Let Freedom Read: Banned Books Week for 2023

Featuring Betsy Gomez, Cameron Samuels, Da'Taeveyon Daniels, and Jonah Winter

by Kate Horgan
Published: Last Updated on
The Project Censored Show
The Official Project Censored Show
Let Freedom Read: Banned Books Week for 2023
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Mickey dedicates this show to Banned Books Week 2023 (Oct. 1-7). Now in its 41st year, Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating and promoting the freedom to read while opposing efforts to ban or censor certain books from libraries, especially in school settings. This past year has seen record increases in book challenges and related attempts by parental groups to curtail and shape curricula, especially around themes of marginalized groups (including works by or about people of color, LQBTQ+ issues, and others). The guests bring a variety of perspectives to the program, but are united in their advocacy of the freedom to read. Project Censored is a proud member of the Banned Books Week Coalition.

Notes:

Betsy Gomez is coordinator for the Banned Books Week Coalition, and also works in the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Cameron Samuels graduated from high school last year in Katy, Texas, near Houston, where they led successful protests against book bans in the school district. They were subsequently recognized as the 2022 Youth Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week. Cameron is also the Executive Director of “SEAT,” Students Engaged in Advancing Texas, that fights against censorship of student voices in education policy making. Recently, they testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee against book bans. Cameron is a now a student at Brandeis University and has appeared on the Project Censored Show several times.

Da’Taeveyon Daniels is a high school senior in Fort Worth, Texas, Partnership Director for SEAT, and the 2023 Youth Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week. He penned a recent article for the Project about this year’s Banned Books Week titled, “The Rising Political Battle Over Censorship: A Danger to Humanity, Acceptance, and Understanding.”

Jonah Winter is a prolific and award-winning author of children’s books; his 40 titles include biographies of politicians, judges, musicians, and baseball players. His latest book, Banned Book, was released in August by Creative Editions.

Video of Interview with Betsy Gomez

Video of Interview with Cameron Samuels and Da’Taeveyon Daniels

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Betsy Gomez

Mickey: Welcome to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio. I’m your host, Mickey Huff. This is our annual Banned Books Week program. Banned Books Week this year is the first week of October. Banned Books Week goes all the way back to 1982. It is a concerted national coalition and effort to call attention not only to the right to read, let freedom read, Is this year’s theme

it also calls attention to the challenges and the many guises censorship takes around the country. When it comes to books and reading, it’s a very, very significant week. I think every week should be banned books week, as far as calling attention and raising awareness around the challenges we have with censorship and free expression in the alleged land of the free and we really couldn’t have a better guest to kick off today’s program.

We are delighted to welcome back to the show Betsy Gomez, the Assistant Director of Communications and Outreach for the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and the coordinator for Unite Against Book Bans and the Banned Books Week Coalition. Disclaimer, of course, Project Censored has been a member of the Banned Books Week Coalition for a decade or more.

Betsy is the former Coalition and Editorial Director for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an advocacy organization dedicated to First Amendment rights of the comics community. Certainly, again, CBLDF, no, our audience is no stranger to the important work, that that organization has done over the years.

Also, with more than a decade of professional experience defending intellectual freedom, Gomez also has an extensive background in educational publishing as a content developer and editor. Basically, all the things we can put together in one person creates the very ideal Betsy Gomez, who’s joining us today as the head of the Band Books Week Coalition.

Betsy, welcome back to the

Betsy Gomez: program. Oh, well, thanks for having me again, Mickey. I’m happy to be here.

Mickey: Yet, I’m so sorry that you’ve been so busy the last year or two because there has been an extraordinary uptick in book challenges, book bans, censorships, attempts to cancel people, outlandish claims of grooming, and so on.

It’s really kind of descended into, a strange environment. We have over half the states in the union trying to pass laws or passing laws that try to, curate what teachers teach in the classroom, what students can read. Suddenly, librarians went from being overlooked and ignored to somehow being, public enemy number one.

I mean, just extraordinary things happening. And Betsy Gomez, can you bring us up to speed? What’s happening? What’s, what’s, what’s the main crux for banned books week here this

Betsy Gomez: year? Oh, now that you kind of set us up for a, you know, some sort of Mad Max scenario with censorship. It is, it is, pretty terrifying in terms of numbers.

I’ve been doing this work for, in some capacity for almost 20 years and I’ve never seen it like this. And ALA has been tracking, tracking it even longer. And we just last week released some new numbers on censorship for the first part of this year. So January 1 through the end of August, and we’re on track to probably exceed what we did last year.

And last year was the highest ever number of censorship attempts that we’d ever, tracked in, in. Almost 3 decades of work. So, just this year, we’ve seen, 695 attempts to restrict materials in libraries and this isn’t just books. It’s also programs and other offerings in the library ecosystem. We’ve seen, 1, 915 unique.

Titles targeted for censorship were on track to exceed the number that we had last year, which was just shy of 2500. In total, if you count duplicate censors, duplicate challenges to titles, because titles are, are often challenged multiple times in multiple locations. It’s just shy of 4, 000 books impacted, in.

92 percent of the challenge cases so far tracked in 2023, it impacts more than 1 book. It used to be that when you got a challenge, it was 1 person apparent. Usually who is concerned about a book their, their kid was reading in class or had gotten from the library. So it’s 1 person 1 book. Now, what we’re seeing is people.

Challenging entire huge lists of books. In fact, there were 11 states where we had, censorship attempts, targeting 100 or more titles. And that’s up from the previous year where we had, I believe, 9. So, you know, it’s, it’s an organized campaign.

Mickey: It’s certainly is an organized campaign. And again, I think you said something.

Well, you said lots of important things, but 1 thing that you said contextually is that historically it was the case that a parent would bring a title of concern. It was more of an individualized thing. Sometimes parents then can work things out with teachers or librarians and get alternative assignments, but the book doesn’t get taken away or off the shelves.

But what we’ve been seeing in the last couple of years is very different than that. It’s it’s a and we now see mass movements. I don’t want to necessarily say AstroTurf, but. These movements like Moms for Liberty or what have you, or these parental rights groups, and I’m not suggesting that parents shouldn’t have rights.

So I just want to get that out of the way, but there’s movements where where a bit dark money, big money is flowing into certain areas of the country from other parts of the country to try to stack school boards, city, like other kinds of local political arenas to sort of shift the debate here. I mean, it happened even here.

In Northern California, in allegedly sort of liberal strongholds of the East Bay or Walnut Creek, the suburbs where they tried to stack the school board, they weren’t successful there, but they’ve been remarkably successful other places up in Northern California and other places where, or the Valley, you know, folks don’t expect to see these kinds of things, but this.

Again, it’s calling attention to the fact that this is, I wouldn’t say nearing ubiquitous, but this kind of stuff is happening all over the place, and it’s happening under these monikers of things like parental rights and so on. Betsy Gomez, could you talk a little bit about that shift and the challenges that it’s creating?

Yeah,

Betsy Gomez: You’re very, it’s very essential to like, reiterate that no area has been spared from this. Even, you know, liberal strongholds like California, there’s no space has been spared from this and it’s happening, for the most part at a hyper local level, but it is. Based on materials that are being, distributed on a national level.

The organizations you’re talking about have entire playbooks that they send out and share with their constituencies. I’ve seen at least 1 of them where they excerpt books and that, you know, sections of the books that they find offensive, and, and encourage people to take those, those,

allegedly offensive materials to school board meetings and library board meetings and read them out loud to generate outrage about this allegedly pornographic and obscene material. This in the library and to make it clear no library is shelving obscene or pornography pornographic material, especially in their kids section.

They just don’t do that. Librarians do not operate that way. They serve an entire community. And if a book is there, it’s because somebody in the community wants to read it. And a parent has a right to guide their own child’s reading, but they don’t have a right to make decisions for other children in the community and this parents rights argument that they often use, is disingenuous.

Their rights aren’t being violated. They do have a right to make a decision for their own child, but when they demand the removal of a book, they’re taking the rights of other parents away and they’re doing a lot of children a disservice by limiting access to information.

Mickey: Well, Betsy Gomez, let’s get into that because the kinds of books that are being challenged like there’s a pattern, the kinds of people that are being canceled or the narratives that are being suppressed or the things that certain small groups don’t think other groups should read.

There’s a, there’s a history here of, it seems like a majority, vast majority of authors that are targeted for banning or challenge books or the topics and subjects are about. Or, or regard some kind of marginalized communities or social justice concerns.

Betsy Gomez: Yeah, the majority of the material that’s being challenged is by, or about the LGBTQ plus experience or by black, indigenous and people of color.

And again, they’re used in the guise of pornographic material, or sexually explicit or age inappropriate to target this work so that they can often disguise the fact that, you know, the root causes things like homophobia or discomfort with, racism and anti racism, work and, and so by far, underrepresented voices are, targeted more frequently, in these cases and, they’ve.

You know, some of the more organized campaigns are savvy. They don’t specifically say we’re, we’re targeting LGBTQ content, but if you look at the books, they’re targeting, that is what they’re doing. Yeah,

Mickey: I mean, and once you actually start here, here’s here’s a trick. Once you actually go and read these, right?

You can see what they’re about and it usually doesn’t take long to figure out. Like, well, I guess I could see why someone who is X would would not approve of this or not like this. But isn’t it also the part of our culture? And again, I think that this is probably a lost part educationally, but isn’t this how we learn and maybe become more comfortable or accepting of different ideas is.

Through literature, through arts, through this dissemination, isn’t this a way that we build bridges of understanding that really embellish our lives and make them so much richer and more vibrant and better and not necessarily something to be fearful of?

Betsy Gomez: Oh, absolutely. And I think that’s what they’re afraid of.

They’re afraid that, you know, if, if, if kids can read about people who aren’t like them, they might come to accept it. Also, you know, I think there’s also, and, and fear is a, is a motivator. And I do like to think that most people have a genuine interest in making sure their kids are safe and protected.

But in protecting them from this content, you’re protecting them from the world because books give us a window to the world. You know, speaking for myself personally, I grew up on a tiny farm in central Illinois. And that was entirely a white community, and I didn’t see the world, except through library books.

And so that’s what you’re, you’re limiting that perspective on the world when you limit books and it’s essential that that kids in particular. Have a chance to see themselves reflected in the work have a chance to see their families reflected in the work and have a chance to see their friends reflected

Mickey: in the work.

Yeah, I mean, we really need to expand the Overton window here. I mean, we really need to have more ideas, more voices, more people. I mean, this is what librarians do. I mean, it’s interesting that now many librarians are on the front line in their communities and, and, in ways that we just never seen before for for some small communities in particular, where librarians weren’t even acknowledged.

Really some people just forget who they are at a school. Certainly not us. We’re huge fans of librarians in the and all these things and work with many people in that, in that world, but, I think people just fundamentally don’t really understand the importance of libraries and what librarians actually do. Much like, I think that folks don’t understand the function of journalism, you know, it just, it turns into a really distorted version in the public mind versus the way in which it’s set up as a tenant of a free society where we become more aware of each other and our issues and we could become more meaningfully civically engaged and tolerant of one another.

Betsy Gomez: Absolutely. And I think a lot of people who are leading this campaign don’t recognize that libraries are essential community centers. You know, they’re not just places where you get books there. There are warming centers when the power goes out and it’s freezing outside. They’re cooling centers when it’s hot outside.

There are places where small businesses get started. There are places where people can meet and come together to talk about their interests. You know, most libraries offer meeting room space and resources beyond books for a lot of communities with limited Internet access. It’s where you go to get online.

And so in in attacking libraries, it’s not that just that they’re attacking books. They’re attacking a fundamental community institution that that is at the heart and is the healthy beating heart of a lot of communities.

Mickey: It really is. And I just want to give a quick shout out right now to one of my best friends.

I grew up with in Pennsylvania is a librarian. So, Blake, yeah, just wanted to give a quick shout out and thank him for all that he does for the people in that community. And I’ll tell you, Betsy. He tells me stories of so many things on a daily basis that he sees it really starts to remind me. I know our mutual friend Adam Bessie that I teach with wrote Going Remote about teaching so many of the things that we’re doing at the community college level, or the public university or educational institution in the library.

So much of it is like a triage and it’s not caring for so many things going on in the community where people are in need and libraries are a big part of that and reading and books are a big part. Do you think that they’re really a big part of sort of a therapy even or for people to have outlets and to understand each other?

I mean, again, I’d like to talk a little bit more about that theme because when we’re talking about challenging books and banning books, we’re really talking about just shutting off entire people from their own communities and their own experiences that causes great harm. Betsy Gomez. Yeah, I

Betsy Gomez: mean, again, just kind of calling on personal experience a perfect example.

Like, I grew up in a community that had 350 people in it. And if I hadn’t had a school library and school librarians who got me the books that I asked for, they probably called my mom to make sure it was okay. But, you know, I don’t know that I would be doing this work today. And I don’t know that a lot of my classmates would have been able to leave the community.

And, you know, rural communities in particular, you know, I think libraries are essential, for those community. They’re essential for any community, but in a community where there’s limited access to the rest of the world, it’s key. That’s where I grew

Mickey: up in Western Pennsylvania. The library was a central part of our, you know, of our experience growing up and not just having access to books, but music, you know, I mean, so many things that I, you know, again, I’ll show my age for sure.

Nowadays where people can just get things at fingertips. I mean, you know, you actually had to like, wait for something to come on the radio or record it or buy it. And, you know, kids didn’t have a lot of money. So borrowing records and different things from the library, I mean, it’s just a really crucial part.

The library is so essential. And again, Banned Books Week is about calling attention, for me in a lot of ways, to the whole cultural role that library and information dissemination plays. And it should be something that should be revered. It shouldn’t be something that’s so wantonly sullied by political whim or favor or, or, or a trend of the day.

So Betsy Gomez, maybe you can talk a little bit about that because there are very specific things going on right now, very specific challenges, and I think it helps our listeners understand. Just what some of the specifics are and because I think some folks just don’t understand how egregious and absurd.

Some of the challenges really are. Yeah,

Betsy Gomez: well, there’s a, there’s an entire kind of, if you, if you look at the trends, and if you look at kind of the way, some of these challenges are being put, a lot of challenges are being brought by people who don’t even read the books, right? And they’re using the materials that are being disseminated and, just, just reproducing those on their challenge forms.

And in fact, they seem to be kind of proud that they haven’t read the books. Which is really disappointing because there’s a lot of great stuff in the books. They’re challenging. There’s a reason most of these books are award winners and, adored and almost universally shelved in libraries. And so banned books week, it started in 1982 because there was a rash of challenges in 1982.

You know, it seems like this, this, this whole, like, it’s a little cyclical. This, this, panic over over what kids are reading and engaging with and, nothing like what we’re seeing now. But it started as an informational campaign because a lot of people didn’t know what was happening. Mm-hmm.

And I find even today a lot of people don’t know the scale of what’s happening. People are starting to figure out, people are starting to take action. And so Banned Books Week always functioned to let people know about what was happening, what books were being targeted, why they’re being targeted. And this year we’re actually, flipping the script a little bit to also tell people about what they can do to fight it.

Because. So much of this activity is local. It’s essential for us to take individual action to protect books and schools and libraries. And so, on October 7th for banned books week, we are having let freedom read day a day of action. And so, if you have 5 minutes, call a decision maker, if you’ve got more time, write a letter to the editor or write to your decision makers, even more time, start organizing your community to help support your libraries and school boards.

And so we’re asking everybody to do just 1 thing on October 7th. to help defend books in libraries and schools.

Mickey: And of course, listeners can go to bannedbooksweek. org. You have a promotional tools page. You’ve got a very detailed resource page, logo, poster, bookmarks, banners, ALA downloads. I mean. The whole shebang, bannedbooksweek.org, is the website that has all of this information.

Of course ala.org, Office for Intellectual Freedom. They have new data and reports, and then of course, so too, does Penn America Right book Lash Literary Freedom Online Outrage and the Language of Harm. From August. So you are a one stop shop really for resources around banned books week. Can I add one more resource?

I was just going to say, Betsy Gomez, would you please add more resources and tell people where they can find you and where they can get involved? Because I really want to focus on this get involved and solutions component. So people really can go and do something.

Betsy Gomez: Yeah, so another place that people can get involved like bannedbooksweek.Org. Definitely visit there. And we’ve got a tab for let freedom read day with some ideas for what you can do on that day. But I’d also encourage people to visit uniteagainstbookbans. org. That’s unite, no d, againstbookbans. org. It is a public facing initiative that ALA launched last year to encourage.

Direct action, it’s got an amazing tool kit with talking points. I’ve been doing a lot of work with them to help community organizers in various communities around the country with advice and guidance on how to do the work and we also send targeted messaging when there’s a need for people to show up at a board meeting or to go to a rally and.

Unite against book bans has more than 200 national state and local partners that have signed up to join. And thousands of individuals have joined the campaign and I encourage everybody who’s listening to join as well, because it makes it easier for us to reach you

Mickey: when a community needs help. Well, Betsy Gomez, we’re going to be signing up here and I’ll be following up with you personally.

We’re going to be signing up here in Northern California, out of Sacramento. There are a couple of local areas, out of Sacramento that have some pretty active book censoring folks on school boards, up here. And since I’m now over this way, I’d like to do something about it. So. So I’ll be following up.

And I think other people need to do the same things. I was taking the opportunity to say that I know I’m going to do something about it. That means everybody out there in the Project Censored audience, you can do something about it too, right? Unite Against Book Bans. Is it dot org? Yes, UniteAgainstBookBans.

org. We’ve been speaking with Betsy Gomez, Assistant Director of Communications and Outreach for the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Coordinator for Unite Against Book Bans, and the Band Books Week Coalition, of which Project Censored is a proud member. Betsy Gomez, anything else you’d like to share?

With our audience today, where to follow you, other information, anything.

Betsy Gomez: Just, definitely visit bandbooksweek. org and if you are free on October 5th, the evening of October 5th, join us on Instagram @banned_books_week with underscores between each word. We are going to have LeVar Burton, the LeVar Burton, who is the Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week, is going to be, doing an Instagram Live with us.

Very excited to have LeVar on board. And we also have an amazing Youth Honorary Chair, Da’Taeveyon Daniels, who will be, interviewing LeVar for that program.

Mickey: Absolutely. And we’re going to have Da’Taeveyon on the program later today with Cameron Samuels, and also Jonah Winter. So Betsy Gomez, thank you so much for all of the important work that you do around.

Banned Books Week and all related items for protecting freedom of expression, the right to read. Your work is so very important. Bannedbooksweek. org and thanks so much Betsy, we wish you all the best.

Betsy Gomez: Thank you Mickey for having me and thanks to everyone for listening.

Below is a Rough Transcript of the Interview with Cameron Samuels and Da’Taeveyon Daniels

Mickey Huff: Welcome back to the Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio. I’m your host Mickey Huff. It is our annual Banned Books Week special, Project censored, of course, is a long time member of the Banned Books Week Coalition. It is the first week of October this year.

Historically, it was often at the end of September, but roundabout the same time. It’s been a really busy year for censorship challenges and book bans and we have had several shows on book, banning books, challenging books since last year. It’s been such a significant issue and there has been such an uptick that Project Censored has been covering this, almost quarterly to get updates.

And one of our guests here right now is returning to the show. It is Cameron Samuels, who’s been on the show a couple of times and also penned a great op ed for us. Very, very active, in the Right to Read movement and fighting against censorship and book bans. Cameron is a student organizer from Katy, Texas, co founder of Students Engaged in Advancing Texas, or SEAT.

Was the Banned Books Week honorary youth chair in 2022 for distributing banned books and packing school board meetings in Texas. This was a really important distinction. Cameron, I’m very thrilled that you took time out of your schedule to talk to us because you’re otherwise busy fighting censorship and its many guises.

So welcome back to the program here for banned books week, Cameron Samuels.

Thanks for

Cameron Samuels: welcoming me back.

Mickey Huff: Yes, absolutely. And you bring with you, Da’Taeveyon Daniels is a high school senior in Fort Worth, Texas. Daniels is the Partnerships Director for Students Engaged in Advancing Texas, or SEAT. And Da’Taeveyon is also the 2023 Youth Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week.

And the youngest serving member of the National Coalition Against Censorship’s Advisory Council. Da’Taeveyon, congratulations, number one. And two, thank you for joining us today on the Project Censored show. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. And of course, you can go to projectcensored. org to learn more.

We’re posting a lot of material on Banned Books Week, including Da’Taeveyon’s latest op ed about Banned Books Week, which we’ll certainly be talking about today on the program a little bit. First, let’s go to you, Cameron Samuels, since this is your first year rounding out. Your work is Youth Honorary Chair, and I know you were on the show a few months ago, but you have been, fortunately and unfortunately, depending on how we look at it, you’ve been really busy, fighting against book bans.

Tell us about what you’ve been doing, Cameron.

Cameron Samuels: Yes, I just, two weeks ago, I came back from, Washington DC where I was invited to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on a hearing on book bans. I was so fortunate to receive this invitation to speak as a student with my unique experience in Texas, on a nationwide platform where Congress was prioritizing this issue.

Book bans are a trend nationwide and they’re affecting each and every community. And that’s in many different ways. Texas has been leading the nation for book bans in many years. And now we are seeing more communities be affected. Like my home district in Katy ISD in Katy, Texas. We have not seen the issue get out of the spotlight.

It’s still continuing to ravage our community and to be at the nation’s capital, sharing my perspective as a student in my home district, where I entered in kindergarten, graduated 13 years later, this was a a great platform that needed to be there. And it was all because Congress was prioritizing this issue, wanting to share the focus of these silenced voices in the

Mickey Huff: mainstream.

Indeed. And Cameron, you not long ago were in Texas at the Texas legislature. In fact, the last time we spoke on the program, I was actually speaking to you. You were in Austin. You were actually speaking to me from the legislature, if I’m not mistaken. Can you give me any kind of contrast or distinction to your experiences of what happened when you were at the Texas legislature versus how you were treated in DC?

I’m curious. That is

Cameron Samuels: correct. I did join you from the Texas Capitol back in May when the Texas legislature was developing legislation that would require book vendors to rate materials that would be sold to school libraries and would restrict what school libraries could contain in their collections, very much on broad terms, that would disproportionately impact the most vulnerable and most marginalized voices, the LGBTQ and BIPOC themes in our school libraries.

And And this was more of a defensive approach that we had to take as an organization of student leaders. We developed amendments to the legislation with senators who proposed them on the floor. Fortunately, they were rejected. But now that the bill was unfortunately passed, it’s been caught up in legal proceedings.

The bill hasn’t even been… In effect at all, because we’ve been fortunate that a judge has ordered and a preliminary injunction to the legislation, so it has not gone into effect. However, on a whole different front line, we’re seeing that school districts are having a chilling effect. They’re implementing new policies justified.

By the fact that HB 900 passed the state legislature, they’re passing new policies that are harming students most directly. And this isn’t required or even obliged by the state legislation, but school districts are using it as a basis to continue to censor materials. And that that’s a huge contrast to the Capitol, where many of the legislators were saying that it shouldn’t be the government’s role in deciding what can or cannot be in school libraries.

Congress, unanimously across party lines, were really saying that it should be Up to families, educators, librarians, it should be up to the school policies to actually implement what can suit best for the community. And that’s a position that requires us to be involved locally on the front lines.

Mickey Huff: Indeed, it requires that we’re critically media literate.

It requires that we are civically engaged. These are, these are things it’s particularly great to see the work that you’ve done and what you do in the organization seat. You’ve been doing a lot of things and Da’Taeveyon Daniels, I want to bring you in here. You also, I mean, you are this year’s youth honorary chair, and that was in response to the work that you’ve been doing also in Texas.

So Texas, as again, listeners are going to know from, from the program here in previous programs, Texas and Florida, while they’re not the only places where these things are happening, there are certainly. Hotbed. So Da’Taeveyon tell us about your work there.

Da’Taeveyon Daniels: Yeah, totally. So my work started out as a, a student program leader for the National Coalition Against Censorship, leading their student advocates for speech program here in Texas where, I led two local high school clubs where we focused on fighting against censorship and book bans.

And, you know, we focused on being brought into the conversation of Literature and freedom to read and freedom of expression. We held a couple of protests. We held, you know, events at our own state capital. We actually took part in the seat at the capital day with students engaged in advancing texas, which was also amazing.

And you know, we Just really focused in on that fight for censorship against censorship and for intellectual freedom for students in our own more centralized communities, because that’s what our whole intention was when starting, you know, the student advocates for speech program well my specific club and it just really expanded from there.

I then went on to work with see, you know, during the, Texas legislative session, specifically around House Bill 900 and some more amazing bills that we tried to get past, but House Bill 900 was that that first bill, you know, that I had to, you know, that I really did not like, and I was really, you know, fighting against, more avidly.

So, Yeah, everything just expanded from there, and I’ve just been continuing to grow with this amazing organization, SEAT, and I’ve been continuing to grow my efforts with SAS, and that’s actually led to me, you know, being put on the National Advisory Council for the National Coalition Against Censorship.

And, you know, I have a larger voice and a larger sense of representation for students across the country, not only from Texas in that sense. So, yeah.

Mickey Huff: So, just to clarify, are you a senior this year in Texas? Yes. Okay. So this is your senior year that you’re in. Yes. And you’re very active right now. And so what just just to get to share with our audience.

Can you talk to us about the kind of things you experience in school because of the work that you’re doing and in the broader community? I mean, obviously, you just talked about CAC. Of course, you’re the Youth Honorary Chair. There are definitely people in the Write to Read anti censorship community that, very excited and very supportive, rallying around the great work that you’re doing, that Cameron’s doing.

Could you talk to us, however, about some of the actual experiences you may be having? Are you being supported? Are you getting a lot of support among students? What kind of pushback do you give? I just think it’s important to let our audience know, what you’re up against and what you’re dealing with as a young person that cares so passionately about these rights.

Yeah, absolutely.

Da’Taeveyon Daniels: So, for me, personally, you know, getting involved in this work came from a lack of resources and, you know, academic materials and, you know, just a library selection that You know, encompass a larger perspective of what we’re used to in the Texas education system, which I tell you it is not diverse in one sense.

So I just did not have the access to those resources in my own school. So I started as a as, you know, as a protest as a rebellion to that. And in doing that, I got exposed to a litany of other, you know, issues. Surrounding book bans and censorship, and when I started to get more active around that, I did face a lot of issues when it came to, you know, recruiting students and getting other people engaged in this because even though I say, yeah, I got engaged in this, I got active in this work, it’s hard because young people, we do not know about this type of stuff, don’t know about the legislation that’s passed in our own state capitol, and that Stems from a whole nother issue when it comes to civics education in Texas and around the country.

But, you know, they didn’t know about this and I didn’t know about it. So, you know, working towards, you know, alleviating those issues by focusing on, you know, more specified issues like censorship and book banning allows me to, you know, continue to grow in that. And just to, you know, Answer your question a bit further.

There are so many issues that have, you know, arisen and there’s so much negativity as being a young person surrounding being young and being in this space of advocacy and being in a space of representation and representing your peers, other young people, because there’s this whole side of view when it comes to young people that, you know, We’re just here along for the ride and we have to listen to what the adults say, and that’s not how it’s going to go down, you know, we’re being affected just like you all and you all are passing legislation and laws and bills and policies that are affecting us and taking away our, our human rights, you know, we’re being dehumanized by a system that’s not necessarily put in place to protect and serve us as young people.

Mickey Huff: Absolutely Da’Taeveyon Tavion Daniels. Tell it like it is, man. Absolutely. Put so well, and just such an articulate way to explain to people why these issues matter. And Cameron, you know, I’m just, just, just listening to, Da’Taeveyon here, Da’Taeveyon. I’m just reminded when we spoke before and when I first spoke to you, just the passion you had and the dots that you connected.

And one of the things that really stuck with me, and by the way, I just want to remind our audience and our guests that you’re tuned to the, to the Project Censored show. And I’m speaking to two amazing folks, the Youth Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week, both last year and this year, Cameron Samuels and Da’Taeveyon Daniels.

I’m honored that you as young people come on these kinds of programs to talk nationally to people. You know, I’m, I’ve been teaching college a long time, but the great privilege in that is that I get to spend time with young people and I get to really hear what they’re thinking and what they’re going through.

And I mean, I’m reminded too, you know, I’m in my early fifties and that seems like a long, long way, ways to go for me. This is exactly what this kind of movement needs. It needs young people. It needs people that are speaking, not just speaking truth to power, but realize that the entire process of speaking and fighting against censorship is the power, right?

That is, that’s what you’re exemplifying. And you’re also sharing with your peers that you shouldn’t be, you should have a seat. You shouldn’t be left out of the table of these discussions about what’s happening in legislatures, what’s happening. whether it’s in your own backyard, your own library, or what’s happening on the national level.

And the two of you, I think, are exemplary. You are exemplars of, you know, civic engagement and the kind of young people that we really need in this country to step up and fight against this kind of censorship. Cameron Samuels, I want to come back to you for a moment, and I want to hear what are a couple things that you’re really excited about working with this year around Banned Books Week Coalition.

Cameron Samuels: Banned Books Week is a time of celebration, but also of protest. It’s a great opportunity for each of us to learn more about what’s taking place nationwide, since book bans are a nationwide trend affecting each and every community. Bannedbooksweek. org, great website with resources, with events that you can participate in.

Both virtually and in your community, this is a time for us to all come together on such an important conversation on whose voices matter in the narrative. When we are writing our narrative as young people, we deserve to be represented truly as we are, as the diverse generation that we are, as the most out queer generation in history.

Texas, as a majority minority state, we are such a powerful generation, and we are being left out of the narrative, out of the decisions that affect our everyday lives in education, and our marginalized voices are disproportionately affected by censorship. And so Banned Books Week. Is a great time for us to come together, but also we’re doing the work each and every day through the year.

Banned Books Week is every day for students engaged in Advancing Texas. SEAT is such a powerful team of organizers. We’re doing the work as youth because we feel left out and it’s time for us to reclaim our education because it’s our experiences. It’s our futures and that’s what we’re doing. So studentsengaged.

org, studentsengaged. org, a great website for you to visit. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you can stay more connected, take action with us and. Join the front lines. Join us on the front lines for the freedom to read and for the freedom for young people to be engaged in policymaking that matters to us.

Mickey Huff: Hundred percent perfectly put Cameron Samuels back to you. D’Taeveyon Daniels busy week for you. Banned Books week, your this year’s Youth honorary chair. There’s a lot going on and I’m, I’m not gonna put anybody on the spot to rattle off long lists of things, that are going on. You can go to bannedbooksweek.org for that.

You can of course learn more at ala.org. Just publish the American Library Association just released preliminary data. On 2023 book challenges. Betsy Gomez talked about that earlier in the program. But Da’Taeveyon, tell us, Da’Taeveyon, tell us about, maybe some of the things you’re, you’re doing. And of course, LaVar Burton is the Honorary Chair, this year and you were the Honorary Youth Chair.

Da’Taeveyon, tell us about what’s happening. Absolutely.

Da’Taeveyon Daniels: So this year I’m really focusing on, you know, this is a position that I’ve been giving and I come from a background that is, you know, not necessarily always represented the correct or accurate way in the media. So I want to use this position to, you know, not only call out to people who look.

Like me, who sound like me, who talk like me, but also those who don’t look like me and don’t sound like me, you know, let everyone know this is a position that everyone can take and this is a fight that everyone needs to be involved in, because if we’re not, then we’re all being, you know, censored and all of our rights are being trampled.

I just want to use this moment as a moment of awareness for everyone to make sure everyone knows what’s going on, how they can get involved. And, you know, not to just allow Banned Books Week to be that momentary action that we take, you know, this needs to be a lasting impact because even though, you know, Cameron, amazing Cameron here, was the last year’s Banned Books Week, youth honorary chair.

We saw during the legislative session. We still saw, you know, the results of, you know, people not being aware of what’s going on surrounding this issue. And that is an issue that we need to approach head on. And that’s what I just really want to use this position in this opportunity for.

Mickey Huff: Da’Taeveyon Daniel’s last point, before we go to Cameron and wrap up this segment, what would you tell other people that maybe you’re, you know, you have peers that are out there and they’re kind of on the sidelines.

You know, they’re like, it’s scary to some people to see. What you all are doing, right? Cause you know, maybe they don’t see it modeled in their communities, or maybe they don’t feel like it’s their place. But the two of you are poignant and potent reminders that it is, these people’s place. It is the young people’s place to be on the front lines, doing these things.

Do you have anything you could say to encourage these folks or tell them how they can get involved?

Da’Taeveyon Daniels: Yeah, totally. So I love the on the spot question there, but you know, it’s just about, it’s just Seeing, being and seeing who you want to see represented in your own little niche communities and being able to, you know, express yourself, be yourself, love yourself and love your neighbor, even though they may look different from you, they may behave differently from you, they may have different viewpoints and, you know, they may express themselves differently.

It’s about being able to love one another and, you know, unify, you especially in a time where politically we’re so divided in this country. It’s about being able to come together and respect one another, respect each other’s opinions while not telling each other, you know, you can’t have this opinion because I have my own opinion.

That’s what this moment is about. And that’s what I call upon every young person in this nation to do. I say, look at yourself. You don’t want To be censored for who you are. You don’t want people to tell you you can’t be who you want to be. So don’t try and don’t allow, you know, the adults in the situation to tell your other peers that who may not who may not, you know, just look.

Or sound like, you know, it’s about loving one another. It’s about caring for one another and protecting one another, because if we don’t, we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of and our rights to be stripped away.

Mickey Huff: Well, so, so well put Da’Taeveyon Daniels. Thank you so much for sharing that perspective with us.

And, Cameron Samuels, you know, I’m going to come to you with the same. What are you, some words of encouragement to get more people involved, like the two of you.

Cameron Samuels: This Banned Books Week is a perfect time for you to identify where you can play a role in defending intellectual freedom. Anyone can sign up to speak at a school board meeting, and that’s a great place for your voice to be heard.

If you didn’t already know, your voice is powerful, and it can change political decisions. This is also a time where you can write your narrative. Write an op ed for your local newspaper. You can write powerful poetry, do something creative. There’s plenty of opportunities for you to… Reflect on this issue of censorship and what it means, what it’s impacting you and how you can play an active role in

Mickey Huff: fighting it.

So Cameron Samuels, this past year’s Youth Honorary Chair from Banned Books Week. Is there a thing, is there, is there a way that you want to share with our audience how people could follow your work or get in touch with you if you’d like to share that?

Cameron Samuels: Yes, Students Engage in Advancing Texas at studentsengaged. org. Da’Taeveyon and I are great and powerful team members with so many others who are on the front lines of educational decisions. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Visit our website to get action alerts so you can be engaged with us.

Mickey Huff: Wonderful news.

And Da’Taeveyon Daniels, this year’s Youth Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week at bannedbooksweek. org. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us that we didn’t get to today or ways in which people can follow more of your work? Yeah.

Da’Taeveyon Daniels: Well, this work is not about me. It’s about all of us. So I’ll just say this.

Stay up to date. Watch the news. Well, I’ll be a little careful when I say that. But watch certain news outlets, you know. Absorb as much as you can go to ncac. org to learn more about resources and, you know, find areas where these book fans are being targeted. And when you see the actual data points on the map, you’ll be like, Oh, my God, this is happening.

You know, just be. Present and aware. You don’t necessarily have to be engaged in this, but you must be aware because if you’re not aware, that’s how they take our rights away. And that’s how they essentially censor us and tell us we don’t matter. Be

Mickey Huff: a critical thinker. Imagine, imagine it, imagine it. I’ve only been teaching critical thinking for 23 years.

But you know, if I have students like, like the two of you, I’m, I’m in, I’m in good shape because we can really build on that work together. And Da’Taeveyon, I like how you said our work, it’s all the work that we need to do and pitch in. But I want to thank the both of you for the amazing efforts that you’re putting in that contribute to that.

It’s no small contribution, what you all are doing with SEAT and what you’ve been doing with Banned Books Week. And I want to both congratulate you, the both of you. And thank you emphatically for the work you’re doing for Banned Books Week, for the right to read. Cameron Samuels, Da’Taeveyon Daniels, thank you so much for joining us on the Project Censored show today.

Thank you, Mickey. Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. And just a quick shout out. I want to give a big thanks to the great work of Chris Finan, who’s the outgoing head of national coalition against censorship, an amazing force, protecting people’s rights of expression and fighting against censorship for so long project sensor.

It’s a. a proud member of the National Coalition Against Censorship and also welcome to Lee Roland, certainly looking to working, more and more with NCAC as we go forward. Next up on the Project Censored Show, we continue the theme of Banned Books Week by interviewing and talking with Jonah Winter, an author of banned books, and also his newest book is literally called Banned Book.

Stay with us.