3 African-Americans named among 2013 class of MacArthur fellows

theGRIO REPORT - This year, three African-Americans -- Kyle Abraham, Tarell McCraney and Carrie Mae Weems -- have been identified by the MacArthur Foundation and have each awarded $625,000...

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Twenty-four talented individuals were recognized Wednesday morning after they were named the 2013 class of MacArthur fellows – an honor given to an extraordinary group made up of individuals who have achieved much success in their personal creative pursuits.

This year, three African-Americans — Kyle Abraham, Tarell McCraney and Carrie Mae Weems — have been identified by the MacArthur Foundation and join the group of fellows who are each awarded $625,000 to use as they wish towards their creative visions.

“This year’s class of MacArthur Fellows is an extraordinary group of individuals who collectively reflect the breadth and depth of American creativity,” said Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows Program.

“They are artists, social innovators, scientists, and humanists who are working to improve the human condition and to preserve and sustain our natural and cultural heritage. Their stories should inspire each of us to consider our own potential to contribute our talents for the betterment of humankind.”

In particular, the work of these three visonaries attempts to teach lessons and transform the ideas associated with the African-American experience.

Abraham is a New-York-based dancer and choreographer whose work is often inspired by some of his childhood memories growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Through his moves — and the music that provides the groundwork for his work — Abraham tells stories that reflect ongoing issues in the urban community like gang and police violence. He is able to express these themes through a variety of powerful portraits that also include spoken word, multimedia and an eclectic range of songs.

As for McCraney, his creative work is presented through a more verbal and theatrical platform.

As a playwright, the 32-year-old Miami native often adapts classic works and creates more contemporary pieces of literature that reflect different components of the black experience.

The Yale University graduate has also made efforts to bring theater to elementary schools in undeserved communities in Miami.

“When I received the call about this fellowship, I put the phone down for a long period of time just so I could pick it up again and make sure they were there,” he said in a video interview taped by members of the foundation. “I’m extraordinarily honored and that feeling is rising every day.”

Lastly, Weems, 60, is an established  photographer and video artist who has captured images over the years that provide depth in understanding black culture.

Her endeavors to create video projects and still portraits revolve around her personal mission to portray the realities of discrimination in regards to race, class and gender.

As a social activist, Weems has used her work to help enrich the lives of others. She has contributed to projects and public art campaigns that bring awareness to goals of ending gun violence as well as training the youth through visual workshops in Syracuse, New York.

Click here to find out more about these three individuals and the remainder of the 2013 MacArthur fellows.

Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works