Grandparents For Truth’s Black History Month Teach-In Recap

Black History Month may be over, but our work to make sure we teach Black history continues.

On February 25, People For’s Grandparents For Truth hosted a Black History Month teach-in in Eatonville, Florida. It was so great to talk about Black History in Eatonville, which has its own place in Black History. As one of the first self governing all Black municipalities in the United States.

What Happened at the Event?

Our event consisted of four different panels, teaching about Black History, threats to education in Florida, what we can do about it, and how to organize in our community. We were joined by partners from Orlando and across the country, including Florida Rising, Equal Ground, Faith in Florida, African American Policy Forum, and many others. We were also joined by some esteemed elected officials, including state senator Chevron Jones, state representative Anna Escomani, and Congressman Maxwell Frost, all members of our Young Elected Officials Network, or YEO.

How Was the Turnout?

We had a great turnout there, and a lot of people were really excited to learn about what they can do when it comes to attacks on education on Black History curricula, but also in general in Florida. We had a lot of people come out, a huge, diverse crowd who all wanted to learn about both figures in Black History and what we’ve heard in school, and also some less common Black History that people didn’t know about. And then we also heard from people kind of all over the community. So not only elected officials and young elected officials but also business owners. We heard from the owner of a Black owned bookstore that specifically features Black authors who have been banned or challenged. We also heard from community leaders, faith leaders and elders in the community.

Did Anything Out of the Ordinary Happen?

Actually, my favorite part about the event is kind of strange. Those who were there know that we ended up losing power about halfway through the event. At first we weren’t sure what was going on. Maybe we blew a fuse. But we found out that actually, the entire town of Eatonville lost power all at once. We were worried that people would leave. It would get too hot in there, you couldn’t see, you couldn’t hear because the microphones weren’t working. But actually, no one left. Everyone stayed the course, listened to what folks had to say. Despite the darkness and the quietness. People just projected and raised their voices. And about half an hour later, the lights did come back, and the power came back, and everybody remained for the entirety of the event.

Why Hold This Event in Florida?

Florida is definitely a battleground in the fight for truth and education. We’ve seen all kinds of attacks on education in Florida. We saw the governor there try to effectively ban the AP African American studies course there. We see the kind of evolution of the don’t say gay bill there. We just see attacks left and right. And so we realize, well, we’re thinking about, how do we do a Black History teach-in? Where do we want to do it? We want to do it in a place where it’s subversive to even talk about Black History, where it’s subversive to even talk about education. And really make sure that the people who live there and who have grandchildren, children, and are students themselves there know that they can, what tools they have to fight back against attacks on education, because it is not hopeless there. It’s scary there right now, but it’s not hopeless.

Why Was This So Important for Activists?

One of the cool things about the event was that there were a lot of kind of first-time activists there. There are a lot of people who are members of People For the American Way and get our emails, but they might not have come to an event like this before. They might be really at the end of their rope and trying to figure out what to do when it comes to fighting back. And they didn’t know what to do. So events like this really bring people together, show them that everyone in the community can fight back in their own way. And that’s what our last panel was about, how, as one person, can you take what you’ve learned and translate it to working in your community.

Even though you might not have a group behind you, even though you might be surrounded by people who disagree with you, you are one person, and you do have one voice, and you can mobilize the people around you. You can go to your school board meetings. You can go to Tallahassee or wherever your state capital is, and fight back. We’re really hoping that people who went to the event, we did get the sense that this was true, that folks who went to the event not only learned about a little piece of Black History they might not have known before but also they learned what’s going on in Florida.

So, not only kind of the more popular things that we hear in the news about don’t say gay or about the Black History or the African American studies course, but know what else is going on in Florida on a local level how we can fight back. So what does that mean from the perspective of an elected official, of a faith leader, of a community member, like a grandparent. And then how to fight back as one voice, and how to mobilize your friends, family, colleagues, frenemies neighbors, and church, whatever kind of affinity groups you belong to, how you can help, and how you can be like one voice and mobilize others.

Why is it Vital to Fight Back Against Attacks on Education Right Now?

What we see now is really scary, because we see an increase in attacks on education all across the country, not just in Florida. We also have been seeing a rise, an unprecedented rise in book bans and book challenges around the country for the past several years. It’s gone up and up and up. And what we see is that a lot of individuals are responsible for that. A very small amount of individuals are actually responsible for the majority of book bands and challenges.

However, on the flip side of that, we’re also starting to see that we’re on the winning side. We’re seeing authoritarian groups like Moms for Liberty are waning in their influence. We’re seeing that they are wrecked by scandals and low attendance rates. We were just in New York last month at a Moms for Liberty town hall, and the seats were empty. We’re also seeing that groups like Grandparents For Truth are on the rise. We’re seeing partners of ours, like Defense of Democracy, Red, Wine, and Blue, African American Policy Forum. They are all increasing in power increasing in number. And we are winning this fight. But it’s important that we stick together.

Who Helped With the Event?

Just wanted to give a final shout out to the groups and individuals that we worked with, including Florida Rising, Equal Ground, African American Policy Forum, Faith in Florida Black Voters Matter. We had the president of the NAACP at UCF with us as well as Chan’s Good Eats, which was our catering, and the Denton Johnson Community Center in Eatonville that was kind enough to allow us to have our event there.

Is There More To Come From Grandparents For Truth?

We want to see events like this replicated all over the country, and you can help People For the American Way is proud to launch our new Grandparents For Truth Clubs program, which means that grandparents and their allies all over the country can open up their own clubs in their local communities. So if you’re a grandparent or an ally and you’d like to start your own club, you can go to grandparentsfortruth.org and there you’ll have resources, trainings, and opportunities to work with other grandparents on events like this. speaking out at school board meetings, writing letters to the editor, all different kinds of ways to get involved.

Go to grandparentsfortruth.org today and get involved.

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