The 21st Show

‘America to Me’ Documentary Series About Oak Park; MacArthur Fellows From Illinois



On this encore edition of The 21st: Steve James tells us about his ten-part documentary series 'America to Me,' which explores race, education and high school through the lens of a handful of students at Oak Park and River Forest High School. But first, two of this year's MacArthur “genius grant” winners were from Illinois. We revisit our conversation with the MacAurthur fellows about the Foundation and their work. 

'America to Me' is a ten-part documentary series from Kartemquin that explores race, education and high school through the lens of a handful of students attending Oak Park & River Forest High School in the 2015-2016 school year. Oak Park is a western suburb of Chicago, bordering the city’s Austin neighborhood.

Academy-Award nominated director Steve James has turned his filmmaking eye on everything from Hoop Dreams to Roger Ebert’s life. He’s the director and executive producer of 'America to Me' and he joined us to talk about it. 


Every year, as many as half of American households can face problems like wage garnishment, getting evicted or losing custody of a child. These problems are actually legal issues. But many times, people who are involved in this dispute don’t have lawyers to help them.

The issue of who gets access to justice, and how we can do a better job of equalizing that, is the life’s work of sociologist Rebecca Sandefur. It’s work that was recognized this year by the MacArthur Foundation with a so-called “genius grant.”  The MacArthur fellows will receive $625,000 over five years. 

Rebecca is also an Associate Professor of Sociology and Law at the University of Illinois and she joined us in the studio.

Kristina Olson was another of this year’s MacArthur Fellows. As a research psychologist at the University of Washington, Kristina studies stigmatized populations, especially transgender and gender-nonconforming youth, their social interactions and socialization.

Kristina is an Urbana native but she joined us on the line from Washington.

Story source: WILL