Columbus' 'Genius Grant' winner aims to give back to the community

Columbus poet and bestselling author Hanif Abdurraqib has been named a MacArthur fellow.
Columbus poet and bestselling author Hanif Abdurraqib has been named a MacArthur fellow. [ Hanif Abdurraqib]
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Columbus native Hanif Abdurraqib, winner of a ‘genius grant’ from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation plans to use some of the $625,000 award to give back to the community.

“My main goal is to continue in my work of finding ways to funnel resources back into community organizers, activists who have been on the ground,” Abdurraqib said. “Like art communities here who are doing work who I appreciate and learn from.”

The poet and best-selling writer said he found out he had received the grant a month before it was announced this week, but he could not tell anyone.

“My mode always I kind of just put my head down and thought how can I get back to work,” Abdurraqib said.

Twenty-four other winners were also selected, each receiving $625,000 to use as they want.

“In terms of what I need to survive I think I’m doing okay and so as always my aim is to redistribute and to help make the city more artistically and socially and politically equitable,” Abdurraqib said.

His latest book “A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance,” is a National Book Award nominee. Abdurraqib said part of his work is bringing the hidden stories to light.

“Just try and ask questions of untold stories or better ways to tell stories that have been under-told about Black performers or the nuances of Black performance and not just performance on a stage or performance for consumption,” Abdurraqib said.

Abdurraqib hosted the WOSU-produced podcast Small Joys with Hanif Abdurraqib that featured conversations with everyday people.

“It was a lot of fun,” Abdurraqib said. “It was a real pleasure to do. Getting to do it was so thrilling. I only got to do seven episodes that’s not nearly enough. I would like to get to do it again to cover more ground. To get to talk to all the folks was wonderful. But it’s a question of time as always.”

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