No plans for retirement for this enthusiastic and energetic woman. Clest Lanier serves as community liaison with the unit at the University of Louisville’s College of Arts and Science Dean’s office that deals with diversity, engagement, culture, and climate. She is one of the founders of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage and in 2019 won Preservation Kentucky’s Excellence in Preservation award for the restoration of the Trolley Park that houses the Center. She was project manager for the Louisville Downtown Civil Rights Markers Trail.
What did you learn about yourself during COVID-19 lockdown?
I learned that I like being around people! I knew I was a social person but didn’t know how much I would miss working with my colleagues.
What did you learn from your parents?
I was raised by my mother who was widowed when I was 9. She was a believer in dreaming big, and she accomplished a lot as a woman raising children in the 1950s and ‘60s. She bought a home in a neighborhood where we were one of three black families on the street. She didn’t have a high-paying job, but my brother and I had what we needed. She never stopped dreaming. She got her GED in her 70s and inspired three of her sisters to get their GEDs also. She always strived for more.
What advice would you give to the younger you?
Remember to keep God first. Stay close to your immediate family. Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams and remember that not everyone is going to see your vision, so stay focused.
What were your plans for yourself?
I wanted a family and to go to college. I married when I was 17 and started a family at 18. A counselor at my high school told me, “You’re not really college material.” I found out she told that to others as well.
It matters who is teaching and counseling our young people. How many kids did that counselor stop from pursuing their dreams? I did earn my degree from the University of Louisville in 1987. So don’t stop. Keep going.
Can’t quite get the knack of…
The Floss. It’s a dance that my granddaughters do. I have tried a hundred times to do it and can’t seem to get my hips and my arms going in the right direction at the same time.
What are you reading now?
The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee.
What’s the key to a good marriage?
Don’t go to bed mad. Give each other a little space. My husband and I have been married 56 years.
Thoughts on retiring?
Well, right now I’ve got energy and a clear mind and will continue working. When I was younger I considered old to be 70 or 75, but now that I am in my early seventies, I find I still think, dream, and feel like doing things.
I’d love to travel to Europe, visit out-of-state family, and volunteer for smaller arts organizations.
What would you like to see change in Louisville?
The racial divide. The city is so segregated not only racially but economically as far as amenities and services go. I don’t have the answers, I just know it is a very divided community. We need a commitment from our next generation to change that.
By Lucy M. Pritchett | Illustration by Dan Kisner