Freedom to Read Community Summit – Tulsa

Freedom to Read Community Summit Tulsa Event Image

PEN America, Black History Saturdays, and the National Geographic Society’s 2892 Miles To Go program are excited to announce our first Freedom to Read Community Summit in Tulsa for all ages this September leading up to Banned Books Week 2023! In this convening, community members will be welcome to engage with each other and leaders from PEN America and 2892 Miles to Go in a series of workshops and discussions on the nationwide book-banning crisis and the intolerance, exclusion, and censorship undergirding it.

Join us in person at the Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church on Saturday, September 9 from 10:00 am – 3:45 pm CT to learn more about PEN America’s latest report “Banned in the USA: State Laws Supercharge Book Suppression in Schools”  and the expanded censorship over the past year of literature themed on race, history, sexual orientation and gender. Following a presentation on our report, breakout workshops will then cover effective advocacy strategies for community members to consider. In closing, attendees will be able to hear from special guests and learn about additional opportunities and ways to get involved in PEN America’s Freedom to Read and Next Gen PEN America programming as well as the 2892 Miles to Go.


  • This program is FREE and available to all ages.
  • Attendees under 18 years old will need permission from a parent or legal guardian to register.
  • Registration is required and will stay open through the day of the event, Saturday, September 9, 2023. Please register as soon as possible if you plan on attending.
  • Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
  • If you have any questions, email us at [email protected].






PEN America, Black History Saturdays, and 2892 Miles To Go invite you to share your voice in our “Map of Voices” where you can easily record yourself reciting your favorite excerpt from a banned book. It is our hope that this map will elevate the power of storytelling and support continued efforts for freedom of expression. Contribute your voice here.






Start Time

End Time

Registration and Breakfast



Welcome and Opening Remarks



Presentation: “Banned in the USA – Educational Censorship and The Growing Movement to Ban Books”



Breakout Concurrent Workshops



Breakout Concurrent Workshops






Breakout Concurrent Workshops



Calls to Action



*subject to change


At 3:15pm, Black History Saturdays will invite attendees to attend a special panel convening following the event also taking place at the Historic Vernon AME Church.




Dr. Karlos K. Hill is Advisor to the President for Community Engagement and Regents’ Associate Professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He is also a proud affiliate faculty within the OU History Department and the Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israel Studies. Dr. Hill is the author of three books: Beyond The Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory, The Murder of Emmett Till: A Graphic History, and The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: A Photographic History. His book on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre won the 2022 Lynn McIntoch Award for Excellence, the 2022 Joan Kerr Patterson Book Award from the Western Historical Association, and 2022 Choice Outstanding Academic Title from the American Library Association. Dr. Hill founded the Tulsa Race Massacre Oklahoma Teacher’s Institute to support teaching the history of the race massacre to thousands of middle school and high school students. He also serves on the boards of the Clara Luper Legacy Committee and the Board of Scholars for Facing History and Ourselves. He currently is a weekly guest and featured contributor to the Areva Martin in Real Time radio show based in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Hill writes a series for The Nation magazine featuring the stories and work of community activists organizing for justice in Black communities.



headshot of Sabrina AdamsSabrina Adams is the PEN Across America program coordinator supporting the organization’s goal to mobilize PEN America communities nationwide to promote literary culture and defend free expression. Before joining PEN America, she was the membership coordinator at Association Forum in Chicago, IL, where she developed membership programs, maintained member data, and responded to member inquiries. A native Midwesterner, Adams has also interned for U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin in her Milwaukee, WI and Washington, DC. offices. She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago with a BA in political science and a BBA in marketing.

photo of Peris TushabePeris Tushabe is the free expression and education program coordinator at PEN America, supporting PEN America’s advocacy for free expression in educational institutions as well as the Free Expression Advocacy Institute. She earned her BA from Skidmore College in political science, minoring in French language studies. Born and raised in Uganda, she focused her research on youth movements in the country and the role that social media plays in pushing back against authoritarian governments. She has also served at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum as a public programming assistant, and worked for candidate Tedra Cobb in her campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a proud member of Phi Sigma Alpha and Phi Beta Kappa, and continues to be interested in the ways young people can harness power to push for their rights and more democratic and free futures.

Kristi Orisabiyi Williams headshotKristi “Orisabiyi” Williams is the great-great-granddaughter of Creek Freedmen, 1874 Supreme Court Justice Jesse Franklin of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She is also a descendant of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. As a community organizer and educator, Kristi serves as the founding director for Black History Saturdays, a school program teaching Black history to local families in Tulsa. Kristi also created the Standpipe Hill Home Buyers Program, serves as Program Manager for Fitting Back In Tulsa with World Won Development, and Consultant for Standpipe Hill Strategies. Her previous affiliations as the Chair to Tulsa’s Coalition for Social Justice spearheaded the efforts to rename the street named after Klansman Tate Brady and the Brady District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and prevailed. Kristi is the former Chairperson of the Greater Tulsa African American Affairs Commission and is a member of the 1921 Tulsa Mass Graves Oversight Committee for the City of Tulsa. Kristi is both an author and fierce community advocate in Greenwood, serving as the campaign manager for the current Tulsa District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall Harper. She also serves on the National Geographic Oklahoma Advisory Council. Since 2016 and led her campaigns since 2016. She also authored the book, “Healing Me for Me,” published in 2015. Kristi is also a proud member of The Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greenwood. Currently, Kristi serves on the National Geographic Oklahoma Advisory Council and has taken the role as lead storyteller on 2892 Miles To Go Geographic Walk for Justice, in partnership with National Geographic Society. In 2023, she led National Geographic’s Explorer Classroom series, “Stories and Wisdom Within The Land Around Us.’ That class engaged 260 classrooms and homes reaching 3,704 students across the county. In addition to using her voice to raise issues of race, reparations, historical justice, and equality, she has received the following awards for her unwavering service to the people of Greenwood, “Community Activist of The Year” from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, “Community Spirit Award” from The Tulsa African Ancestral Society, and the “Community Impact Award” from the Tulsa Juneteenth Inc. Her work has been featured in several films including the Human Rights Watch, the PBS documentary “The Fire and The Forgotten”, the Emmy winning CNN Films documentary “Dreamland: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street.”, ABC’s “Soul of a Nation”, OWN Network’s “Rebuilding Greenwood”, and the locally produced documentary “Oaklawn” playing in theaters across the country. It is her goal to create a living eulogy through storytelling and leave this world better than she found it.




2892 Miles to Go LogoThere are 2892 miles across the continental United States. Each of these miles symbolizes stories of the relationship between people and land that have been mistold, misrepresented, or omitted. 2892 Miles to Go is a social justice education program centered on amplifying local community stories about justice, race, and equity that are often left out of common narratives of human history. Our hope is to become the antidote to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s eloquent definition of “The Danger of a Single Story” by holding space for and elevating the stories of many. We believe that the land we live on never forgot these stories, and we want to remember – and reclaim – them together. Through the support of the National Geographic Society, 2892 collaborates with local educators, change-makers, and other visionaries who are passionate about community-led storytelling to journey along selected routes in their own communities and then create visually compelling digital educational resources that are rooted in collective wisdom and represent the voices and experiences of many. We collaborate with educators and local leaders to help create more informed, empathic, and united communities. In this way, our aim is to rebalance the imbalance of the kinds of stories and histories that have been available across the education landscape in order to shift the learning experiences of the young people who will inherit this land.


Black History Saturdays Logo

Black Oklahomans past and present hold a pivotal position in understanding the black experience in America. Just over 100 years since the destruction of Greenwood in Tulsa, OK and in the midst of concerted efforts to mute the teaching of history (through policy like HB 1775) its critical to uncover the untold history of the Black experience in Oklahoma. Launching in Tulsa, Black History Saturdays is a community education program created for the purpose of educating young people, their families, and the wider community toward a more honest and comprehensive understanding of Black history in Oklahoma and across the globe. The goal is to increase public knowledge, promote youth engagement, and equip the next generation of change-makers with historical and cultural knowledge that will inspire them to create powerful impact within their communities.


Vernon AME Church logoHistoric Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1905 and the basement of the current edifice was built in 1919. During the worst race massacre in American history, the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, the superstructure, parsonage, and sanctuary still under-construction were destroyed but the basement remained as a symbol of God’s persevering power. The congregation completed the current sanctuary in 1925. In fact, Vernon AME Church is the only intact, standing black-owned structure that remains from the Historic Black Wall Street era.