The votes are in: our panel — 1984 or 2024? Book Bans. Censorship. The Fight for Democracy – was selected

Austin, TX – Today, SXSW announced its panel selections for the 2024 festival this upcoming March. SXSW is the premier destination for innovators, storytellers, humanitarians, and global thought leaders. Each March, this diverse group of creatives across the tech, film, and music industries converge for 9 days of collaboration. After a competition this past summer to see which panel would receive the most votes from the public, the votes are in and Democracy Forward will return to the Civic Engagement stage with the panel “1984 or 2024? Book Bans. Censorship. The Fight for Democracy.” The discussion features Democracy Forward President & CEO Skye Perryman; Founder of the Lowcountry Black Parents Association Anjene (AJ) Davis; librarian and Executive Director of Advocates for All Arkansas Libraries Adam Webb, and author and founding member of We Need Diverse Books Ellen Oh. 

There were nearly 700 attempts to ban library books in the first eight months of 2023, according to data from the American Library Association. From Jan. 1 to Aug 31, the attempts sought to challenge or censor 1,915 titles, a 20% increase compared to the same months in 2022. The real numbers may be even higher. What’s more, most of the titles under scrutiny this year were written by or about people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“These attacks on our freedom to read should trouble every person who values democracy,” said Perryman. “To allow this group of anti-democratic extremists, no matter how powerful or loud, to become the decision-maker about what books we or our children can read or whether libraries exist, is to place our democracy in jeopardy. This panel discussion at SXSW could not come at a more pressing time as we continue our fights across the country for the freedom to read.”

Orwell’s 1984 — a fictional tale of censorship and absolute authoritarianism — foreshadowed the anti-democratic playbook in use today by extremists seeking to bend the arc away from justice. But 2024 is not 1984. Panelists will discuss the rising censorship agenda and how, with the leadership of parents, librarians, authors, and advocates in communities across the country, we can leverage collective power to defend the freedom to read and turn the page on this Orwellian playbook.

Registration for SXSW 2024 is now open. Visit their website for more information on how to attend this year’s festival, and check out our recap from SXSW 2023.