During Black History Month, people on the University of Florida campus are holding a multitude of events, including the “Can’t Ban Us Day of Action” Black history teach-in on Thursday at the Marston Science Library.
Students and faculty gathered at the teach-in to highlight the rapidly growing African American history and Black studies resources housed at George A. Smathers libraries.
The event was led by members of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, an award-winning, social-justice research center that engages in experiential learning initiatives all over the world.
“UF has some of the best Black studies faculty in the country and it was special to hear from them at the teach-in today,” said Paul Ortiz, director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.
One of the several academically decorated speakers was Kenneth Nunn. The associate director of the Center on Children and Families at the Levin College of Law spoke about his disappointment, especially from the legal aspect of Florida’s current stance on race theory and Black history.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that limits discussion of race in education throughout Florida, and Nunn doesn’t agree.
“It is not just the humanities being let down, but law as well,” said Nunn.
Nunn wasn’t the only disappointed person in attendance as Ortiz voiced his opinion on the topic at hand.
“The state of Florida has banned aspects of African American studies within grades K-12 and are now trying to further ban higher education students from learning critical ways to understand how race and racism works,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz is also president of the United Faculty of Florida, author of “An African American and Latinx History of the United States,” as well as a National Archives distinguished scholar.
Although Ortiz is accomplished in several areas and is the director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida, he gave credit to the University of Florida students for this event.
“Our students here at UF asked us to step up as a program and to highlight the importance of Black studies,” said Ortiz.
The first floor of the library was filled with a feeling of significance after hearing from guest speakers as well as students.
“The most important thing about this event was people coming together talking about Black studies and affirming the importance of Black American history at a time when it is under siege,” Ortiz said.
The controversy over the teaching of Black studies in Florida simply has not only affected students but professors and faculty across the state.
“A great danger is that many Black faculty are leaving UF and they are leaving Florida, too, because of this climate of harassment and constant attacks,” Ortiz said. “It is challenging enough to be a professor, then to wake up in the morning having somebody attack you and your job is unjust.”
One of the people that facilitate the oral history program’s goals is volunteer Rose Capo.
Capo sets up events such as this teach-in and transcribes videos that can be saved for further use.
Capo didn’t mince words in her explanation of what today’s event embodied.
“Today we are pushing back towards a government that thinks that they are causing more good, but what they are really doing is causing more harm,” Capo said.
UF students are not the only people allowed into the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, as it is open to the community.
“Events like this are important because they can be archived for future generations to look at,” Capo said. “History repeats itself and predicts the future.”