“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated” – Carter G Woodson.
Black History Month creates a time to marvel at the journey of encaptured slaves, who were pulled from their roots, planted in foreign soil, and how their descendants struggled to bloom. Although that is how our story began, those before us have fought to make sure that is not how our story ends. From the abolition of slavery to the right to vote, African Americans have used their voice and power to not only ensure political equality for African Americans, but Americans of all races. The history of how African Americans turned scraps into delicacies, sorrow to songs, and slavery to freedom is one to be treasured. Sadly, here in Florida, their stories and the rights that they fought for are constantly at risk of being erased.
Recently, a course that would make their stories more accessible to all college students in Florida was rejected. As an aftershock to Governor DeSantis’ ‘Stop Woke Act’, the course was said to ‘significantly lack educational value’. For some students, this would be the first and only time that they are able to learn about the contributions African Americans have made and continue to make for the betterment of society. This opportunity for non-black students to learn about this journey is imperative to our society. Because the way we see each other is the way that we treat each other, having an understanding of the barriers that were broken gives us the opportunity to see cultures differently. The continuous effort to restrict teachers from discussing aspects of black history or racism shows the lack of appreciation for African American culture and our contributions.
The work of our ancestors has given us a path to move forward. Through the power of our vote, we were able to pass Amendment 4, which restored the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions. Unfortunately, this right is also under attack. From an unconstitutional redistricting process resulting in a lawsuit, to the arresting of 19 voters who were not aware that they were permanently barred from voting. Floridians are being forced to watch America regress to ‘Jim Crow’ voting laws, while also being restricted from learning about the institutional racism that their ancestors have been fighting since first touching America’s soil.
Florida Conservation Voters believe that acknowledging the past paves a way for a better future. While there is no denying that there has been much to mourn, we also celebrate the people and programs that are working towards a brighter future. Working with youth in the Democracy for All program, we experience hope firsthand in the joy and determination shown by the younger generation. Last year, while many pieces of the election did not go our way, we celebrated wins in having endorsed environmental champions Rep. Michele Rayner and Rep. Angie Nixon, just a couple examples of the amazing representation we have in the Florida legislature.
Despite the attacks on the black voice from the Governor and blatant attempts to erase black history, the path forward is paved by those who understand the importance of knowing who they are, where they come from, and what they stand for.