Photo credit: Aslan Chalom
Literary Action Coalition Mission Statement:
The NYC Literary Action Coalition aims to create an activism network of NYC-based literary members to build the community’s capacity to mobilize on behalf of free expression and social justice issues.
In recent years, PEN America and its allies have mobilized on the steps of the New York Public Library against Chinese censorship, at the Brooklyn Museum for Ai Weiwei, in midtown for Writers Resist on the eve of the Trump inauguration, outside the NFL owners’ association meeting to support #TakeAKnee, and more. These collective stands have a galvanizing power that helps unite our members and allies behind a sense of common purpose and forceful engagement. We have also learned that other organizations in New York’s literary landscape have constituencies looking for ways to take shared, sustained action on the challenging concerns of our day.
Since 2019, PEN America has met with more than 30 literary organizations around the city and facilitated several larger group discussions that confirmed interest in bringing together a more structured NYC Literary Action Coalition prepared for rapid-response mobilizations and longer-term campaigns.
The mission of the Literary Action Coalition is to bring forward the voice and views of the literary community through activism that defends free expression; underscores the power of literature; promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion; and advances social justice. The partners for the coalition include professional literary organizations, community and campus literary groups, independent bookstores and publishers, arts organizations with literary programs, performance spaces, and individual writers and literary professionals.
For more information about the coalition and how to join, please contact PEN America Community Outreach Manager Alejandro Heredia at [email protected].
Panels from the 2023 Literary Activism Summit
Writing As Activism Fellowship
The NYC Literary Action Coalition, in partnership with PEN America, presents the Writing as Activism Fellowship, which reimagines the role of writers in New York City, offering tools and support to produce literary work that centers activism on community and social justice issues.
The fellowship offers a six-month immersive workshop experience for six New York City-based writer-activists committed to uplifting the voices of those most marginalized in the city through writing, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+, Black, Latinx, Asian American, Indigenous, disabled, low-income, and at any intersection of these and other experiences.
A recent survey from the NYC Literary Action Coalition details the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on New York City’s literary communities.More Information
Contenders for New York City mayor have proclaimed their commitment to financially supporting writers and the literary arts if elected.More Information
Join us for PEN America’s Instagram Live conversations about how anti-protest proposals introduced around the country attempt to criminalize freedom of assembly.More Information
PEN America is excited to host a conversation featuring publishers and activists as they discuss the current movement for racial justice.More Information
In partnership with Ars Poetica and PEN America, the NYC Literary Action Coalition will host a citywide literary celebration of Earth Day.More Information
Cheryl L. Davis, Authors Guild
Daniel Gallant, Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Christopher J. Greggs, Cave Canem
Alejandro Heredia, PEN America
Anthony McPherson, Ars Poetica
Jafreen Uddin, Asian American Writers’ Workshop
Asian American Writers Workshop
BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance
Bronx Book Fair, Inc
Bronx Council on the Arts
Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival
Bureau of General Services—
Center For Fiction
Curlew New York
Dominican Writers Association
Every Thing Goes Book Cafe and Neighborhood Stage
Fordham Political Review
Gotham Writers Workshop
Harlem Writers Guild
Literary Freedom Project
Morningside Writers Group
Muslim Writers Collective
National Writers Union – NY Chapter
The New Press
New York Writers Club
New York Writers Coalition
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
PEN Children and Young Adults Committee
PEN Translation Committee
Poets Network & Exchange, Inc.
Pratt Book Club
Pub Workers for Justice
Quimby’s Bookstore NYC
School Library Journal
Slam! @ NYU
Subway Book Review
Yu and Me Books
Currently, the coalition is addressing COVID-19 relief funding by highlighting how the New York City literary community has been impacted by the pandemic and subsequent citywide shutdown. The coalition organized a petition asking Mayor de Blasio’s office to consider the literary community’s needs in the citywide 2020–2021 budget, and continues to raise awareness about the barriers the New York City literary landscape faces in a post-COVID world.
Additionally, the coalition is organizing around addressing issues of racial justice in the literary community through public forums and roundtables.
Decisions are primarily made by the coalition’s advisory committee, made up of six representatives of the coalition who steer decision-making. The advisory committee makes decisions about events, statements, and other public-facing mobilizations that the coalition organizes. The advisory committee cycles every year, and any coalition member can volunteer to be considered for the advisory committee once the current cycle is at its end.
Mobilizations can take the form of petition drives, open letters, demonstrations, rallies, press conferences, meetings with elected or appointed officials, tweet-a-thons, virtual events, etc. They may be in support of an ongoing campaign or more ad hoc, when a specific issue surfaces or event occurs. Some mobilizations are urgent, demanding a rapid response. Others may take the form of an ongoing campaign, with several action steps in support of a goal. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, all of our mobilization efforts have been digital to ensure that coalition members and the literary community at large follow standard protocols as they are set by local officials.
As an example, say the coalition commits to a campaign to ensure access to books in jails—an idea PEN America has developed based on research into widespread prison book bans. The goal of the campaign would be to convince the city to reform its practice of limiting the literature available to people who are incarcerated. The coalition advisory committee might decide on a strategy that includes a petition, an advocacy day and virtual rally on social media, and petition-signing drives at partners’ virtual events around the city. Coalition members might participate in strategy sessions, send the petition and the invitation to the advocacy day and rally to their lists, work to ensure strong turnout at the rally or virtual event, and also feature the petition drive at their public events. Other members might simply commit to signing onto the petition, or sharing information with their networks.
For national organizations, as long as there is a NYC office, chapter, or the group/organization’s work substantially focuses on the NYC literary landscape, the group may be part of the coalition.
Yes. Participation in the coalition can vary on the partner’s availability and interest. You can be part of the coalition and decide to opt out of certain actions because you might not be interested, or because you don’t have the time. Some coalition participants are passive and prefer to show support by sharing information, signing petitions, and staying informed, while others prefer to take a leadership position by leading conversations, panels, and events. There is no singular way to participate in the coalition.