Jahi Chikwendiu | Still Division II
After earning his undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in math education, Chikwendiu became a high school math instructor. During his first year of teaching, Chikwendiu’s Spring Break included a visit to The Washington Post, where multiple-Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and editor Michel du Cille saw Chikwendiu’s portfolio. Inspired by du Cille’s suggestion, Chikwendiu spent his first summer break as an independent photographer for the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, which turned into a fulltime staff photojournalism position. Three months later, the Kentucky News Photographer Association (KNPA) named Jahi the 1998 Photographer of the Year. After two years of covering the rich cultural landscape of Kentucky, he joined The Washington Post, where he’s been a staff photographer since 2001.
Since joining the Washington Post, Chikwendiu has covered a wide range of stories that include DC’s broken school system, the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and the country’s adjustments following the 2012 US military pullout, AIDS and poverty in Kenya, genocide in Darfur, cluster bomb victims in South Lebanon, and the 2011 formation of the world’s newest country, South Sudan. Chikwendiu spent three months in Africa covering the Barack Obama inauguration from the Kenyan village of the US president’s father and other stories in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, and South Sudan. In 2014, Chikwendiu spent over a month in Missouri covering issues surrounding the fatal shooting of unarmed, Black teenager Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a police officer for the city of Ferguson, Missouri. In the past year, Chikwendiu has covered issues of immigration, the economic recovery of Ferguson, unemployment in Omaha, voter suppression in rural Georgia, and the effects of governmental collapse in Venezuela on the neighboring island-nation of Trinidad.
Chikwendiu’s work has been recognized by local, national, and international organizations - Kentucky Newspaper Photographers Association, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminars, World Press Photo, Days Japan International Photojournalism Awards, National Association of Black Journalists, White House News Photo Association, Nat’l Press Photographers Assoc, Virginia News Photographer Association, Overseas Press Club, Harry Chapman Media Awards, Pictures of the Year International, Northern Short Course, Southern Short Course, the Kentucky Governor Arts Awards, and the Scripps Howard Awards for Journalism…
— but his heart always comes back to the question of how to best evolve as a storyteller and how to best raise the next generation of visionaries.