Elizabeth Alexander is many things. She’s a poet, a philanthropist, an educator, and an intellectual, but most of all, she’s a visionary. In her six books of poetry, Alexander is an explorer who’s constantly finding new ways to tell the stories of Black America. And through her work as the president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—the largest funder of arts and education in the U.S.—she has put real investment into creating spaces that reflect the country’s rich diversity, and rethinking how we can embrace our cultural narratives, whether through physical monuments or the ways in which we tell our stories.

It’s remarkable that Alexander had this extraordinary career as a poet, even reading at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration—and then decided that she wanted to uplift and amplify the voices of others. Of course, she’s still as creative as she ever was. It’s just that the canvas that she’s painting on is larger.

Nottage is a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright

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