Culture Wars/Current Controversies

NAACP chairman mocked for living in Florida after group issues travel advisory

Published May. 22, 2023, 9:39 a.m. ET | Updated May. 22, 2023

Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler, NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Leon Russell. (Photos/Christian Ziegler, Twitter;
Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler, NAACP National Board of Directors Chairman Leon Russell. (Photos/Christian Ziegler, Twitter;

TAMPA, Fla. (FLV) – The chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors was mocked by Florida Republicans for living in Florida despite his organization recently issuing a travel advisory for Black Americans who may visit the Sunshine State.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler offered to move NAACP Board of Directors Chairman Leon Russell out of the state after the group issued a travel advisory.

Russell is listed as living in Tampa, Florida.

“The CHAIRMAN of the @NAACP lives in Tampa, FLORIDA!” Ziegler said. “True leadership is being willing to do what you ask others to do… time to step up and MOVE. If you think our state is so bad, the @FloridaGOP will help with moving costs.”

Other critics of the NAACP responded to the advisory, which pointed to “hostile” policies that should serve as a warning to Black Americans.

“Please be advised that Florida public schools will not teach your children accurate African-American history, which includes a history of enslavement, segregation, racial injustice and systemic racism,” they claimed.

“Please be advised that the State of Florida does not value diversity, equity, and inclusion in Florida schools, colleges and universities,” the advisory continued. “Please be advised that the State of Florida does not welcome the contributions of African Americans and people of color.”

Bryan Griffin, press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political team, called the advisory “noise.”

Florida under @RonDeSantisFL: unprecedented success (borne out in tourism, domestic in-migration, job numbers), deep red electoral shift, and the most significant conservative legislative reform package ever,” Griffin said. “The left: maybe travel advisories? Media: brilliant. It’s just noise.”

Nikki Whiting, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, replied to the NAACP’s advisory statement on Twitter with a picture of Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, a Black American holding a high-ranking position in DeSantis’ administration.

“Dr. Ladapo would like to have a word…” she said.

The comments from the NAACP run contrary to Florida hosting Black History Month contests in February along with state law that requires students learn about African American history in K-12 education – including slavery, abolition and the history and contributions of Americans of the African diaspora to society.

Also passed in the GOP-controlled legislature this year was legislation increasing requirements for African American history teaching in schools.

The advisory from the NAACP went on to say there is “open hostility” towards Black Americans and other “people of color,” that those who visit or resident in Florida should “advocate for legislation that supports diversity” and the “protection of African-American’s right to vote.”

It will remain “until further notice.”

In a press release, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said, “Under the leadership of Governor Desantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon.”

“He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight,” he said. “We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”

The potential advisory was floated in late-March initially, to which DeSantis called it a “joke” and a “stunt.”

“This is a stunt to try to do that,” he said. “It’s a pure stunt, and fine, if you want to waste your time on a stunt, that’s fine. But I’m not wasting my time on your stunts. Ok? I’m going to make sure that we’re getting things done here, and we’re going to continue to make this state a great state.”

In 2022, Florida broke its all-time state record for total visitors welcomed in 2022.

In the first quarter of 2023, Florida again broke an all-time record, having the most tourism ever recorded in a single quarter.



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