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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh announces high-profile speaker series to cultivate civic engagement 


Last updated 6/7/2021 at 8:36pm

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has announced a new speaker series program designed to inspire, excite and challenge the community with fresh ideas and perspectives on today's most important civic topics including the First Amendment, social and racial justice, politics and more. The library's 2021 CivicCLP Speaker Series will kick off on June 17 with its first event featuring award-winning journalists Bofta Yimam and Brian Cook.

The goal of the CivicCLP Speaker Series is to deepen discussions around critical issues that inspire actionable steps on a local level for issues with a global relevance. The topics covered in the series are more important than ever due to an increased level of civic engagement within our city and state.

More than 6.9 million Pennsylvanians who voted in 2020 exceeded turnout in every presidential election since at least 1960. Not only that, but an apparently record-breaking 70.93 percent of voting-age Pennsylvanians voted, compared to 1960's record of 70.3 percent.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has three virtual events planned in 2021: June 17, August 19 and October 14. These events are free of charge, open to the public and will take place on Zoom.

The Power of Story and Representation: An Intimate Discussion with Bofta Yimam and Brian Cook (virtual event) will take place on Thursday, June 17 from 4 - 5 p.m.

Participants will tune into an intimate conversation with award-winning journalists, Bofta Yimam and Brian Cook, as they discuss the journeys they have taken to owning their own stories while in the news industry. In this discussion, learn the power of embracing your story and the importance of storytelling - no matter your niche.

Ms. Yimam and Mr. Cook will also discuss the importance of investigative journalism during a time of increasing polarization and political divides, and how this fast-paced evolving news landscape has raised awareness on biases and inequity of representation. Registration for this event is now open on the Library's website at

Censored: How the First Amendment Fights On (virtual event) on Thursday, Aug. 19 from 4 – 5 p.m.

Freedom Forum fellow for First Amendment, Lata Nott, will share her expertise on how censorship and suppression impacts our First Amendment rights on social media, in schools and through voting rights. Ellie Diaz will join the conversation to share her expertise on why Banned Books Week is more than just a seven-day event, as well as spotlighting the ways that the American Library Association's (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom works to fight literary censorship.

Ms. Nott, prior to becoming a Freedom Forum fellow, maintained a pro-bono practice focused on asylum cases and developed a proficiency in legal issues surrounding the Internet, data privacy and cybersecurity. Ms. Diaz is the program officer at the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom and she organizes and publicizes ALA resources and programs about intellectual freedom, including ALA's Banned Books Week celebration. Register for the August CivicCLP Speaker Series on the website at

The Power of Positive Human Interaction with Ken Nwadike Jr. (virtual event) on Thursday, Oct. 14 from 3 – 4 p.m.

In this fun, creative and interactive program, Ken Nwadike Jr. brings his "Free Hugs Project" to engage participants in conversations of understanding and compassion amidst the rising tide of hatred and racism. Mr. Nwadike explores the power of positive human interaction and ways to bridge the racial divide by spreading love.

The goal of this program is to create unity, civility and build a more diverse and inclusive culture within the community. Mr. Nwadike is popularly known as the "Free Hugs Guy." The Free Hugs Project gained popularity as he made major news headlines for his peacekeeping efforts and de-escalation of violence during protests, riots and political rallies.

He was featured in Google's 2016 Year in Search video as a highlight among some of the year's most defining moments and he has made many appearances on news programs, including CNN, USA Today, Good Morning Britain, and BBC News. Registration for this virtual event can be found at

For more information about Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's CivicCLP Speaker Series, visit


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