Carnegie Center offering free classes, changing policies to promote diversity

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington’s Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning is changing its policy to better meet its mission, including offering free writing classes to Black residents, the center announced Friday.

“From the first Black novelist in 1853 to the Affrilachian Poets of today, Black writers have been central to Kentucky’s literary voice. They have created writing styles and inspired social movements. They have fought it out, verbally, with white supremacists. Their collective voice has inspired the rest of the writing community to elevate their art,” the center said in a statement.

“In recent years, some Black writers have done this without the full support of the Carnegie Center. Over the last three months, inspired by Black Lives Matter, Carnegie’s staff and board have taken a close look at our own operations and policies. We’ve learned that while some Black writers find inspiration at Carnegie, too many come up against cultural and financial barriers,” the statement continued.

“Black writers frequently are ‘the only one’ in their writing classes, and their work is sometimes minimized or marginalized. Some report taking one class and not coming back. And while class fees are considered “affordable” at Carnegie, they remain a barrier for many aspiring Black writers, who tend to have fewer family resources because of generational financial discrimination,” the statement said.

The address the inequities and to meet its mission of “empowering people to express their voices,” the Carnegie Center is taking the following actions:

  • creating the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative as a support center for aspiring Black writers around the state;
  • hiring a writer to launch and coordinate the KBWC;
  • inviting any Black resident of Kentucky to take writing classes at Carnegie at no charge, starting this fall;
  • creating and enforcing a robust anti-discrimination policy.

Carnegie is offering classes at no charge in recognition of centuries of discrimination against Black citizens, including in education and publishing, two industries in which Carnegie is involved. A Black writer who would like to take a class at no charge should email Monet Proctor, Registrar, at monet@CarnegieCenterLex.org.

Beyond these first steps, Carnegie Board Chair Lisa Higgins-Hord is leading a review of Carnegie’s personnel and other policies, seeking to root out structural bias.

“We also are unveiling new classes specifically for emerging Black writers, taught by their established peers. We will report back on other changes later in the year,” the center said in its statement, adding the “Center thanks the people involved in Black Lives Matter in Lexington for their peaceful, persistent pursuit of justice.”

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