NAACP Board of Directors Chair Leon Russell told NNPA Newswire that the civil rights organization’s Florida travel advisory isn’t a ban but a call to action against the state’s regressive and oppressive laws and policies that specifically target Blacks and other minorities.
Russell asserted that the advisory serves as a method to mobilize voters who are subjected to and tired of the anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion movement in the Sunshine State.
“Let’s understand what this advisory is. It is an advisory,” Russell said.
“It is advising people who are coming into the state or who are thinking about coming into the state.”
The nation’s oldest civil rights organization issued the advisory on May 20 following Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a bill that blocked public colleges from using federal or state money on diversity programs.
Russell repudiated any claim that DeSantis’ latest attack on diversity was the last straw that caused the advisory.
He said it was a culmination of DeSantis and Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature’s overt attempts to erase Black history, the continued attacks on the LGBTQ community, and the banning of works by Black and minority authors and artists.
Russell also said the national organization agreed with the advisory following the NAACP’s state conference call for such action.
“It comes from the unrelenting assault on fundamental freedoms from the governor and his legislative body,” the NAACP said.
NAACP President/CEO Derrick Johnson said: “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 communities of color,” Johnson said.
However, Russell reiterated that the NAACP isn’t encouraging a ban in Florida.
“It [the travel advisory] is advising them to look at what’s going on in Florida to determine if this is a place that they want to come. If this is a place that they want to be a part of. It doesn’t say, don’t come. We’re not boycotting Florida. Quite frankly, it’s exactly the opposite. We’re saying to think about it if you do come. If you’re coming to an entertainment center, come to an entertainment center that supports diversity and inclusion.
“Come to an entertainment center that’s willing to put its name out there as supporting all groups. We’re saying to corporate America to think about what they do. Think about their investors. Support diversity and inclusion, but don’t support policies that are regressive and create discrimination, or policies that foster discrimination.”
Russell added that the NAACP recently met with about 40 partner organizations, many of whom have upcoming events in Florida.
“We’re saying to those organizations that they should come, but they should speak up. They should speak up about these regressive policies,” Russell said.
Just as important, Russell said the NAACP wants everyone to know about public policies that might impact individuals wherever they visit.
“We want you to look at Florida’s adoption of permit-less carry with no training required. We’ve had people ask should Black folks bring guns to Florida,” Russell said. “That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying to take precautions. But the real thing is to start to question the political situation in Florida.
“They’ve got to get organized. That’s the only way to change these policies. Get involved in the political situation. It’s not just about the presidential campaign. It’s about elective offices across the state, from school boards to mayors, to governors.
“We are making sure we organize and that people are educated and registered and voting in every election.”