COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus has a new genius: Writer Hanif Abdurraqib.
On Tuesday, MacArthur announced writer Abdurraqib as one of the latest grant winners. He joins the ranks of scientists, painters, sculptors, filmmakers, and other artists in the 2021 class. The award totals $625,000 per Fellow, given quarterly over five years.
“I’m not much of an individualist,” said Abdurraqib in front of a mural depicting himself and Columbus artists and writers. “I don’t think there’s much use in individual wins. I will find a way, in multiple ways, to make this a win for the community I live in.”
Abdurraqib paid tribute Wednesday morning to previous Columbus MacArthur genius winner, artist Aminah Robinson, by leaving flowers at her home.
“I don’t necessarily think that I’m following in her footsteps,” Abdurraquib said, “because that’s impossible, but it is a real pleasure to kind of get to stand in a little piece of her shadow, and to hopefully do justice to the artistic movements and the cultural movements that she started in this city, that are still kind of echoing all throughout the city.
“So Aminah means a great deal to me,” he said. “This morning I stopped by her house and dropped some flowers off. Without her work, I don’t think my work would be possible.”
Writer Scott Woods dropped by the mural at 1450 E. Main Street, the Simakovsky law offices, to congratulate his friend and colleague. Woods is depicted on the left-hand side of the mural, near Abdurraquib’s shoulder.
“He will never say this himself,” said Woods, “But he has more than earned this award as far as I’m concerned and I think the support that’s been coming from all across the city holds that up. If you had to pick someone who is a steward of the city, who represents the city, who loves the city, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone better than Hanif in light of that.”
Abdurraquib’s books explore music and Black culture: Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest (2019); The Crown Ain’t Worth Much; A Fortune for Your Disaster; and They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (2017), A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance (2021).
Exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and potential for creative work, are the MacArthur Fellows criteria.
Abdurraqib will be at $2.00 Radio on Parsons Avenue at 7:30 Wednesday night, moderating a book discussion: Black Nerd Problems Discussion with William Evans and Omar Holmon. Tickets are on Eventbrite.