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Florida Leaders Speak Out About Upholding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream

Leon County leaders addressed education and the need to continue to fight for civil rights during a Martin Luther King commemoration ceremony.

A recent gathering at the Leon County Courthouse commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and speakers emphasized the continued need to fight for civil rights amid concerning trends in Florida.

Leaders in attendance included Leon County School Board member Darryl Jones, according to WSFU News. Given the Sunshine State’s oppressive past, which PBS reported includes having the highest per capita rate of lynching from 1900 to 1930, Jones underscored the importance of teaching accurate Black history.

“We don’t care what mediocre minds say – we’re going to teach African American history in Leon County schools,” Jones stated. His remarks come as Florida implements controversial changes to history curriculum, even reportedly perpetuating falsehoods like the idea that some slaves benefited from slavery. Jones criticizes how new laws discourage open conversations about diversity and equity. He called on citizens to take action, saying, “I need you to decide the role you’ll play in saving children from weaponized bigotry.”

Over the last two years, Florida has passed restrictive laws dictating how history is taught, sparking intense debates. As previously covered by BLACK ENTERPRISE, several debates erupted after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed a mandate on July 26, 2023, on how lessons about Black history should be taught. And others in the Republican party disagreed with the mandate. “There is no silver lining in slavery,” Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said at the time.

Still, with current rising tensions, teaching youth about Florida’s role in inequality and lynching is critical. WSFU reported that Jones summarized the call to action: “It is important that we not stand idly by as they undermine children.”

Fourth-grader Skyy Proud also spoke out at the Leon County Courthouse event about learning from America’s civil rights past. She noted an overlooked tie between Dr. King and Florida, sharing, “Dr. King spent time in Florida with local civil rights icons… Reverend CK Steele and family…Reverend Daniel Speed…Laura Dixie and her husband, Samuel Dixie, Sr.” and other members of Florida’s local Inter-Civic Council.

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