MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Loft Literary Center canceled its upcoming Children’s and Young Adult Literature conference, citing a lack of diversity among the speakers it was successful in procuring for the event.
The annual conference, scheduled for October, only had tickets available for purchase for two weeks prior to being shut down, reports the Star Tribune. Twenty-two writers were scheduled to give talks at the two-day conference.
However 21 of them are white, something that the public decided to let Loft know about. Under public pressure and their own dissatisfaction with the event’s lineup, Loft canceled the event.
“We have set a goal for ourselves to be inclusive and to work toward equity, and we didn’t think the conference would live up to that mission,” Britt Udesen, executive director of the Loft, told the Star Tribune. “We made a mistake.”
National Book Award winning author William Alexander, a Cuban-American, was the only minority author slated to talk at the Children’s and Young Adult Literature conference.
Other prominent writers who happen to be white were also scheduled to attend. This included Newberry Medal winner Kelly Barnhill, and Hamline University professor Phyllis Root, who has written more than 40 books for children.
“It’s MEA [teachers’ conference] weekend, so a lot of local writers were unavailable, or a lot of them had just recently taught with us and they thought it would be repetitive,” Udesen told the Star Tribune.
It is not as if Loft did not try to include authors of minority backgrounds. Udesen told the Star Tribune that her organization had invited more than 10 different writers of color to speak at the conference, and she expected at least some of them to accept the invite at the last minute.
The Loft’s Children’s and Young Adult Literature conference was held at least every year from 2003 to 2016, reports the Star Tribune.