|In my most recent article, I asserted that Economic Sanctions/Boycott Florida is an idea whose time has come. The iconic Chaka Khan has added her name to the list of celebrities joining Stevie Wonder in refusing to perform in Florida until the “Stand Your Ground Law” is changed. This is great news, but I also am convinced that it will be the conscious decision of millions of ordinary Black folks that will ultimately determine the success of the Boycott Florida Campaign. In a real sense, this effort is a test of our collective sense of dignity, self-respect and will as Black people.
The horrific verdict in the Zimmerman murder trial has ignited a firestorm of passions among Blacks and people of goodwill in this country not only because of the tragedy the family has suffered but the travesty of injustice that resonates throughout this country. Trayvon Martin has become the symbol of the criminalization, profiling, marginalization, mass incarceration and murder of Black youth across this nation. The highly acclaimed film Fruitvale Station dramatically encapsulates this grim reality. According to data compiled by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, 136 unarmed Black people have been killed by police, security guards or vigilantes since the murder of Trayvon Martin.
I would not be surprised if many of these murders were a result of stand your ground-type laws in various states. What I can say with confidence is that the image of the “dangerous Black man” is impetus for the enactment of these insidious laws in up to 26 states – statues which Martin family defense attorney Benjamin Crump calls “make my day” laws.
In one way or another Black people have known these realities for a long time, and for far too long we have largely suffered, become acclimated to or been silent in the face of these assaults on our dignity and self-respect. The Boycott Florida Campaign is potentially a decisive moment in our history, a time to muster the collective resolve and will to compel that state to “abolish” the Stand Your Ground Law and embolden Black people to utilize economic sanctions to fight for social justice/social change everywhere! That’s what’s at stake with the Boycott Florida Campaign – rekindling a spirit of righteous resistance and protest to promote and protect our interests as human beings in this nation.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a decisive moment in the Black freedom struggle. After suffering the indignities of Southern apartheid for generations, Rosa Parks’ calculated decision to stand her ground against the Jim Crow laws of the day inspired ordinary people to resist. By the thousands, ordinary people demonstrated the will to organize alternative ways of getting to work and to walk if necessary rather than continue to suffer daily blows to their dignity and self-respect. There was a collective awakening of consciousness that fueled a commitment to continue the struggle until a stubborn recalcitrant, oppressive power structure yielded under the relentless pressure of economic sanctions. Black people in Montgomery discovered that the power to achieve freedom from oppression was in their hands and collectively they decided to use it.
People of goodwill from across the nation, including scores of celebrities, supported the Boycott by sending money and supplies to sustain it. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was not just a victory for Black people of that city, it was a turning point in the Black freedom struggle, an event that proved that the collective will of the people could cause the walls of segregation to come “tumbling down.”
Student led divestment campaigns and the use of economic sanctions/boycotts also helped to shatter the walls of apartheid in South Africa. Nelson Mandela became the symbol of the people’s will to resist a vicious system at all costs. The long suffering people of South Africa led the way and bore the brunt of the assault to dismantle one of the most oppressive systems the world has ever known. But, because of their valor, millions of ordinary people from the United States and around the world were inspired to protest, get arrested and use economic divestment and sanctions to strike blows against a demonic system. When Nelson Mandela proudly strode out of Robben Island and eventually became President of the new South Africa, it was a testament to the collective will of a people to fight for their dignity and self-respect.
And, so it must be with Africans in America. At this critical juncture on the long road to total social, economic and political emancipation, we must strike the first blow. The Dream Defenders, a group of courageous students, have already taken a stand by conducting a sit-in at the office of Governor Rick Scott to demand that the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida be changed.
Now, Black people must have the collective will and discipline to use economic sanctions against Florida, confident that with the support of people of goodwill from across the nation, the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida will be abolished; that the murky forces of the American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC), fear mongering National Rifle Society (NRA) and the machinations of the “creepy” Koch brothers will be exposed and the wicked walls of Stand Your Ground Laws will come tumbling down state by state. Collectively we have the capacity/power to restore our dignity and self-respect. In the words of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, “up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will.” Boycott Florida!
- No Conferences/Conventions
- No Vacations
- No Amusement Parks or Golf Tournaments
- No Florida Orange Juice