Mayor Fischer launches Lean Into Louisville to confront and examine history of discrimination in LouisvilleKY

Louisville, KY., – Mayor Greg Fischer has launched Lean Into Louisville, an unprecedented series of presentations, conversations, activities and art exhibits that will explore and confront the history and legacy of all forms of discrimination and inequality in the city and the country.

“Lean Into Louisville aligns with the work we’ve been doing from day one to create a city of equity and opportunity for everyone in Louisville,” said the Mayor. “It’s an important step forward for our city and it send a great message to the rest of the country and the world that Louisville is a city that understands the importance of learning from the past, living in the present and preparing for the future.”

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Lean into louisvilleLouisville, a Southern border city with both a history of discrimination and a tradition of brave citizens fighting for civil rights, LGBTQ equality and the welcoming of immigrants, can be a national model for a transformative civic reckoning through guided, innovative education and conversation.

While the activities will be initiated by Louisville Metro Government (LMG), the project will encourage and promote related activities of community partners, schools, businesses, the faith community and others. Many community members and organizations are already doing great work in this area. Lean Into Louisville hopes to lift up that work, through highlighting community-sponsored events on the Lean Into Louisville website and by connecting those groups to further empower each other.

The idea for the initiative was sparked by the clashes in Charlottesville, Va., August 2017 and the deep ignorance and lack of understanding of the nation’s history of discrimination and its ongoing impacts. In a letter to Louisville residents the next day, the Mayor wrote, “Let us use this moment to build on our progress and show the world how our city, with all of its beauty and imperfections, can be a peaceful model for making the union of our city and country a home for opportunity and justice for all.”

The Mayor said Lean Into Louisville is important for the prosperity of the city, with 21st century businesses and young professionals wanting to locate in progressive cities where everyone has a shot as realizing their full human potential.

Though it is an evolving effort that will be enhanced and expanded throughout the years, Lean Into Louisville will have three major components:

  • Learning opportunities: In partnership with the Louisville Free Public Library and the Louisville Human Relations Commission, Lean Into Louisville will offer opportunities for people to learn more about the historical mistreatment of residents based on gender, race, religion, age, gender identity or sexual orientation, disabilities, and nationality or immigration status, and how that history impacts our city and our country today. The first opportunity is the Martin Luther King Day Celebration: The Fierce Urgency of Now, Monday, January 21 at 1:30 p.m., St. William Church, 1226 W. Oak St.
  • Talking circles: Lean Into Louisville will feature opportunities for small-group talking circles on these issues and their ongoing impacts, as well as ideas for ways that individuals and organizations can help create a more equitable city. Acknowledging these topics are sometimes difficult conversations, the talking circles will be moderated by trained professional facilitators.
  • Public Art: Lean Into Louisville also will include a focus on arts experiences and investing in new artworks in public places that share untold stories from a diverse selection of artists that represents our values of today.

Kellie Watson, Louisville Metro Government’s Chief Equity Officer, said the goal of Lean Into Louisville is to have a more equitable city; a more unified and compassionate city where everyone can thrive. “Obviously, that’s a tall order, but we have to start somewhere, and we believe that engaging in education and real, honest communication is a good place to start.”

During today’s press conference, the Mayor urged residents, organizations and businesses to get involved in Lean Into Louisville, which continues Louisville Metro Government’s nationally recognized work building the city’s reputation as a welcoming city through the Office for Globalization, and promoting racial equity through programs like BeTheOne and Black Male Achievement.


Community quotes in support:

“Lean Into Louisville is a creative and positive approach to building a more inclusive community. At Brown-Forman, Corp. one of the primary goals of our Diversity & Inclusion efforts is to create a company culture that has inclusion as one its keys to sustainable growth. With that in mind, we congratulate the city for caring enough about our town to accept the challenge of breathing life into this concept of leaning in and we at Brown-Forman, Corp. will do our part to help our community make Lean Into Louisville an inclusive success.”

– Ralph de Chabert, SVP, Chief Diversity Office, Brown-Forman, Corp.

“It is my belief that our community’s greatest strength is the diversity of our people, and the principles that equal dignity and inclusion unite us all. Metro United Way is excited to serve as a strategic partner of Louisville Metro Government in support of Lean into Louisville. We are committed to continuing to build awareness, solutions, and a culture of collective responsibility, resulting in equitable outcomes for all.”

– Theresa Reno-Weber, Chief Executive Officer, Metro United Way

“This initiative shows the collective power and drive of a truly compassionate city. Lean into to Louisville fortifies our work around the Backpack of Success Skills, Racial Equity, and Culture Climate. It illuminates our unapologetic need to be equitable by actions, not just in words.”

– John Marshall, Chief Equity Officer, Jefferson County Public Schools

“At Papa John’s we are on a journey to create a more diverse, inclusive and equitable work environment. We believe in opportunity, fairness, respect and equity for all. We want to better reflect the values and expectations of our team members, customers, community partners, franchisees and shareholders. Our work starts at home here in Louisville.”

– Victoria Russell, Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Papa John’s International

“TARC is proud to support Lean Into Louisville. The efforts of this initiative mirror the core underlying goals of TARC as we move into our 45th year of service. Removing barriers to mobility, connecting neighborhoods within our region to one another, and providing access of opportunity for all members of our community is essential for the growth of our city and our residents.”

– Ferdinand L. Risco, Interim Executive Director, TARC


For a full list of community events and details on how to get involved with Lean Into Louisville, visit , follow Lean Into Louisville on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.