Information Session with PEN America Florida Director Katie Blankenship and Bard Early College Leader Stephen Tremaine

Katie Blankenship, Judy Blume, Lauren Groff, Mitchell Kaplan, and Stephen Tremaine photo credit: Nick Doll

by Christine Drewel, Ph.D.

 

Katie Blankenship and Stephen Tremaine hosted an information session on Saturday afternoon after a panel with Judy Blume, Mitchell Kaufman, and Lauren Goff about Book Banning and Anti-Reader policies in Florida. Blankenship and Tremaine answered questions, made connections, and networked with conference attendees. The chilly breeze from the cold front that moved through did not deter dozens from lining up for the opportunity to talk one-on-one with each presenter.

Tremain, Vice President for Network Education at Bard College, answered questions, talked with Bard College alumni and supporters, and articulated the importance of authentic and serious educational opportunities for students. He elaborated on the Early College program, https://bhsec.bard.edu/florida-courses/#courses, which provides free access to introductory college courses on Psychology, African American History, and Gender Studies to Florida high school juniors and seniors. He stressed the importance of understanding the relationship between education and autocracy and offering serious and robust access to education for all students. He directed several people to Bard College’s Resources and programs and encouraged everyone to contact him with any additional questions at: tremain@bard.edu.

Blankenship is the inaugural director of PEN America, https://pen.org. According to their website, PEN America “works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. It is a nationwide community of more than 7,500 novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals, as well as devoted readers and supporters.”

Blankenship talked with dozens at this session. Monroe County School District Board members, Florida and Georgia teachers, authors, the League of Women Voters, and many others lined up to network, articulate support for PEN’s advocacy, and get advice on resources or next steps in their community initiatives and struggles. Blankenship also offered her email k.blankenship@pen.org to everyone and encouraged each person to reach out for further connections and conversation. She engaged in a wide variety of topics including volunteering opportunities, paths to pursue active resistance against book banning, anti-reading legislation, and effective ways to find common ground in school board meetings.

Both Tremaine and Blankenship communicated the importance of ongoing activism, continuing optimism, and building on existing community partnerships in legal and political arenas at state, national, and global levels.

 

Christine Drewel, Ph.D. is a College of the Florida Keys Academy English Teacher and KWLS Scholarship Recipient

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