Justice, Equity, Diversity, Accessibility & Inclusion

OUR JOURNEY 2021-2022


Summerwrite: Reading, Writing & Intersectional Camps for K-12

  • 28% of SummerWrite camps focus on social justice issues.
  • Need-based scholarships underwrite nearly 20% of tuition fees, 55% of which benefit urban Rochester-based youth.
  • Social Justice Apprentices (high school juniors and seniors/college students) earn stipends, receive mentoring, and engage with discussions and workshops focused on anti-racist practices in the classroom and beyond.
  • As of summer 2022, we are partnering with Rochester’s Arnett Branch, Lyell Branch, and Maplewood Community Libraries to co-curate and host admission-free camps responsive to neighborhood needs.

In Development:

  • Deliver fresh air opportunities at our rural retreat center in Naples, NY, to bring underserved urban and rural youth together in generative art making, dialog, and team building.
  • Nurture our relationship with the Antiracist Curriculum Project to advance professional development and enrich programmatic content.

Junior Apprenticeship

In partnership with RochesterWorks’ Summer Youth Employment Program, our six-week apprenticeship engages teens with gaining practical skills and knowledge for workplace and academic success. In 2020, 100% of our participants self-identified as BIPOC; in 2021, 90%.

Cameron Teen Initiative

Developed in partnership with Cameron Community Ministries and led by Storyteller in Residence Almeta Whitis, our 12-session after-school applied literary and theater arts initiative targets teens from the Lyell Otis neighborhood, where 98% of families live at or below the poverty line.

 R-Center Literary and Theater Arts Camps

Over the years, we have delivered professional development workshops and enrichment classes for young readers and writers. Currently, Storyteller in Residence Almeta Whitis delivers summer workshops for youth. In 2021, her Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series-themed sessions engaged 274 participants, ages 8 – 16.


In Development: We have begun constituting a broad-based Artistic Advisory Committee to bring diverse perspectives, experiences, and cultural backgrounds to decision making.

Writing Workshops | Visiting Authors Reading Series

  • 26% of presenting authors and workshop leaders self-identify as BIPOC.
  • Visiting Authors events are admission-free, reaching an audience of 1,400 in 46 states and four continents.

Rochester Reads

In 2021, we featured Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. We cooperated with 28 community partners to deliver 31 events, 29 of which were admission-free. Eleven showcased authors and presenters self-identify as Native.

Going forward, we will forge programming partnerships responsive to Rochester’s actual demographics and strive to engage diverse community voices with selecting our Rochester Reads title.

Literary Conference

In 2022, 70 authors, poets, and publishing industry experts of diverse experiences, abilities, cultures, and ethnicities delivered 24 virtual events centering the theme of Taking Care in Writing, Publishing & Building Community; keynote Kwame Dawes spoke on Literary Citizenship. 49% of presenters self-identified as BIPOC, 4% as Arab American, 13% as LGBTQ+, and 4% as members of the Disability Community.

Ampersand Books

Our independent bookstore’s mission is to curate a selection of award-winning and hard-to-find fiction, poetry, and nonfiction works, with a particular focus on small press titles, social justice texts, and books by local authors. Highlights include:

  • Black Lives Matter Booklist: 5% of sales donated to Arnett Library’s Social Justice Bookshelf
  • 30 Leaders in Asian American Literature Booklist
  • Spotlights on Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Juneteenth, Disability Pride
  • Curatorial partnerships with 540WMain and Delta Nu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the latter focused on the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement

Stagecraft (In development)

Six underserved greater-Rochester-based BIPOC individuals, ages 18-29, will receive $2,500 stipends and, over three months, receive professional development mentoring leading to external opportunities in the non- performance side of theater arts.


  • Conducted a Human Resources Equity Audit.
  • Implemented a Storyteller in Residence position focused on social justice themes and targeting underserved Rochester communities.
  • Commitment to identify and recruit diverse board candidates.
  • Commitment to annually review our mission, vision, values, and JEDAI statements.
  • Commitment to engage with external partners and other resources.
  • In development: Land Acknowledgment Statement.


Our focus is supporting programs consistent with our core mission. We have renewed our efforts to raise the funds necessary to support programs that intentionally target underserved and diverse constituencies. We will strive to identify and secure sustainable funding for programming that reflects our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.


While we have just begun our work, we are excited about the journey, are committed to learning, and are confident that ultimately we will serve with equity, fairness, and a broad embrace of the above practices.