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Industry Briefs

Lighting a Candle to The Darkness in Florida

Elected officials in various places around the country are attempting to distort, eliminate, or in some way under value the importance of African-American heritage and history as it relates to our existence in this country. In addition to shining a light on this unthinkable darkness by condemning their despicable, ignorant actions, we do as our ancestors have done over the years, "light a candle" by bringing the irrefutable truth and triumphs that our history represents center-stage for the world to see and to appreciate.

A gazillion thanks and kudos to the NAACP for strongly calling attention to Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis' despicable, aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools. As long time champions of African American history and journalists commitment to telling the stories of this nation, BM&T's initial response is to develop alliances and avenues to showcase this history and these stories on a world-wide platform, clearly demonstrating to Governor DeSantis and others that they are NOT the final purveyors of history and that TRUTH RISES.

While it is clear that the present Governor and some legislators in the state of Florida belittle and marginalize the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color, there are many Floridians that do not share these sentiments. Among them are a significant number of African-Americans and others who are a part the1.6 million group of citizens employed in the tourism industry and the 4.12 million who are employed in the accommodations and food services industry within the state.

Having reported on the Travel/Tourism industry for 30+ years, BM&T believes there are some important lessons to be derived from the 1990 Miami Travel ban, the ten-year South Carolina boycott and the concerns of African-American travelers after the murder of Trevon Martin in the state of Florida.

There is no question that withholding a portion of the $129+ billion dollars that African-American travelers spend annually will send a strong message to the state of Florida where visitors reportedly spend over $45 billion dollars in tourism each year. At the same time, keep in mind that Travel is not only about the statistical numbers, it is also about the PEOPLE. So remember, the doorman, the front desk clerk, the housekeeper, the Black Hotel owner, general manager and sales executive are much more likely to be immediately and directly impacted by decreased travel in any destination than the all too detached elected officials who could care less about them.

Perhaps as the conversations move forward to determine ways to address the Governor of Florida's backward thinking unrelenting attacks on fundamental freedoms, we would do well to broaden the circle; to see the faces (many that look like ours) and hear the voices of those who could greatly suffer or benefit by the decisions we make and the actions we take.

Absolutely Governor Desantis' policies are hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon. But all the people of Florida and throughout the U.S. do not agree with him or support his policies. Coming together to assure that democracy prevails we realize that this fight may be greater than one misguided, history denying state Governor and his colleagues and counterparts.

Our APPLAUSE to the NAACP for encouraging Florida residents to join efforts to defeat the regressive policies of this Governor and the state legislature. Working in unison to positively support those allies in Florida and beyond who actively promote diversity and inclusion in the travel industry will greatly serve to refute the ignorance, the sanctity, and perhaps the insanity of those who seek to disregard or in any way take away from the contributions of African Americans to the development of this nation.

Significant ways vacationers and conference attendees visiting the state of Florida can leverage the buying power of their travel dollars while helping to ensure the financial stability of those African-American front line workers and Black-owned businesses that rely on the travel industry for their livelihood, include:

• Whenever possible, stay at a Black owned hotel or a bed-and-breakfast

• Utilize the services of an African-American travel agent or travel specialist

• Visit an African-American attraction, historic site or venue

• Dine at ethnic eateries

• Seek out the services of Black owned businesses through the local African American and/or Black Chamber of Commerce.

Travel can MAKE A DIFFERENCE by helping to economically empower communities of color and other maligned groups in the state of Florida. We encourage you to "light a candle" and to see the BIGGER Picture.

Solomon & Gloria Herbert


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