STUART, Fla. — The president of the Martin County NAACP and the mayor of Stuart are sharing their thoughts on a possible travel advisory that could affect Florida and its tourism.
Over the weekend, the Florida State Chapter of the NAACP unanimously voted to ask the organization’s national board to issue the advisory, which would ask people not to visit the Sunshine State as a way of protesting the recent book ban, Florida’s rejection of the A.P. Curriculum for African American studies, and other controversial decisions made in Tallahassee.
“We’re seeing some very terrible decision making that seems to be trying to turn things backwards,” Jimmy Smith, president of the Martin County NAACP, said.
Smith was one of the leaders who voted in favor of asking for the travel advisory, and said the recent banning of several books at Martin County Schools was one of the reasons that pushed the travel advisory request forward.
“This is very important,” Smith said. “What we are seeing is them trying to erase Black history, and Black history should be American history.”
Yet Stuart Mayor Tory McDonald, and others, fear the advisory could hurt Florida’s tourism.
“It’s unfortunate,” McDonald said. The city of Stuart has had a long standing relationship with the NAACP, and I think the travel ban like this would hurt their own constituents, black-owned businesses, folks working in the service industry, and it’s not just the service industry that gets hit, it’s all the ancillary businesses that support tourism.”
According to Visit Florida, in 2022 137.6 million people visited the State. In 2021, tourism brought in an additional $101.9 billion to the State’s economy.
Smith also acknowledged it could cost the State millions.
The NAACP’s 15-year boycott of South Carolina over the State’s confederate flag in 1999 cost its cities the opportunity to host March Madness games, resulting in an estimated loss of at least $10 million for each city, if not millions more, according to Bloomberg.
“Well, that would be a good way to wake up everybody,” Smith said. “If you want to ban the books of Black authors and Black history, look what contribution the Black and Brown bring to America.”
Smith said he hopes the pressure of the travel advisory could bring would not only clear the way for books to head back onto school shelves, but clear the way for more unity, more progress and less division.
“It’s time to unite together. When we fight, we win. When we fight together, we win,” Smith said.
The National NAACP Board is set to meet in May. That will be the earliest they’ll be able to discuss the advisory.
As for Smith, he expects to get an update at the next State Chapter meeting, which, he said, will be in June.