TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Hundreds of Black legislators, preachers, and activists rallied against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives Wednesday afternoon, threatening to pull students from Florida schools and universities.
Demonstrators including Rev. Al Sharpton, protested in response to not only the state’s rejection of the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies class but also the governor’s plans to gut college diversity programs, continue his migrant relocation program and pursue policies that are viewed as harmful to the LGBTQ community.
“If you come for one of us, you come for all of us,” said Bishop Rudolph McKissick of Jacksonville, Florida, at the National Action Network rally.
“If you don’t want our story, you shouldn’t get our students,” he later added. “I wonder what would happen if every D1 athlete went into the transfer portal and found a school that wants their story.”
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The protest, which started as a march from Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee to the Capitol building, was led by Tallahassee church leader Rev. R.B. Holmes and Sharpton, with a banner that read “Save Our History” with the words “Equity! Diversity! Inclusion!” underneath.
He urged underrepresented communities in Florida to register to vote and compared their efforts to the biblical story of David and Goliath.
“We’ll march together, we’ll fight together, we got our sling shots! We got our sling shots! We got our sling shots!” he yelled as the crowd cheered.
The rally came several weeks after news broke that DeSantis’ administration decided to reject a new AP course on African American Studies, claiming the class is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”
BACK STORY:Florida education officials: African American Studies AP course ‘lacks educational value’
The state continues to defend its decision, with DeSantis even threatening in recent days to drop all AP classes in Florida.
“There are probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or maybe even a lot better,” he said.
Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said the course is “filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law” but said the state does “proudly require the teaching of African American history.”
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On Jan. 31, the day before Black History Month, DeSantis outlined plans to dismantle campus diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and said they impose an “agenda” and are based in liberal politics.
State Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, said she remembers what it was like to have to go to a separate water fountain as a child, and she should be able to talk about it regardless if it makes someone feel uncomfortable.
“What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of just telling the truth?” she asked.
Hart, chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, called first lady Casey DeSantis “a little bit hypocritical” for hosting Black History Month events.
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“If my history doesn’t have any value, why would you even put on Black history programs? Why would you be asking children to do essays and turn them in for scholarships?” she asked.
Tallahassee Mayor Pro-Tem Dianne Williams-Cox said regardless of what the governor and the Department of Education decide, Black history will be taught.
“We will teach it in the highways and byways,” she said. “We’ll teach it in the parks, we’ll teach it wherever we need to teach it to make sure our history is not lost.”
Anitra Krishnan, a 14-year-old student from Chiles High School in Tallahassee, hitched a ride with a friend’s mom to go to the rally at the Capitol. Krishnan and her three friends were there to “stand up for what’s right,” she said.
“They’re worrying about AP instead of worrying about children and gun violence,” she added. Wednesday’s rally was a day after the five-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Krishnan said learning new things doesn’t make her uncomfortable, but censorship does.
“It just makes me feel icky,” she said.
Story Credit: usatoday.com