The NAACP’s travel advisory for blacks considering visiting or moving to Florida has less to do with potential travelers and more to do with rallying the state’s black residents to counter Republican-led policies, members of the organization said. of civil rights to NBC News.
Leon W. Russell, chairman of the NAACP’s national board of directors, who lives in Tampa, said the travel advisory was an informational and strategic tactic to galvanize black voters, especially black men, against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. .
«Let me be clear: we are not calling for a boycott or a travel ban,» Russell said. “We are telling black people who are coming to the state or who are thinking of coming to the state to be aware of what is happening here and to think about how they will be affected by this hate and cruelty that is being generated. You have to consider whether you are going to be safe or not.”
The notice reads: “Florida is openly hostile to 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 faced by African Americans and other communities of color.»
Marsha Ellison, president of the Fort Lauderdale/Broward chapter of the NAACP, said the ad has already generated interest.
“Since the travel advisory, our phones have been full of people on the ground wanting to know more details about why the travel advisory and the policies that affect them,” he said. «So this is going to be quite effective.»
Ellison said many black Floridians have a strong sense of DeSantis’s policies related to race, identity and inclusion, and «many are out of step with his racist and draconian policies.»
DeSantis has said that Florida is where «the awakening goes to die.» He doubled down on his comment in January when his administration said it would block the teaching of a new Advanced Placement African-American studies course in public high schools, prompting some black parents to say they will teach history at home to ensure their children be well. versed. DeSantis has also spoken out on banning the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and on other policies some consider anti-gay or anti-immigration.
The ad, Russell said, represents multiple and intersecting underserved communities. “If you are part of any of these communities (Black, Latino, LGBTQ) or if you support these communities, you should work with us to think about a proactive civic engagement policy because this, at the end of the day, is about politics. «, said.
Millions of people flock to Florida for its beaches and attractions, but the policy has led not only the NAACP but also the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign to issue similar travel or relocation notices. warnings
In a statement released to the media, the DeSantis administration said Florida was flourishing in tourism and called the NAACP’s travel advisory «nothing more than a gimmick.» DeSantis plans to announce his presidential campaign this week.
“You can’t be blinded by the tourism piece,” Ellison said. “We are opening people’s eyes to what is really happening. This man is running for president. Florida may seem so far away to other people. But when you think about it, it could be happening in other places, you understand the importance. Black history means something to all of us and we can’t let it be erased.»
And so the NAACP is determined to fight DeSantis. Russell said his politics «are about one man’s thirst for power.» This is the most effective political action plan, civic engagement plan the association has ever carried out in the state of Florida. It’s clear to us that you can’t run away from hate, right? You have to fight it.»
Russell specifically called out black men. “You have to go out and vote. You have to encourage your brothers to go out and vote because the politics will kill you if you don’t,” he said.
Additionally, Russell said DeSantis’ public vows to erase the teaching of black history in Florida public schools have worked against his intentions. While it has garnered a lot of state and national attention, black voters are listening to the messages and are irritated by it.
“I’m encouraged that he did the opposite of what he set out to do,” Russell said. “I wanted to kill the ‘awakening’. But it has actually raised the level of consciousness of the people. People are realizing the cruelty that is being spread. I think it’s waking people up to the fact that they need to stand up, that they need to be a part of something. And that’s what we hope to create: a civic engagement movement with the travel advisory. The more people know, the more they will act.»
He cited the mayoral race in Jacksonville last week as an example. Democrat Donna Deegan was an underdog in a city that DeSantis won in his 2022 race by 12 points. The governor endorsed conservative Daniel Davis, who had run with a similar agenda to DeSantis. Deegan pulled off the surprising surprise.
“And you can point to his opponent’s attack on the LGBTQ community, the attack on the black community, for the turnout that changed that. Consciousness,” Russell said.
But Russell conceded that much more is needed in Florida to have the impact the NAACP seeks.
“We need to flip some seats in the state Legislature,” he said. “We have to show policymakers that voters are aware of what is happening and who is making this policy, and we have to organize people to change who is in policymaking positions in the state. Whether it’s at the legislative level, whether it’s at the school board level, because some of the biggest threats right now are happening at the school board level.
“And the positions of city council and mayor. So this notice is a way to raise awareness of the issues so we can motivate people to get out there, get active, and vote. That’s where the change happens.»