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Hundreds of books were banned in Pennsylvania over a nine-month period

Books Bannings-Pushing Back
Rick Bowmer
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books, including "The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison, that have been the subject of complaints from parents in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021. The wave of book bannings around the country has reached a level not seen for decades.

On today’s episode of The Confluence:

456 books banned in PA between July 2021 and March 2022
(0:00 - 9:04)

More than 450 books were banned in Pennsylvania between July 2021 and March 2022, according to an analysis by Pen America, a non-profit that aims to protect free expression in the U.S. and globally.

Jonathan Friedman, the director of free expression and education at Pen America, explains most of the bans in Pennsylvania were from the Central York School District, and in September of 2021, the ban was reversed, following a student-led protest. He says this ban in Central York targeted books discussing racial equity and diversity.

“It seems that a list of resources that was circulated with the explicit purpose of supporting teachers and giving access to books that might represent, 'diversity,' that list of resources was effectively banned by the school board,” says Friedman. “They said that they wanted time to vet all the resources that were on the list and that in the meantime, all teachers in the district should not teach that material.”

Children’s books that were banned included biographies about people such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Diamonte Walker becomes first CEO of Pittsburgh Scholar House
(9:04 - 13:58)

After years of facilitating community-focused economic development with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Diamonte Walker wants to help single mothers get college degrees.

She is the first CEO of Pittsburgh Scholar House, which seeks to provide mothers with affordable housing and support services near a university campus. Walker explains to 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Schneider that single Black mothers in Pittsburgh experience disparities in health outcomes, education and poverty compared with white single mothers.

“We know that Pittsburgh has been dealing with pervasive racial issues for years and the ability to establish programs and interventions that address the critical needs of single mothers, you know, particularly Black single mothers, give us an opportunity to over the next generation, I think, start to see those statistics, you know, normalize.”

The Confluence spoke with her earlier this month following the URA’s announcement of her departure.

Pittsburgh native Cole Arthur Riley reflects on family, spirituality in new book 
(13:58 - 22:30)

In her new book, “This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us” Pittsburgh native Cole Arthur Riley weaves together interviews with her family to explore what makes us who we are. She spoke with the Confluence’s Boen Wang.

“So much of going into these stories was a true homecoming, especially the stories of my father, because his, like, earliest experiences of dislocation and alienation was when they moved from Manhattan to Pittsburgh as a child,” Arthur Riley says. “I've always viewed my dad as a New Yorker. And in interviewing him, I realized, like, he actually had a decent bit of his childhood and adolescence here in Pittsburgh. Just watching our stories connect in Pittsburgh places and him naming places, it was just kind of surreal but I needed the book to feel like it belonged to a place so that the stories didn't feel like they were just kind of floating and, you know, floating in thin air.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Boen Wang is a writer, audio producer, and MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. His written work appeared in The Sunday Long Read, The Fourth River, Inheritance, and elsewhere; his audio work won the “Best New Artist” award at the 2020 Third Coast International Audio Festival, was selected as one of The Bello Collective’s “100 Outstanding Podcasts of 2020,” and was shortlisted for the 2021 HearSay Audio Festival Prize. Visit his website at boen.cool.
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