By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
AFRO Political Writer,
Member organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Black tourism organizations have issued responses to the recent NAACP travel advisory for the state of Florida.
On May 20, the civil rights organization issued a warning to African Americans and LGBTQ+ travelers, stating that Florida and its governor are blatantly hostile to those specific communities.
] stand in full support of the advice of the NAACP to consider the ramifications of travel to the state of Florida,” wrote the collective political action committees (PAC) of the NPHC.
The PACs of the NPHC released a statement responding to the NAACP travel advisory, not the organization itself. The PACs are legally independent of the fraternities.
“Governor Ron DeSantis has embraced an agenda that disrespects and targets Black Americans and people of color and has advanced public policy that resembles Jim Crow practices of the mid-20th century.”
The committees include the Alpha PAC, Krimson PAC, Omega Network for Action, SigmaPAC 1914 and the Brown and Gold PAC.
“We’re not only supporting that advisory, but we’re also recommending to all organizations that we should avoid travel to Florida at this time, as long as the NAACP has this advisory in place,” Walter L. Fields, chairman of the Brown and Gold PAC, told the AFRO. “We see a state that, under its current leadership, is attempting to turn back the clock.”
Fields said the joint PACs of the “Divine Nine,” a term used to refer to Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs), plan to work with Florida lawmakers to address their concerns.
“As PACs, we will communicate directly with legislators. We can financially support those legislators who will be supportive of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We can do that through campaign contributions, advertisement and getting out to vote,” said Fields. “The PACs are working on developing a collaborative policy agenda. We hope to be in Washington in the fall for the Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference.”
Fields said their agenda will include: the protection of voting rights, DEI policies, economic opportunities for African Americans, student loan debt, federal court operations and appointments and equity in U.S. public schools.
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, a member organization of the Divine Nine, already planned to hold its 86th Grand Chapter Meeting in Tampa Bay, Fla. July 18 to July 23. The conference was set before the NAACP advisory was released.
Executive Director John Burrell said the organization is supportive of the NAACP’s advisory, but it has no intentions of canceling the conclave.
“We must meet for our national meeting by our statutes. We, as an organization, had to make a financial decision,” said Burrell.“Not going to Florida would bankrupt us. We’re not doing that because no one else is going to pay our bills.”
Burrell added that people must understand that the NAACP statement is an advisory– not a cancellation or boycott.
“A national meeting is held five years from the date of the previous one. Five years ago, we knew we were going to Tampa. We did not know about the social climate or leadership of the state then,” said Burrell. “There’s nothing we could have done about that.”
Burrell acknowledged that Kappa Alpha Psi’s decision to move forward with their national meeting would be met with criticism.
“We knew that there might be a couple of organizations that could not
[cancel their plans
] at this time,” he said. “ I believe that going forward, all of our organizations will be very cognizant of any activity or engagement in the state of Florida.”
The Future of Black Tourism (FOBT), Black Travel Alliance and Blacks in Travel and Tourism (BTT) also released a collective response to the NAACP’s travel advisory. They detailed that the warning has the potential to hurt Florida-based Black businesses.
“The question we must all ask ourselves is, ‘Who does the Florida travel advisory really hurt?’” the organizations wrote in a statement.
“While we recognize that the Florida NAACP Conference and the national office of the NAACP feel it is their responsibility to take a stance, where is the consideration that the travel advisory can become damaging to small Black travel and tourism businesses and underserved communities in Florida that rely heavily on tourism?”
BTT CEO and founder Stephanie M. Jones said that before the advisory was made public, she knew that the NAACP Florida State Conference was petitioning the national office to authorize a travel warning.
At that time, Jones initially thought the advisory would hurt Black businesses and communities in Florida. Her organization works to advance small, Black-owned travel businesses so they can equitably participate in and profit from local tourism industries.
“We don’t support Governor DeSantis at all, and we’re not against the NAACP,” said Jones. “We just hoped that they would have been more proactive in reaching out to other Black leaders, particularly in travel and tourism, that represent small businesses and marginalized communities to hear our perspective on how the travel advisory may hurt or hinder economic development and equity.”
According to Jones, in recent years, FOBT, Black Travel Alliance and BTT have focused on encouraging Black leisure travelers to patronize Black businesses during their trips. Jones thinks the advisory has undermined their efforts.
“We’re planning to encourage African-American travelers and all travelers to be intentional about coming to Florida and seeking out Black businesses to support,” said Jones. “We’re about advancing Black businesses, not setting them back.”
Martina Jones Johnson, co-founder of Black Travel Alliance, also expressed concern about the travel advisory’s impact on Florida-based Black travel professionals and businesses.
“I understand that some of the stuff that’s being done in Florida is bigger than travel— it’s huge.
] needs to be stopped. He can’t erase and rewrite history,” said Johnson. “In the same token, we don’t want the people who work in Florida, especially the Black travel professionals, to suffer more than they already have.”
She added that supporting Black small businesses is the best way to fight against Governor DeSantis’ efforts.
“If you’re going to Florida over the next couple of months– whether it be because you absolutely have to or because your vacation has already been planned– be very intentional in supporting Black-owned businesses when you are there,” said Jones.
The AFRO contacted the NAACP for a response to concerns resulting from the advisory.
“Let’s be clear – the NAACP’s travel advisory is a safety warning for Black people who live in or travel to Florida. This disclaimer– similar to those we encounter every day– is to make Black, Brown and LGBTQ+ people aware that their lives, their full being, is not valued by Florida’s so-called leaders,” said Chairman of NAACP Board of Directors Leon W. Russell.
“For those who find themselves in Florida, we encourage you to prioritize spending money at Black-owned businesses, attending events that benefit Black communities, and most importantly standing with us as we fight for the systemic changes that we need to achieve the more equitable society we deserve.”
Megan Sayles and Tashi McQueen are Report For America Corps Members.