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Brookdale Community College conducted a faculty discussion via Zoom on Thursday, April 14. The meeting, titled “Education at the Intersections” followed a banned book read-in at the library from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

During the read-in, students, faculty, and staff read 15-minute increments of books that were deemed banned and challenged according to the American Library Association.

Panelists at the 7 p.m. evening program included Professor Roseanne Alvarez, English; Professor Kathleen Kennedy, English; Associate Professor Diditi Mitra, Sociology; Professor Brian Oland, Psychology; Professor Jane Scimeca, History; Assistant Professor Judi Ungar, Library; Shayla Ward, English Instructor.

The panel began by discussing the roots of the widespread book banning.

They all seemed to agree that this stems from political and even religious powers purporting that these books are a threat.

The panelists seemed to also agree that this is an attempt to silence the experiences of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities.

“It’s a group of people that may not have any relation to a school. They have an agenda. It’s a very different kind of banned books cycle than what I have seen before. This movement is very organized with a political agenda. People need to vote,” Ungar said.

“Fear of change in society. Very few women authors in English class. It’s as if women didn’t exist. More women were being included in the curriculum because women with PhDs wanted more women. As things are changing, it’s freaking people out. They’re trying to change it. The orthodox Christian churches are the ones particularly behind these bans in my opinion,” Scimeca said.

Some of the panelists expressed their concern over the people in power. They wondered why these politicians and religious leaders tend to keep their grip of power very tight.

“What is the big threat? It’s a small group of people trying to hang onto power. They’re using scare tactics and coming up with buzzwords to get people to be afraid. And then do the dirty work. Let us have our power, it’s not going to detract from your power,” Kennedy said.

“When you’re fearful and ignorant and won’t let people be who they are. There’s a certain level of discomfort. Are they being bothered by these individuals? I don’t see a lot of that,” Ward said.

As the meeting came to a close, they discussed one more question: What can people do to fight against this? “Run for office and write a ban-able book. Be vigilant and spread the truth. Keep countering it with the truth,” Kennedy said.

“Literature is a form of expression. We’re trying to silence people’s abilities to express their lived experiences. We have to fight the fight. I’m going to sit down and think about what it is that I want people to gauge from African Americans. People who were forced here to express their lived experiences,” Ward said.

Original article published in The Current.


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