SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sarasota community members and activists pushed back against state and local book bans on Wednesday in the form of a banned book fair and read-in. Nearly 1,000 banned or challenged books in Florida and across the country were on display, free for the taking.
“Something like this is so important,” said Queen Meccasia Zabriskie. “Because we are in the middle of a wave of educational censorship in our local community, in our state and across the nation.”
Some of those banned books, including titles for kids, teens and adults, were read aloud to an audience of nearly 100.
The fair and read-in was put on by the Manasota Anti-Racism Coalition and multiple other organizations, some of which had tables set up at the Fogartyville Community Media and Art Center.
“I’m really concerned when I see these things being shut down without any debate,” Zabriskie said. “And not all parents’ voices being listened to.”
In a statement to 8 On Your Side, teen organizer Cynthia Medina said:
“I am disappointed that my own teachers and my siblings’ teachers, are not able to display educational books in their own classrooms. I am disappointed that our own legislators, those that are supposed to be representing us, are not. I don’t feel represented as a student directly affected by what’s occurring. My own teachers and my own parents are scared for what will happen next. They are scared for what is going to be banned next and who will be attacked next. This is simply the beginning.”Cynthia Medina, Braden River High School
But Gov. Ron DeSantis and his education commissioners say they’re not banning books — they’re protecting kids from pornographic material.
“I just think parents, when they’re sending their kids to school,” DeSantis said in March. “They should not have to worry about this garbage being in the schools.”
Attendees of the read-in disagree.
“I’m appalled,” said Mitsi, an attendee. “I think it’s based on true ignorance and a lack of curiosity.”
Some say, kids, especially pre-teens and up, should be able to decide for themselves what they do and do not want to read.
“It’s really taking a major step backwards, culturally,” Mitsi said. “To start talking about banning books.”
The books were donated by the American Federation of Teachers and the New College of Florida chapter of the United Faculty of Florida. Almost all of the nearly 1,000 books were given away.