I just wanted to post a quick shout-out to UCLA History and African American Studies Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, who has just won a MacArthur Genius Grant for her work uncovering and chronicling the history of mass incarceration in Los Angeles. In particular, her Million Dollar Hoods Project uses data from dozens of Los Angeles City neighborhoods to demonstrate how the vast majority of the municipal jail budget goes towards incarcerating youth from only a few local areas. By using fiscal prudence and government inefficiency to draw attention to a critical social justice issue in the Los Angeles area, Million Dollar Hoods and Lytle Hernandez’s academic research are making a difference in the region. This Genius Grant will go a long way towards augmenting these efforts and, in time, creating a more efficient and equitable justice system in Los Angeles County and beyond.
On a personal note, I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a Genius Grant. I was in her Twentieth-Century American History readings class during my first year of graduate school at UCLA, and she kindly (and deftly) mediated our cohort’s many arguments. She was also generous and understanding when I got into an accident on my scooter and broke my elbow about 45 minutes before our first class was going to start . . . so much for first impressions! In any case, I could not even begin to quantify how much I learned in her class, or overemphasize the degree to which she helped me mature as a scholar and a writer.