Was one of 10 recipients of award
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 12, 2016) — The Affrilachian Poets, one of 10 recipients of the 2016 Governor’s Awards in the Arts, today announced they were rejecting the award, citing Gov. Matt Bevin’s policies for not accepting the award.
Affrilachian Poets said in a statement:
“As a collective of writers and educators, especially in light of our 25th anniversary, which we celebrate this year, we are honored by the acknowledgement of our contributions to the artistic and literary fabric of the Commonwealth alongside other very deserving honorees. However, it is the opinion of the group that the governor’s comments, positions, and actions regarding education in general, the Humanities specifically, universal healthcare, criminal justice reform, and the LGBTQ community, have been reprehensible and go against the core of who we are as writers and educators and as artists committed to resisting oppression. We believe our work as poets includes building community and enhancing lives. We celebrate the stories of black and brown people and other marginalized and disenfranchised citizens across this state’s urban and rural communities and we work to cultivate in others the love and craft of the written and spoken word.
“It is in the spirit of Kentucky’s rich literary tradition reaching back to William Wells Brown, that we vehemently reject any award given in this governor’s name.
“The attacks on higher education have been devastating to both flagship and regional institutions engaged in the necessary battle to empower the most vulnerable of our youth with the most important tools we possess. Using the arts in education ensures a higher quality of life. While we support the need for STEM education, such expansion and emphasis at the detrimental expense of education in the Humanities goes against the core of who we are as writers and educators. The governor’s outrageous statement that we do not need any more French majors, for example, speaks to a lack of appreciation for universal beauty and the arts, a concept the Affrilachian Poets and other artists hold dear. Additionally, given the connected nature of the world, fluency in other languages and cultures affords speakers of these languages real employment advantages. There are, in fact, roughly 400 internationally owned businesses in Kentucky. But even more than the pecuniary benefits, the study of foreign languages and cultures instills a respect for others. And we believe that this respect and understanding of difference is a true and necessary virtue.
“We find Governor’s Bevin’s decision to strike down Governor Beshear’s executive order to restore felony voting rights to be a gross violation of human rights. Although he put forth his own legislation, the imposition of a five-year wait and a $100 fee is unnecessarily punitive and seems timed to affect this year’s presidential election. This backhanded hindrance of criminal justice reform and civil rights had consequences for close to 244, 000 disenfranchised voters. According to The Sentencing Project, Kentucky ranks third highest in the nation for disenfranchised voters compared to the general population. Members of the Affrilachian Poets have consistently supported inmates in jails, prisons, and rehabilitation facilities in the state through workshops and presentations. We remain committed to working for justice in all arenas that affect the livelihood of those in the Commonwealth and beyond.
“Our commitment to justice includes a deep opposition to the governor’s simplistic decision to strip the name of the county clerk from marriage licenses. This clear demonstration of his bias towards the LGBTQ community and marriage equality stands in contrast to our values and dedication to upholding what is right and just.
“The Affrilachian Poets applaud the stewardship of the arts in Executive Director Lori Meadow’s leadership and are pleased that the Kentucky Arts Council remains a stable part of the arts community, but we cannot truthfully and accurately represent our aesthetic character and ethical position if we accept an award in this current governor’s name.”