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Florida NAACP doesn't want black people visiting, moving to state because of DeSantis policies — and the governor issues a pointed response

Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Florida's NAACP wants its national board to urge black people not to visit or move to the state because of the policies and actions of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Yahoo! News reported.

“All of this is a tipping point,” Yvette Lewis, president of the NAACP Hillsborough County Branch, told the outlet. “We encouraged more people to vote, and that didn’t work because [extremist Republicans] gained more power, and this is where we’re at. We had to take a strong stand because it has gone too far.”

Yahoo! News said Lewis — who heads the state's largest NAACP chapter — presented the travel advisory to the NAACP Florida State Conference late last month, and the group voted unanimously in favor of it. The NAACP's national board will review it next month, the outlet added.

“This man is working to remove the word ‘diversity’ altogether,” Lewis added to Yahoo! News, presumably in reference to DeSantis. “Just when we think we have arrived, they kick us and knock us down. And this isn’t just a black person’s issue, it’s an everyone issue.”

How did DeSantis respond?

DeSantis called the travel advisory a “joke” during a news conference the day after the NAACP state conference, the outlet said.

“We will see how effective that is,” he added, according to Yahoo! News. “Our country goes through all these stupid fights. This is a stunt to try to do that.”

More from the outlet:

DeSantis and Republican elected officials within the state have been aggressively targeting diversity efforts. Last spring DeSantis signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which banned public school teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity in class. Shortly after, he signed the “Stop WOKE” Act, which placed limits on how race and gender can be discussed in classrooms at public colleges and universities. Months later, in January, this led to the banning of AP African American studies courses for their teaching of critical race theory, an educational movement that aims to contextualize recent and historical events in a framework of systemic racism (the College Board later revised the course). However, some are concerned such a move will hurt black Floridians, Yahoo News said.

Others push back, too

Riché J. Daniel Barnes — an anthropology and African-American studies professor at the University of Florida — told Yahoo! News she believes a travel advisory keeps out those who disagree with the DeSantis administration and leads to exclusivity rather than inclusivity.

“If the people I came here to work with and build community with leave, which they have already started, I am encouraged to do so as well,” Barnes told the outlet, even adding that the travel advisory is "political theater."

Florida GOP U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds called the travel advisory “dangerous."

“It continues this division in our country, which is absolutely ludicrous,” Donalds said on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” late last month. "Especially in the state of Florida, we’re a great state, we’re open to everybody. We don’t want indoctrination, that's clear, but we teach black history, we allow black businesses to thrive. Obviously, I'm thriving. So many other black professionals are thriving in Florida. This is a joke.”

Rep. Donalds on Fox News Channel Tucker Carlson Tonight 3.24.23youtu.be

'It would be very, very detrimental'

Yahoo! News said Vickie Jones, owner of JonesEz BBQ in Fort Myers Shores, told WINK-TV she’s hesitant to fully embrace the message behind the advisory.

“As a black-owned business, I can’t say, 'Don’t come to Florida,' because I am in Florida,” Jones said, according to the outlet. “And I like unity. I like community. I like for us to be together and have a voice.”

Shannea Akins — owner of Nikki’s Place Southern Cuisine in Orlando — said she believes any kind of advisory would seriously hurt her business, Yahoo! News said.

“It would be very, very detrimental to us because everybody who comes from out of town, they really do support us in a way that some of our locals can’t support all the time," Akins noted to WESH-TV, the outlet said.

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