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Let’s Say Gay! Picnic and Play

Image promo for PEN America's Let's Say Gay! Picnic and Play

PEN America, the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), and Teens for Press Freedom are inviting students and free expression advocates of all ages to our first-ever “Let’s Say Gay! Picnic and Play”, an event designed to celebrate LGBTQ+ stories at a time when the voices and experiences of sexual minorities are being censored and banned outright in schools across the nation. Additionally, LGTBQ+ artists and writers around the world face a heightened risk of persecution and censorship, whether due to their identities or in retaliation for exploring LGTBQ+ themes in their creative work. Join our advocacy community as we unite this Pride Month to stand up and say “NO!” to censorship and “GAY!” in defiance.

We hope you will join us at Sheep Meadow in Central Park, the historical site where the 1st anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riot was commemorated with a “gay-in” organized by thousands of LGBTQ+ activists in New York City. Come read some banned books, paint faces and canvases in bright bold rainbow colors, and enjoy some classic New York pizza accompanied by live music. Get ready to support a variety of different calls to action to help students access LGBTQ+ stories and resources around the country!

At 7:00 pm, please join us afterward for a very special performance as we walk together to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to witness “The Survival”, a play written by award-winning Ugandan writer, playwright, and filmmaker, Achiro Patricia Olwoch, for the Criminal Queerness Festival.

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About the performance

“The Survival,” by Achiro P. Olwoch and directed by Jacob Basri.

Achan, feeling the pressure of being unmarried at 27, falls for Oyat after meeting him at a bar. Unbeknownst to Achan, Oyat is hoping she will be a surrogate for him and his boyfriend’s child. When Achan learns the truth from Oyat’s boyfriend, John, she must confront her own traditional upbringing to find love and new notions of family in modern Uganda.

About the artist

Achiro Patricia OlwochAchiro Patricia Olwoch hails from Gulu, in Northern Uganda and is an award-winning writer, playwright, and filmmaker. She is currently based in New York. Achiro is presently in the process of completing her late father’s manuscripts that he left behind after his death in 1994 and readying them to share with the rest of the world. This alongside her first novel ‘Sex or Slave’ set in 1950s Uganda during colonialism. She is an award-winning writer, director, and producer after winning numerous awards for her ‘Coffee Shop’ tv series as creator and writer and ‘Yat Madit’ as head writer, and her short films; ‘The Surrogate’, ‘The Mineral Basket’ and ‘Maraya Ni’. She is presently in post-production working on a feature documentary ‘My Prison Diary’ due for release in 2022 and she has three feature scripts – ‘The General’s Amnesty’, ‘The Uprising’, and ‘The Surrogate Play’ – in development. Achiro has been writing ever since she left the airline industry in 2007. She has worked as a radio scriptwriter, a playwright, and a film and television scriptwriter alongside writing her books. She has also worked as a sub-editor for the Ugandan lifestyle magazine ‘African Woman’ and also later as the Editorial Director for a lifestyle magazine that she started in Malawi called ‘The African Dzuwa’ meaning The African Sun. She has mentored a couple of emerging writers in the performing arts during annual residential workshops by the Kampala International Theatre Festival for the past two years.

About PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)

Artists at Risk Connection logo

The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a project of PEN America, safeguards the right to artistic freedom of expression around the world and works to ensure that artists of all disciplines everywhere can live and work without fear. With a global network of 800 organizations providing crucial resources for artists and cultural practitioners at risk, ARC plays the critical role of liaising between threatened artists and the organizations that support them. Since its inception, ARC has supported more than 500 artists from over 63 countries in receiving direct support, including fellowships and residencies, emergency funding, legal assistance, and advocacy, among other forms of assistance, from partner organizations. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC and read the Safety Guide for Artists, available in Spanish, English and French, to understand, navigate and prepare for risk. 

About teens for press freedom

Teens for Press Freedom logo

Teens for Press Freedom (TPF) is a national, youth-led organization dedicated to defending journalists and promoting factual literacy among youth. With increasing distrust in credible sources and an influx of fake news on social media, it’s crucial to educate young people on how to be smart, active consumers. TPF was founded in 2020 after cofounders Charlotte Hampton and Isabel Tribe attended the PEN America Summer Free Speech Advocacy Institute. TPF holds weekly open forum workshops to discuss press freedom issues and releases a weekly news blast to connect youth with accessible, verifiable information. TPF also advocates for the passage of legislation aimed at reviving local news and protecting the free press in America. Check out their websitesubscribe to their newsletter, and follow them on Instagram at @teensforpressfreedom and on Twitter at @teensforpress.

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