July 3, 2023
Washington, DC — Today, New America is pleased to announce its inaugural class of Us@250 fellows.
As we approach our 250th anniversary as a nation in 2026, the Us@250 (pronounced “us at 250”) initiative is focused on reimagining the American narrative based on three core themes: pride in the nation’s progress from its origins; reckoning with historical and contemporary wrongs that have caused the nation to fall short of its ideals; and aspiration for a multiracial, inclusive democracy.
As part of this work, the Us@250 Fellowship provides funding, resources, and community for practitioners engaged in storytelling projects that seek to tell a fuller, more comprehensive American narrative; create connection across differences; and expand on our concept of American culture and identity.
Throughout the course of their fellowship year, fellows will continue their work to engage the public in reinvigorating and reshaping the American story. Fellows will also receive a stipend to support their work, and gain access to networking and partnership opportunities.
After receiving nearly 350 applications, seventeen talented individuals were selected to join the inaugural Us@250 fellowship class. Their work spans a variety of themes, mediums, locations, and moments in time — from a podcast on intergenerational storytelling and the “inheritance of memory,” to poetry that reimagines a new American West, to community programs that celebrate and uplift local Black history, and much more.
Inaugural Class of Us@250 Fellows
- Ahsante Bean is a Harvard-educated filmmaker, producer, and video strategist with a background in explanatory journalism. Her work focuses on creating cultural and educational content—using online video and digital platforms to build community, increase empathy, and create a more informed public. Her fellowship project is a social media video essay series exploring the principles that underlie liberal democracy while reckoning with its tensions and reconciling philosophical insights with current events. It aims to inspire critical and creative thinking about how we work towards achieving liberty and justice for all.
- Rachael Cerrotti is an award-winning author, educator, and documentary storyteller. She recently wrapped her role as the Inaugural Storyteller in Residence for USC Shoah Foundation and is currently a fellow with the Witness Institute. Her project is the Memory Generation, a podcast and storytelling project about the inheritance of memory and intergenerational storytelling. The goal is to create space for conversations that cultivate community and understanding amongst people who may not instinctually gravitate towards one another.
- Debra Ciamacca is a former high school social studies teacher, businesswoman, Marine Corps Officer, and nonprofit leader. She leads the Together Endowment, which brings together members of the Chester County, Pennsylvania, community across race, gender, and ethnicity in partnership with members of West Chester University.
- Alexis Coe is a presidential historian and the award-winning, New York Times–bestselling author of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George of Washington and Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis. Her project is a series of public conversations exploring Americans’ views of this core question: How should a president be?
- Jaha Cummings and Joan Ai are the co-founders of Blanchard House Institute. Cummings is a global growth advisor and strategist with expertise in creating public-private-philanthropic partnerships with local governments across multiple industries. Ai is a purpose-driven social impact leader with extensive cross-sector experience leading global institutions in corporate purpose and philanthropy, innovation and technology, think tanks, international agencies, and nonprofits. Their project is to develop the Black Wall Street Trail and Seminole Maroon Freedom Trail at the nexus of civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and preservation of heritage and culture.
- Hillary Do is a daughter of immigrants from Vietnam and China, and a Philadelphia native. She is the founder of BOLT, a non-profit working to empower grassroots leaders to bring the change their communities want to see. Her project aims to connect the stories of community organizing in the pursuit of collective liberation, underscored by the belief that the past, present, and especially the future of America resides in people power.
- Dion Flynn is an actor, comedian, and Army veteran who works in late night television. His project is the “Improvisor’s Mindset Recovery Project,” which uses workshops and connections between improvisation and recovery as a means of fostering human connection and collaboration.
- Glynis M. Johns is the founder of Black Scranton Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, local heritage initiative, and public history venture. She serves on PA Governor Josh Shapiro’s Advisory Commission for African American Affairs. Her work will be focused on transforming an old community bank into the Black Scranton Project Center for Arts & Culture (BSPCAC).
- Heather Kirk-Davidoff is an organizer and author currently serving as the Senior Minister of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY. Her project is the Westminster Commons initiative, a community-led program that seeks to bring people and groups in the New York Capital Region together across differences so that they can cultivate community, work together for the common good, and enjoy life more.
- T.J. Kirkpatrick is an award-winning photojournalist and visual artist who has covered national politics for more than a decade. His project documents public green spaces across the country that were designed by the Olmstead family. The series explores the role that our nation’s civic infrastructure plays in fostering connection across divisions and bolstering the trust that underpins an inclusive democracy.
- Caroline Klibanoff is the Executive Director of Made By Us, a network of hundreds of cultural institutions joining forces to meet Millennials and Gen Z where they are with timely, relevant history to inform and inspire civic participation. Her project is Civic Season, which is held between Juneteenth and July 4, and is a reimagined American tradition to widen the lens on our history and to ignite thoughtful celebration of our progress and potential.
- K. Melchor Quick Hall, a Lumina Foundation fellow, is an educator, writer, and researcher who co-directs the African American Education & Research Organization (AAERO) at Melchor-Quick Meeting House (MQMH), an organization founded by her mother Paula Quick Hall. Her project “Aiming for Freedom: Race, Reparations, and Right Paths” is an arts-based workshop and traveling exhibit that she will take to HBCUs to discuss Black feminist art and engage in an aspirational vision of a multiracial democracy.
- Adrian H. Molina is an artist, poet, and Master of Ceremonies. He explores themes of humanity, technology, and sustainability through a futurist lens. His fellowship project is “Future Town Tour with Warm Cookies of the Revolution”—a civic health club based in Denver, CO. Future Town Tour boldly reimagines the future of the American West through inspired rural and urban partnerships, using art to resurrect the spirit of civics.
- Alex Owens is a dedicated educator with 15 years of classroom and teaching experience, and founder of Be Loud Studios, a nonprofit radio station dedicated to amplifying youth confidence through radio and digital media production. For this project, “Re-imagine Radio” will collaborate with 100 New Orleans youth and 10 local teachers to write, produce, and distribute an audio series (for local radio broadcast and podcast streaming) that encourages our community to reflect on America’s complex history and reimagine the next hundred years.
- Alexander “Sandy” Pope IV, a Lumina Foundation fellow, is an associate professor of education and Director of the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Salisbury University. His fellowship will culminate in an event of members from across the Salisbury, MD, community coming together for a shared meal, teach-in, and facilitated grappling, held at the original slave quarters at Pemberton Historic Park.
- Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz, EdD, is a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist who moves between realms of oral history, art, media, and civic engagement to produce meaningful, forward-facing cultural projects. Her fellowship work entails a suite of partner-sponsored public conversations and a pair of intimately curated dinner events that celebrate and reckon with American stories of liberation.
“I couldn’t be prouder to announce this first class of Us@250 fellows after launching the initiative in earnest earlier this year,” said Ted Johnson, Director of the Us@250 initiative. “Each Us@250 fellow brings a fresh perspective, a wealth of talent, and a deep commitment to building a more inclusive America that lives up to its founding ideals. I look forward to working with them over the next year to elevate their work and build connections for this new community of practice.”
“I am so inspired by each of the incoming Us@250 fellows, and I am thrilled to welcome them to the New America community,” said New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter. “I can’t wait to see their projects grow, connect, and take on new life forms through the fellowship.”
Learn more about the fellowship here.
New America thanks the Hearthland Foundation, the Schultz Family Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and the New Pluralists Collaborative for their generous support of the Us@250 initiative.
About New America
New America is dedicated to renewing the promise of America, bringing us closer to our nation’s highest ideals. We’re a different kind of think tank: one dedicated to public problem solving. Our team of visionary researchers, changemakers, technologists, and storytellers study and seize the opportunities presented by dramatic social and technological change. We search for powerful ideas, wherever they are, and collaborate with civic innovators around the country to develop evidence-based solutions.