Black Groups Meet in Florida Despite Calls for Boycott
Three associations in industries with particular relevance to the stand-your-ground debate are discussing the law and the George Zimmerman verdict during their annual meetings this week in the Sunshine State.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that earlier reports of celebrities committing to a boycott of Florida are unconfirmed.
In the wake of the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial and protests surrounding Florida’s stand-your-ground law, many high-profile figures have called for vacationers and convention-goers to boycott the state, but that’s not stopping several African-American groups from meeting there this week.
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the National Black Prosecutors Association, and the National Bar Association (NBA) say their groups have a unique opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions of Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Florida’s stand-your-ground law, and the role their organizations can play in addressing these issues. All three associations are holding their annual meetings in Florida this week.
“I challenge [our members] to come to Orlando to be a part of the variety of discussions we will have on this major topic,” said NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr.
Calls for a boycott started when musician Stevie Wonder spoke out against the controversial stand-your-ground law, which allows a person to use force in self-defense without requiring him or her to attempt to retreat from a perceived threat. During a recent performance, Wonder said that he will never perform in Florida so long as the law is in effect. “As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world,” he said.
Since Wonder’s comments, other celebrities reportedly have followed his call to cease performing there, but those reports are unconfirmed by the artists themselves. Meanwhile, a petition to boycott Florida tourism on MoveOn.org has garnered more than 13,000 signatures.
Despite the support the boycott has received, the three African-American organizations opted to continue with their planned Florida events. During a news conference at the NBA meeting Monday that featured Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, Page called for the state to repeal the stand-your-ground law or face an economic boycott.
“We are asking the legislature to turn the pain that parents are feeling into a simple plan—so that our youth will come home every night,” he said. Otherwise, “tourism, one of the lifelines of the state, will be impacted.”
NABJ issued a statement to reassure attendees that their meeting would go on and that these hot topics would be discussed, but the group did not address whether it would meet in Florida in the future.
“So much has happened in the past year affecting African-Americans that people still are talking about and news organizations still are covering—from the Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act to the Trayvon Martin case to questions about black leadership,” Lee said in the statement. “We look forward to delving deep into these issues and exploring how they were covered in the news.”
As for the boycott, Lee recently told The Root that to cancel the conference would be impractical and costly and would fail to take advantage of a “unique opportunity” for black journalists.
In response to the Zimmerman verdict, NABJ added a session to the conference program that will feature a discussion with Rev. Al Sharpton, MSNBC’s Touré, and Orlando Sentinel editor Mark Russell, all of whom played major roles in the coverage of the trial. The group also invited Fulton and Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, to talk about their continued efforts to seek justice for their son.
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The Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to speak at this week's National Association of Black Journalists conference. (photo by Elvert Barnes/Flickr)