Spending a steamy July weekend in Orlando may not sound all that appealing, especially for Floridians skilled at avoiding the worst of the summer heat. But the Unified Voices Summit is worth a midsummer trip to the City Beautiful to protect public education, the right to read and learn, and democracy writ large. 

The Summit July 12-13, the first of its kind, brings together authors, educators, students, teacher’s unions, faith leaders, and activists from across the state to solidify and mobilize the growing grassroots movement that is standing against censorship in schools and workplaces and for democracy. 

The summit will kick off with an author’s reception on Friday night, with bestselling author and owner of the Lynx bookstore Lauren Groff, historian Dr. Marvin Dunn, and bestselling author James Ponti welcoming Floridians to engage in joint action to protect Florida’s schools. Then on Saturday, bestselling author Jodi Picoult will give the keynote address, joined by expert panelists examining the current wave of educational censorship that has led to Florida banning more books than any other state.

This movement has been growing for several years now, but the summit will be the first time that a range of groups and individuals will come together for grassroots action on democratic principles like the freedom to read and learn. 

It is also a time to recognize the teachers and librarians who have been and continue to be under siege. Their licenses, and sometimes even liberty, are threatened as they are forced to comply with discriminatory and harmful bills that undermine the quality of our children’s education. They are valued experts, critical guideposts in our children’s development, and yet they are threatened, their unions targeted, and their speech chilled as they grapple with a wave of anti-democratic policies that have banned classroom topics on history, race, racism, gender, and sexual identity. 

The summit will welcome over 200 teachers to Orlando, all receiving a full scholarship for admission and lodging, to recognize their immense contributions and provide resources, information, opportunities for small group conversations, and collective action for all.

Florida has served as a blueprint for growing anti-democratic laws and actions across the country, targeting freedom of speech and expression in public education. But these policies may prove politically toxic in states like Florida where citizens are standing up for knowledge and democracy. The summit will be a moment for Floridians to speak in one unified voice for the freedom to read and learn.

Join us.