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Columbus author Hanif Abdurraqib hosting free back to school party Saturday

Columbus poet and bestselling author Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif Abdurraqib
Columbus poet and bestselling author Hanif Abdurraqib has been named a MacArthur fellow.

Columbus author and poet Hanif Abdurraqib is using part of his MacArthur Foundation genius grant to host a Back to School Party for Columbus students on Saturday.

Abdurraqib will give away over 100 free backpacks loaded with school supplies and a gift card at the event. It will be held from 1 to 3 pm. at 1450 E. Main Street from 1 to 3 p.m. The event will also include live music and poetry readings, ice cream, food from Willobeez Soulveg as well as free books from the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

With the new school year in limbo for Columbus students due to a potential teacher's strike, Abdurraqib wanted to hold the party to give students and parents something to look forward to despite the uncertainty.

"It is, of course, no secret what the Columbus City schools teachers are going through right now in that trickles down and impacts the students. It impacts all workers in the schools. And, you know, that is not an easy fight," Abdurraqib, a 2001 graduate of Beechcroft High School said. "And this one back-to-school party will not add ease to that fight. But I do think it can give folks something to look forward to and celebrate."

The party is at the site of the People's Mural Columbus, which features Abdurraqib and other community leaders.

"I am interested in using the site of the mural as a place that reflects my own interests and my own investments in Columbus, which is to have a communal space wherein people can come and celebrate while also offering things that are of use to folks in the community."

Last October, Abdurraqid was named a MacArthur fellow, an honor that includes a $625,000 stipend paid out over five years. Earlier this year, he was awarded the Carnegie Medal for his collection of essays called A Little Devil in America. He is also the host of the WOSU podcast Small Joys with Hanif Abdurraqib.

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.