Arizona has banned books used in teaching in Arizona public schools that advocate the overthrow of the government, which has been applied to ethnic studies in a devastating way. Arizona House Bill 2281 was created to prohibit teaching courses in Mexican American Studies, although it can be applied to any ethnic group. The Tucson school system closed the entire K through 12 Mexican American Studies program in order to comply with this bill, and removed some 83 books from the curriculum.
Many of the books banned were on the reading lists of teachers in the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, and include such radical books as Thoreau’s Walden, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and books by celebrated authors such as Isabel Allende and Howard Zinn.
Tony Diaz, a professor of English at the University of Houston and a Mexican American, heard about this bill and started Librotraficante, an organization dedicated to providing the banned books for libraries in Arizona. He got a van and asked for donations of these books that he could take to Arizona. This was reported in many places, including the Manchester Guardian, and Roger Brewin (a retired minister in the Chicago area) of the HUUmanists read about it there. Roger develops and coordinates the HUUmanists booth at GA, and put out a call for GA attendees to smUUggle a book into Arizona for donation to this project.
Roger asked for people to email him their interest in smUUggling a book or donating to the effort, both on our web site and by email to our members. Hundreds of people sent money or indicated their interest. For the nearly 300 people willing to smUUggle a book, Roger sent them a title to obtain and bring. At GA, the smUUggled books were put on display at the HUUmanists booth at the exhibition hall. This was a major attraction to the booth, and many who attended also donated cash to the effort or bought some of the 20 books from the banned book list at the UUA bookstore in the exhibition hall. Donors or those who brought books received a smUUggler or Librotraficante button, a copy of the journal Religious Humanism GA justice issue, and will be mentioned in a newsletter to be issued this summer.
Tony Diaz invited Brill Moreno of KSAZ Fox News channel 10 in Phoenix to see the exhibit and report on the effort. Tony and Roger were interviewed, as well as a professor at the University of Arizona who had his book on Mexican American Literature banned.
On the last day of the General Assembly meeting all of the books were donated to Librotraficante, and used to launch Librotraficante’s fifth underground library. This is located at the office of the community organization Puente in Phoenix. And cash donated to the HUUmanists for Librotraficante was given to the project to buy more books. The HUUmanists expect this to be a continuing effort.