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Why Join PEN America?

Art credits: Nicole Viloria

Written by: Brenda Davila


Salman Rushdie got a death threat for his novel titled The Satanic Verses. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were imprisoned for reporting the true crimes that happened during the massacre of Myanmar. Kyla Jenee’s poem “White Privileges” for being played in a classroom, later on, got the teacher fired. And, Roman Protesavich, who spoke about the dictatorship in Belarus, was imprisoned and tortured. One thing all these people have in common is they were not intimidated to make their voices heard, no matter the consequences they suffered afterward. PEN America is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1922. PEN’s mission focuses towards the celebration and protection of writing freely and honoring literature. The idea that literature and journalism have the capacity to bring people together, create empathy, and start discussions is at the core of PEN America's purpose. Through scholarships, fellowships, and mentorship programs, the organization assists both upcoming and seasoned authors. PEN America strives for a literary environment that represents the vast range of human experiences by recognizing the accomplishments of different voices and encouraging inclusion.

PEN America provides a doorway to a world of writing inquiry and activity for Miami Dade College undergraduate students. Participating in PEN America's activities may provide individuals with favorable chances to deepen their understanding of storytelling, social justice, and freedom of speech. Students get access to renowned writers, may participate in conversations on current events, and can contribute to a larger dialogue about literature and human rights thanks to the organization's activities, events, and resources.

For these reasons, PEN America comes into the picture.

“We recognize the power of the word to transform the world.”

They abide by that mission statement. PEN America assures people worldwide the freedom to not only create literature, but to allow journalists, bloggers, writers, poets, and others their freedom of speech.

During a visit of PEN America to Miami Dade College- Padron Campus, speakers guided students to understand academic freedom, the use of their rights to learn, study, and research, and how to properly implement their rights to freely express themselves. The central aim of this visit was to inform and motivate MDC students about the PEN America Free Expression Advocacy Institute that will take place in the spring semesters. This institute is an intensive eight-week online program that will train students to learn theories, laws, histories, and methodologies behind free expression advocacy. It also includes presentations led by PEN America policy practitioners, workshops, and collaboration among peers to discuss deeper current issues in our community.

Some of the topics previously covered in this program were: The First Amendment and its Limitations, Counter-Speech and Combating Hate, Freedom of the Press and the Local News Crisis, Media Literacy, and Free Speech Online, among many others. Together, students will develop a vast improvement in their understanding of advocacy and free expression rights alongside PEN America and the Student Press Law Center’s Global Press Freedom Advocacy Institute. The above mentioned focus their educational goal on national and global issues of student journalism and press freedom.

I had the privilege of being a part of these two incredible programs. I was honored to be taught about current issues that are hardly mentioned inside a classroom. PEN America has equipped me with the resources I need to successfully promote and protect the essential right to free expression. The program has expanded my awareness of the difficulties and tactics involved in defending free speech through interesting seminars, expert-led debates, and practical exercises.

These institutes have not only expanded my knowledge of free speech and press freedom but also given me the tools I need to effectively fight for these fundamental rights. I strongly advise my peers to participate in these programs for a number of reasons:

  • They deeply help you comprehend the significance of press freedom and freedom of speech in a worldwide context. The need for advocating these concerns is more than ever, and being equipped with the knowledge and abilities to deal with them is vital.

  • The institutes promote a sense of empowerment by giving students the knowledge, skills, and assets they need to actively promote these fundamental rights.

  • The networking experiences and contacts acquired via these programs provide doors to upcoming partnerships and changes in the areas of activism, media, and human rights. I was able to network with multiple undergraduate students all over the nation and hear their ideas, projects, and points of view.

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