Black fraternity and engineers group pull conventions out of Florida, over state’s “racist policies”

Two of the nation’s largest organizations that cater to Black professionals say they’re moving their annual conventions out of Florida because the governor and state lawmakers have become increasingly insensitive to people of color. 

Fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha said recently its convention was scheduled to take place in Orlando in 2025, but the organization is now looking elsewhere because of “Governor Ron DeSantis’ harmful, racist, and insensitive policies against the Black community.” Moving the convention will cost Florida millions of dollars in economic activity, the group’s president Willis Lonzer III said. 

“In this environment of manufactured division and attacks on the Black community, Alpha Phi Alpha refuses to direct a projected $4.6 million convention economic impact to a place hostile to the communities we serve,” Lonzer III said in a statement. “Although we are moving our convention from Florida, Alpha Phi Alpha will continue to support the strong advocacy of Alpha Brothers and other advocates fighting against the continued assault on our communities in Florida by Governor Ron DeSantis.”

The fraternity’s move came a few weeks after members of the National Society of Black Engineers announced the group will no longer be holding its 2024 convention in Florida as previously planned. 

“We’re celebrating our 50th annual convention in 2024 and decided after much deliberation that the environment in Florida would not be conducive to an ideal membership experience nor an ideal setting for such a milestone event,” Avery Layne, NSBE’s chairperson, said in a statement. 

“This is an example of what a revolution looks like in modern-day terms,” the group’s CEO Janeen Uzzell said in a statement. “It’s about young people having the ability to pivot and change course of direction.”

The event would have brought millions of dollars in visitor revenue to the Orlando area, the group told CBS MoneyWatch on Thursday.

Both organizations are responding, in part, to the recent actions by Florida’s education board to censor the teaching of African American history. Some of the curriculum changes entail a positive spin on slavery that includes lessons on the how “slaves developed skills” that could be used for “personal benefit,” according to a copy of the state’s academic standards reviewed by CBS News. Such modifications, combined with Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis’ reluctance to offer critical race theory classes, pushed the NAACP in May to issue a travel advisory against the state, labeling it “openly hostile” to African Americans. 

Tim Scott slams Florida Black history curriculum: “There is no silver lining in slavery”


Other groups may follow

Another Black fraternity — Omega Psi Phi — is scheduled to have its national convention in Tampa next year, but its leaders haven’t said if the organization will relocate. 

DeSantis’ office and state tourism officials didn’t immediately respond to a request from CBS MoneyWatch for comment Thursday. 

Tourism is big business in Florida with the state welcoming 137.6 million visitors in 2022, a 13% increase over 2021. Visitors contributed $101.9 billion to the state’s economy and supported more than 1.7 million jobs in 2021, according to the most recent data from Visit Florida.

Disney World, one of the biggest draws for tourists, has also been engaged in an ongoing dispute with DeSantis. Most recently, Disney canceled a $1 billion plan to build a campus in Florida. The feud started after Disney publicly criticized the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

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