On Monday, November 11th, 2019, the National Coalition Against Censorship celebrated its 45th anniversary by honoring Jason Reynolds and Carolee Schneemann (1939-2019) with Free Speech Defender Awards at a benefit celebration in New York City. The event, hosted by Drag Queen Story Hour’s Harmonica Sunbeam, also honored teen filmmakers Molly Smith and Sage Croft and featured a performance from NANCY DREW: THE MUSICAL.

Event chair Justin Chanda, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster Children’s Books presented the award to Jason Reynolds. In 2018, Reynolds’s novel All American Boys (co-written with Brendan Kiely) was challenged by police in Charleston, South Carolina who demanded its removal from a high school reading list. Reynolds’s novels give voice to stories too often hidden and speak to readers too often ignored. His entire body of work gives voice to those whose lives are all too easily silenced. His latest novel, Look Both Ways, is a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award. In his acceptance remarks, Reynolds spoke of the unconsciousness and disengagement caused by efforts to prevent young people from reading particular books or exploring difficult ideas.

Wendy Olsoff, co-founder of P.P.O.W., itself a pioneering art gallery, accepted Carolee Schneemann’s award. Schneemann’s pioneering work with the body repeatedly faced censorship: from cancelled screenings of her experimental 1967 film Fuses to removals of documentation from her 1975 performance Interior Scroll from exhibitions. Throughout, she fought boldly for artistic freedom and refused to be afraid. Schneemann was a passionate supporter of NCAC’s work and took part in several NCAC programs.

In collaboration with the New York Film Academy, NCAC welcomed the winners of this year’s Youth Free Expression Film Contest. Student filmmakers Molly Smith and Sage Croft accepted the award for their searing film “Dear America.”

NANCY DREW: THE MUSICAL, a co-production of Revilo Imaginations and Simon & Schuster, is an updated look at the iconic sleuth.

The event also featured an art auction co-curated by street artist Beau Stanton, featuring works from Marilyn Minter, Shepard Fairey, Katherine Bradford, Roy English, Louise Fishman, Betty Tompkins and Spencer Tunick.

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