Thanks to everyone who turned out for Unstoppable Stories: A Banned Books Festival on Sep. 30 and Oct. 1. See the links below for festival highlights and information about the festival and its organizers. Vanessa Hall, a leader in 4 Public Education, provides this excellent synopsis of the festival and why it was an important event. 4 Public Education champions public schools as the cornerstone of a healthy democracy and the rights for every child to an exceptional education.
- SPEAKER/PANELIST INFORMATION
- DONATE – donate to fund future faith-based efforts to counter book banning and censorship
- ORDER BOOKS ONLINE – at our Banned Bookstore through Loyalty Books.
- CONTACT – Andrew Batcher, with questions
Saturday Festival Highlights
The session kicked off with a short concert from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax Voices of Hope Youth Choir. Then, ministers and staff from Cedar Lane UU Congregation, UU Congregation of Fairfax and River Road UU Congregation discussed the role of a liberating faith in countering religious nationalism. Introduced by River Road UU’s Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd, the speakers included festival coordinator and social justice coordinator at the Cedar Lane and Fairfax UU congregations Andrew Batcher, as well as Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Cedar Lane UU Congregation; Rev. Amanda Weatherspoon, River Road UU Congregation; and Rev. David A. Miller, UU Congregation of Fairfax.
Facilitated by Anna Stolley Persky, creative writing MFA candidate, with panelists J.P. Der Boghossian, host of the podcast “This Queer Book Saved My Life;” Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of 150 books, including “Shiloh,” the 1992 Newbery Medal winner; and Juana Medina, author and illustrator of multiple children’s books, including the book series “Juana & Lucas.“
Drag Story Hour
With well-known DC-area drag story tellers Vee Vee Majesty and Hazel Dereon
Sunday Festival Highlights
Keynote by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn
Libraries on the Front Lines Panel
With Shari Henry, Director of Democracy and Community Impact at Urban Libraries; Mary Pellicano, former librarian and member of the American Library Association’s Policy Corps; Vee Vee Majesty, Latina drag artist and story teller; Leon Van der Goetz, executive director and founder of NoVA Prism Center; and Kelsey Lawrence, regional organizer for Virginia Red Wine and Blue
About Unstoppable Stories
Unstoppable Stories: A Banned Book Festival was part of the Teaching Truth Campaign and coincided with the launch of the 2023 Banned Books Week. As the festival name declares, Stories are Unstoppable. They celebrate who we are out loud, despite attempts at censorship. They lift up our experiences, connect us across our differences and are how we learn to be better people.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade and affirmative action, the targeting of LGBTQIA+ people, the whitewashing of history and other attempts to overthrow democracy make it clear that right-wing factions are set on enshrining hate into local, state and federal policies. Book banning is an historic, fascist tactic designed to silence, target and marginalize people.
Through the festival, organizers and sponsors hope to raise awareness of efforts to ban books and demonstrate why it’s important for progressive faith communities to come together in solidarity with marginalized groups whose stories are being silenced and even erased by these efforts.
The festival originated within the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Potomac Partnership (Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Congregation (CLUUC), UU Congregation of Fairfax and River Road UU Congregation). Other organizers, represented by more than 30 grassroots volunteers, include Loyalty Bookstores, Washington Ethical Society, UU Congregation of Columbia (MD), Rainbow Defense Coalition, Davies UU Congregation (MD), UU Congregation of Rockville, Unity of Fairfax, Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ, the Virginia UU State Action Network, This Queer Book Saved My Life podcast, Grassroots Comedy, NOVA Prism Center, Virginia Red Wine and Blue, FCPS Pride, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, SURJ NoVA (Showing Up for Racial Justice Northern Virginia), the Hamkae Center, Mason Creative Writing, Drag Story Hour DMV, Montgomery County Friends of the Library and the ACLU of Maryland. The organizing team grows every week.
- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax
- River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation
- Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Congregation
- Sharon Johnson, attorney and UUCF member
- Tricia Amstutz, Realtor
Here’s what the sponsoring congregations’ ministers had to say about the event.
Donations support future faith-based efforts to counter book banning and censorship:
- Donate through UU Fairfax’s Realm database: https://onrealm.org/UUCF/give/BBFest
- Text a donation: Text “UUFAIRFAX BBFest” to 73256 to give using your mobile device. This number will never send unsolicited texts to you. To cancel further messages, text STOP. If you need assistance with text giving, text HELP. Standard text message and data rates may apply.
- PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/UUCF?country.x=US&locale.x=en_US
- Checks: Make checks payable to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax and send them to Gayathri Tillekeratne, Finance Manager, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, 2709 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, VA 22124. Please write BBFest in the memo line.