The Signal (Episode 8) | Students and Teachers Fight Back Against Book Banning in Central York, with Christina Ellis and Ben Hodge

What does successful student- and teacher-led community resistance to book banning look like? These two #FReadom fighters share their story – and strategy and tactics.

In this episode I speak with Central York student leader Christina Ellis and teacher Ben Hodge about how and why students and teachers must organize and mobilize themselves and the larger community to resist book bans and other reactionary right-wing assaults on public education. 

Christina Ellis is an 18-year-old African-Caribbean American college student and activist. She was the former vice-president of Central York High School’s Panther Anti-Racist Union student club, better known as PARU. She and PARU worked together to reverse a book ban that the Central York School District placed on books/resources that promoted diversity and inclusion. While at Central York High School, she helped organize a peaceful protest that advocated reversing the ban. Christina and others continue to educate students and the public on the importance of diversity education and inclusion within her community. She is now at university working towards a career in medicine and will continue to advocate for minorities in medicine.

Ben Hodge is the founder and faculty advisor of the Panther Anti-Racist Union. A 20-year veteran of the classroom, he teaches Acting classes at Central York High School and serves as the Artistic Director for the Central York Performing Arts program. Ben is passionate about the acting profession and enjoys training and mentoring young actors, and teaching them to take control of their everyday lives through theater. A staunch advocate of the Diversity programming in the Central York School District since 2006, he has focused primarily on diversity education, mediation, and social-emotional awareness. After the murder of George Floyd, he wanted to create a safe space where students could come together and have meaningful discussions around social justice initiatives outside of their regular classes. This is how the Panther Anti-Racist Union was born. 

The Signal is a podcast by The Bucks County Beacon. Twice a month we will use this space to shine a light on the right-wing extremist currents streaming though Bucks County and beyond. We will talk to guests who will help listeners navigate these perilous political waters by providing insight, analysis, and organizing solutions so that we can steer the community toward calmer, saner progressive routes.

Host Cyril Mychalejko’s 5 Reading Recommendations to Further Shine a Light on the Issue:

  1. Teachers, Students and the Central York Community Defeated a Racist Book Ban in Their School District, by Cyril Mychalejko
  2. Why Diversity in Education Matters, by Christina Ellis
  3. Q&A with Central York Student Organizer Edha Gupta, by Cyril Mychalejko
  4. Central York High Schoolers Protest Book Bans (Again). Here’s What They Have to Say, by Kelly Jensen
  5. It Takes A Village: Expelling Right-Wing Extremism From Bucks County School Districts, by Cyril Mychalejko


The Signal is produced by Kevin Mahoney, Raging Chicken Media.

Music by Maf é Tulà and Cartas a Felice, “La Loca.” Panela Music. 

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Cyril Mychalejko

Cyril Mychalejko is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bucks County Beacon. Read his columns on Sundays and follow him on Twitter.

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