BY LOUIS C. WARD
TAVARES – More than 30 protesters carrying signs that read: ‘Truth is: Our education causes you to fear our strength”; “Tell and Teach the Truth”; “Black History is American History”; and “Black History Matters” marched outside Tavares City Hall just before the Lake County School Board held their monthly meeting Monday, February 27, 2023.
The protest rally was sponsored by “All About the Ballot”, a community activist organization which endeavors to give a voice to issues affecting the quality of life for Floridians and Lake County residents specifically.
Students, teachers, elected officials, faith and community organization leaders and concerned supporters were not protesting against the Lake County School Board. Their purpose was to bring attention to the recent Stop W.O.K.E. law enacted by Governor Ron DeSantis and his administration.
“Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act, a legislative proposal that will give businesses, employees, children and families tools to fight back against woke indoctrination. The Stop W.O.K.E. Act will be the strongest legislation of its kind in the nation and will take on both corporate wokeness and Critical Race Theory.”
Florida state standards require teaching some African American history, which puts teachers in a problematic position with the possibility of being reprimanded because teachers will not know what they can and cannot teach.
Many feel it’s a blatant attempt to erase African American History and African American Advanced Placement courses, which DeSantis said has “no educational value.” Governor DeSantis has also made a list of books by African American, Hispanic and other authors which are banned from being used in the state’s educational system.
“Banning our African American history books and our African American Advanced Placement courses is DeSantis systemically legislating Black History out of Florida’s education,” said Mae Hazelton, Vice President and co-founder of All About the Ballot. “We want our voices heard that this is unacceptable to us and we see clearly what DeSantis is doing.”
Pastor Mike Watkins, Friendship CME Church, said, “We want to bring attention to what is going on with Governor Ron DeSantis and Manny Diaz, our Commissioner of Education. This is not against the Lake County School Board, but we have to do it at the school board meeting, rally and protest against erasing African American History, which is a part of American History.”
Commenting on the issue of erasing African American History, Eustis City Commissioner William Hawkins said, “I am Black. You erase our history; you erase part of me. This is American history. We’ve come a long way. There’s no redemption. America can’t come back and do the right thing. But, things are better. What’s most important is that our history is our history. We don’t like it, but don’t erase it.”
“It’s a shame that our duly elected leaders are trying to diminish what we’ve accomplished,” Carla Mitchell, a Eustis community activist and great grandmother, stated. “Our children need to know we come from kings and queens.”
Cassandra Brown, President of All About the Ballot, want to get more people to participate in lobby Days, and “show up at school board meetings because they are making decisions about our children and we’re not at the table.”