Baptists pledge sustained fight for truth telling of Black history

Former state Sen. Tony Hill (left), Task Force Chair Rev. RB Holmes, Brevard School Board Member Jennifer Jenkins, Baptist Convention President Rev. and Mrs. Carl Johnson, Rev. James Wright II, Elder James Morris, Presiding Bishop CME Council of Churches. Ms. Jenkins implemented curriculum taught in Brevard County telling the story of slain Florida civil rights champions Harry and Harriet T Moore.
Photo submitted

By Gina Jackson
Special to the Outlook

ORLANDO —The firestorm over the Florida Board of Education’s new standards for teaching Black history, continued during the Florida General Baptist Convention, Congress of Christian Education in Orlando, Fla.

The Chairman of the Task Force for Social Justice Ministry, Rev. RB Holmes outlined the initiative: “Teaching Our Own History.”

The furor erupted in July when the Florida Board of Education adopted new teaching standards for Black history.  It was a stunning plan that erased the horrors of bondage and made it appear to be a means of teaching captors a trade.

Benchmark Clarifications: Clarification 1: Instruction includes the trades of slaves (e.g., musicians, healers, blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, weavers, tailors, sawyers, hostlers, silversmiths, cobblers, wheelwrights, wigmakers, milliners, painters, coopers). Clarification 2: Instruction includes the variety of locations slaves worked (e.g., homes, farms, onboard ships, shipbuilding industry).

The lengthy rewrites provoked outrage nationwide and when Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about it, he denied culpability.  DeSantis said “I didn’t make them do it.” But he appointed the members of the Board of Education.

To that President of the General Baptist Convention Rev, Dr. Carl Johnson said, “Mr. Governor, if you sign something, it’s your decree. I believe you are a Christian man.  We want to meet with you to talk about corrective action.”

Over the next several months the task force will write and publish a corrective model and curriculum to teach Black history “that is authentic, accurate and factual.”  

A host of well-known and credentialed Black history scholars, clergy and educators make up the group.

According to faith leaders the controversy has mobilized the Black community that has been under siege by DeSantis who frequently uses the slogan,” Florida is where “Woke” comes to die.”

According to Chair Holmes, “Florida is not where Black history comes to die. The institution of slavery was not a benefit or a blessing.  We will allow no one to rewrite or redefine our history.”  

Seven-point plan of action issued in response to new academic standards

Special to the Outlook

Led by Rev. RB Holmes, a group of religious leaders, civil rights activists, community organizers and citizens held a virtual press conference recently to address what they described as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ racist agenda, including

 dismantling of African American studies.

In the most recent move, the State Board of Education approved new academic standards for instruction about African American history. The new standards are designed to guide lessons from kindergarten through high school.

During the press conference, Holmes issued a seven-point plan of action to counteract the governor’s plan to erase Black history. The plan is as follows:

We will appoint a “Teach Our History Task Force,” a panel of 12 leading African American teachers, historians, and authors. The task force will be appointed Wednesday, August 2, 2023, at the Florida General Baptist Congress of Christian Education. 

Strongly support the 60th year commemoration and continuation of the March on Washington August 26, 2023. 

  1. Tell our Black history weekly in Black newspapers led by Bobby Henry and Ben Chavis.
  2. Encourage the renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump and his firm to file a lawsuit against the state of Florida’s anemic Black history curriculum. 
  3. Announce, in conjunction with the National Action Network and other civil rights organizations, a massive demonstration in Florida against DeSantis’ attack on our freedoms, encouraging tens of thousands of people to join us.
  4. Organize Freedom Schools/Academies in 25 Florida cities by the fall of 2024. We will appoint the superintendent by the end of September, 2023.
  5. Conduct a 1 Million Voter Registration and Education Plan across the nation led by Equal Ground and other institutions and organizations