Press Release

Hip-hop video tops winners of national democracy competition, shares total $100K in prizes

CHICAGO, IL June 10, 2013— The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, today announced the winners of a national media competition aimed at sparking ideas for strengthening American democracy: The Looking@Democracy Challenge. 

Destiny Galindo, a 17 year-old recent high school graduate from Phoenix, Arizona, received  First-Place for Best Entry, earning a $25,000 cash prize for her hip-hop music video, American Vision, a pithy critique of government as it is and challenge to her generation and fellow Americans to create a government as it should be. Galindo is one of 11 winners sharing a total of $100,000 in prize money for short, provocative media submissions about why government is important to our lives, or how individuals and communities can come together to strengthen American democracy. 

More than 400 digital media pieces from across the country were submitted, ranging from apps that would engage individuals in thoughtful debate, witty dramatizations on the life of a legislative bill, new ways to engage citizens in budgeting, and thoughtful critiques on issues related to community media coverage and the two-party system. 

Submissions were judged by a panel of special guest judges from media and non-profits that included Maria Hinojosa of National Public Radio’s Latino USA, Author and Louder Than a Bomb Chicago Teen Poetry Festival Co-Founder Kevin Coval, Wendy Levy of New Arts Axis and co-creator of the impact dashboard Sparkwise, Filmmaker Byron Hurt (Soul Food Junkies; Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes) and Ian Inaba, film director (American Blackout) and Executive Director of the Citizen Engagement Lab. Galindo was one of 10 winners voted on by the judges, in addition to a ‘People’s Choice’ award voted on by the public. 

“We were thrilled to receive such high quality submissions from all over the country, in digital formats that reflect how information is shared today,” said Kristina Valaitis, Executive Director of the Illinois Humanities Council. “Our mission is to provoke honest inquiry, creative thinking, and spirited discussion about issues that matter. This competition has helped us move the conversation about democracy to a national stage.” 

“We asked IHC to launch a competition to generate creative ideas and media about Americans’ expectations and aspirations for a stronger democracy, and we clearly received entertaining and insightful submissions,” said Kathy Im, Director of Media, Culture and Special Initiatives at the MacArthur Foundation.  “ We hope the passion, insight, and creativity demonstrated in these original videos can spark thoughtful conversations about what we can do individually and collectively to strengthen our democracy.” 

The full list of competition winners is below: submissions can be viewed at  

First Place for Best Entry ($25,000): American Vision    
Destiny Galindo, Phoenix Arizona 

In American Vision, a recent high school graduate lays out a pithy critique of government as it is in an engaging hip-hop video and challenges her generation and fellow Americans to create a government as it should be. 

American Vision demonstrates that young people are engaged and alert to the challenges facing our nation. Destiny Galindo is a democracy advocate with a contemporary voice and sound. Plus, she can actually flow!”- Looking@Democracy judge Kevin Coval.  

Second Place for Best Entry ($20,000): Dear Democracy…
Arizona State University Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, Phoenix, Arizona  

A short video depicting a hypothetical conversation with our democracy. Created by a student and faculty team at the Arizona State University Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, a diverse group of everyday citizens are asked if democracy was a person, and you could ask it any question, what would that question be? And how would you answer your own question? 

Dear Democracy is a clearly voiced call to action for meaningful participation in our democracy. It’s great to see such a rich diversity of voices weigh-in on the meaning of the word ‘democracy,’ which one of the most recognized yet misunderstood terms in the English language.” –Looking@Democracy judge Byron Hurt 

Third Place for Best Entry ($15,000): Re-Inventing Democracy Through Participatory Budgeting
Meerkat Media, New York City, New York 

A short documentary about the process of engaging citizens in the municipal budgeting process, and explores how it can create local ownership and resolution of shared challenges.  

Re-Inventing Democracy through Participatory Budgeting shows what can happen when people in communities actually take part in local governance, invest in the process and their voices can be heard.”—Looking@Democracy judge Wendy Levy. 

***Special Judges’ Selection – Best Emerging Artist*** ($5,000) News Bias
Justin Johnson, Free Spirit Media, Chicago, Illinois 

News Bias is a student report and commentary on the quality of news coverage of Englewood, a Chicago neighborhood. 

News Bias is a powerful critique of the news media. It is a timely reminder that the press has an important function to play in our democracy and it can and should do better.” – Looking@Democracy judge Maria Hinojosa. 

People’s Choice Award  ($5,000) Dear Congress, Invest in Us  
Debbie Southern, American Friends Service Committee, Chicago, Illinois 

Dear Congress, Invest in Us is a digital letter to Congress from a diverse group of young people from across the country. They ask Congress to invest in programs for the next generation. 

“With so many stereotypes of Millennials as the ‘me generation,’ it’s refreshing to see young people involved and engaged in improving our democracy at the local level. I look forward to the positive results of their participation in our democratic process.” –Looking@Democracy judge Byron Hurt. 

Honorable Mention ($5,000 each)
It Only Takes a Few Voices       
Anna Holmquist, Chicago, Illinois 

Portrait of the Storm: Tuscaloosa, AL
Xavier Burgin, Los Angeles, California    

Tiffany Ervin, Lawrenceville, New Jersey 

A Healthy Democracy   
Julie Sokolow, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

How We See Democracy  
arla Chavez, Lindsey Harris, Nashville, Tennessee 

What Happened to Bill?
Jane Pickett, Los Angeles, California 

Looking@Democracy is a project of the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Through new initiatives and past work, the two organizations have shown their commitment in providing platforms for more people to understand and participate in the democratic system through creative means. The full list of winners and submissions can be found by visiting   

About the Illinois Humanities Council

The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. The IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of,
appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location.In 2008, the IHC presented “Looking for Democracy, a short film contest that encouraged filmmakers to unleash their radical imaginations and look for democracy in creative and unusual spaces. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds. 

About the MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. The Foundation is exploring the question of how to strengthen democracy in the U.S., given its perception that the political system has failed to adequately address major issues confronting the nation. More information is at 

Media Contact:
Carlos Velázquez  
Illinois Humanities Council
Communications Manager
(312) 422-5580, x233

Sean Harder
MacArthur Foundation
Communications Officer
(312) 917-0205