The Road to May 3: How a Growing Coalition of Feminists and Activists Are Fighting the Right’s Anti-Woke Agenda

Educators—from pre-kindergarten to college—are planning a teach-in on May 3, to stand in unity against coordinated right-wing attacks on academic freedom. Join us.

Demonstrators protest Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ plan to eliminate Advanced Placement courses on African American studies in high schools as they march to the Capitol on Feb. 15, 2023 in Tallahassee. (Joshua Lott / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Like many of you, I am alarmed and enraged by Republican party efforts to limit our academic freedom; censor the teaching of African American, gender and queer studies; and place us in an untenable situation where we must defend ourselves and our livelihood. The attack is personal: It is rooted in anti-Black racism, patriarchy, transphobia, whiteness and xenophobia, and it is a propagandistic argument designed to whitewash our collective history. We are clearly under attack.

In response, we’ve organized the Freedom to Learn National Day of Action on May 3, 2023—an initiative of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), in partnership with the African American Policy Forum, the “Big Eight” civil rights organizations, Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Ms. Classroom, the Afro newspaper, the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice, and local academic and activist associations. (Wednesday, May 3 is also World Press Freedom Day, and the theme for this year is “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for All Other Human Rights.”)

The National Day of Action began with the release of an Open Letter on Fighting “Anti-Woke” Censorship of Intersectionality and Black Feminism, co-written by former NWSA president Beverly Guy-Sheftall and signed by thousands of academics, artists, advocates, policymakers and concerned persons. The letter outlined how state and local governments and agencies nationwide have targeted and systematically disrupted the teaching of intersectionality, critical race theory, Black feminism, queer theory, and any frameworks that address structural inequality, mass incarceration and white supremacy. They have threatened to fire or arrest teachers and professors who teach or discuss these issues, banned books that cover these issues, defunded public libraries, and worked to create and maintain a climate of fear.

These are not new tactics; indeed, this is how they fight. They want us to be afraid. They want us to feel overwhelmed. And they want us to think that we are alone. We are not. We must remember that we may come as one, but we stand as 10,000. When they want us to move, we shall plant our feet and whisper, “We shall not be moved.” When they try to destroy what our ancestors died to build, we will hold up the columns and do it with one hand holding the beam and the other holding fast to each other. When they try to erase us from the curriculum, we will find ways to teach and share our stories. When they believe they have won the battle, we will regroup and stay focused on winning the war. When they come for us—and they will keep coming—we will always be ready for them.

They want us to be afraid. They want us to feel overwhelmed. And they want us to think that we are alone. We are not.

This is an exciting moment for NWSA because this is what we are built for, who we are, and what we do. We fight. We stand. We plan, and we move. 

Get Involved in the May 3 Teach-In

NWSA is organizing a nationwide teach-in, and we need your help. We are asking that everyone who can, does something on May 3—even if it is small. We need to show that we are a collective—and there is power in numbers.

The goals for the National Day of Action are to coordinate collective action on as many campuses and in as many public places (within the U.S. and abroad) as possible and coordinate activities in as many states as possible—especially those where anti-transanti-critical race theory and anti-DEI legislation has been passed, and legislation around voter suppression, abortion elimination or the rejection of the AP African American studies course is being proposed.   

  • We have prepared multiple lesson plans and gathered resources that can be used in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms and on college campuses. Find them here
  • If you are planning an activity on your campus or in your city, please add it to our Google document. The hope is that you will connect with someone in your area who is also planning an activity.
  • The national hashtag is #FreedomToLearn. (Here in Baltimore, we are using both the national hashtag and #FreedomToLearnBMore.)

NWSA is based in Baltimore, Md., so we are planning local activities on the campuses of Loyola University Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, and at local high schools and middle schools. (The Baltimore planning team includes Shawntay Stocks, Jasmine Blanks Jones, Ashley Daniels, Minkah Makalani and myself.)

Below find more NWSA-organized activities. (This list is not exhaustive, as activities are being added daily.)


From now until May 2, Baltimore radio station WEAA 88.9 FM will several 30-second on-air promos highlighting the National Day of Action and activities across the city on May 3.

Banned Books Give-Away

  • From now until May 3, my show—Today With Dr. Kaye on WEAA 88.9 FM—will give away banned books to Black-owned restaurants and businesses in Baltimore City.
  • Our “banned books bin” project will send crates of books to barber shops and hair salons around Baltimore City.
  • On May 3, Rosalie Gamble will host a book table at Loyola University, and Shawntay Stocks will host a book table at Johns Hopkins.

Nationwide Teach-In

  • On May 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on the Loyola University and Hopkins campuses, members of the Freedom to Learn Baltimore team will host a series of pop-up teaching events.
  • On May 3, high school teachers in Baltimore and Columbia, S.C., will host pop-up teach-ins in their classrooms. 
  • On May 3, Black Girls Vote will have a voter registration table at Loyola. They will anchor one of the teach-in hours. 
  • Jasmine Blanks Jones and Kate Lynch from the JHU Center for Social Concern will offer workshop training on how to work alongside Baltimore community organizations.

On-Air Teach-In Discussion

On May 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. ET, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Sundiata Cha-Jua (from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), will join me on Today With Dr. Kaye to discuss the teach-in, intersectionality and critical race theory. We invite other authors and activists to join the show by calling in on May 3 and sharing what you are doing: (410) 319-8888.

(Today With Dr. Kaye is a Murrow- and AP-Award-winning daily radio talk show hosted by me. It is one of only three solo-hosted drive-time radio talk shows hosted by a Black woman in the country. It airs on 88.9 FM every weekday from 2 to 4 p.m. ET and is simultaneously streamed on Facebook Live here and here.)

Lesson Plan Publication

In partnership with Ms. Classroom, the Afro newspaper, and the Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice, portions of the lesson plan will be published and made widely available.

Explore the Resisting Hate lesson plan, the STAMPED: Racism, Anti-Racism and You lesson plan or the Critical Race Theory Primer.

We have learned the hard way that political power never concedes without a struggle. It never has, and it never will. NWSA will always choose the path of direct and intentional resistance—and we invite you to stand with us. We are more than just a small group of committed individuals—we are the largest network of feminist scholars, educators and activists. 

We will not be silenced.

We will not be erased. 

We will not be moved.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead, Ph.D., professor of communication and African and African American studies, is a three-time New York Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and the award-winning radio host of Today with Dr. Kaye on WEAA 88.9 FM. Her scholarship examines the ways race, class and gender coalesce in American classrooms, as well as in political and social environments. She also serves as the president of the National Women's Studies Association.