WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WFSU Local News

Amid a debate over teaching history, the Harrambee Festival Returns To Cascades Park

IMG_20220226_130939_2 (1).jpg
Tom Flanigan
Florida A&M University President Dr. Larry Robinson and First Lady Sharon Robinson welcome the crowds who flocked to the Harrambee Festival at Cascades Park

Even as the Florida Legislature has been moving to restrict the teaching of Black history in public schools, a community celebration of that history was happening a few blocks away Saturday at Tallahassee's Cascades Park.

Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson welcomed the crowd to the revival of the city's Harrambee Festival.

"Happy Harrambee 2022! It's so wonderful to be back here after missing it a couple of years. Isn't it great?" he asked as the attendees cheered.

But what's not so great, said FAMU History Professor Reginald Ellis, are attempts by some state lawmakers to limit the way history is taught in public schools.

"Our job as historians is really to keep our heads down and let the politicians be politicians and our job to be historians. And make sure we continue to cover events of the past and do a good job of telling the story; a well-balanced, holistic story," he said.

Despite the controversy, thousands of people were enjoying the unrestrained celebration of that story during the day-long festival at Cascades Park.

The Florida House recently approved House Bill 7, which restricts the way issues of race and history can be discussed in public school classrooms and workplaces. The measure was approved on a party-line vote and over the objection of Democrats who argue the proposal will suppress real issues for the sake of protecting the feelings of people who haven’t been historically marginalized.

The bill is a response to what Gov. Ron DeSantis and fellow Republicans see as a liberal agenda gone too far. DeSantis calls the measure the “STOP WOKE” Act and while the bill itself does not mention Critical Race Theory— a concept that examines how racism has influenced government policy-- the governor has made it known that he is not a supporter of it.

The bill also targets diversity, equity, and inclusion training in workplaces, effectively allowing employees to sue if such a conversation could make a person feel bad about themselves.

“This bill makes it clear that in Florida, people will be judged as individuals by their words, by their character, and by their actions — not by their race, by their sex or by their national origin,” said bill sponsor Bryan Avila, a Miami Springs Republican.

The Senate version of the proposal is in its last committee stop.