Pastor Eddie Lake speaks during a "Stop the Black Attack" rally in Lakeland on Wednesday. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

The NAACP Lakeland Branch held a small rally Wednesday to support protesters in Tallahassee who are angry about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ opposition to teaching an Advanced Placement African-American Studies course in Florida.

“Gov. DeSantis, I love you, but I hate what you’re doing,” said Rev. Eddie Lake, pastor of New Bethel AME Church.  “I hate what you stand for. I hate what you’re allowing and forcing this state to become.  It is absolutely ridiculous and sinful. It is wicked the stances that you’re taking to bring fear to this nation, to bring fear to the hearts of the people in Florida.”

The rally in the Coney Funeral Home parking lot was attended by about a dozen local leaders and came five days after DeSantis announced that Florida public high schools would not be offering a new Advanced Placement African-American Studies course, saying it violated HB7, the so-called “Anti-Woke Act.”

“I’m disgusted by the decisions that you’re making,” Lake continued. “The heart of God is disgusted by the choices that you have selected.”

The course has been developed over 10 years by the College Board, the nonprofit that oversees AP courses, and will be offered as a pilot project in 60 schools nationwide. None of those is in Polk County, according to Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy.

DeSantis explained at a news conference last month that he feels the course presses a political agenda. Florida’s Department of Education examined the course content, he said, and found content that offers little critical perspective or balancing information, including portions about queer studies and movements for black lives and had readings that the department believes pushes agendas like abolishing prisons, the Associated Press reported. 

Lake called the move tyrannical and called on Floridians to come together.

“You can’t have community without unity. And you can’t have unity without you and I,” Lake said in what turned into a short sermon.  “You and I will make a difference together as we hold hands and pray for one another.”

The Florida Legislature’s HB7 Bill, passed last year, prohibits, among other things, “classroom instruction and curricula from being used to indoctrinate or persuade students in a manner inconsistent with certain principles or state academic standards.”  It also prohibits teaching that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.”

According to Florida Sunshine State Standards, the guide to everything a student should learn in each area of study, 5th – 12th grade students are still required to learn about slavery, Jim Crow laws, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement. Among those standards is the study of the rise of Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan and the assessment of “how Jim Crow Laws influenced life for African Americans and other racial/ethnic minority groups.”

Stephanie Yocum, president of Polk Education Association, the local teachers’ union, said DeSantis’ restriction of the course is an assault on freedom.

“Our governor wants to say that we are the freest state in the union, yet his actions continually undermine regular Floridians’ rights and freedoms,” Yocum said. “Our freedom to learn is under attack, our freedoms for parents to choose curriculum and courses that they want their kids to learn, like AP African American Studies and other courses that might see themselves represented in is under attack and we have to stand united together – teachers staff, parents, communities – to see what’s going on and fight back against it. This is just one piece of the bigger puzzle to the dismantlement of public education from our state.”

Yocum said the fight is all about accessing and diverting state education dollars to private schools and for-profit charter schools. “If they can take public money and move it to private hands, that is their goal,” she said.

William Boss, pastor of Greater Faith Christian Church and a licensed clinical counselor, said the generational setback – younger people being unaware of the sacrifices made for them —  is critical.

“When we look at what has taken place in terms of redistricting, we need to look at what has taken place in terms of affirmative action, we need to take a look at what’s taken place in our school system, along with unemployment,” Boss said. “We must begin to stand and rise to the occasion, recalling everyone that are very conscientious not to endorse policies that certainly represent depravation and inequality.”

Boss said they are asking for three things: equal opportunity, equal access and equal protection under the law.

“We’re at a place in history right now where we’re calling on our pastors and others who are genuinely concerned about the state of our communities, the state of our nation, because we can no longer allow ourselves to set back and allow these things to take place,” Boss said. “If we do, we have silently endorsed the kind of adversarial, predatorial behavior that is taking place now.”

In Tallahassee on Wednesday, a large crowd gathered inside the capitol building for a “Stop the Black Attack” rally, calling on DeSantis to allow the AP African American Studies course to be taught. Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump said DeSantis will face a lawsuit if he doesn’t reverse his decision, according to The Tallahassee Democrat.

Sunshine State Standards regarding slavery, Jim Crow laws, Reconstruction and the civil rights movement:

  • Describe the introduction, impact, and role of slavery in the colonies.
  • Describe the debate surrounding the spread of slavery into western territories and Florida
  • Explain the causes, course, and consequence of the Civil War (sectionalism, slavery, states’ rights, balance of power in the Senate).
  • Analyze the role of slavery in the development of sectional conflict
  • Recognize the practice of slavery and other forms of forced labor experienced during the 13th through 17th centuries in East Africa, West Africa, Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Americas
  • Explain how governmental action has affected voter participation (e.g., 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments; Jim Crow laws; poll tax; efforts to suppress voters).
  • Explain and evaluate the policies, practices, and consequences of Reconstruction (presidential and congressional reconstruction, Johnson’s impeachment, Civil Rights Act of 1866, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, opposition of Southern whites to Reconstruction, accomplishments and failures of Radical Reconstruction, presidential election of 1876, end of Reconstruction, rise of Jim Crow laws, rise of Ku Klux Klan).
  • Assess how Jim Crow Laws influenced life for African Americans and other racial/ethnic minority groups.
  • Analyze how the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th Amendments broadened participation in the political process, recognize how these amendments expanded civil rights to African Americans, women and young people, evaluate the impact these amendments have had on American society,  examine how these amendments increased participation in the political process.
  • Analyze how the Bill of Rights guarantees civil rights and liberties to citizens.
  • identify historical examples of political and civic participation (e.g., Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage Movement)
  • Explain how the principles contained in foundational documents contributed to the expansion of civil rights and liberties over time. Students will explain how different groups of people (e.g., African Americans, immigrants, Native Americans, women) had their civil rights expanded through legislative action (e.g., Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act), executive action (e.g., Truman’s desegregation of the army, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation) and the courts (e.g., Brown v. Board of Education; In re Gault).
  • Compare and contrast how the free press influenced politics at major points in U.S. history (e.g., Vietnam War Era, Civil Rights Era).
  • Analyze how states have challenged the national government regarding states’ rights (e.g., Civil War, the New Deal, No Child Left Behind, Affordable Health Care Act, Civil Rights Movement).
  • Identify Florida’s role in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Analyze support for and resistance to civil rights for women, African Americans, Native Americans, and other minorities.
  • Examine the freedom movements that advocated civil rights for African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and women.
  • Compare nonviolent and violent approaches utilized by groups (African Americans, women, Native Americans, Hispanics) to achieve civil rights.
  • Assess key figures and organizations in shaping the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement.

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Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at or 863-272-9250.

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1 Comment

  1. I just spent 6-8 minutes reading this lengthy article and found no mention of the facts that Black history is required for Florida students, and that DeSantis support teaching black history- the truth of this story is that he is only targeting the specific classes/subjects that include GAY/TRANS subject matter.
    Gay/trans is NOT black history. It is Leftist indoctrination.
    Shame on you Kimberly C Moore and shame on you Barry Friedman. And shame on you pastor Eddie Lake and Stephanie Yocum.
    You’re all peddling LEFTIST LIES.

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