When the parental rights group Moms for Liberty kicked off its second “Joyful Warriors” summit in Philadelphia in June, it did not do so without fierce opposition. Hundreds of demonstrators showed up to protest the organization labeled an “extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its efforts to rid schools of materials that highlight the nation’s history of racism or LGBTQ+ issues. Among the demonstrators were members of the newly formed Grandparents for Truth, a project of the progressive advocacy organization People for the American Way (PFAW). Television producer Norman Lear, who died December 5 at age 101, established PFAW in 1981 to counter the “moral majority” agenda of the religious right.

Grandparents for Truth, which formally launched in June, bills itself as an antidote of sorts to conservative groups like Moms for Liberty that strive to influence school curricula. Instead of supporting book banningeducational gag orders and far-right political candidates, the left-leaning elders, and their allies, are mobilizing to give children what they call “the freedom to learn.” Members are speaking out against censorship at school board meetings, backing progressive school board candidates and organizing against extremist ones. They’re writing legislators to urge them to take a stance against bigotry. All the while, they’re demonstrating that scores of older people are invested in fighting school policies that ignore the role communities of color and queer people play in society.

The 19th spoke with Alana Byrd, PFAW’s national field director, and Marge Baker, PFAW’s executive director, about Grandparents for Truth’s origin and mission as the nation’s culture wars unfold in classrooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

At this point, many Americans are familiar with Moms for Liberty and other parental rights groups. What do you want them to know about Grandparents for Truth and the impetus for its launch? 

Alana Byrd: We’re seeing a great influx of book banning and challenges around the country. We’re seeing a real need to fight back against authoritarianism and censorship. We’re also seeing in our own membership, a lot of older folks and grandparents in general who are trying to find a way to fight back. So we created Grandparents for Truth. Part of that was definitely inspired by their own life experiences. Marge is a grandparent and one of our founding Grandparents for Truth. My own mother is a grandparent and also the child of Holocaust survivors who heard this story over and over again from the start that this is how it begins. It begins with a challenging event, the banning of books, censorship, authoritarianism. That’s how we get to a scary state.

Marge Baker: Authoritarianism is taking shape now in a way that is really, really, really serious, and we felt that there were organizations out there pretending to be for freedom and liberty, but really what they mean by that is freedom and liberty for only particular people, which was not OK. So, we felt like we needed to launch something that very visibly and viscerally confronted that message. It felt that we really needed to make the statement by launching Grandparents for Truth as a counterforce to those voices that are, again, trying to own this notion of patriotism and freedom, when really what they’re about is freedom and rights for just sort of a privileged few.

Read the full article about Grandparents for Truth by Nadra Nittle at The 19th.