NAACP Board Chairman Leon Russell told NNPA Newswire that the civil rights organization’s Florida travel advisory is not a ban but a call to action against the state’s regressive and oppressive laws and policies that they specifically target blacks and other minorities.
Russell stated that the ad serves as a method to mobilize voters who are subject to and tired of the movement against diversity, equity and inclusion in the Sunshine State.
“We are going to understand what this notice is. It’s a heads up,” Russell said. “It is advising people who are coming to the state or who are thinking of coming to the state.”
The nation’s oldest civil rights organization issued the notice May 20 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill preventing public universities from using federal or state money for diversity programs.
Russell repudiated any claim that DeSantis’ latest attack on diversity was the final straw that prompted the ad.
He said it was the culmination of open attempts by DeSantis and the Florida GOP-controlled legislature to erase black history, continued attacks on the LGBTQ community, and bans on works by black and minority authors and artists.
Russell also said the national organization agreed with the notice following the NAACP’s statewide conference call for such action.
“It stems from the relentless attack on fundamental liberties by the governor and his legislative body,” the NAACP said. NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson noted that “Florida is openly hostile toward African-Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ-+ people.”
“Before you travel to Florida, please understand that the State of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions and challenges that African-Americans and other communities of color face,” Johnson said.
However, Russell reiterated that the NAACP is not encouraging a ban in Florida.
“He [the travel advisory] he is advising them to look at what is happening in Florida to determine if this is a place they want to go. If this is a place you want to be a part of. He doesn’t say, don’t come.”
Russell continued: “We are not boycotting Florida. Frankly, it’s the exact opposite. We’re saying think about it if you come. If you come to an entertainment center, come to an entertainment center that supports diversity and inclusion.
“Come to an entertainment center that is willing to put its name out there to support all groups.
“We are telling corporate America to think about what you do. Think about your investors. Support diversity and inclusion, but don’t support policies that are regressive and create discrimination, or policies that encourage discrimination.”
Russell added that the NAACP recently met with about 40 partner organizations, many of which have upcoming events in Florida.
“We are telling these organizations that they should come, but they should speak up. They should talk about these regressive policies,” Russell insisted.
Just as important, Russell said the NAACP wants everyone to know about public policies that could affect people wherever they visit.
“We want them to look at adopting illegal carry in Florida without the need for training. We have had people ask if black people should bring guns into Florida,” Russell said. “That is not what we are saying. We are saying to take precautions. But the real thing is to start questioning the political situation in Florida.
“They have to organize. That is the only way to change these policies. Get involved in the political situation. It’s not just about the presidential campaign. These are elective offices across the state, from school boards to mayors and governors.
“We are making sure that we organize and that people are educated, registered and voting in every election.