Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn
Sun., Oct. 1, 12 p.m., UU Congregation of Fairfax, Sanctuary
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn served as the 56th Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, and is the first woman to serve in that role in the 400-year history of Virginia’s legislature. She continues to represent the 41st House District, which includes portions of Fairfax County. She has been an advocate for public education and gun violence prevention, and has previously served as the director of intergovernmental affairs for the administrations of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
Saturday Opening Session Speakers
Sat., Sep. 30, 10 a.m., River Road UU Congregation, Sanctuary
Ministers and staff from Cedar Lane UU Congregation, UU Congregation of Fairfax and River Road UU Congregation will discuss the role of a liberating faith in countering religious nationalism. Speakers include festival coordinator and social justice coordinator at the Cedar Lane and Fairfax UU congregations Andrew Batcher, as well as Rev. Abhi Janamanchi from the Cedar Lane UU Congregation, Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd and Rev. Amanda Weatherspoon from the River Road UU Congregation, and Rev. David A. Miller from the UU Congregation of Fairfax.
Drag Story Time
With Vee Majesty, left, and Hazel Dereon. Vee Vee Majesty is a Latina DMV drag artist and story teller. Hazel Dereon is a well-known drag performer in the DC area.
Sat., Sep. 30, 11 a.m., River Road UU Congregation, Sanctuary
Juana Medina was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She is the author and illustrator of multiple children’s books, including the book series Juana & Lucas, winner of the prestigious Pura Belpré Award and two International Latino Book Awards.
Juana’s passion for storytelling has led her to work on exciting projects with numerous clients, among them the Library of Congress, Apple and PBS, as well as publishers such as Candlewick Press, Chronicle Books, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster.
A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Juana is an assistant professor at George Mason University’s School of Art. She has been the recipient of honors given by the National Cartoonists Society, the American Library Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others.
As someone who seldom found herself represented in books as a child, Juana understands the importance of inclusivity and representation in the stories we share. She partners with multiple literacy efforts around the country, to visit schools and libraries, encouraging children to read and find power in their own personal stories.
J.P. Der Boghossian is the host of the podcast “This Queer Book Saved My Life.” Twice-named new and noteworthy by Apple Podcasts, “This Queer Book Saved My Life” is listened to in more than 1,600 cities worldwide and has featured major literary lights in the LGBTQIA+ community including Carmen Maria Machado, Alison Bechdel, Jennifer Finney Boylan, and four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis. A 2022 Lambda Literary fellow, J.P.’s essays have appeared in “The Sun Isn’t Out Long Enough” (Anamot Press) and “We Are All Armenian” (University of Texas Press). J.P. founded the Queer Armenian Library, which is the world’s first and only library for books, film, TV and art by, for and about Queer Armenians. He speaks nationally and internationally on issues of Queer Armenian identity and literature, LGBTQIA+ health equity and creating culturally responsive organizations. He currently serves on the board of the International Armenian Literary Alliance.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was born in Anderson, IN, in a tiny house on Chestnut Street that her dad and grandfather helped build. She has been making up stories as far back as she can remember. Her first story was published when she was 16 and she just turned in the manuscript for her 150th book. She writes for both children and adults but is most known for her young adult fiction. Her Shiloh series won a 1992 Newbery award. Books in her Alice series are among the most frequently challenged books over the last decade.
Libraries on the Front Lines Panel
Sun., Oct. 1, 1 p.m., UU Congregation of Fairfax, Sanctuary
Shari has worked in libraries for more than 15 years, including director for Roanoke County, VA. She is currently Director of Democracy and Community Impact at Urban Libraries. Before her library career, she worked in community engagement and outreach in nonprofits and is a published writer. Shari is driven by the desire to impact the community for good by connecting resources to people, and by her undying belief that libraries are fundamental to healthy democracies.
Mary Pellicano is a retired school librarian. After earning her master of library science at Syracuse University, she worked for Loudoun County Public Schools in Northern Virginia for more than 15 years. She has served on a variety of government and nonprofit boards and commissions, including the Loudoun County Public Library Board of Trustees, the Arc of Loudoun, the Thomas Balch (Leesburg) Library Commission and the Loudoun County Advisory Commission on Youth. In 2019, Ms. Pellicano was recruited to the American Library Association’s Policy Corps, a cadre of library professionals from across the country who work to advocate for and support libraries and uphold the public’s right to free and open information. In retirement, Ms. Pellicano continues to work on advocacy issues with the Policy Corps and serving on the Talbot County Free Library Board of Directors.
Latina DMV goddess, drag artist and story teller Vee Vee Majesty wants to make the world a better place; one flower at a time. She loves the artistry, community and advocacy that comes with drag.
Leon Van der Goetz
Leon van der Goetz is the executive director and founder of NoVA Prism Center, a library and community center serving the Northern Virginia LGBTQIA+ community. He graduated from James Madison University in 2012 with a degree in computer science. In 2022, he pivoted to the nonprofit space by founding NoVA Prism Center as a response to a rise in challenges and bans against books featuring LGBTQIA+ representation. Through navigating his own coming-out journey in isolation while living in Japan through the worst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, he came to understand how critical representation and connection are for the LGBTQIA+ community. After founding NoVA Prism Center under fiscal sponsorship in May 2022, Leon led the library to achieve the CORE Foundation Community Hero Rookie of the Year award in October 2022. When not cataloging books or planning community events, Leon enjoys playing video and board games and collecting textile crafting hobbies.
Kelsey Lawrence is a mom of four and avid library lover. When extremists came for her local library – Samuels Public Library in Front Royal, VA – she knew she had to do something. Kelsey organized and created Save Samuels with a friend in June 2023 and was able to put her leadership skills and passion for the community to good use. Kelsey was recently hired as a regional organizer for Virginia Red Wine and Blue and brings that same community passion to fight against book bans and for inclusive education for our children.
Workshops and Presenters
LGBTQIA+ book bans and anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation are at an all-time high, and yet queer artists, creators and writers are experiencing an all-time high in both representation and participation in mainstream media. How do we respond to this systematic and country-wide silencing of a compelling, prolific and beautiful new chorus of LGBTQIA+ voices?
Drawing on his experiences hosting the popular podcast This Queer Book Saved My Life, as well as founding the Queer Armenian Library, J.P. Der Boghossian will show the real-life impacts book bans and censorship have on the LGBTQIA+ community. But J.P. will also share specific stories of how queer books have saved lives and how we can glean lessons from these stories to build community to ensure our collective freedoms.
Comedy for Change by Grassroots Comedy
Sat., Sep. 30, 2 p.m., River Road UU Congregation, Room 32
What is more connecting than a funny story? Join comedians Chris Blackwood, Kasha Patel and Dana Fleitman from Grassroots Comedy as they discuss how comedy can be used as a tool for social change.
When We Organize, We Win! Troublemaker Training & Relational Outreach with Lara Bury
Sat., Sep. 30, 2 p.m., River Road UU Congregation, Fireside Room
Sun., Oct. 1, 2 p.m., UU Congregation of Fairfax, Program Building Chapel
Want to learn how to effectively bring people together and change your community? Ever wondered how to cut through the chaos and have authentic conversations with impactful messaging strategies that work? We got you covered! Let’s talk best tips and tricks for having the conversations with our friends. We love to talk, we’re good at it, so let’s do it with purpose! Lara Bury, the Deputy Director for Red Wine & Blue is a suburban woman, baseball mom and military spouse in Northern Virginia. She puts her decades of marketing, programming and leadership experience towards igniting and propelling women in community-driven mobilization.
Book Banning from Nazis to Now with Andrew Batcher and Shira Ehrlich
Sat., Sep. 30, 3 p.m., River Road UU Congregation, Fireside Room
Book banning has been a part of fascism since fascism began. Nazis banned books, rewrote history, and created anti-Semitic conspiracies to justify genocide. Current book bans and conspiracy fantasies target many of the same people. This bonus workshop session is a conversation about fascism today and how it relates to the fascism of Nazi Germany.
Andrew Batcher is the social justice coordinator at the UU Congregation of Fairfax and Cedar Lane UU Congregation. He has 20 years community organizing experience in social movements including the anti-war movement, Black Lives Matter, Occupy and the anti-racism, anti-fascism and pro-democracy movements.
Shira Ehrlich has a master of communication from the Johns Hopkins University. Her thesis detailed a comparative textual analysis of two websites sponsored by grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. She has conducted further research into the parallels between the right-wing efforts of Nazi Germany and those of current U.S. extremist groups.
The Whitewashing of History, Then and Now with Mitch Chan and Patty Pearson
Sun., Oct. 1, 2 p.m., UU Congregation of Fairfax, Program Building Social Hall
Who writes the history books? Recent debates over “critical race theory,” “divisive concepts” and the Virginia history and social studies standards of learning show how politics influence the historical record. How do we ensure that history taught in schools is inclusive of diverse perspectives? Join history educator and author Patty Pearson and Hamkae Center Organizing Team Lead Mitch Chan as they discuss their own efforts for inclusive history.