(NEW YORK)–  PEN America, the world’s leading free expression advocacy organization and watchdog against proliferating threats to open discourse from across the ideological spectrum, today announced the launch of its tenth regional chapter in Denver. This milestone, as PEN celebrates its 100th year, signifies its growing base of support nationwide at a time of unprecedented pressure on the freedoms to write, read and speak.

The Denver chapter will be led by attorney Viniyanka Prasad, founder of The Word, a Storytelling Sanctuary, that works to defend against cultural erasure in the literary arts, and Manuel Aragon, a writer, filmmaker and director.

The new chapter expands the PEN Across America network started in 2019 that now includes chapters in Austin, Birmingham, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Piedmont Region, Tulsa, Miami/South Florida, Utah, and Arizona. The intent is to build PEN America’s reach across the nation, adding influence, programs, and members. Headquartered in New York City and with offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., PEN America’s national network unites writers in conversations, advocacy campaigns, public debates, and more, drawing on PEN America’s national resources and the creative energy and priorities of the local literary community.

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said: “We are grateful to add two exceptional regional advocates for free expression and open discourse in Colorado who will join the writer-to-writer solidarity that has been the core of PEN America’s mission for 100 years. Their support is critical as we confront growing attacks on the written word from school book bans, the erasure of subjects in classrooms and the silencing of librarians on subjects from LGBTQ-relevant topics to abortion and reproductive rights.”

Prasad, who serves on the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs, said she was excited by the collaboration with PEN America as an opportunity to engage with new, community-led models for amplifying “stories from historically suppressed writers so that journalism and literature can be the forces we hope –forces to illuminate our fullest futures.

“At the heart of freedom of expression, “Prasad said, “is the question of who is granted the freedom and access to resources to express stories and share personal truth.”

Prasad speaks regularly about equity and representation. In addition to her literary work, she is a public criminal defense attorney whose commentaries have been included in the Chicago Journal of International Law and presented to committees at the United Nations.

Aragon said: “The work of PEN America is vital in these times, as the voices of marginalized communities and women are continually silenced. We are proud to help bring a PEN America chapter to Denver and provide opportunities to uplift these voices.”

Aragon is at work on a short story collection, Norteñas, centered in the Northside, a Mexican and Mexican-American community in Denver. His work has appeared in ANMLY. His short story, “A Violent Noise,” was nominated for the 2020 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. He is a 2021 Periplus Collective Fellow. A graduate of New York University’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, his screenwriting and directing has been featured on MTV, Pitchfork, and Stereogum. He recently won the CineLatino Pitch Latino Award for Emerging Filmmakers for Welcome to the Northside, a web series with a comedic take on gentrification and Latino displacement in North Denver.

The announcement comes ahead of [margins.], a literary conference and festival that will take place in person and online August 5-7 at Denver McNichols Civic Center Building.

PEN America Denver will host two panels at the festival with local journalists: “Journalism & How to Fight for Your Stories” on effective pitches, surviving in a press room, and finding the best outlets for stories, and “Truth and Consequences” on the consequences of truth-telling as a journalist.

Please visit www.thewordfordiversity.org/margins to register.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.