MacArthur ‘Genius’ to bring the Catherine Coleman Literary Arts, Food and Justice Initiative to the Jackson State University Margaret Walker Center

MacArthur ‘Genius’ Kiese Laymon to bring the Catherine Coleman Literary Arts, Food and Justice Initiative to Jackson State University’s Margaret Walker Center

The Jackson State University Margaret Walker Center is the permanent residence of the Catherine Coleman Literary Arts, Food and Justice Initiative. MacArthur “Genius” Award Winner Kiese Laymon recently made the announcement about the program named in honor of his grandmother.

Originally founded at the University of Mississippi, while Laymon was on the faculty there, the Coleman Program will provide avenues for emerging writers across the state and in the city of Jackson to engage the rich legacy of creative writing in Mississippi, the tradition of southern foodways, and the history of social justice movements in their communities.

“We are moving the Initiative to the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State,” said Laymon. “My grandmama sent all her daughters to Jackson State. This initiative will continue to help young folks in Jackson become the next Danielle Buckingham or Leslie McLemore Jr., two of the greatest young artists in Mississippi.”

Laymon, who was among the MacArthur honorees for his work as a writer “bearing witness to the myriad forms of violence that mark the Black experience in formally inventive fiction and nonfiction,” chose to make the announcement following his MacArthur news.

Laymon noted, “Our hope is to ritualize workshops and incredible food for young folks in our community who might not get a lot of time to write and read ‘creatively.’ We also want young people to consider the creativity that gets food from the land to the table in Mississippi.”

Through writing seminars and programming led by Jackson State students and faculty, as well as special guests, these young people will hone their skills as readers and writers while learning the techniques of revision essential in expressing their voices through the written word.

Jackson State Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Alisa Mosley, Ph.D., called it “a phenomenal day,” adding that “Mr. Laymon has been so generous with his time, talent, and respect for Jackson State. There is a season for everything, and I am so grateful for the effort to set these wheels in motion.”

Laymon’s investment in Mississippi’s youth mirrors that of his grandmother, who stayed and fought for a better future for the state’s children rather than leave for promises of greater freedom and opportunities through the Great Migration to the North. Laymon even announced that he will match up to $50,000 in donations to the program for the next month.

“This city and Margaret Walker had major impacts on Kiese’s life and career, and we are so proud that he decided to entrust us with carrying out the momentous work of the Catherine Coleman Literary Arts, Food and Justice Initiative,” said Margaret Walker Center Director, Robert Luckett, Ph.D. “The incredible honor of being a MacArthur Fellow is so well deserved and will bring great recognition to him and to this program now permanently settled on our campus.”

People may make a tax-deductible donation to the Coleman Program by visiting the JSU Development Foundation website and selecting the Catherine Coleman Fund under “General Designation.”

For more information, contact Dr. Robert Luckett and the Margaret Walker Center at or 601-979-3935.