Leaders rally in the capital city to save history

Famu NAACP President, Sydney Aitcheson, speaking at the “Rally For Our History”
Photo Courtesy: Ashley Bigbee

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has no limits regarding his agenda to stop controversial discussions on race, gender identity, and sexuality in the state. DeSantis has strategically set his sights on Black History, backing the ban on AP African American History courses being taught on high school campuses.

Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, and other community leaders are not backing down without a fight. A diverse crowd of over one thousand protestors, ministers, and activists gathered from cities across Florida to use their voices and challenge the governor.

The Rally to Save History, organized by Holmes and Rev. Don Tolliver, the Tallahassee Chapter of National Action Network’s President, began at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and ended at the State Capitol.

Opening the protest with prayer, Rev. Holmes was very clear with his message to those attending the event. 

“Our history, Black history, is American history,” Holmes said. “Our history does not make anyone feel uncomfortable or guilty…sometimes the bible makes me uncomfortable, but I’m not going to ban the bible.”

Holmes felt it is crucial that his church is at the forefront of this protest, as Black churches have always been pillars of change in the community.

“I think the Black church has always been the bedrock for the struggle for civil rights, justice, diversity, and inclusion,” said Holmes. “It starts in the church, and we’ve got to bring it back to the church and have that spiritual empatis.”

The Florida Department of Education controls Advanced Placement Courses (AP) and standardized college readiness tests like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The board’s letter rejected the AP African American History course, stating the study was “inexplicably contrary to Florida law” and significantly “lacked educational value.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, American Civil Rights Activist, has spent the majority of his life fighting for the protection and justice of African Americans in this country. Sharpton recognized the patterns of ‘racism and bigotry’ and its attack on education.

“In slavery, it was against the law for us to read and write, and if whites taught us how to read and write, they could be indicted, prosecuted, or even executed,” Sharpton said. “The God I serve will open up the history books and tell our story.”

Sydney Aitcheson, Famu Chapter of NAACP President, worked diligently to help organize this event and feels it is important to have tough conversations regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. 

“When you have the governor playing a role as a leader who is God, or a pastor, we know this is someone we cannot have as president in 2024,” Aitcheson said. “He is attempting to overthrow academic liberties and erase history…but this is history, not his story!” 

MSNBC met at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church for a live broadcast of the Reid Out hosted by political correspondent Joy Reid. Reid interviewed Sharpton, Fla. Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami-Dade (Dem.), and Rep. Michele Rayner- Goolsby, D-Hillsborough (Dem.). 

The group agreed that the “Woke indoctrination” is meant to protect white kids, but the governor hasn’t factored in the number of students from all backgrounds who are coming together.

“Last year, we saw students walking out of classrooms. If there’s an injustice, they are rising up,” Goolsby said. “We saw that today, Famu and FSU students at the rally…and they weren’t just Black students.”

Over a thousand people like Lillie Price Wesley Esq. came from across the country for this momentous event. Wesley traveled from Ellicott City, Md., to support the cause she believed in. 

“I think it is extremely significant to take a stand against the obliteration of black History. I cannot see a way of teaching American History without teaching about Black Americans,” Wesley said. “I find it extremely embarrassing for history to not include all American history, and Black history contributions are significant, and our stories need to be told.”