Sunday, July 21, 2024

Alpha Phi Alpha, citing ‘racist’ policies, moves convention out of Florida

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. will not hold its 2025 general convention in Orlando as planned, citing the state’s “racist” laws as justification.

According to The Hill, Willis L. Lonzer III, the fraternity’s general president, said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has consistently pushed for laws and regulations that harm Black people and other marginalized groups.

However, announcing the news Wednesday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, the Black fraternity said the controversy surrounding the state’s new education standards was the tipping point in its decision.

Willis L. Lonzer III (above), the general president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of consistently pushing for laws that negatively impact Black people. The fraternity has decided to move its 2025 convention out of the state. (Photo: Screenshot/ Phi Alpha Social Media)

Last week, Florida adopted new regulations demanding lessons on race be taught in an “objective” way that doesn’t try to “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.” 

The revised standards include calls for teachers to explain how “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Another mandates lessons on “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans,” such as the Tulsa Race Massacre, be taught in schools.

Alpha Phi Alpha noted in a statement that the fraternity joins a large group of groups in denouncing Florida’s slew of damaging and discriminatory laws regarding demonstrations, voting rights, public schools and diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We start first with the laws rejecting the teaching race and the cultural diversity of our nation. We can even talk about the bill that he supported, banning [diversity, equity and inclusion] initiatives in colleges and universities,” said Lonzer, The Hill reported. “But the final straw really was his advancement of this new curriculum standards released last week, suggesting enslaved people developed skills that could later be a personal benefit to them, which is absolutely absurd.”

Black leaders nationwide immediately opposed the new educational standards, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who blasted DeSantis for “pushing propaganda” on children.

Lonzer stated that the other members of the Divine Nine, historically Black fraternities and sororities, are “aligned” with understanding the importance of ensuring everyone is treated respectfully.

He also urged Floridians to exercise their right to vote when it was time, asserting that Alpha Phi Alpha is committed to motivating them to remain watchful and ensure they participate in the electoral process.

Some of the most prominent Black leaders in America were members of Alpha Phi Alpha, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore also are current members. All three are Democrats.

Although a new location has yet to be selected, Lonzer said his fraternity anticipates the move will cost the greater Orlando area $4.6 million in revenue.

“We will not spend our money,” he told The Hill, “where Black people and other marginalized communities are continuously harmed by policies at the highest level of government.”

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