BY CASSANDRA BROWN and MAE HAZELTON, GUEST WRITERS TO THE TIMES
MT. DORA – On May 3rd All About the Ballots joined a broad, nationwide coalition of organizations taking coordinated action against school censorship, racial inequity and intolerance as part of National Day of Action: Freedom to Learn. The Mayor of Mount Dora, Chrissy Stiles, hosted the event at her Barrel of Books and Games store located in the heart of downtown Mt. Dora. At their Bans Off Our Books event, Cassandra Brown and Mae Hazelton, handed out nearly 250 free banned books and the latest issue of the Southern Law Center (SPLC) Learning for Justice magazine, both provided by the SPLC, and “I read banned books” T-shirts. They also encouraged attendees to read excerpts from banned books which many did so. Dorothy Griffin-Dailey, a Mt. Dora High School educator, gave an impassioned account of how banning books adversely impacts the education system. Ruth King, singer, writer and recording artist added her unique music style to the read-in.
The book giveaway included 20 titles the Learning for Justice team selected for the event but are just a few of the nearly 1,500 titles that have been banned since the start of the 2022-23 school year according to PEN America.
The event focused attention on the following areas: (1) attacks on the Freedom to Lear are lethal assaults on democracy; (2) along with thousands of banned books, 21 states, including Florida, have enacted restrictions against Critical Race Theory, which is the teaching of structural racism and gender inequality; (3) anti-truth legislation is designed to destroy our sense of reality, and (4) all our children have an inalienable right to be taught the truth in our nation’s classrooms.
Cassandra Brown, the President and Co-Founder of All About the Ballots stands firm in her belief that all children should be able to see themselves on the pages of books, in art, in leadership positions, thriving, accepted, loved and successful. Asked why the Bans Off Our Books event was so important, she stated, “We are afraid that we are not reaching parents in marginalized communities. I need to make sure they know that this is happening and connect the dots to voting. That’s where your power is and how we can make change.”
Mae Hazelton, Vice-President and Co-Founder, noted, “There is strength in our numbers, and we are rising to fight back…to show that we will not remain passive or ignorant of the attempts to eradicate our history. We are taking back our power to organize, educate and resist.”
In addition to the “Bans Off Our Books Read-in” All About the Ballots held two “Embrace Not Erase” rallies in late February and are already planning other events to bring attention to the “segregation of knowledge” at the core of book banning.