CHICAGO — Two Chicagoans, a photographer and an activist, are among 24 recipients nationwide to win the prestigious MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant this year.
Photographer Dawoud Bey, who is also a Columbia College Chicago professor, and Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Chicago Lawn-based Inner City Muslim Action Network, both won a $625,000 "no strings attached" prize Monday.
Bey was cited for "using an expansive approach to photography that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated."
Born in Queens, N.Y., Bey's "Harlem, U.S.A." exhibit was featured at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012.
Nashashibi was awarded for "confronting the challenges of poverty and disinvestment in urban communities through a Muslim-led civic engagement effort that bridges race, class and religion."
"Today is an extraordinarily humbling day for me," Nashashibi said. "On a very real level, we hope this is a validation of a long legacy of American Muslim-led advocacy, especially on an urban level."
Nashashibi's nonprofit organization, IMAN, has been behind a series of initiatives like Muslim Run, an effort to bring high quality produce to South Side corner stores, and activism-focused events like Takin' It To The Streets.
Nashashibi, who was born in Jordan, said he "returned to Chicago" where his mother grew up as a Palestinian refugee. He founded IMAN in 1997.
He said he plans to take some time in the coming years for "spiritual rejuvenation," including making the pilgrimage to Mecca, a religious duty for Muslims.
Nashashibi said he also plans to write a book that will be a "memoir story of IMAN" used to "lift up and celebrate the larger legacy of this type of tradition."