NEW YORK— Every year, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) honors leaders in the fight for free speech defenders during its benefit, LET ME SPEAK: a Celebration & Benefit of Free Speech & Its Defenders. This year’s event, presented by Macmillan Publishers, will highlight the contributions of Juno Dawson, Coco Fusco, John Sargent, Madeline Scotti, and Nadine Strossen.
Critically acclaimed rapper, composer, and multi-hyphenate creator Raj Haldar – also known by his stage name Lushlife – will host the star-studded event on November 13, 2023, at Tribeca Rooftop, 2 Desbrosses Street, New York, New York, from 6 – 9:30 p.m. ET.
Free Speech Defender Juno Dawson is a British author and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate whose young adult book, global bestseller THIS BOOK IS GAY, is one of the most banned books in America – even as it nears 10 years since publication. She won the 2020 YA Book Prize for MEAT MARKET, and her first adult fantasy trilogy, HER MAJESTY’S ROYAL COVEN launched in 2022, and became an instant best-seller. Her first-ever picture book, YOU NEED TO CHILL!, published in May 2023, is a warm-hearted, inclusive story about a trans child and her sister. Juno’s honor will be presented by Ryan LaSala, a bestselling and award-winning author who writes about surreal things happening to queer people.
Free Speech Defender Artist Coco Fusco is an interdisciplinary Cuban American artist, writer, and curator. Her practice addresses themes of gender, identity, race, and power. In her writings and activism, Fusco has been a staunch defender of expressive freedoms and civil liberties, and as a result, she has been banned from entering Cuba since 2018. A retrospective of 30 years of her artwork entitled Tomorrow I Will Become an Island is currently on view at the KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin, and a new book about her work was just published by Thames & Hudson. Her most recent video works focus on the conflicts between artists and the state in Cuba. Her videos are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Whitney Museum, The Walker Art Center, The Centre Pompidou, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona. Hamlet Lavastida, a Cuban artist and former political prisoner who has collaborated with Fusco on several art projects, will present the award.
John Sargent, the former CEO of Macmillan Publishers USA, is set to receive the Leanne G Katz Founder’s Award for his contributions to the publishing industry. Throughout his career, Sargent worked in various aspects of the publishing business. He served as VP, of Finance and Administration for Checkerboard Press; president of the Children’s Book Division of Simon & Schuster; and CEO of Dorling Kindersley, Inc. He negotiated on behalf of the AAP in the Google Books settlement and responded to President Donald Trump’s cease and desist attempt to block the publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.
Free Speech Defender, Student award winner Madeline Scotti, a former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts student in Jacksonville, Florida, was set to play the Ingenue in their production of Indecent. School administrators canceled the play due to its “mature content.” Indecent, written by Paula Vogel, is a play about censorship and the first lesbian kiss in American theatre. Following the shutdown of the play, Madeline posted an Instagram video defending free expression and gained an international audience. She is graduating this summer and will attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall. Her former Theatre Teacher, Michael Beaman, will present the award.
Nadine Strossen, a scholar and activist who has written, spoken, and advocated extensively on free speech issues, will be awarded the Judy Blume Lifetime Achievement Award for Free Speech. An Emerita New York Law School Professor, Strossen was national President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008) and is now a Senior Fellow with FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression). In October, her newest book — Free Speech: What Everyone Needs to Know Know®— will be published, and Free to Speak, a three-part documentary film for which she served as Project Consultant and Host, will be released on public TV. The award will be presented by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) President/CEO Greg Lukianoff.
NCAC also will honor the winner of its Youth Free Expression Film Contest, who will be named in October. Jonathan Whittaker, Chair of Virtual Reality and Short-Term Programs at the New York Film Academy, will present the award.
For additional information regarding the Benefit, tickets, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit ncac.org/benefit, or contact NCAC’s Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Josh Corday, at [email protected]. Media interested in speaking with award recipients may contact Macey Morales, director of Communications National Coalition Against Censorship, at [email protected].
LET ME SPEAK: a Celebration & Benefit of Free Speech & Its Defenders Honorary Chairs include Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, and Aryeh Neier, co-founder of Human Rights Watch. Event Co-Chairs are Floyd Abrams, Senior Counsel, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP; Audrey Barsella, Communications Manager, Sourcebooks; Karen Gantz Zahler, President, Karen Gantz Literary Management; and Cody Lassen, Tony Award-Winning and Grammy Award Nominated American Theater Producer and Consultant. Committee members include Jon Anderson, President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; Molly Ellis, Vice President and Executive Director of Publicity, Macmillan Publishers; Beth Fitzsimmons, Director, Clients & Markets Dentons; Randall Kennedy, Professor, Harvard Law School; and Jonathan Whittaker. Chair of Virtual Reality and Short-Term Programs, New York Film Academy.
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 national education, publishing, and arts organizations, NCAC encourages and facilitates dialogue between diverse voices and perspectives, including those that have historically been silenced.