By Norma Adams-Wade
Let’s all stand and cheer Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. for cancelling plans to hold its upcoming annual convention in the now infamous state of Florida.
What a powerful message of disapproval for controversial Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
The 2024 presidential hopeful continues to slap Black America in the face and destroy its proud history — maybe to score political points, maybe out of pure racism. You decide.
Alpha Phi Alpha General president Dr. Willis Lonzer III has announced that the 117-year-old, largest of the nation’s 15 intercollegiate African-American fraternities (an additional four are not intercollegiate) would relocate its next 2025 annual convention from Orlando, Florida to California. The executive scientist and biochemist made the announcement at the fraternity’s 117th general anniversary convention at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas on July 26, 2023.
NAACP TRAVEL ADVISORY
Additionally, the NAACP, the nation’s premier civil rights organization, in May issued a travel advisory that gave the followed public warning: “Please be advised that Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the State of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by, African Americans and other minorities.
The advisory also lists about a dozen grievances Gov. DeSantis and the Florida legislature have committed against the groups mentioned. The grievances include banning and sanitizing certain text book references about African-Americans and for-bidding teachers to teach “accurate African-American history,” banning diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in public colleges and universities, promoting potentially life-threatening stand-your-ground and public carry of firearms-with-out-permits laws, assaults on African-American voting rights including gerrymandering voting areas, and other clear evidence of “open hostility toward African Americans and people of color,”
RACISM, POLITICS, OR PHOBIAS?
Gov. DeSantis’s true colors – or his politically-expedient masquerade – showed up in 2018 when he, as a then-Republication congressman, challenged Tallahassee Florida’s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum. Critics said DeSantis, who is White, used “racist dog-whistles” when he called his opponent, who is Black, “articulate” but told voters they should not “monkey this up” by electing him.
Since then, DeSantis has built a tower of biased race and gender laws and policies in the supposed “Sunshine State” where, instead of shining, light has greatly dimmed.
Among his grandstanding, DeSantis also signed a new law in May 2023 that put restrictions on gender-affirming care, particularly against transgender children.
Actress Gabrielle Union and NBA athlete Dwyane Wade clashed with DeSantis’ gender policies so much so that they moved out of the state. The married couple has said in interviews that they moved to California from Florida to protect their transgender daughter Zaya, 16, from discrimination and possible physical harm by bigots. The couple supported their child who was born male and who they said told them at age 12 that since age 3, she had felt strongly that she was female and not male.
Then there are some observers who say DeSantis’ actions toward women are troubling.
Was it politics, misogyny, or discrimination that compelled the Florida governor on August 9 to suspend Democrat Monique Worrell, the state’s only African-American state attorney? The governor claimed that Worrell’s decisions were politically-motivated and too lenient? She had been elected by 67% of the vote in 2020. The former criminal defense lawyer and educator has said she may appeal the suspension, but no action has yet happened in the less than a month since the suspension.
FLORIDA DAY-OF-ABSENCE NEEDED?
Journalists and political analysts have put out much ink and airtime about DeSantis’ political edicts. Their reports unfortunately indicate that many citizens identify with DeSantis’ stance against “Woke” philosophy. Conservatives decry “wokeness” as too progressive and destructive to their vision of traditional bedrock American values. Liberals see the philosophy as simply being awake, informed, and alert to inequity and injustice in society.
Veteran print and broadcast journalist Charles Blow says the company DeSantis keeps defines who he is himself. Many of the governor’s associates and office appointees have been exposed in racist situations. One example is his former Secretary of State appointee Michael Ertel who previously had jokingly portrayed an imaginary Black female Katrina hurricane victim by wearing blackface and dressing in ghetto garb, including head wrap, hoop earrings and fake boobs. After a photo emerged, Blow said media asked about the incident and the governor used his familiar M. O., saying he knew nothing about it.
Perhaps as in playwright Douglas Turner Ward’s 1965 play Day of Absence, African-Americans should devise such a day (week, month?) where they disappear from Florida society. They would stay home or leave the state – taking with them their skills, talents and labor. Would that make a point?
Norma Adams-Wade, is a proud Dallas native, University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate and retired Dallas Morning News senior staff writer. She is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and was its first southwest regional director. She became The News’ first Black full-time reporter in 1974. email@example.com