Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award

PRESS RELEASE

On Tuesday, April 25th at 7:30pm, PEN America will present the 2017 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the Women’s March at the annual PEN Literary Gala on April 25 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The award will be accepted by Bob Bland, who helped conceive the idea of a march on Washington during inauguration weekend and served as one of the four national co-chairs.

The Women’s March, which took place in Washington, D.C., and cities around the nation and the world on January 21, 2017, mobilized millions of women and men of all races, creeds, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and disabilities to use Presidential Inauguration weekend to, as the organizers said, “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.” More than five million people joined the Women’s March worldwide, with a staggering 1 in 100 Americans marching in solidarity for human rights, dignity, and justice.

“The Women’s March began as a quixotic idea shared with friends on Facebook. In the hands of 99.9% of people, it would have ended there, as a pipe dream. But Bob Bland and the group of women who joined her forged a powerful, diverse coalition that worked with immense drive to win over skeptics and build the support of an extraordinarily broad coalition of which PEN America became part,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America. “The Women’s March convinced Americans that mass civic action was possible. If not for the Women’s March, people would not have flooded to airports over a weekend to reject a discriminatory visa ban just days later. We honor the Women’s March for acting at a critical moment to overcome the inertia and fear of failure that can impair public mobilization, and for inspiring millions in America and around the world to do the same.”

Together, Ms. Bland and her fellow national co-chairs—social justice and civil rights leaders Tamika D. Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour—along with a dynamic, powerful, and diverse group of national organizers, helped galvanize a potent global movement to resist infringements on the rights and dignity of women and many other groups, and to issue a clarion call that Americans would not sit back in the face of threats to values and freedoms. But the Women’s March moved beyond an assertion of the power of women, growing into a symbolic assertion of the resistance movement.

“The Women’s March was the first sign of popular resistance to the new administration,” said Andrew Solomon, president of PEN America. “It demonstrated the power of women and, in turn, the power of the vast diversity that is America. It was an assertion of human rights and an exercise of free speech in the broadest possible sense, and it emboldened President Trump’s critics to speak out loud and clear in solidarity with one another.”

Established in 2014, the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Award honors exceptional acts of courage in the exercise of freedom of expression. In 2015, the award was presented to the surviving staff of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, sparking a global public debate on the limits of satire and free expression. 

PEN America’s April 25 Literary Gala will also honor famed composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim with the 2017 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, to be presented by actress Meryl Streep with a musical tribute by Audra McDonald. The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award will be presented to Ukrainian writer-filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is imprisoned in Russia on fabricated charges of terrorism. In addition, the gala will salute Publisher Honoree John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, for his integrity in publishing.