Alphonso David is President & CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum. He previously served as chief counsel to the Governor of New York and has served as an adjunct professor of law at Fordham University Law School and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
This year, Black History Month arrived in the wake of the Florida state government’s rejection and censorship of the College Board pilot course on Advance Placement (AP) African American Studies. Introducing such a course into the AP curriculum should have been an opportunity for celebration, as a long-awaited acknowledgment of the diverse experiences within the Black community. Initially, the course maintained a robust curriculum with engaging sections around Reparations and Black Queer Studies. Unfortunately, after faux outrage from Florida elected officials, the curriculum was amended, removing the section on Black Queer Studies and mentions of the authors themselves.
The sentiments of Florida officials echo the historic denials of the contributions of Black people to arts, culture, and tradition. It’s a reminder that when we value and amplify Black history, it’s a threat to oppressive structures that have held us back from reaching our full potential. When attacks like this begin in education, it becomes a slippery slope that leads to the systemic erasure of Black people, our shared history, and our achievements in every part of our lives. If a curriculum about our history “lacks educational value,” what’s to stop elected officials and private companies from deeming any Black-centered initiative unworthy or irrelevant? Even today, new legislation introduced in Florida could threaten the freedom of the Divine Nine, historically Black fraternities and sororities, to operate on college campuses in the state.
Our response? We must organize and refuse to be silenced by these moments. In “An Open Letter In Defense of AP African American Studies,” more than 800 African American Studies faculty in higher education collectively responded to Florida officials’ rejection of the AP curriculum. They stated, “The contention that an AP curriculum in African American Studies ‘lacks educational value’ is a proposition supported by white supremacist ideology, because it fundamentally demeans the history, culture, and contributions of Black people…It echoes other ongoing efforts across the United States to purge the public sphere of any mention of ‘divisive concepts,’ or any conversation about the enduring fact of racism in the history of this nation, this hemisphere, and this world.”
This fight is a poignant reminder that our history and our future are inextricably intertwined. The fights of the past are echoed in the fights we must endure today. Even as Florida officials prioritize erasing Black Queer scholars from the curriculum, I want to take a moment to amplify the work of June Jordan and why it’s especially relevant at this moment. Her analysis was prescient: the rejection of Black History in academic curricula is an active and violent process of erasure that is destructive, dehumanizing, and undemocratic. The fight over AP courses may be about academia, but it’s not academic. These things are more than symbolic; they matter deeply in how we think, talk, and act around social and economic justice. Remember that when they come for us today; they come for you tomorrow. Let Black History continue to affirm our commitment to the ideals of equity and equality for all and to building power for Black communities every day.