Two De Anza Alums Win MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships

The MacArthur Foundation, which hands out annual cash awards of $625,000 to a handful of talented artists, scientists, activists and others for making a significant impact in their fields, recently announced their 2018 awards. Among them were two former students of De Anza College: Raj Jayadev and Titus Kaphar.

Jayadev is a community organizer. Though he  attended De Anza prior to the establishment of the CLP-affiliated Leadership and Social Change program, he is being recognized for his work advocating community change, and has acknowledged the important role that De Anza and other community colleges play in his work.

After attending De Anza, Jayadev went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science at UCLA, and then took a temp job at a tech assembly plant. While there, he penned an essay titled “the other side of Silicon Valley,” which detailed the struggles of temp workers to survive on low wages within the tech sector. The essay went viral, which convinced Jayadev to found a magazine called Silicon Valley De-Bug to advocate for low-wage workers in Silicon Valley and other issues affecting low-income communities of color, like police brutality.

Followers of the magazine helped develop the “participatory defense” model, in which family members of people accused of a crime by police  actively assist public defenders by developing written and video testimonials to help humanize their clients.

Jayadev works closely with De Anza Professor Cynthia Kaufman, program coordinator for CLP’s work at De Anza. Kaufman has helped introduce many of her students to Jayadev and his work, a partnership he says he values.

“This work is based on personal relationships and lived experience,” Jayadev said. “The best thing to do is to get involved as much as possible.”