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First Annual Unified Voices Summit for Educational Freedom

Florida now ranks first in the nation, banning more books in public school classrooms and libraries than any other state. Teachers and media specialists are being threatened with loss of their careers and liberty, under threat of criminal prosecution. Florida laws have created the greatest crisis of book banning and educational censorship in K-12 public schools ever seen. Books about race and by authors of color, along with books mentioning sexual orientation and gender, are being ripped from shelves. Students are being robbed of the diversity of ideas and perspectives they need to thrive.

But all is not lost. Florida will not go quietly into the dark night of censorship. This wave of censorship and denial of free speech is making Floridians stronger and more resilient. Across the state, local groups are organizing, mobilizing resistance, and protecting our constitutional rights and public education. There is a movement in Florida and we need you. We must work collectively to protect our teachers, our students, and our public education system.

In that spirit, we are coming together for the first annual Unified Voices Summit: Protecting Educational Freedom in Florida to celebrate our educators, protect public education, and speak out in one voice to defend our rights of free speech and free expression. We will unite to end education censorship and book bans, and to support our teachers, public education and our core constitutional liberties. The Summit is brought to you by a nonpartisan coalition of organizations, including PEN America, National Coalition Against Censorship, Florida Freedom to Read Project, Interfaith Alliance, and PRISM.

We will convene in Orlando, Florida on July 12-13th, 2024. General admission tickets are available for $250 and include access to both Friday evening’s authors’ reception, the Saturday all-day conference, and childcare during the Saturday summit. All teachers and media specialists will receive a scholarship covering the Summit ticket and travel (use promo code EDUCATOR). Parents, students, active military, nonprofit workers, and grassroots organizations/organizers will receive a 50% discount for the general admission ticket (use promo code ADVOCATE50). 



Jodi Picoult, Author | Keynote Speaker

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 28 novels, including Mad Honey, Wish You Were Here, The Book of Two Ways, A Spark of Light, Small Great Things, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, and, with daughter Samantha van Leer, two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page.

Picoult’s books have been translated into thirty-four languages in thirty-five countries. Four novels – The Pact. Plain Truth. The Tenth Circle. and Salem Falls – have been made into television movies. My Sister’s Keeper was a film released from New Line Cinema, with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz starring. Mad Honey is currently in development for a series/film. SMALL GREAT THINGS has been optioned for motion picture adaptation. Picoult also wrote five issues of DC Comic’s Wonder Woman. Picoult is the co-librettist for the stage musical adaptation of her two Young Adult novels, Picoult’s two Young Adult novels, Between The Lines and Off The Page, co-written with her daughter Samantha Van Leer, which premiered Off-Broadway in Summer 2021 and will be licensed through Music Theatre International during the fall of 2022. She is also the co-librettist of the musical BREATHE, which was inducted into the Library of Congress’s Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection; and of the musical adaptation of THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak, which will play at the Coventry Belgrade and the Leicester Curve in the fall of 2023.

Picoult is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Awards from the YALSA, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit and the Sarah Josepha Hale Award. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of New Haven. She is a patron of the Carole Shields Prize for Fiction which is awarded to female fiction writers.

Picoult lives in New Hampshire with her husband. They have three children.


Dr. Marvin Dunn, Historian, Author, and Professor Emeritus at Florida International University | Panelist

Dr. Marvin Dunn, a native Floridian, is professor emeritus and retired chairperson of the Department of Psychology at Florida International University. Born during the Jim Crow era, he brings a perspective to black history that has been missed, distorted, and minimalized in the past. He co-authored The Miami Riot of 1980: Crossing the Bounds (1984). He authored Black Miami in the Twentieth Century (1997), A History of Florida: Through Black Eyes (2016) and The Kingsleys (2022). Dr. Dunn is the founder and President of the Miami Center for Racial Justice, a non-profit organization created to tell and preserve the true black history of Florida – especially those stories that are difficult to hear. Dr. Dunn is a renowned expert on race and ethnic issues in America and a nationally respected scholar, author, historian, documentary filmmaker, and community activist. He lives in Miami Florida. Much of his work can be found on Dunnhistory.com.


Pamela Burch Fort, President, The Commerce Group | Panelist

Pamela is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Law. In addition to her law degree, Pamela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from Florida State University. She joined the staff of the Florida Legislature in 1979. As President of The Commerce Group since 1995, Pamela lends her extensive expertise to an array of major businesses, associations, local governmental entities, law firms and political candidates. For The Commerce Group, Pamela assists clients in analyzing issues, exploring and developing appropriate strategies to address legislative, business and political concerns and engages principals in the discussion of specific solutions.

Pamela also maintained active participation in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) participating in numerous presentations focused on Florida’s legislative structure and function, effective staff communication with legislators and committees, legislative strategies and negotiations, and legislative ethics. Pamela served on the NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee Citizen’s Initiative Task Force which produced a significant publication entitled “Educating Citizens About the Legislative Process.” Additionally, Pamela served as Chair of the Research and Committee Staff Section.


Karla Hernandez-Mats, President, United Teachers of DadePanelist

Karla Hernández-Mats is currently serving her third term as the president of the United Teachers of Dade, the largest teachers’ union in the southeastern United States. Her goal as she leads is to have a profound impact on education policy and ensure a sound future for all children attending Miami-Dade County Public Schools while also fighting for working rights. In July 2019, Karla was recognized by Miami Today as part of its Achiever Series for her work in advancing public education throughout the Miami-Dade community. Karla serves on the FEA (Florida Education Association) Governance Board, the FEA Cabinet, the State AFL-CIO Executive Board, the Board of The United Way, and serves as the Chairperson of the American Federation of Teachers Women’s Rights Committee and as a Vice President of the AFT. She often speaks to national groups about the challenges public education teachers face and is an ardent advocate for immigration reform, worker’s rights, and the protection of children’s rights. In this role, she has served as a featured speaker and presenter for the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Miami Women’s March, the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., and many other organizations that fight for the protection of rights and freedoms of all people. Most recently, Karla was the Democratic Nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Florida.


Lauren Groff, Author | Featured Author

Lauren Groff is a three-time National Book Award finalist and The New York Times–bestselling author of the novels The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, Fates and Furies, Matrix, and The Vaster Wilds, and the celebrated short story collections Delicate Edible Birds and Florida. She has won The Story Prize, the ABA Indies’ Choice Award, France’s Grand Prix de l’Héroïne, and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, and has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her work regularly appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and elsewhere. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.


James Ponti, Author | Featured Author

James Ponti is the New York Times Bestselling author of three Middle Grade book series: City Spies, about an unlikely squad of five kids from around the world who form an elite MI6 Spy Team; The Edgar Award-winning Framed! series, about a pair of tweens who solve mysteries in Washington, D.C.; and the Dead City trilogy, about a secret society that polices the undead living beneath Manhattan. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida.