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Right to Read Festival:
All Books for All People

By David Brostrom, Critical Times Newsletter, January 2024

When the going gets weird, the weird ban books. And hijack school boards and liberal arts colleges and make decisions that diminish public libraries.

 

A newly released PEN America report, Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor, cites a “33% increase in book bans in 2022-2023 compared to 2021-2022. A disproportionate number of book bans, 42%, occurred in Florida, and a large share of the 3,362 individual bans took place in states where legislation or coordinated campaigns by local and national groups have driven mass restrictions on access to literature. Books about race and racism, LGBTQ+ identities, and violence have remained a top target.”

 

In response to the intensified uptick in book banning and other forms of censorship in Florida, the Social Justice Alliance of the Florida Suncoast (SJAFS), comprised of 15 alliance nonprofit groups and individuals from Sarasota and Charlotte Counties and surrounding area, have mobilized.

 

SJAFS is hosting their first major event, The Right to Read Festival: All Books for All People, Sat. Feb. 24. This all-day celebration is designed to push back against book banning, underscore rights and freedoms under the First Amendment, and preserve intellectual freedom.

 

The festival, co-sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice, will feature local, regional, and national speakers, including award-winning children’s author (banned), Rob Sanders, journalist Carrie Seidman, and grassroots organizer Zander Moricz. Sarasota school board member Tom Edwards, will be on hand, as well as representatives from the Freedom to Read Foundation/American Library Association.

 

Fun free children’s activities are planned throughout the day, including games, performances by local storytellers and musicians. Banned books giveaways, a colorful banned books bus, a bounce house, Blue Lotus meditation and more will round out the day. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase from vendors and food trucks.

 

The Right to Read Festival will take place on the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice grounds, 1971 Pinebrook Rd, Venice, from 10 am – 4 pm, Feb. 24. For further information and regular updates visit the alliance’s website at sjafs.org, or email RTRFestival@gmail.com

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