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Cave Canem Awarded $2.5 Million from the Mellon Foundation



As part of their Righting the Scales Toward Abundance grant program, the Mellon Foundation award of $2.5 million dollars over 5 years in general operating support, signals an unprecedented period of growth for Cave Canem.

BROOKLYN, NY – Cave Canem is the recipient of a $2.5 million funding award over 5 years from the Mellon Foundation, the largest single gift to date in the organization’s nearly 30 year history. With deep gratitude for the support previously received, Cave Canem thanks the Foundation for its continued and significant role in ensuring the pioneering work of the organization can endure. The grant, part of a Righting the Scales Toward Abundance funding program, will provide much needed security as Cave Canem moves into the second year of its transformative 5-year strategic plan.

Cave Canem Executive Director Lisa Willis states, “Like many artist-led, founder-led, culturally-specific organizations, Cave Canem has made its many achievements on a lean operation of a small, dedicated staff and with limited resources. Mellon’s insightful grant making is working to rectify these historic inequities by allowing us to backfill the resources needed to right size our operating budget over a multiple year period and fulfill a 5-year strategic plan that is community-centric, focused on racial equity and opportunity, and that supports long-term thriveability.”

Racial inequality will not go away on its own. Organizations such as ours are critical to ensuring the Black community of poets and writers has the support, resources, opportunities, networks, and community needed to achieve their goals and advance their practices despite persisting racism. We remain steadfast in our commitment to cultivate a thriving community of Black poets, advocating for equitable representation, and propelling Black poetry to new heights. This unprecedented gift is a significant step towards changing breaking the cycle of scarcity and adequately enabling us to focus on the vision, planning, and growth needed to support our community.” 

The Mellon Foundation’s Righting the Scales Toward Abundance grant program provides resources for historically under-resourced artists and creative organizations to aid efforts in creation, conservation, and preservation.

Since its founding in 1996, Cave Canem has nurtured a sense of community among Black poets. Cave Canem envisions a world in which Black poets are empowered to write authentically in diverse forms, have their works shared with and recognized by audiences, and have access to justly paid work. Cave Canem has actively championed this through the Cave Canem Fellowship and Prize, platforming Black literary arts expression aside from the perceived monolith of Blackness.

Cave Canem is a nonprofit organization, committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of Black poets. Founded in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape, Cave Canem fosters community across the African Diaspora to enrich the literary field by facilitating a nurturing space in which Black poets can learn, experiment, create, and present their work. To date, Cave Canem has grown from a gathering of 26 writers to become an influential movement with a renowned faculty, a high-achieving global fellowship of 500 poets, and a workshop community of over 1,000. In making a home for Black poets and poetry, Cave Canem has transformed American arts and letters.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

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