FORT MYERS

A group of faith leaders is coming together to fight Florida State’s proposal to eliminate African American studies and diversity programs.

An Advanced Placement (AP) course currently in development to offer high school students an evidence-based introduction to African American studies has been rejected by the Florida Department of Education.

“For me and other pastors, it’s not about politics; it’s about legacy,” the Rev. RB Holmes Jr. said. – It’s about history.

History is one of three words at the center of a clear divide between religious leaders and the Florida Department of Education. Leaders want the state to reverse its decision to ban the new AP African American Studies course from all public schools. Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t make the decision, but he supports it because it was consistent with state law.

“We want education, not parenting,” DeSantis said. “If you side with education, we’re going to back down… If it’s education, we’re going to do it. We believe in teaching kids facts and thinking, but we don’t believe in forcing an agenda on them.”

The governor references Topic 4.19 for a course titled Black Queer Histories, Topic 4.29 Black Lives Matter Movements, and Topic 4.15 Intersectionality and Activism.

A Jan. 20 tweet by Manny Diaz, Florida’s education commissioner, also referenced the theory. Specific concerns of the department included the reading included in the AP course.

“When you try to use black history as a horn in queer theory, you’re clearly trying to use it for political purposes,” DeSantis said.

Religious leaders said they simply wanted African-American history to be taught; no more and no less.

“This is a personal matter for us, our children, our grandchildren and future generations of African-Americans in this country,” said Commissioner Curtis Richardson.

According to the College Board’s website, this course focuses on exploring the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans in all subjects, including those authors who wrote, which included reading.

AP African American Studies course. (Credit: Florida Department of Education)

Religious leaders are willing to go as far as it takes.

“We’re here today to let the governor know that we’re not going to stand by and just let this happen to African-Americans in our state,” said Tallahassee Commissioner Curtis Richardson. “The history of African Americans is the history of America.”

This coalition of African American leaders vows that if the Department of Education and the Governor don’t get it right, they will work as hard and as hard as they need to get the nation to get it.

“Black history needs to be taught consistently and persistently without government overreach,” Holmes said.

These religious leaders say the government is overdoing it.

“If we believe in parental rights, you know what, why does the government decide for the parents? If you believe in parental rights, then let the parents make that decision,” Holmes said.

Holmes said if the state doesn’t do anything to reverse its decision by Feb. 16, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others will travel to Tallahassee. “On February 16, we will bring Reverend Sharpton and other human rights activists and faith leaders to Tallahassee to continue beating the drum about why African American history matters.”

According to the Department of Education, state lawmakers would have to change the law for it to change its ruling.

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