By Gloria Nash – America may be land of the free, home of the brave, but that must not include Florida.
Under the current leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, everything from the removal of African-American history in textbooks, banning of books, elimination of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to a straight up battle with Disneyworld has ensued for those that disagree with the states current political trajectory. You can now add the Black Press to that list. This week the Jacksonville Free Press received a non-renewal of their contract with the Florida Lottery, ending over a decade long relationship.
Account coordinator Lynn Jones received a phone call from agency representative Adrian Ortiz who told her they were cancelling relationship due to the “current political climate.”
As a publication that is marketed to the African-American population, the Jacksonville Free Press has circulated news pertaining to the African-America Diaspora for over thirty-five years.
“It’s or duty to report the news. The fact that all of this is happening in Florida at this time is not hearsay, nor gossip its fact,” said Free Press publisher Sylvia Perry.
Despite being known as a reputable award-winning publication, the notification received the state funded Florida Lottery described the publication’s material as “explicit.”
“Although we have valued our relationship with your publication and team, we found numerous instances of explicit political messaging, frequently placed directly next to Florida Lottery insertions. These included discussions and opinion pieces on political figures and heavily controversial political topics, which is in direct conflict with our Brand Guidelines,” said an email signed by Media Coordinator Joudi Ayroud.
This week, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for Florida over Governor DeSantis’ “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity and inclusion programs” in the state’s schools, the organization said in a statement.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement that “failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all.”
Under DeSantis, “the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” Johnson added.
Since he’s been in office, the governor’s office has made swift progressive policies to limit free speech, protest and even thought including:
- Attacking “wokeness” and critical race theory, signing a new law that bans businesses and schools from teaching about White privilege;
- Rejection of math textbooks from publishers, claiming some included elements of critical race theory and emotional and social learning;
- In response to the killing of George Floyd, while other states reviewed policing policies, DeSantis called for and signed a so-called anti-riot bill that opponents said targeted peaceful protesters. A court blocked that law as well.
- In a special session, lawmakers approved a new congressional map proposed by his office that appears all but certain to dilute the voting power of Black Floridians. On the same day, the legislature carried out DeSantis’ threat to punish Disney for speaking out against the law he recently signed that limits certain classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
It’s clear Governor DeSantis has emerged as a bully in Florida, using and wielding his political power to silence any opposition to his agenda at all costs. Though the Free press did not hear directly the termination of their relationship with the Lottery was due to the governor, it is obvious the diverse viewpoints will not be tolerated in the former “free state” of Florida especially when a state funded agency is involved.
“We will continue to tell our story empowering our readers with the truth they need to be informed and make conscious decision,” said Perry. “It didn’t stop the Black Press 100 years ago and it won’t stop us tomorrow.”