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How Moms For Liberation Is Fighting Book Bans And Championing Our Legacy

Black Mothers Are Fighting Book Bans
(Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images)

Throughout our history, Black parents have been forced to grapple with the loss of our autonomy when it comes to raising our children. During slavery, Black parents were not allowed to make decisions on behalf of their children, including being able to teach them to read or write. Black children and adults in slave-holding states were legally prohibited from learning to read. Under many circumstances, the punishment for being caught with a book would be death, violence, or mutilation. However, even under the threat of  harm or death, enslaved people found ways to resist oppression by secretly learning to read and write. Today, a new battle looms—one that aims to shroud our intellectual legacy in darkness. It’s the battle against book bans and censorship, a fight that strikes at the heart of our heritage and our future. 

Over the past two years, as Black people were grappling with the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and a global reckoning and uprising against police violence following the murder of George Floyd, conservative groups and right-wing extremists were plotting and planning their next set of attempts to silence our voices and to restrict our freedoms. Book bans have become a part of a movement to undercut the gains from affirmative action, DEI efforts, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s

Groups like Moms for Liberty and Governor Ron DeSantis strategically back conservative school board members, aiming to eliminate diverse books and erase African American history curriculum. Our stories, our narratives, and our voices—these are the treasures of our heritage. They embody the essence of who we are, our struggles, our triumphs, and our resilience. Yet, there are those who seek to silence these voices, to deny us access to literature that celebrates the Black experience and promotes diverse cultural perspectives.

When we suppress literature that celebrates our culture and reflects our struggles, we limit the capacity of our children to confront the injustices that persist in our society. We hinder their ability to think critically, to challenge the status quo, and to envision a world where equity and justice prevail.

Book challenges almost doubled from 2021 to 2022 and according to PEN America, there were 3,362 instances of books being banned during the 2022-23 school year. Forty percent of banned books happened courtesy of Florida; although Texas, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina are also leading the way to ban books. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ acclaimed work, Between the World and Me, which has been both a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a recipient of the National Book Award, was prohibited from being taught in a South Carolina high school this year. The ban came in response to concerns raised by students in an Advanced Placement (AP) English class who expressed discomfort, stating that the book made them feel “ashamed” about being white and “uncomfortable.”

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This act of suppression caused Coates to show up at a school board meeting in support of the teacher’s concerns about book bans and censorship. Some of our most beloved Black authors, critical thinkers, and literary giants have had their books banned. Our Black and brown children, in particular, bear the brunt of this censorship. They are denied access to stories that could inspire them, empower them, and help them navigate the complexities of the world with confidence.

Our children deserve better. They deserve access to stories that not only mirror their lives but also open windows to the broader world. They deserve literature that encourages them to dream, to aspire, and to stand tall with pride in their heritage.

Moms for Liberation is a counter-movement to Moms for Liberty, and to help educate Black and brown mothers, teachers, school board members, and community members about these issues and the seriousness of what is taking place. Moms for Liberation stands as a testament to the power of mothers who channel their love for their children into advocacy that sparks change within communities and institutions.

The organization also envisions a future where mothers stand as fierce advocates for justice, equality, and education. It is a cause where mothers take the reins of our children’s education and are unwavering in the pursuit of quality schooling.

The mission of Moms For Liberation extends far beyond the fight against book bans. It encompasses a vision for a just and equitable society, one that values diversity and embraces intellectual freedom. We are the guardians of our heritage, the defenders of our stories, and the champions of our children’s future.

As a mother and activist, I understand the importance, power and strength of mothers who dare to be the change they wish to see in this world. Our collective effort, along with allies who share our passion and commitment to justice, is a beacon of hope in these challenging times. 

In an era where our voices are still too often silenced, the battle for our intellectual freedom rages on. This is a call to action for mothers to be the torchbearers of change, the advocates for justice and equality, and the defenders of our heritage.

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