This image is published in Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World, published by Sally O'Dowd
Image credit: French cartoonist Manu

“Ripped from the Headlines: The Free Speech Forum” takes place June 28 in Fort Lauderdale.  RSVP here and read on for the latest on free speech issues and the stellar lineup of forum speakers.

Trump is the so-called leader of the free world, but there is nothing free about it when it comes to journalists. (Immigrants in cages are not free, women losing their reproductive rights are not free, but I’m focusing here on the First Amendment).

At his 2020 election rally in Orlando, Trump pointed at the group of professional journalists there to cover him. Were they human in his eyes? No, they were “fake news.” While supporters chanted “CNN sucks,” one man became violent and was arrested for assaulting a journalist from the Orlando Sentinel.

In Montana, Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte — the wealthiest man in Congress — has announced his run for governor. This is the man who, in 2017, assaulted Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian who asked him about healthcare policy. Body-slamming the First Amendment, Trump called Gianforte “my guy.”

Regardless of one’s political viewpoints, we must all stand up for the rights of journalists to do their job. I would not be able to post this blog without it, nor you read it. The first step toward a dictatorship is the loss of free speech and a free press, which  — in a democracy — questions authority for the public’s benefit.

Sally-Ann O’Dowd and Salman Rushdie discuss her magazine on free speech.

My activism began in 2015 when two Al Qaeda members murdered 11 French journalists at French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Starting off with a series of blog posts, I went on to self-publish the multimedia, interactive, video-infused e-zine Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World. I was elated with the opportunity to discuss it with Salman Rushdie at a festival hosted by literary human rights organization PEN America.

Since then, I’ve covered the January 2017 pro-speech rally at the New York Public Library and been interviewed by Channel 7, Miami’s ABC affiliate, while marching for women’s rights in Fort Lauderdale. For Lifestyle magazine, I interviewed a student journalist and her teacher at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., — scene of the February 2018 mass shooting — about student press rights.

My passions have led me to my newest project: producing “Ripped from the Headlines: The Free Speech Forum” at  FATVillage, Fort Lauderdale’s artsiest area. It takes place June 28 from 6 – 9 pm.

If you’re a local, RSVP here. Wherever you are, livestream the discussion at 7 pm EST by visiting:

The press release is below.

Sally Ann O'Dowd is producing the June 28 Free Speech Forum in Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale’s FATVillage Hosts
Ripped from the Headlines: The Free Speech Forum on June 28

Forum content reflects and drives the cultural zeitgeist, from South Florida SunSentinel’s Pulitzer to activist poetry mirroring a new Netflix hit

Fort Lauderdale—June 20, 2019—FATVillage on June 28 will host “Ripped from the Headlines: The Free Speech Forum,” designed to foster dialogue about the First Amendment amidst “fake news” demonization of professional journalists, the rise of hate speech, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in Parkland.

The forum — an extension of FATVillage’s “Ripped from the Headlines” art exhibit — is even more timely given its literary dimension. African-American poet Darius V. Daughtry will read from his new book echoing the social injustices explored in “When They See Us,” the internationally acclaimed Netflix series recounting the true story of four black teenagers and one Hispanic wrongfully convicted in a notorious rape case.

“Our mission is to curate, exhibit and provide a forum for critical dialogue among artists, curators and the public, and that’s exactly what’s happened with Ripped from the Headlines,” says Doug McCraw, founder of FATVillage Arts District. “The ‘Headlines’participants are using their visual artistry to comment on news of the day, so it makes sense to host an event with a journalistic and literary perspective. We’re particularly honored to recognize the Sun-Sentinel’s Pulitzer with two reporters on the panel.”

Curated by Elle Schorr the exhibit features numerous artists including: Manuel “Change the Ref” Oliver, whose son Joaquin was one of 17 people murdered in Parkland; Rolando Chang Barrero, who lays body bags on the floor; Aurora Molina, whose fiber art depicts immigrant children in cages; Mary Catello, whose six female figures tell of their sexual assault; and Arctic-exploring climate change activist Xavier Cortada, whom I also interviewed for Lifestyle.

A group of distinguished speakers will lead the June 28 forum’s dialogue with attendees:

  • Darius V. Daughtryauthor,And the Walls Came Tumbling: Poems that Unapologetically Speak Truth to Powerand executive director, Art Prevails Project
  • Jon M. Garon, J.D., dean of the Shepard Broad College of Law, Nova Southeastern University
  • Karla D. Kennedy, Ph.D., visiting instructor, Department of Journalism and Media, Florida InternationalUniversity
  • Aurelio Moreno, multimedia reporter, South Florida Sun-Sentineland Spanish edition El Sentinel 
  • Megan O’Matz, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The Free Speech Forum is produced and moderated by freelance journalist Sally-Ann O’Dowd, whose communications company, Sally On Media, promotes non-profits and progressive brands. She self-published the multimedia magazine “Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World” following the 2015 murders of 11 French journalists by two Al Qaeda members.

“Within a few minutes of viewing ‘Ripped from the Headlines,’ I saw genius in Elle’s curation and each artist’s soul,” O’Dowd says. “Together, we’ve set out to create an event focused on the First Amendment, without which we wouldn’t have the media coverage catalyzing their work. Whether you attend in person or livestream, we hope you walk away enlightened.”

The Free Speech Forum

June 28, 6 – 9 pm, FATVillage, 521 NW 1stAvenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

Schedule of events

  • 6–7pm: wine reception and tour of the “Ripped from the Headlines” multimedia art exhibit with curator Elle Schorr
  • 7–9pm: poetry reading by Darius V. Daughtry; official welcome by FATVillage Founder Doug McCraw; panel discussion and open dialogue

Tickets are free but limited. RSVP to attend:

Livestream at 7 pm:


About FATVillage

The purpose of FATVillage is to curate, exhibit and promote the work of emerging, contemporary artists. We strive to generate an inclusive art community through a diverse series of programs and by championing cross-disciplinary collaboration and experimentation.

Media Contact: Sally-Ann O’Dowd

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