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Permission to Know Our History:

The State of Florida v. African Americans

By Geoffrey Philp Published 2 months ago 3 min read
Image via The Daily Beast

In a recent exposé by The Guardian, "Florida school requires parental consent for pupils to listen to Black author’s book," the author outlines the confusion caused by Governor Ron DeSantis's enactment of the "Stop Woke Act" in 2022. ("Florida School Requires"). This legislation dictates the parameters around discussing race and related issues in educational settings, which some critics contend is an attempt to erase the historical memory of African Americans. As a result of the law, many schools in Dade County have resorted to mandating parental consent for student engagement in Black History Month activities.

Yet, this legal maneuver at erasure is not a novel occurrence in Florida. Our state's history is punctuated by instances of racial violence spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. The mere mention of Rosewood, Ocoee, and "Ax Handle Saturday” leaves the coppery taste of blood on my tongue. And while the era of mass physical erasure may have ceased—for now—the erasure of the story of African Americans from the broader narrative of America continues.

This persistent threat of genocide is similar to the biblical slavery endured by the Israelites in Egypt, as explored by Kenneth Chelst in his work Exodus and Emancipation: Biblical and African-American Slavery. Through this comparative lens, Chelst expands on the shared themes of oppression, resilience, and emancipation, outlining the quintessential needs of long-term victims. According to Chelst, these needs are foundational in transitioning from the status of a victim to that of a survivor, aiming towards not only physical freedom but also psychological and social emancipation and empowerment.

1. Safety and Security: Ensuring physical safety and protection from threats to one's body and environment, including liberation from bondage, freedom from violence, legal security, and stable living conditions.

2. Recognition and Validation of Suffering: Formal acknowledgment of pain and injustice, allowing victims to process experiences and feel understood.

3. Justice and Reparation: Holding perpetrators accountable, efforts to rectify wrongs through legal rights, compensation, and prevention of continued oppression.

4. Empowerment and Autonomy: Control over one's life and decisions, including economic independence, education, and full participation in society without discrimination.

5. Community and Belonging: Supportive relationships within a community that share historical experiences, honor cultural heritage and traditions, and provide a collective identity.

Interestingly, the recent actions of the State of Florida violate two other facets of Chelst's thesis on freedom: Community and Belonging and Recognition and Validation of Suffering.

Florida's "Stop Woke Act," officially known as the "Individual Freedom Act," is a deliberate attempt to erase African American heroic memory. The law, defenders argue, permits neutral instruction of history or shields students from blame for ancestors' actions. However, discussing systemic racism involves neither assigning personal guilt nor subjective framing of historical realities. Instead, an honest examination of historical injustices and their lingering impacts is vital.

We cannot afford the kind of innocence the defenders possess. Without a heroic memory, we can only sing about our chains. The banishment of critical race theory, impediments to discussions about systemic racism in classrooms, encumbrances to voting rights, and Black history curricula epitomize Florida's recurrent failure to meet the requisites for transcending victimhood and embracing empowerment.

Now is not the time for us to be “jellyfish,” as Marcus Garvey called his detractors (Garvey). Rather than give in to this erasure, we must act decisively. For us, Black History Month should not be confined to a month. It should be year-round and should not be dependent upon state funding. We have to do this for ourselves.


Chelst, Kenneth. Exodus and Emancipation: Biblical and African-American Slavery. Urim Publications, 2014. Kindle Edition

Garvey, Marcus. The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey: Or, Africa for the Africans. Good Press, 2021. Kindle Edition

"Florida School Requires Parental Consent for Pupils to Listen to Black Author’s Book." The Guardian, 14 Feb. 2024,


About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing through personal reflection & societal engagement.

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Comments (2)

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  • L.C. Schäfer2 months ago

    Well done on this piece, I hope it gets recognition. Funny, I don't recall black children (or children with any background) needing parental consent to learn the whitewashed version 🧐

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Yah, we shouldn’t have to give it get parental consent just to learn history. It’s just a way to stop kids from learning so they have to live in oblivion and ignorance just like the governor.

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