• Home
  • Events Calendar

PEN America’s Free Expression Student Summit at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville

DAY 1: Friday, March 31, 2023 (4:00 PM – 6:00 PM)

DAY 2: Saturday, April 1, 2023 (10:00 AM – 3:30 PM)




This Spring, PEN America will be returning to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) to host a special Free Expression Student Summit full of thematic workshops and activities led by UTK student leaders and PEN America staff. The event will include an evening and a half day of programming that will help aim to equip attendees with the knowledge and skills necessary to promote free expression, combat hate, and fight against disinformation on campus, locally, and beyond.

On Friday, March 31 from 4:00pm – 6:00pm, students will be invited to the Summit launch with an introductory presentation about PEN America and free expression principles followed by a panel dinner featuring special guest activists and artists. The following day on Saturday, April 1 from 10:00am to 3:30pm, students will be invited to join a hands-on schedule complete with workshops led by student leaders on a variety of topics related to free expression including: international human rights, book bans and educational gag orders, news media literacy and combating disinformation, and protest rights in the United States. Participants will cap the day with a collaborative advocacy campaign activity working in groups to simulate responses to local issues through activism and the arts.

Registration is open to students at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to attend one or both days. 



DAY 1: MARCH 31, 2023 (4:00 pm – 6:00 PM)


“Free Speech Frontiers Around the World” featuring:


Perla Joe Headshot

Perla Joe is an artist and activist from Lebanon. In her own words, “My work is interdisciplinary and fuses the fields of poetry, music, film, interaction, and performance. Having started as a casting director, I have touched a sensibility between the people and the system. Forging ahead as a filmmaker, my short film Zugzwang won at the Yale Student Festival and it was screened at the Beirut International Women’s Film Festival, and Berlin Revolution Film Festival, among others. My practice engages in the space between the being and their reflections, in the movement between their conscious and unconscious – I define it as Wujud (Existence) – my ongoing creative process. Since my childhood, writing, composing, and singing has been supporting my expression and my growth, by radiating radical thoughts, existential questions, and empowering ideas. I have performed my original writings and compositions during live electro-oriental concerts at several venues in the Middle East. During the Lebanese Revolution that started in October 2019 and ever since, I have been capable of touching people by raising a humane and transparent voice – this got the cause noticed on an international level and featured in the New York Times, Arte, Le Temps, and Vogue, among others. I am an ardent public speaker, who has engaged in events and actions on the streets of Beirut and have been invited to speak at numerous universities and reputed forums in Lebanon and Europe. My journey advocates for freedom, love, and consciousness through my vocal and visual expression.”

Kubra Khademi headshotKubra Khademi is an Afghan performance artist and feminist currently based in Paris. Her work explores her experience as a refugee and a woman. She studied fine arts at Kabul University and at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, Pakistan. In Lahore she began to create public performances, a practice UN OHCHR (2013) Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed on the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity. Accessed 20 March 2020 that she continued upon her return to Kabul, where her work actively engaged the ways that extreme patriarchal politics dominate Afghan society. In 2015, after her performance piece Armor, about sexual violence, received immense backlash, Khademi was forced to flee her home country.

Daniel Alejandro Pinilla HeadshotDaniel Alejandro Pinilla is a Colombian journalist with more than nine years of experience in human rights and sustainable development. Pinilla is currently in the 2021 Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He has worked for international organizations such as the United Nations; Caritas Internationalis in Vatican City; and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, where he is currently project coordinator of the Rule of Law Program for Latin America. As a journalist, he wrote for the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo and the international news chain CNN. Most recently, he has led important initiatives using new technologies to promote human rights such as databases with open access to regional jurisprudence, virtual observatories of justice and journalism, the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights, and online courses to access international justice. He has worked on interdisciplinary approaches like connections between arts and human rights. Pinilla holds a bachelor’s degree in social communication and journalism from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Colombia) and a specialization in human rights from the Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant (Switzerland). In 2012, he was awarded a scholarship at the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in Costa Rica. Pinilla’s participation in HRAP is funded by friends of 1990 Advocate Felipe Michelini of Uruguay in his memory.

Activity: Starts: Ends:
Participant Check-in 3:30 PM 4:00 PM
Intro to Free Expression and PEN America 4:00 PM 4:30 PM
Break 4:30 PM 4:45 PM
Hybrid Panel and Dinner 4:45 PM

6:00 PM



DAY 2: April 1, 2023 (10:00 Am – 3:30 PM)


Free Expression Advocacy Workshop Series featuring:


headshot of Nicholas PerezNicholas “Niko” Perez is the program manager of free expression and education at PEN America. In this role, he advances PEN America’s efforts to catalyze a more informed, civic culture through free expression education for the rising generation and the general public, and supports advocacy, analysis, and outreach in the national debate around free speech and inclusion in higher education. Perez leads the Next Gen PEN America campaign, committed to empowering a new generation of free expression advocates and building a youth advocacy network that can work together to facilitate positive change. Perez previously worked for the Columbia University Human Rights Advocates Program and consulted for the Human Rights Education and Training section at the United Nations. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in human rights and humanitarian policy and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in international politics. He also was a Global Leadership Fellow at Waseda University in Japan, a Model United Nations advisor at Mira Costa High School, and a forensics researcher for the Yahad-in Unum genocide research agency.

photo of Peris TushabePeris Tushabe is the free expression and education program assistant at PEN America, supporting PEN America’s advocacy for free expression in educational institutions as well as PEN America’s Next Gen PEN America campaign. 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


Activity: Starts: Ends:
Participant Check-in 9:30 AM 10:00 AM
Welcome and Opening Presentation 10:00 AM 10:30 AM
Workshop 1 – Free Expression Around the World: From the US to Ukraine to Uganda 10:30 AM 11:15 AM
Break 11:15 AM

11:30 AM

Workshop 2 – Free Expression Online: Technology, News Media, and AI 11:30 AM

12:15 PM

Break 12:15 PM

12:30 PM

Lunch 12:30 PM

1:30 PM

Workshop 3 – Free Expression in Our Backyards: Locally, Regionally, and Beyond 1:30 PM

2:15 PM

Break 2:15 PM

2:30 PM

Advocacy Campaign Simulation Activity 2:30 PM

3:30 PM

*Subject to Change*





University of Tennessee-Knoxville Logo