On Wednesday, the oldest Black intercollegiate fraternity in the United States announced that it would move its 99th General Convention and 119th Anniversary Convention from Orlando. In a statement, General President Dr. Willis L. Lonzer, III said that the move was due to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his “harmful, racist, and insensitive policies against the Black community.” The convention was slated to take place in 2025.
Dr. Lonzer estimated that their decision to yank the convention from Orlando would cost the state $4.6 million in revenue generated by the event. “We will not spend our money where Black people and other marginalized communities are continuously harmed by policies at the highest level of government,” he said, also stating that the other members of the Divine Nine of historically Black fraternities and sororities were all “aligned” on the spirit behind the decision.
The recent controversy over the state’s adoption of educational standards was the last straw. “Earlier this week, the Florida Board of Education approved a controversial new K-12 curriculum for African American history, which erases Florida’s role in slavery and oppression, blames the victims, and declares that African Americans who endured slavery benefited from the horrific and torturous institution,” the statement from Alpha Phi Alpha said. At the direction of the governor, the state’s educational board also rejected students’ access to an AP course focusing on African American studies. DeSantis has consistently affirmed his desire to eliminate “wokeness” in the curriculum.
In May, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Black people traveling to Florida in response to DeSantis’ policies explicitly targeting the community in the state, and other groups have begun pulling their conventions from Florida within the past couple of weeks. Dr. Lonzer did encourage those in Florida to get to the polls. “We have not forgotten our membership or the citizens of Florida,” he said. “We are committed to encouraging them to stay vigilant and to ensure that they are in the voting process. We will continue to make our voter education opportunities available as we funnel funds to the state of Florida to ensure that they can hold various forums and can have the appropriate conversations. When the time comes to vote, we will get them out to vote.”
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