The senior diversity officer of a non-profit society for writers, illustrators and others involved in the children’s book publishing industry resigned Monday.
April Powers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI)’ Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, was allegedly terminated from her position for publishing a condemnation of anti-Semitism while “not mentioning Islamophobia,” Tablet Magazine journalist Yair Rosenberg claimed.
Powers posted June 10 on the organization’s official Facebook page, condemning anti-Semitism. The condemnation was published after the surge in violent attacks against Jews throughout the U.S. in May, while the Israel-Gaza conflict was ongoing.
After Powers published the post, Palestinian American SCBWI member Razan Abdin-Adnani posted comments on Twitter and Facebook, which the organization then “erased” and “deleted” before blocking Adnani on social media, according to literary agent Rebecca Podos.
In those comments, Adnani pointed out the “selective solidarity” that she believed was demonstrated in the SCBWI statement, the former SCBWI member wrote on Twitter, adding that she had “left an affirmative & polite comment on SCBWI’s Twitter that expressed solidarity, but also inquired about possible statements of solidarity with other hurting communities (Palestinians & Muslims…).”
“I politely pointed to a few instances of violence against Palestinians, against Muslims globally,” Adnani said.
Here is a screenshot of April Powers of @scbwi suggesting they “hadn’t seen a surge in hate crimes and violence against Muslims globally as they have with other groups…” ???????? She deleted the entire thread shortly thereafter. pic.twitter.com/xISiPJw7eF— Razan Abdin-Adnani (she/her) ???????? (@razanabnani) June 23, 2021
In response, April Powers allegedly commented that if the organization “saw an uptick in violence against Arabs and/or Muslims in a way that it had with other groups, it would make a similar statement,” alleged Adnani. After the exchange, Powers had deleted the comments, Adnani claimed.
The organization and Powers drew condemnation from internet users and other SCBWI members for how they handled the situation. (RELATED: Rick Santorum Explains Why He Was Fired From CNN)
“This is unacceptable. If I had bothered to stay being a member I would cancel it right now. I have keynoted your conferences but I won’t be going anywhere near them again until actual change happens within your organization,” Daniel José Older, a fantasy and young adult fiction writer, wrote on Twitter.
“Echoing the sentiments of many colleagues that the way SCBWI and its reps have treated Razan is absolutely unacceptable. Until real change takes place, and real amends are made, I will be declining invitations to all future SCBWI events,” book editor Feather Flores tweeted.
The organization issued an apology Monday for the events, which occurred in the week of June 21. “On behalf of the SCBWI, I would like to apologize to everyone in the Palestinian community, who felt unrepresented, silenced or marginalized,” wrote SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver in a Facebook post, adding that “SCBWI acknowledges the pain our actions have caused to our Muslim and Palestinian members.” The organization further apologized for blocking Adnani.
As part of a “remedy” to the events that transpired in the preceding week, the organization said it has “accepted” Powers’ resignation and that it will create seats in its diversity committee for Muslim SCBWI members.
“By posting an antisemitism statement, our intention was to stay out of politics,” Powers wrote in a statement included in Oliver’s apology. “I removed both anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli posts, which in hindsight was not the right thing to do. I neglected to address the rise in Islamophobia, and deeply regret that omission. As someone who is vehemently against Islamophobia and hate speech of any kind, I understand that intention is not impact and I am so sorry.”
“While this doesn’t fix the pain and disappointment that you feel by my mishandling of this moment, I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and resignation from the SCBWI,” Powers stated.