A Conversation On Literacy And Legislation

“Today I Saw A Teacher Cry”

Alison Norton, LSSC; Regina Newkirk Rucci, Equity Director, 904WARD and State Representative Lavon Bracy Davis
Regina Newkirk Rucci, Equity Director, 904WARD and State Representative Lavon Bracy Davis


LAKE COUNTY – On Aug 2nd, in a trembling, hushed voice with tears welling then overflowing, a Lake County School Teacher expressed her frustration and fears with the current situation in Florida and her inability to teach the truth about African American History, particularly the impact of slavery. She wanted to teach the truth but can’t.  It was a starkly emotional moment for everyone in the room. Everyone understood what is at stake. Everyone understood the importance of the dialogue.

All About the Ballots joined State Representative Lavon Bracy Davis, Regina Newkirk Rucci of 904WARD and Alison Norton, Lake Sumter State College at the Barrel of Books & Games establishment to have a serious and much needed conversation on the continuing issue of Literacy and the impact of recent legislation on the Florida education landscape.  The event, the second in less than 90 days, was hosted by the Mayor of Mount Dora, Chrissy Stiles, at her Barrel of Books and Games store located in the heart of downtown Mt. Dora.  Regina Rucci whose Jacksonville based organization focuses on “Inclusion and equity beginning with understanding each other better” handed out nearly 250 free banned books to an attentive and engaged audience. The book giveaway included 20 titles the Southern Poverty Leadership cites in their Learning for Justice series but are just a few of the nearly 1,500 titles that have been banned since the start of the 2022-23 school year according to PEN America.

The event focused attention on the following areas: (1) attacks on the Freedom to Learn are lethal assaults on democracy; (2) calling out the information that Florida Legislation and the supporters that distortion in textbooks and other messaging is important; (3) anti-truth legislation is designed to destroy our sense of reality, and (4) all our children have an inalienable right to be taught the truth in our nation’s classrooms.

Representative Lavon Bracy Davis who began the conversation in an impassioned voice asked, “Why are we having this conversation?  What is the ultimate objective?”  She went on to say, “The real conversation is why it is so important for them to say there was a benefit to slavery.”  She urged those gathered with these words, “If you don’t like what is going on, ask yourself what can you do and how much more can you do.” Later she pointed out the hypocrisy of the use of our tax dollars as she explained the legislative rules and regulations on books apply to public schools but not private schools.

Rucci who is the Director of Equity for 904WARD, told those gathered, “This is a Florida issue.  This is a moment in time when we need to evaluate who we are and what we stand for.”  Later in the discussion, she reminded everyone present that it is “incumbent for all of us to be knowledgeable and share that knowledge with others.”

Alison Norton focused her discussion on whether people in the community knew what was actually going on.  She remarked, “It is so important to have these honest conversations.”

By denying the true ills of slavery, Florida Legislators are working to release the government from the obligation of correcting for its present-day inequalities. The violence of slavery is not just limited to a series of brutal acts that happened in the past, it also includes a deliberate process of disinformation that enables future generations to maintain the power yielded by that violence.

Cassandra Brown, the President and Co-Founder of All About the Ballots stands firm in her belief that all children should be able to see themselves on the pages of books, in art, in leadership positions, thriving, accepted, loved and successful.  Asked why these conversations are so important, she stated, “Denying the violence of slavery is a threat to our society” She went on to say, “Organized efforts to clearly and unequivocally broadcast the truth of our past are the most significant defense we have against disinformation.”

Mae Hazelton, Vice-President and Co-Founder, noted, “We cannot remain passive or ignorant of the attempts to eradicate our history.  We are taking back our power to organize, educate and resist.”

In addition to the two events in Mt. Dora, All About the Ballots held two “Embrace Not Erase” rallies in late February and are already planning other events to bring attention to the “segregation of knowledge” at the core of book banning and the distortion in textbooks and other messaging.