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Civil Rights and a Civil Society

Nashville Public Library

Contact Name: Andrea Blackman
Type of Initiative: Civil Society
Initiative Partner: Local and state law enforcement agencies; higher 


In the wake of increased national media attention on the historically contentious interaction between law enforcement and African American citizens, the Nashville Public Library (NPL) has developed a cultural engagement education curriculum rooted in lessons learned from the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville. Utilizing the Library's rich Civil Rights Collection and programming, new police recruit, veteran officers, college students and community organizations learn about past injustices to better serve the diverse public they encounter in their work every day. The curriculum, called Civil Rights and a Civil Society, deepens participants’ own cultural self-awareness, builds cultural competencies, and encourages culturally responsive interactions. Over the past 18 months, the library has led deliberate dialogue and training for over 2,500 attendees.  The goal of the initiative is to inspire cultural sensitivity and awareness that informs present and future interactions between law enforcement and civilians in our community.  The program models for participants how to create an inclusive environment in which each member of the working community is valued, respected, and can fully contribute their talents. Plans are underway to replicate the initiative in other states. While Civil Rights & a Civil Society is developed in the context of law enforcement training in response to urgent societal needs –and strives to first and foremost meet those needs – the curriculum is adaptable to serve educators, community leaders, corporate employees, and the community at large. NPL’s curriculum establishes a model and workflow that most any organization, regardless of their location, can follow. The participating organization will be guided to examine its own local history and organizational culture to inform conversations most relevant to them.  Enforcement agencies from across the country have contacted NPL to learn more about the program model and are eagerly awaiting curriculum that can be tailored to their unique location and needs.  Furthermore, NPL has already provided trainings to organizations like Dollar General and Cummins Inc. with plans to engage schools, universities, faith groups, youth groups, and civic organizations through its cultural sensitivity training.