Two worlds in the same galaxy. The first world has a long history — full of ups and downs — but its people have learned and are learning from the mistakes of their past. When they say, "Black Lives Matter", "Love is Love", "Liberty and Justice for All", "End poverty", and "Peace not war," they do not just say it, on this planet, they do it. In this world, the leaders empower the people, rights are protected with the utmost respect, and power is shared not controlled.
Now picture, the second world, run by a single, cowardly dictator who divides the people so that they will never know that a better day awaits them-- if they walk together. This leader spews hatred lies and is inspired by the worst parts of the past such as: separate but unequal, Black Codes, "Go back to where you come from," "Here's a flight to the Martha's Vineyard," and enjoys the occasional scare tactic. In this world, people do not know the history of how their ancestors overcame tyrants because they have been restricted from learning it. When this leader sees any glimpse of this world becoming like the first, new ideas are invented and new barriers are erected to stop progress.
The sad truth is that as much as I love a good comic story, THIS is our reality in Florida.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is the reborn, reincarnated, reinvented, George Wallace Jim Crow Willie Lynch of our time. He has used the term "WOKE" to label anything or anyone that does not agree with him or his agenda which looks more and more like a "White Citizens Council" brochure (Side note: This is the history that he is trying to prevent the next generation from learning about). He is that villain in the movie looking to takeover, destroy rights, and reverse progress in favor of a world that silences what he fears — that we shall overcome!
George Orwell said, "The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history."
HB 999, HB 7, HB 1557, HB 1, and HB 1467 are the Governor's and GOPs legislative atrocities to destroy black history through banned books and curriculum censorship, create prejudice toward members of the LGBTQIA community, silence academic freedoms in our colleges and universities, end all programs that focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, and strike fear into our educators with promises of firings and jailing if they dare to teach it. Our state has become that second world--Florida is "Where Freedom Goes to Die!"
Never did I ever believe as a high school junior that learning Black History, American History, HISTORY - one that is the rich with pride, innovation, culture, true patriotism, and the resistance that under-girded the very creation of this democracy would require a permission slip. Never did I ever believe as a young person, born in the 2000s, that I would be living in the same reality as my grandparents and their ancestors who had to fight to overcome. Never did I ever believe that I would have to be worried about a casual conversation with my peers about topics relevant to my culture getting me written up in school or deemed illegal. And never did I ever believe that I too would have to really carry the baton to demand freedom and justice like Rutledge Pearson, Julian Bond, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others who too had to stand against the tyrants of their time.
So, fight — WE MUST.
We must fight to save black history which is American History--especially the uncomfortable parts. We must fight to demand access to all books for all students. We must fight to protect the rights of members of the LGBTQIA community because "their destiny is tied up with our destiny." We must fight to protect our teachers, librarians, and college professors who "speak truth to power." We must fight now to stop this tyrannical plan from spreading across America.
The NAACP Florida Youth and College is strategically and militantly fighting against these legislative atrocities through our Freedom Libraries and More-than-a-Book Campaigns.
Freedom Libraries are being launched across Florida to get books, whether banned or not, about black history, race, diversity, equity, and inclusion into the hands of students and parents. Through these libraries, we will host discussions on banned/challenged books, curriculum censorship, academic freedoms for our teachers and college professors, and the importance of school and public libraries.
Our More-than-a-Book Campaign will be used to fight back against the Florida Department of Education's mandate that all local school boards review all books and consider all book challenges. By developing a comprehensive analysis of banned and challenged books and by connecting these books to the American experience and heritage, as required by Florida law, we will be able to demand and provide strong evidence that appropriate books be returned to the shelves immediately.
In addition to advocacy, we are encouraging members of our local communities to demand educational freedom in Florida through petitions as well as mobilizing the 2024 vote now.
Youth and College units are fired up and are working for a better, more inclusive Florida.
To learn more of how you can help us fight back, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Power!
President, NAACP Florida Youth & College