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ALA Conference opens with Right to Read Rally

There was a dramatic start to the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual conference in Chicago.  It held its first-ever Rally for the Right to Read at which keynote speaker, the novelist Ibram X Kendi invoked the spirit of the famous ‘freedom riders’ of the 1960s civil rights movement.

“I want to applaud library professionals, library workers, and your supporters for your everyday freedom fight,” he told delegates at the conference which wraps up on 27 June.  “[You are] fighting for our freedom from censorship, our freedom from book bans, our freedom from ignorance, our freedom from homophobia, our freedom from sexism, our freedom from racism.  There can be no greater compliment than to call a human being a freedom fighter. And if you’re fighting book bans, if you’re fighting against censorship, then you are a freedom fighter.”

The Freedom Riders of the Sixties were civil rights activists, black and white, who rode buses into the segregated south to protest at the southern states’ refusal to enforce non-segregated transport which had been approved by federal government. 

Kendi said that the book bans taking place today reminded him of the actions of the segregationists and enslavers of the Sixties and before.  “Today we are fighting an old fight from new segregationists… As much as this era is new, it is old. As much as we may feel alone fighting book bans, you have generations of company, and generations of Americans cheering you on in this freedom fight.”

He concluded with these passionate words: “We do not choose to become freedom fighters, the freedom fight chooses us. The freedom fight has chosen you. The freedom fight has chosen every single library professional in the country. The freedom fight has chosen every single American who reads the Bill of Rights beginning with the First Amendment, not the Second. The freedom fight has chosen every single person who treasures books, who treasures knowledge, who treasures the truth. The freedom fight has chosen every single American, who recognizes that an institution without books about racism, without books about homophobia, without books without books about the Holocaust, without queer characters, without books by authors of colour, is not a library—it is a propaganda shop masquerading as a library.”

 

 

 

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