NEW YORK— Each year National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), an alliance of 59 of the nation’s leading education and publishing organizations, recognizes the notable contributions of Free Speech Defenders whose activism has had a profound impact on the protection of First Amendment rights in schools, libraries, and publishing.

Tony Award Winner Daniel J. Watts is the host of the star-studded event that will take place on November 15, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. ET, at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza in New York, where such notable freedom of expression advocates as Colin Kaepernick, George M. Johnson, Michael Bamberger, and Edha Gupta will receive Free Speech Defender Awards.

First Amendment Lawyer Michael Bamberger is one of the leading First Amendment lawyers in the US. He has appeared in over 100 First Amendment cases before the US Supreme Court, nine federal courts of appeals, the New York Court of Appeals, federal and state trial courts, and the state supreme courts of Arkansas, Georgia, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, and Tennessee. Presented by Vans Stevenson, Motion Picture Association.

Edha Gupta, Free Speech Defender, Student is a 17-year-old activist who served as the president of the Panther Anti-Racist Union during the 2021-2022 school year. As a high school student in York, Pennsylvania, Edha led fellow students in a successful protest over a school board ban on an anti-racist resource guide. Gupta’s Academic Advisor Ben Hodges.

George M. Johnson, Free Speech Defender, Author. Despite efforts to silence George M. Johnson, an author, journalist, and activist, by banning their book All Boys Aren’t Blue, they continue to speak out for understanding, acceptance, and free speech. Johnson has written on race, gender, sex, and culture for Essence, the Advocate, BuzzFeed News, Teen Vogue, and more than 40 other national publications. Television host Tamron Hall will present the award.

Colin Kaepernick, Free Speech Defender, Author. New York Times bestselling author and record-breaking NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is recognized for his efforts to bring attention to systemic oppression against Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. Since 2016, he has founded and helped fund three organizations—Know Your Rights Camp, Ra Vision Media, and Kaepernick Publishing—that collectively advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling and political education. The award will be presented by Director Spike Lee.

Phil Harvey (1938-2021) will receive the Leanne G Katz Founder’s Award (in memoriam). Harvey (1938-2021) spent a lifetime defending free speech. He founded the DKT Liberty Project to protect against government intrusions on personal liberty, focusing on fighting for free speech, criminal justice reform, and drug law reform. He also founded an international charity that promotes free access to birth control and HIV AIDS prevention information.  He was a long-time member of the NCAC board. Presented by Chris Finan, Executive Director, NCAC, and accepted by his partner Harriett Lesser.

High School Librarian Martha Hickson is the 2022 recipient of the Judith Krug Outstanding Librarian Award. Hickson has successfully fought six attempts to ban books and actively protects students’ right to read in her New Jersey school district. She has worked to share freedom to read best practices with school librarians by presenting at conferences and webinars, including the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), Future Ready Schools, Freedom to Read Foundation, and the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL). Author David Levithan will present the award.

NCAC will honor Aryeh Neier with its Judy Blume Lifetime Achievement Award for Free Speech. Neier is a human rights activist who has dedicated more than four decades to fighting for those marginalized by society. He is a co-founder of Human Rights Watch, a past leader of the ACLU, and serves as president emeritus of the Open Society. He is the author of more than 300 op-eds and seven books and contributed chapters to more than 20 books. Neier served as an adjunct law professor at New York University and taught at Georgetown University Law School and the University of Siena (Italy). Presented byAnthony Romero, Executive Director ACLU.

NCAC will also honor the winner of NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Film Contest, Lipicka Prasath, for her film on censorship, Appetizer.  The event is co-chaired by Ellie Berger President of Trade Publishing Scholastic and Ellen Goldsmith – Vein, Founder & CEO of The Gotham Group.

About National Coalition Against Censorship
Since its inception in 1974, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has functioned as a first responder in protecting freedom of expression, a fundamental human right, and a keystone of democracy. Representing 59 trusted education, publishing, and arts organizations, NCAC encourages and facilitates dialogue between diverse voices and perspectives, including those that have historically been silenced.