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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Boycott Florida: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Ron Daniels
Ron Daniels

By Ron Daniels

NNPA Guest Columnist

In a recent article I called for economic sanctions against Florida to compel  business and political leaders in that state to change the “Stand Your Ground  Law” that provided the basis for the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder  of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.  There are times when there is a convergence  of ideas, a meeting of minds, such that a particular strategy has the potential  to galvanize a movement. This appears to be one of those times.

The idea of boycotting Florida is not a Ron Daniels idea or Institute of the  Black World 21st Century (IBW) call. Rather, it is one that is  on the minds of many Black people all across the country.

Dr. Patricia Newton, president emeritus, National Association of Black  Psychiatrists, was so outraged by the Zimmerman verdict that she walked away from  a $1 million dollar contract she was about to sign for a conference in  Florida.

I met an elderly Black professional couple I met at Penn Station in  Baltimore,[who were returning from a conference in Jacksonville, Fla.. When I  asked if they would be going back to Florida next year, I had hardly gotten the  words out of my mouth when the wife said  that they discussed the murder of  Trayvon Martin at the conference and had already resolved that they would not  hold another convention in that state until there is significant change.

Of course, music legend Stevie Wonder said at a concert in Canada, “Until the  Stand Your Ground Law is abolished, I will never perform there again.”    Since his pronouncement Eddie LaVert, Stephanie Mills,  Dionne Warwick and  Mary Mary are among the artists who have publicly stated they will follow  Stevie’s lead.

While celebrities add credibility for the boycott, it will be the actions of  the multitude of conscious, committed convention-goers, vacationers and  consumers who will make the campaign effective. Economic sanctions against  Florida is an idea whose time has come.

Just as Katrina ripped the scab off and exposed the raw naked  structural/institutional racism in distressed Black neighborhoods in America  murder of Trayvon Martin has ripped the scab off  the persistent phenomenon  of the criminalization of young Black men, racial profiling,  stop-and-frisk  and the structural/institutional racism in America’s  criminal justice system.  The problem is that despite episodic protests and  periodic mobilizations, there has not been a persistent sense of urgency in  Black America about these issues. The murder of Trayvon Martin may be a decisive  turning point.

One week after the Zimmerman verdict, rallies and prayer vigils were held  across the country to demand that the Justice Department bring criminal charges  against George Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights.   While we agree that this is a correct strategy, there is little likelihood that  this will happen.

At the end of the day, not only must we seek a conviction of Zimmerman, we  must also indict and fight to change the law that is so flawed that it would  permit an armed adult to pursue an unarmed teenager deemed “suspicious” and  permit a grown man to kill a kid who fearfully sought to stand his ground  against a menacing stranger.

Fighting to change this flawed law is about justice for Trayvon Martin, but  it is also about all of the Trayvons in the state of Florida and across the  nation who are victims of criminalization and racial profiling.  It is  about Black people consciously and collectively standing our ground against the  attacks on the gains of the civil rights/human rights/Black power movements, the  abandonment and disinvestment in distressed Black communities and the daily  indignities we have quietly suffered for far too long.

The major component of the campaign should be to shut off tourism to Florida.  This means Black organizations should not schedule conferences/conventions in  that state until the law is changed.  Groups that have already scheduled  conferences six months to a year out should seek to cancel the agreements and  notify the venues that Black people no longer feel safe to travel to Florida,  particularly with their sons. An option is to hold conferences/conventions at a  Black College/University or Black owned retreat centers.  In the event that  your conference is already scheduled in the next few months, resolve to spend as  little money/cash in the state as possible. This campaign requires that kind of  discipline.

Do not schedule a vacation in Florida until victory is won. Do not travel to  an amusement park in the “tragic kingdom” or golf tournament until victory is  won. And don’t purchase or drink any Florida orange juice.

IBW has posted a petition on its website where organizations, leaders and  individuals can sign a pledge to boycott Florida. Finally, while this  campaign is spearheaded by Black people, we obviously appeal to and welcome the  support of our friends and allies of all races and ethnicities who believe that  “an injury to one is an injury to all,” that “an injustice anywhere to anyone is  an injustice to everyone everywhere.”

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