Literary Activism Summit

The Literary Action Coalition will come together to showcase the Literary Activism Summit on February 25, 2023, 12-4 PM at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 

For generations, writers and readers have made New York City one of the literary capitals in the country. Literary artists and activists have honed their craft and shared their voices in NYC’s cafes, parks, bookshops, sidewalks, libraries, bars, and galleries. The Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, the Nuyorican Movement, and the landscape of the West Village, Loisaida, Harlem and El Barrio pay homage to the pivotal role that the literary arts have played throughout New York City’s history to make our city more equitable and inclusive to all. 

In partnership with PEN America, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Literary Activism Summit will highlight the past, present, and future of Literary Activism in New York City. The event will be made up of two panel conversations, followed by a keynote speaker featuring writer and activist Iris Morales.

The event is free and open to the public. Poets from Ars Poetica’s network will be on-site to write free personalized poems for attendees.  Live captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided. Free lunch will be provided as well.

The first 100 people to sign in at the event will receive gift bags with free books and other materials. All attendees must RSVP to receive a gift bags.


Doors will open at 11:30am. For any questions, please email Saeri Plagmann at [email protected].

The Right to Read in NYC

How can New Yorkers join the fight against banned books across the country? What barriers exist here in our own city that obstruct the right to read for New Yorkers? What literary activist practices can we take, individually and collectively, to protect the right to read? Moderated by Kasey Meehan (PEN America), this panel will feature speakers Monica Carter (LAMBDA Literary), Amy Mikel (Brooklyn Public Library), and Saraciea J. Fennell (The Bronx Is Reading). 


Kasey Meehan is the Program Director for Freedom to Read at PEN America, leading PEN’s initiatives to protect the rights of students, individuals, and communities to freely access literature in schools and public libraries. Kasey oversees and supports research, advocacy and mobilization, education, and author engagement related to book bans and the overarching freedom to read. Kasey is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum, yoga student and certified teacher whose practice is grounded in social justice reform and the ideals that change comes from self-inquiry and collective work.


Monica Carter (she/her) is a writer, poet, and reviewer. She is a graduate of Bennington College’s MFA program in fiction. She was a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, a Lambda Literary Foundation LGBT Emerging Voices Fellow, and a fiction graduate of the prestigious PEN Center’s MARK program. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in literary journals and anthologies. Monica is the program manager for Lambda Literary’s LGBTQ Writers in Schools. She is currently finishing her first novel.

Saraciea J. Fennell is a Brooklyn born Black Honduran American from the Bronx. She is the editor and author of Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, founder and CEO of The Bronx is Reading, a social good venture that aims to disrupt the access to books and literacy in the Bronx. She is also the creator of Honduran Garifuna Writers, and board chair of Latinx in Publishing. She has written for publications like Mitú, Popsugar Juntos, Remezcla, Culturess and more. Please visit her at and follow her on social @sj_fennell. 

Amy Mikel is the Director of Customer Experience at Brooklyn Public Library, responsible for implementing exceptional library services in the areas of reference, circulation and collections across 61 branch locations. She oversees the Library’s circulating print, media, eBooks and database collections as well as the processes and policies which govern patron account management and materials circulation.




Writing the Future of NYC

How can writers help to imagine and shape the future of New York City? How can writing be used to support the structural change needed to make New York a more inclusive and equitable home for its most marginalized communities? In this panel conversation, participants will speak to how they’ve used writing to challenge and expand the social climate of New York City. Moderated by Harlem poet and educator Brittany Barker, the panel will feature speakers Raquel Willis, Lucy Yu, and Andres “Jay” Molina.


Brittany Barker is a poet, educator and consultant from Harlem, NYC. She is the director of Creative Soul House, a community-development company that designs and facilitates people-development workshops, programs and events for youth and adults. Brittany has impacted hundreds of youth and adults as a teacher, creative leader and advocate for community wellness, and has been recognized by the Walton Foundation for her transformative work in arts education. She is a member of Pen America’s first Writing As Activism Fellowship cohort, currently working on a poetry collection about self and collective recovery.


Stephanie Pacheco is the 2023 NYC Youth Poet Laureate (a program founded by Urban Word), a student, and an organizer from The Bronx. She has performed her poetry at multiple cultural landmarks such as The Apollo Theater and The Schomburg Center, where she was also a Junior Scholar. She has been a leading organizer and strategist with several activist organizations, including the Healing Centered Schools Task Force, Alliance for Quality Education, and Teens Take Charge, working to mobilize youth across the city against educational injustice. Her poetry and advocacy has been highlighted by The Today’s Show, The New York Times, The Daily News, CBS, and other publications

Raquel Willis is a Black transgender activist, award-winning writer, and media strategist dedicated to elevating the dignity of marginalized people, particularly Black transgender people. Throughout her career, Raquel has held impactful positions like Director of Communications for The Ms. Foundation, executive editor of Out magazine, and a national organizer for Transgender Law Center (TLC). In 2018, she founded Black Trans Circles, a project of TLC, focused on developing the leadership of Black trans women in the South and Midwest by creating healing justice spaces to work through oppression-based trauma and incubating community organizing efforts to address anti-trans murder and violence. Follow Raquel on Twitter @RaquelWillis_ and Instagram @raquel_willis

Lucy Yu is the owner of Yu and Me Books located in Chinatown, Manhattan which opened in December 2021. She was a previous chemical engineer that no longer mixes chemicals and now focuses on creating community through sharing stories. She is working her dream job giving book recommendations to customers and sipping espressos with her regulars.




Alejandro Heredia head shotAlejandro Heredia is the community outreach manager for PEN America, where he develops literary advocacy and press freedom programming throughout the country. Before arriving at PEN, Heredia worked at SAG AFTRA, where he supported the movement to strengthen the commercials contract union industry. Since 2016, he has used his writing and organizing skills to create and support literary events in the Bronx, including efforts to resist gentrification in low-income communities. Heredia is passionate about the creative, intellectual, and social lives of Black LGBTQ people across the diaspora. In 2019, he launched a workshop and event series in the Bronx centering Black LGBTQ writers. He graduated from Dickinson College with a BA in English. 


Iris Morales is a longtime activist, educator, and author whose work focuses on social justice. Currently, she is an advisory board member of the Instituto de Formación Política of Mijente, an organization for Latinx people seeking racial, economic, gender, and climate justice. As founding director of Red Sugarcane Press, she publishes books about the history and culture of Puerto Rican, Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the Americas. Among others, Morales is the author of Through the Eyes of Rebel Women and the forthcoming Revisiting Herstories: The Young Lords Party and anthologist of Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century USA and Voices from Puerto Rico: Post Hurricane Maria. 

Morales was a leading member of the New York Young Lords during the 1960s and 1970s and produced ¡Palante, Siempre Palante! about this experience. Broadcast on public television in 1996, the documentary continues to be screened in classrooms and community venues.

Morales holds a JD from NYU Law School and an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College.