The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation offer a $625,000 grant to people recognized for “exceptional creativity” in fields related to the arts, sciences, and activism. The “Genius Grant” offered by the MacArthur Fellows Program typically goes out to 20 and 30 individuals and has been around since 1981. In the decades since the first few awards were given out, only a handful of Latinas have been awarded with the honor including Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko, civil rights activist Maria Varela, and Ecuadoran immigration activist Cristina Jiménez Moreta.
This year, two Latinas were amongst the twenty-five MacArthur award winners to take home grants.
Natalie Diaz and Livia Schiavinato Eberlin were each awarded $625,000 for work within their communities.
Gracias to the @macfound team for all of your hard work and care and attention/intention toward our work and our communities. It was great to meet you each and carry you with me in this joy. And love. ❤️ https://t.co/FbXBZX5Qyl
— Natalie Diaz (@NatalieGDiaz) October 5, 2018
Diaz, a Queer, Mojave Latinx poet, educator, and language activist, and educator received $625,000 to be used over the next five years from the foundation on Friday.Her previous honors have included the 2007 Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry and the Narrative Poetry Prize. Her written work includes When My Brother Was an Aztec and The Last Mojave Indian Barbie.
In an interview posted to the MacArthur Foundation site about Diaz’s converging her identities into her writing, the poet explained how she hopes her “work can offer a queer writer or a queer-identifying person, in general, is the space to one hold the ways we’ve been hurt and the ways we’ve been erased and to also hold in the other hand simultaneously the way we deserve love, our capacities for love and all of the innovative ways we’ve managed to find to express that love to one another.”
Eberlin is a Brazilian scientist and professor at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research and work have allowed for the development of new ways for researchers and doctors to identify cancerous tissue allowing patients to access improved outcomes for chemical analysis and treatment. Her work primarily focuses on the innovative ways that doctors can identify cancerous tissue in patients. In 2017 she created the MacSpec Pen, which helps doctors quickly tell the difference between healthy and cancerous tissues in surgery. Her most recent project called the MasSpec Pen grants surgeons the opportunity to decipher cancerous tissues from noncancerous tissues.
“I feel extremely honored and humbled because this is a very special fellowship that recognizes people for their talent and creativity, not for a specific project or their past work,” Eberlin told the University of Texas at Austin school newspaper. “They trust your work has and will continue to impact society and I am so thankful for that.”
Check out more about Diaz and her mission as a poet below!
See more about Eberlin’s work and research here!