By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The oldest historically Black collegiate fraternity in the United States, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, has announced that it will move its planned 2025 convention from Florida to an alternate location.
The decision comes as a response to what the fraternity describes as “harmful, racist, and insensitive” policies implemented by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration towards African Americans.
The convention, which typically draws between 4,000 and 6,000 attendees and reportedly has an economic impact of $4.6 million, has been a significant event for the fraternity.
However, the recent travel advisory for Florida issued by the NAACP and other civil rights organizations has raised concerns about the state’s stance towards African Americans, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.
In a statement, Willis Lonzer, the fraternity’s general president, said that part of their motivation for relocating the convention is Florida’s new education standards.
The new standards mandate that middle school teachers instruct students on the idea that enslaved people developed skills for their benefit.
The fraternity strongly disagrees, viewing it as an attempt to downplay the horrors of slavery and its enduring impact on African Americans.
“Although we are moving our convention from Florida, Alpha Phi Alpha will continue to support the strong advocacy of Alpha Brothers and other advocates fighting against the continued assault on our communities in Florida by Governor Ron DeSantis,” Lonzer explained.
DeSantis, vying for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has faced criticism from various quarters, including a fellow Republican, U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole Black Republican in the Senate.
In response, DeSantis defended Florida, stating that he was countering “false accusations and lies” and pledging to uphold the truth.
In May, the NAACP, along with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Equality Florida, issued travel advisories for Florida, pointing to the state’s recent laws and policies that they deemed hostile to marginalized communities.
Among these laws were restrictions on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in state colleges, bans on critical race theory, and implementing the Stop WOKE Act, which limited specific race-based conversations and analysis in schools and businesses.
Concerns were also raised over laws impacting immigrants in Florida and restricting discussions on LGBTQ topics in schools.
At least nine other organizations or associations have canceled their conventions in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, two of Florida’s major convention cities, citing concerns over the state’s political climate.
Florida remains a popular tourist destination, and tourism is a vital industry for the state, providing 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs.
Despite facing challenges during the pandemic, Florida’s tourism sector bounced back, with over 137.5 million visitors in the last year, contributing $98.8 billion to the state’s economy in 2019.