As an organization that champions open expression and the freedom to write, PEN America condemns the horrific toll that anti-Black racism and bigotry exact upon people and society by threatening lives, sowing divisions, and silencing voices. Anti-Black violence, and the systems that perpetuate it, have caused incalculable grief and physical suffering, and cripple the quest for common truths and social progress. Bigotry is also an affront to free speech, for when words and acts willfully inflict terror and harm, they subvert open discourse. 

PEN America’s mission encompasses fostering dialogue across differences, amplifying lesser-heard voices, and pressing for the structural changes necessary to enable everyone to participate fully and equally in our discourse and culture. We defend the rights to peaceful assembly and to demand the redress of grievances. We implore restraint from violence, and are alarmed by instances of violent retaliation against free expression by law enforcement. We deplore such human rights abuses, whether they occur in distant autocracies or in American communities. Disinformation, deceptive narratives, and false pretenses risk discrediting legitimate political expression and wearing down our collective ability to discern the truth. We defend the vital work of news reporters, be they independent or from outlets large and small, national and local. It is journalists’ job to bear witness to this moment, keep the public informed, hold leaders accountable, and provide an essential record for posterity. They must be allowed to fulfill this role without threats or attacks.

The tools many of us are accustomed to rely on—writing, reading, conversations, research, advocacy, and art—can seem to fall short at such a moment of crisis. But the goals of racial justice and a remade society depend upon the insights and empathy that stories can unleash, upon radical imagination and rigorous analysis, and upon the solidarity forged through sharing ideas. As an organization of writers, readers, and those who believe that words can transform lives, we are committed to doing everything in our power to effect dramatic change toward a more just world.