prints, and collage elements.”

2.  Dawoud Bey, 63, photographer and educator living in Chicago

“Dawoud Bey is using an expansive approach that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated.” Continue reading

Lottery Winner Miguel Pilgram to Use Part of $52M Prize to Revitalize Street in Fort Lauderdale’s Oldest Black Community

In a Sept. 29, 2017 photo, Miguel Pilgram stands outside of the property in the 1400 block of Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale that he plans to transform into a blues club. Pilgram won a $52 million lottery in Miami-Dade seven years ago. He’s set his sights on Sistrunk Blvd., buying a piece of land and preparing to purchase another. He says he feels a moral obligation to invest in the black community, which has a rich history of activism and passion. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP Mike Stocker)

by Brittany Wallman via miamiherald.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. A childhood in the black community of Memphis. A cruise line career that delivered him to a life in South Florida. And a lottery ticket he bought at a gas station. A winning lottery ticket. They are the factors in Miguel Pilgram‘s life that bring him now to Sistrunk Boulevard, a corridor the county calls the “historical heartbeat of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest black community.”

Pilgram, who won a $52 million jackpot using quick-pick numbers in 2010, is investing some of his winnings in Sistrunk in a way not seen in years. Pilgram said he wants to breathe new vibrancy into the boulevard, building on its rich history as a place that nurtured civil rights leaders and pioneers and attracted people to its lively nightlife and music. “I was raised in a similar environment,” Pilgram said. “There is a need, and in my mind, an obligation, to invest there.”

The 48-year-old Coral Springs resident and father of two is rolling out plans for a New York Subs and Wings restaurant with a Memphis Blues club upstairs, on one side of Sistrunk. On the other, his company, The Pilgram Group, plans a retail complex with a bank, Jamba Juice and other shops on the ground floor. On the second floor, a performing arts center will offer below-market rates for instructors of dance, arts, and music. “Do you know how impactful that is for a child from any of these areas, who is like me, to come out and see people actually painting in the window, or performing on a saxophone?” Pilgram said. “That creates a fire under most children. Now they say, wow, anything out there that’s creative, I can be. Whatever artist I want to be, I can be.”

Back in Memphis, Pilgram said he had role models who shaped him. His father was hard-working. His mother was a devout Seventh-day Adventist who had him in church several days a week. When he got older, he joined the Navy. Then he embarked on a career in the cruise line industry, climbing to a top position, and learning to work with large budgets like the one now under his own name.In his world travels, he said he visited cultures where people marveled at his “beautiful” brown skin. He said he wants children in Fort Lauderdale’s historic black community to experience that feeling of value as an African American. But he also saw what can happen when private investment is lacking, he said, and government comes in to rebuild.

In Memphis, he said, his grandmother’s apartment was razed, and the residents displaced. He feared it could happen here, and said that’s one thing that drew him to Sistrunk Boulevard. ‘It could be you’ Every week, Pilgram spent $20 on lottery tickets. But he wasn’t good about checking them. Then one night he ran to the Shell gas station in North Bay Village where he bought his tickets. He left chicken cacciatore and his girlfriend at home, and was in a hurry. He just needed a bottle of wine. David, the gas station employee, was insistent. Someone had bought the winning Florida Lotto ticket at that gas station, he told Pilgram, and “it could be you.” Pilgram got the tickets from his car, and one of them hit: 15-16-20-32-45-50. David started “jumping up and down,” Pilgram said.”$52,000?” Pilgram thought he heard through David’s Spanish accent. No, not thousand. 52 million.

Sistrunk Boulevard hasn’t had a nightclub with live music like Pilgram plans in at least 25 years, City Commissioner Robert McKinzie said. The boulevard was once vibrant. Now, vacant lots and empty buildings sit on many of the blocks. The city, a major landowner on Sistrunk, has worked for years to encourage private investment. McKinzie said the pieces are finally falling into place, and he’s “excited” about Pilgram’s role in it. “Now that we are reviving it,” McKinzie said of Sistrunk Boulevard, “his plan and concept fit right in.” Next to Pilgram’s planned performing arts center, on the north side of Sistrunk between Northwest 14th Way and 14th Terrace, the city recently agreed to spend $10 million building a new YMCA where the old Mizell Center is.

To read full article, go to: Lottery winner to use part of $52M to transform street | Miami Herald

Northwestern Professor and Poet Natasha Trethewey Wins the $250,000 Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities

Natasha Trethewey (photo via creativeloafing.com)

via jbhe.com

Natasha Trethewey, the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has been selected to receive the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. The award comes with an unrestricted $250,000 prize. Teresa Heinz, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, stated that Professor Trethewey’s “writing captivates us with its power and its ability to personalize and fearlessly illuminate stories of our past as a people and a nation. We honor her not only for her body of work, but for her contributions as a teacher and mentor dedicated to inspiring the next generation of writers.”

Professor Trethewey is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and three other poetry collections. She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2010). Professor Trethewey served two terms as poet laureate of the United States. A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, Professor Trethewey is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She holds a master’s degree from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Professor Trethewey will be honored with three other Heinz Award winners at a ceremony in Pittsburgh on October 18.

Source: Natasha Trethewey Wins the $250,000 Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

North Carolina Has 6 Black Female Police Chiefs for the 1st Time in State’s History

(photo via thegrio.com)

via thegrio.com

North Carolina currently has six Black female police chiefs, the first time this has ever happened in state history, according to WRAL. Raleigh’s Cassandra Deck-Brown, Durham’s C.J. Davis, Morrisville’s Patrice Andrews and Fayetteville’s Gina Hawkins, three of the six chiefs, spoke to the station about their unique positions.

“We’ve broken a glass ceiling,” Deck-Brown told WRAL’s Lena Tillett. “So, becoming chief, the honor is knowing that somebody else has that opportunity to get there.” All three said that they felt that they had to work much harder than their white male counterparts, and they all were sure to acknowledge the increasing enmity between police and communities of color, an enmity that they are trying to help soothe.

They said that they are working to introduce more empathy and compassion to policing in an attempt to help change the way that police are perceived by their communities, especially in areas that have a history of specifically targeting people of color.“This is a paradigm shift in policing,” Deck-Brown said. “This is what 21st century [policing] looks like. All we need is the opportunity. Some do it better than others, but we need the opportunity.”

Hawkins, the mother of black children, also admitted that it was sometimes hard to reconcile her life and the fact that police often are the perpetrators of racism. “We’ve always been of color,” Hawkins said. “We’ve always had those family members, and that conversation that we have with our family members and our friends doesn’t change because we happen to have our uniform on.”

Source: North Carolina has 6 Black female police chiefs for the first time in history | theGrio