This summer The Loft Literary Center tried to build anticipation for its fall conference on books for children and young adults.
The center had booked a bunch of big-name, award-winning writers to speak during the two-day event in October.
But along the way some noticed something: all the writers were white. That was a problem for the literary center and last week it responded by canceling the whole conference.
"Not the best work we can do"
In the cancellation announcement on Facebook, The Loft says the lineup it put together was filled with excellent writers. "However it was not a lineup that fully matched the Loft's values," it wrote.
"We aim to be an inclusive, equitable, challenging, and welcoming organization," the statement continues, "but, in this case, we fell short. In its current form this conference would not have included as many writers of color and voices from marginalized communities as needed. That is not the best work we can do."
The full schedule for the conference is no longer posted, but the Star Tribune says there were 22 writers giving presentations.
The Loft's executive director, Britt Udesen, tells the paper: “We have set a goal for ourselves to be inclusive and to work toward equity, and we didn’t think that presenting an entire conference without a single instructor of color would live up to that mission.”
Reactions: Some say thanks, others call it paternalistic
Clearly The Loft has touched on a sensitive issue with this decision. Here's a sampling of some of the reactions to the Facebook announcement:
– "As a member of a marginalized community this troubles me....To preemptively silence otherwise talented and worthy presenters, and shut out willing participants from an opportunity I and many others were looking forward to, simply because it did not meet a litmus test or quota I feel is paternalistic."
– "Congratulations to The Loft for standing up, if late, for diversity in children's literature."
– "I cannot go on supporting an entity that will bow so readily to a subjective, elitist determination of what is right, just and 'correct.'"
– "Thank you for setting and being committed to high standards for the organization. This is one of the reasons I'm proud to be a member."