Listen Up MacArthur Fellowship

Listen Up MacArthur Fellowship

The MacArthur Foundation doesn’t call their prestigious award the “Genius “. Correct moniker is the McArthur Foundation Fellowship. Whatever it is called it translates to a tremendous honor and $500,000. You don’t get this award by getting nominated through social media or on- line voting. One can only be nominated by a person nominated by the MacArthur nomination committee to make nominations (phew). I understand. This is a prestigious award. It recognizes hard work and dedication. It’s rarified air up there. This once I wish the common ordinary citizen, unidentified by the original nominating (MacArthur anointed) nomination committee could nominate. I would do it in a heartbeat.

I’m tough to impress, in a word jaded. Maybe that’s not quite the right word but close. I don’t get excited about positions or titles and those whose claim to fame is acquisition of money really don’t make it to my nomination list. Of course no one cares about impressing me except perhaps my family and friends. Of that I am grateful but Emmanuel Pratt impresses me and I wish I had the opportunity to put his name in the hat for the MacArthur Fellowship.

I have written about Emmanuel Pratt, the young Executive Director of Sweet Water Foundation, professor of geography at Chicago State University and creative leader of The Mycelia Project. If my family had the opportunity to adopt him, we would (he has a perfectly acceptable family who won’t give him up). What we do is work with him as often as possible. I’ve mentioned in previous articles that my husband volunteers at the CSU/ Sweet Water Aquaponics Lab. When Emmanuel and wife became first time parents, I became the Monday baby sitter, a job I had to wrest from Emmanuel because he didn’t want to release his baby girl for even a moment. So on top of being a scholar, a dedicated educator, an artist, an urban planner and an architect with considerable knowledge about urban farming and aquaponics he’s one hell of a father. Lord knows black fathers could use some appreciation.

I’m just about certain that the MacArthur Foundation isn’t interested in my opinion but the great thing about blogging is that I am allowed to express MY opinion. In the interest of fairness to my readers I do have an explanation as to why I think Emmanuel Pratt should be one of the Mac Arthur Fellows in addition to the fact that my husband likes to comment on the fact that Emmanuel still can dunk a basketball. That detail didn’t get Obama elected and it should have no bearing on Emmanuel being elected to the prestigious group of MacArthur recipients. The following are reasons to ponder.

As co-founder with James Godsil of Sweet Water Foundation over 100 schools from elementary to college have been introduced to aquaponics and urban agriculture as a means of urban development and education in Milwaukee. Sweet water is helping India to develop systems. On the Chicago side, Emmanuel Pratt and his troupe of volunteers have brought S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education to nearly 50 schools. Hundreds or community residents, teachers and organizations pass through the CSU/Aquaponics lab under the tutelage of Pratt to learn how they too can bring urban agriculture and aquaponics to their own communities. Emmanuel Pratt is a walking open source aquaponics module. In fact, we’ve seen him dig in his own pocket too many times to keep the CSU/Aquaponics project running. He does a lot of begging from the local Home Depot and others for anything to help establish an urban garden. He scrounges for all sorts of things with which to make aquaponic systems, an old 10 gallon aquarium here or a length of PVC pipe there. With the institution of The Mycelia Project he has added an “A” to S.T.E.M. to create S.T.E.A.M. The “A” is for art. A picture is worth a thousand words; a video is better The Mycelia Project.

Pratt was honored as a Chicago Magazine Green Award recipient and that’s wonderful but MacArthur listen up.




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