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NAACP’s leader lives in Tampa despite travel advisory targeting DeSantis

 May 23, 2023

Contrary to the recent advisory from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP ) cautioning African Americans about a 'hostile' environment in Florida, it has been revealed that the organization's board members, chairman included, both live and vacation in the state. This surprising disclosure has raised questions regarding the advisory.

Republicans in Florida are leading the backlash against the NAACP's advisory. They point to the glaring contradiction of the civil rights group's chairman, Leon W. Russell, residing in the state that his organization has labeled unsafe for African Americans, as reported by the Daily Mail

Russell's Residence and Life in Florida

Leon W. Russell, 73, has been living in Florida for his entire adult life, having grown up in Virginia. Today, his residence is a two-bedroom house in North Tampa.

Despite his personal connections with Florida, Russell supported the organization's advisory against traveling to the state.

Another notable board member, Karen B. Towns, co-chair of the NAACP and a board member, is known to enjoy vacationing in Clearwater, Florida. Yet, she joined the call, cautioning other African Americans against traveling to the Sunshine State.

Controversial Advisory Claiming 'Eradication' of Black History

The NAACP's travel advisory, which was released recently, asserts that Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis is attempting to 'erase' black history by removing Critical Race Theory from the state's schools. This controversial statement has drawn the ire of Republicans of various ethnic backgrounds.

In response to the advisory, Christian Ziegler, Chairman of the Florida GOP, has openly offered to assist Russell in relocating to a different state if he believes Florida is hostile.

Ziegler stated, "The CHAIRMAN of the NAACP lives in Tampa, FLORIDA! True leadership is being willing to do what you ask others to do… time to step up and move."

Strong Republican Backlash Against the Advisory

Rep. Byron Donalds (FL-19) described the advisory as 'dumb', 'silly', and 'political'. During an appearance on Fox and Friends, he argued, "We should be focused on making sure people actually have the opportunity to achieve, which Florida is actually doing and thriving in a way better than other states."

Donalds further criticized the use of race as a weapon in politics and media and suggested that issues such as rising inflation and the increase in fentanyl in communities under the Biden administration should be of more concern.

Similarly, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), during his presidential campaign announcement, reiterated that America is a land of 'opportunity - not oppression'. He called for 'less CRT' and 'more ABCs' in schools and boldly stated that America is not a racist country.

Florida Officials Respond to the Advisory

In response to the NAACP's advisory, Nikki Whiting, the press secretary for Florida's Department of Health, reminded the organization that the state's Surgeon General, Joseph Ladapo, is an African American.

Lavern Spicer, who is running for Florida's 22nd District, sarcastically commented on the NAACP's advisory. She shared a video of the Haitian Compass Festival that recently took place in Miami.

Spicer humorously pointed out, "The 25,000 Black people out at the Haitian Compass Festival last night most certainly did not get the NAACP’s memo about how dangerous Florida is for Black people!"

Response to the Controversy

Appearing on MSNBC’s "The ReidOut," Russell defended his decision to reside in Florida. Responding to the critics, he stated, "Frankly, we haven’t told anybody to leave. In fact, the NAACP is encouraging folks to stay here and fight. If there was ever a reason to stand your ground, it’s Black people, the LGBT community, the immigrant community, women, need to stand our ground in Florida and fight, and understand that that fight is a political fight."

In March, the NAACP suggested issuing a travel advisory, Fox News reported. DeSantis described it as a "joke" and a stunt at the time. 

He said. "This is a stunt to try to do that. "It’s a pure stunt. And fine, if you want to waste your time on a stunt, that’s fine. But I’m not wasting my time on your stunts. I’m going to make sure that we’re getting things done here."