By Michael Coard
As a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., since 1979 at Cheyney University, I call on my beloved pro-Black brothers to do the right thing and boycott racism by canceling or relocating their scheduled July 18-23, 2023, Grand Chapter “Konclave Meetings & Festivities” in Tampa Bay, Florida.
I also call on all the other pro-Black brothers and sisters of the pro-Black Divine Nine (D9) organizations – including Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Iota Phi Theta – to boycott anti-Black Gov. Ron DeSantis either by canceling any activities in Florida or by not scheduling any activities there, at least while he remains in office or his anti-Black policies remain in effect.
More about DeSantis’ racism later in this article. Right now, allow me to start at the beginning of the Kappas’ and the entire D9’s Blackness.
At least 2,000 years before the Greeks did their fraternity (and later their sorority) thing, North Africans – in particular, people commonly called Egyptians but who technically are Kemites – had originated their “Wisdom Teaching” and their “Sophia” (meaning sophisticated) rites of passage that were designed to pledge loyalty to their culture. After observing some of the North Africans’ activity, the visiting Greeks plagiarized it and referred to it as the “Mystery School.” That’s because when the Greeks asked the North Africans what they were secretly doing, the North Africans politely told the Greeks that it was none of their business and that it would remain a mystery to the Greeks.
As a result, the Greeks began mimicking the little that they had seen and began superficial pledge programs that lasted for weeks or months, while the North Africans’ substantive rites of passage – which included a mental obstacle component, ritualistic ceremony, secret handshakes, confidential passwords and spiritual enlightenment – lasted for years.
Fast forward to 1906-1963 when, in chronological order, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta were founded.
But anti-Black DeSantis and anti-Black Florida are trying to erase the history and the existence of those nine great pro-Black fraternities and sororities. If you don’t believe me, then believe Florida House Bill 999 which is legislation introduced by Republican State Rep. Alex Andrade that “prohibits a state college, state university, or one of their direct-support organizations, from expending state or federal funds on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs or activities.”
As confirmed at snopes.com, which vets professional and social media news, “Broadly speaking, the bill increases the authority of the Florida Board of Governors (the governing body of Florida’s state university system) to regulate state-funded higher education by … imposing limits on programs related to ‘Critical Race Theory’ and DEI programs.”
And because the bill explicitly bans Florida’s “expenditure for membership in, or the purchase of goods and services from, any organization that discriminates on the basis of race …,” Black Democratic State Sen. Shervin Jones argues that the bill is “so vague that HBCUs or other institutions …
] have Black fraternities and sororities on campus can practically say we will no longer be supporting you on our campuses based …
] this law.”
And Black Democratic State Rep. Yvonne Hinson, who’s a member of a Black sorority, said during a committee debate that the bill could have an adverse effect on advisers of any student groups – including Black fraternities and sororities – that are tied directly or indirectly to any DEI program. In her words, “Frankly, faculty that …
] paid by …
] university may not be able to be faculty advisers to these groups.”
Also, another Black Democratic legislator, State Rep. Angie Nixon, proposed an amendment to the bill that would protect Black fraternities and sororities. But the white Republican majority in the House rejected it.
I must point out that each of these nine Black fraternities and sororities were founded by Black men and women who were not permitted into or not accepted by white fraternities and sororities. They all were founded by Black men and women who personally or whose loved ones personally battled the anti-Blackness of sharecropping, Jim Crow, redlining and gerrymandering – as well as especially disenfranchisement.
And Florida is the most disenfranchising state in America regarding felony convictions, convictions that were designed to disproportionately affect Black men and women. In fact, as reported on Oct. 25, 2022, at wabe.org (an NPR and PBS affiliate for the metropolitan Atlanta area), “Among states, Florida has the highest number of disenfranchised citizens, with more than 1.1 million people currently prohibited from casting a ballot. Most of those individuals, researchers say, are disenfranchised simply because they cannot afford to pay court-ordered fees or fines.”
By the way, “The Sentencing Project estimates that about 934,500 Floridians who have completed their sentences remain disenfranchised because of the state’s law.”
But I’m not just talking about Florida’s anti-Black so-called criminal justice system. I’m also talking about its anti-Black so-called educational system.
Just last year, DeSantis signed the so-called “Stop W.O.K.E” Act (which stands for “Stop the “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees” Act). This law allows teachers and employees who violate it to be fired and state schools to lose performance funding. In addition, it allows racist parents to sue teachers and school districts that teach any Black history subject that racist parents don’t like.
Moreover, it includes, among other things, eight specific prohibitions for students in schools and employees at job sites. Five of those eight consist of the following:
1. There can be no discussion about White “privilege” or Black “oppression.”
2. There can be no discussion about White people of the present benefiting from racist policies, practices, and laws “of the past.”
3. There can be no discussion about race that would make White people feel bad regarding benefiting from systemic racism, i.e. that would make White people “feel guilt, anguish or other forms of psychological distress” regarding benefiting from racism.
4. There can be no discussion about “diversity, equity, or inclusion” as remedies for systemic racism.
5. There can be no discussion that refutes the lie that White people’s success is based solely on “merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindedness.”
The good news is that four months after this racist BS became law, a federal judge blocked its enforcement because it violated the First Amendment’s free speech clause and also because it violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ vagueness/due process clause. But the bad news is that DeSantis appealed, so now the outcome is uncertain.
And what’s worse, because this law is so vague, it could prohibit – as I recently stated on my WURD96.1FM Radio Courtroom show – “a teacher from accurately explaining that just as laws were passed during slavery to make it illegal for Blacks to learn to read, DeSantis’ law makes it illegal for Blacks to learn about those laws that made it illegal for Blacks to learn to read.”
And don’t get me started about DeSantis’ and Florida’s opposition in January to the Advanced Placement course on African American studies and their racist deletion in February of the term “systemic racism” to describe America’s past and present. As Ivory Toldson, the NAACP Director of Education Innovation and Research, made clear, “Ron DeSantis’ flippant dismissal of an AP African American Studies course is not only a dereliction of his duty to ensure equitable education for all Floridians, but shows clear disdain for the lives and experiences that form part of our national history.” Moreover, Toldson adds, “This decision is even harder to accept when we consider Florida’s dismal record when addressing education equity for Black students.”
Just as the NAACP did, the Kappas must express their condemnation regarding DeSantis and Florida. And they must do it not merely by speaking words but also by not spending their money in Florida from July 18-23 or any other time. Florida already had an estimated 137.6 million tourists visit last year. That number will be higher this year. And those visitors contributed about $105 billion to the state’s economy just last year alone.
Not one of the Kappas approximately 160,000 members should pay a single dime to enable Florida’s promotion of anti-Black racism in general and Florida’s destruction of the D9 in particular. Boycott Florida. Cancel or relocate the July 18-23, 2023, Grand Chapter “Konclave Meetings & Festivities.”
As a wise man once wrote, “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Michael Coard, Esq. can be followed on Twitter, Instagram, and his YouTube channel as well as at AvengingTheAncestors.com. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD 96.1 FM or 900 AM. And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCAM/Verizon Fios/Comcast.
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Philadelphia Tribune.