Welcome to the first episode of Keeping Watch!
This episode features: Florida political news of the week, an interview with Florida State Representative Angie Nixon, a deep dive into Permitless Carry, and a special feature for Black History Month.
Below is a transcript of this episode.
Hello and welcome to Keeping Watch- the show that decodes Florida politics while holding elected officials accountable. I’m Natasha Sutherland, and in today’s episode, we’ll discuss what’s happening with Florida’s education system, gun laws and more. We’ll have Rep. Angie Nixon on to chat about Black History Month and we’ve got a special surprise at the end of the show. Be sure to listen all the way through for the details.
So let me tell you a little bit about me. I’m the Deputy Director of Florida Watch with the mission to shine a light on shady politics here in the Sunshine State. I went from educator to political staffer and have been working in Florida politics since 2017. Like many of you, I didn’t pay nearly as much attention to our government as I should have.
We’ve made this show for you to pull you in and arm you with the power of knowledge. If you have thoughts or feedback, be sure to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com. Let’s get into it. So let’s go through the headlines this week.
First, Duval schools tell teachers to cover or store books. This is coming out of WJC. Apparently, Duval teachers say they are being instructed to cover or store classroom libraries they have used for years to supplement their students learning. The district’s chief academic officer, Paula Renfro, tells teachers to temporarily pull books from classrooms. And Duval schools did confirm with WJC 2 news on Friday that the video was sent to principals to share with staff earlier this week.
Apparently, books not on the district approved list or they’re not approved by certified media specialists are going to have to be put away until further notice. Another interesting headline, DeSantis is actively preparing for presidential run. Surprise, surprise. And Donald Trump is having a meltdown. I don’t know if I need to really go into a lot of that, but it’ll be really interesting to see what happens.
As you know, we all know that Ron DeSantis is making his bid for the White House. So get your popcorn ready. Another headline, DeSantis’ Elections Police Force is in Shambles. This is coming out of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Apparently on his way to a second term, Governor DeSantis made election integrity a buzzword and got the legislature to spend $1.2 million on a new special unit to fight voter fraud.
Interesting. Also, there’s a Florida House dress code, apparently so no skirts, more than an inch above the knee. Wow. Is this 2023? Oh, and here we go. Another story coming out of one of our colleges. Valencia College, this time is halting their diversity training to comply with the stop work or what we like to call the stop learning law.
There’s an optional training class on diversity for faculty at a central Florida public college that has been canceled so that administrators can ensure that it complies with the new state law. I want to remind our listeners that this is the same state law that has been cited for the reason why AP African-American history was recently banned in Florida classrooms.
Continuing an educational news, we have new College of Florida Board trustee is going to replace the president and fire all faculty and staff to eliminate dogmatic wokeness. Wow. So just in a few days, we’re seeing relentless attacks on education here in the state of Florida. I think really, you know, folks need to think about the fact that this is not just a one off thing, right?
I mean, headline after headline, we’re seeing things around education, college, you know, and so I think that folks really need to be aware of of what this is probably all about. You know, any time we see these kinds of sort of huge headlines. Right. That’s just going to get what Governor DeSantis a little bit more coverage and his bid for the White House.
Right. And he’s sort of playing to his far right wing primary voters to get them all excited and riled up for him, you know, so that they vote for him right over his potential opponent. Like we talked about, President former President Trump. You know, I think it’s really scary, though, because we’re sacrificing education. We’re sacrificing the truth and honest, you know, honest teaching supplemental books and classrooms.
Right. So it’s it’s really going to be interesting to see how all of this continues to play out in the state. But coming up next, I’ve got a great guest, very, very excited to interview her. And I hope that you’ll stick around.
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Welcome back, everybody. So I recently had the chance to chat with State Representative Angie Nixon out of Jacksonville, Florida. Born and raised in Jacksonville, she’s been a state rep since 2020. Before that, she worked for a number of years as a community advocate and organizer, helping to lift up people struggling to get by. She led the sit in last year on the House floor in protest of the congressional maps that gerrymandered Black Floridians out of having half of their congressional representation in the state of Florida.
She started the Stop Black Attacks movement in the state and continues to be the voice of black equality. And I am so excited that we get to kick it off with Black History Month today. Angie Nixon Hey, Angie.
Representative Angie Nixon
Hey Natasha, it is so great to be here with you all today, and of course during Black History Month, my favorite month of the year.
Happy Black History Month. I want to know from you what does Black History Month mean to you?
Representative Angie Nixon
So Black History Month to me means it is the celebration of my birthday, I was born in Black History Month. But even more so, it is the celebration of the achievements of both within the black diaspora and particularly within Black America. And so when I was growing up, we knew about Martin Luther King and we learned about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. But basically that was it in school and so it wasn’t until I got in college and became an adult that I started learning even more.
And so Black History Month to me is just a time to reconnect. Well, now we should I should be reconnecting with my ancestors year round. But is a time for other folks to learn more about my ancestors, to learn more about how this country came to be off the backs and shoulders of black people and how we shouldn’t be looked at as a threat.
We should be looked at as some folks that were truly foundational and help really bring this country. Oh, right. And so I think it’s also a time to challenge the attacks on black people and I wish it was something that was celebrating year round. That’s what it means to me.
I love that. You know, for me as well, it was something that I didn’t really get a chance to learn much about until college like that. You know, the education that I that I received, you know, full disclosure, military brat went to three different high schools, tended to vary as to whether or not the full breadth of American history, because that’s really where Black history is right. Which we wouldn’t have Black history if not for the United States. Right? Like if they didn’t bring us over, we wouldn’t have, like, history. Right. So I’m just, you know, just saying just calling the thing a thing. And so it was just it was jarring to me to to be able to finally, like, sit in this class, which was mostly made up of black students and learn about be able to finally learn about ourselves completely and thinking, man, so many people, the largest, you know, the majority, the population doesn’t make it to college, right?
For whatever reason, whether it’s not for them or whatever. And so, wow, you know, they really missed out on on the truth. And I think that that is, you know, so important to ensuring that we don’t make the same mistakes again, you know, ensuring that together as a collective black, white, Hispanic, you know, whatever, that we move forward together.
Because, you know, honestly, I think a lot of folks, if they were to study all of this and understand the work that folks like you and leaders of our past and the black community have been doing, all we’re asking for is equality. We’re not even asking for more. We’re not. I’ve read something. I was I think it was a meme was like, why people don’t want revenge, right?
We and we just want the same thing as everybody else. Right. And in America, amazing country. There’s enough of the pie for everybody. It’s a big lie when they make us think that we have to be fighting each other and stuff like that. But but you know.
Representative Angie Nixon
I’ll never forget when I was in in college and I was attending a meeting for the Black Student Union inside the Institute of Black Culture, because they developed this after some black students, you know, demanded back in the day to have equity and that type of stuff within the University of Florida. And so, I mean, I’m I’m coming from Jacksonville not knowing my full history, not being my family, not being from the islands, my family not being, you know, from like my recent family not immigrating over from Africa.
And so, you know, oftentimes in college, you have people that are shouting out, I’m like, I’m Jamaican. Yeah, I’m I’m Nigerian. I’m Bahamian. And so I remember I’ll never forget sitting there and I started crying. And I will say, I don’t know my history. Like, I just I’m just Black. Like, I don’t know my history. And I thought that all of my material, I thought that I was like, last thing.
And I’ll never forget one girl, I can’t remember her name. And she’s like, Your history is that you’re Black and you come from folks that have had to endure. And they were what resilience and that help build this country. And like they didn’t teach us that in high school. And I guess that’s why I’m so frustrated and I’m so vocal.
And I pushed back against what Governor DeSantis is doing, because if you don’t learn about your history, oftentimes you feel insecure and you don’t have the self-worth. And I. I didn’t get it myself. I feel as though I wasn’t able to realize my self worth into college during that moment. And so I feel like his attacks are really calculated and by design, because if we’re able to leave people feeling and, you know, unattached to their history, like they’re never really going to get out of an oppressive man’s mind, you know?
And so that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I don’t cold tweets. And when I’m talking on the floor or speaking with people because I want people to realize that you can be who you are, especially if you’re black, right? Like, you should live. You should lean in that you should live unapologetically, because we helped again.
We helped found this country and we deserve to be who we are, unapologetically so far. I didn’t mean to cry on this podcast. Whoa.
No no, don’t apologize that was really that was really moving and really, really beautiful. And I think it really to me highlights those attacks and exactly why I think it’s it’s to keep young children from having a sense of pride and who they are. You know, when and when you aren’t proud of who you are, when you lack your self-confidence and things like that, I think, you know, you’re more likely to to be bendable, right, to the systems in place to oppress you and things like that, and more likely to to fall in the traps and, you know, things like that.
But I hear you. And yes, and I needed somebody like you, you know, when I was 12, 13 years old, trying to figure out, you know, getting questions. Well, are you more black or are you white? Whose side are you on? And you know, all of these things and not really knowing, you know, without having that sort of history and background and understanding of of who I am in my answers, where they come from, you know, being able to answer for some of the kids.
Why isn’t there White History Month? Right. You just answer that question, right? Like because white history is everything that we’re learning. It’s it’s we are bathed in white history day in and day out and that and that’s it. And so we have to carve out, you know, this bit of time in the year to be able to, you know, figure out who we are and be proud of that.
And it should be something you’re proud of. So thank you so much for joining us. Angie, it’s been a great, great conversation. And I just I just so appreciate you taking the time to to talk with us. Coming up next, folks, I’m going to be diving into permit list carry in the state of Florida. What does it mean for the rest of us?
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Now it’s time for the deep dive. I know a lot of folks that are listening have probably never read a book before or thought about reading a bill, but believe it or not, bills are actually pretty accessible. For one thing, that information is publicly available. So, for example, in the state of Florida, you can look at you go to my Florida house dot gov.
As you know, the House website and you can type in any number or do a keyword search even to find information about legislation that has been filed. And so just for folks that maybe don’t know what that is, right. Legislation is basically the proposal that our elected officials have to either make new laws or change existing laws. So like I said today, permit list carry is a bill that was just filed.
It is now coded as HB 543. So if you go to the my floridahouse.gov website, you can actually pull up HB 543 by typing in the number or you can even type in something around, you know, with keywords like conceal old weapons, something along those lines. But why, why we’re doing this deep dive is I just I just really want to provide some context for you.
So every morning I wake up, you know, get my espresso like a good Italian girl, and I read through the main headlines, you know, just to kind of see what what to expect for the day. Right. It’s kind of really sets the tone. And it was so crazy to see when I opened up my email because I subscribe to the local paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, and they give me sort of a like a news highlight every single morning.
And it was crazy because let me let me read to you one headline right after the other that popped up in my email. The first headline said, Bill filed to allow Florida gun owners to carry without a permit. Okay, That’s the first one. The second line right after that mass shooting in Lakeland, what we know, that was my morning.
So I just you know, I think it’s really important that we that we dive into this bill and really understand what this could mean for all of us. You know, right now in the Florida legislature, the Republicans have a supermajority. What does that mean? That means they have pretty much limitless control right there. They decide what bills are moving.
They decide what eventually becomes law. And they don’t really need, you know, the opposition or the Democrats to to help them make new laws. Right. They can just do whatever they want. And so I thought let’s let’s go ahead and take a look at so the legislation, when you pull it up here, it even says it right. The title, Concealed carry of weapons and firearms without a license.
So it’s going to essentially end the need to get a license to carry concealed weapon. What does that mean? That means they’re eliminating any training that’s required and they’re eliminating any background checks. So I don’t know if any of you have ever Googled Florida man and your birthday. Right. There’s that fun thing that we do about Florida, man.
Now, imagine Florida, man. All the Florida men and women can just carry a gun wherever they want, whenever they want. And you don’t know about it because it’s concealed, right? I have no training, so I kind of want to call it clueless, Kerry, but that’s just me. So Florida would become the 26th state to allow permit list carry.
Yes. So we look at the bill. Yes, it is 63 pages. Don’t let that scare you. Most of it is just a copy of existing law. So really, you can actually just skim that and look for anything that is stricken out or underline, because that’s where the actual changes in the bill are going to be. So we’re going on here and scanning, scanning, scanning, and we look at, you know, how they crossed out the requirements, which I thought was interesting.
So there it is. But then we want to I just want to kind of point one thing out that I find really, really interesting. I’m going to go ahead and look at it now, actually. So we’re on page 24 of this bill. And and it’s so there are a bunch of exceptions that are listed where people can still carry this.
And it’s interesting that they have these exceptions because they’re not going to actually require anybody to learn about them because there is no training. So apparently people are going be able to have guns and they’re not they’re not going to know where they’re allowed to to put these things right. There are exceptions. And one of the places that is an exception is the legislature.
So the very people that have filed this bill and have said, hey, Florida, man, you can conceal carry your weapon in Publix or Walmart or wherever. You can’t bring it into the Florida House of Representatives or the Florida Senate.
Just something to think about. Where else can folks not carry their weapons on this list so they’re not allowed to have them in schools? They’re not allowed to have them in courthouses. Right. So a lot of those requirements are still there. And I think it’s very, very telling that when they had the opportunity to make it a complete free for all, they didn’t, because it’s a law that’s for everybody else and not for them.
Right. They’re still going to make sure that they’re safe, but they’re not really concerned if your child is safe, if you’re safe when you’re going shopping, if you’re safe sitting on your front porch, if you’re safe when you make somebody angry because you forgot your blinker when you were making a right turn. And so I think it’s really, really important that folks understand what this is about.
Okay. So aside from that, another thing that folks don’t really think about when it comes to a law like this is that even when people are incredibly well-trained and understand, you know, how to carry a weapon, how to properly store it safely, you know, I think about military service members. Right. So as somebody who’s married to a veteran and you know, this person, my husband, he was the armor, right, for the military.
So his job was to understand, you know, how to you know, how weapons work and, you know, safely carry them and things like that. And he and I were talking about this and it was really interesting because he said, well, even in the Marines, when you’ve got he gave me these stats, actually 185,830 active Marines. Okay. These are people that we consider the best of the best elite and well-trained.
They still maintain statistics around something called negligent discharge. So this is when a weapon goes off, right? So a gun gets fired, but it’s an accident. Okay. So in one year, we’ve had, let’s see, 54 out of those 185,000 folks with 48 injuries and six deaths. And these are the Marines. These are people that know what they’re doing.
And so now the legislature wants to make sure that people that have no clue about what they’re doing are able to carry loaded weapons as well. Even here into in my town, there was a road rage incident at a books-a-million parking lot and, you know, it turned deadly. So I think, you know, folks really need to take a long, hard look at this and decide, you know, is this is this the kind of society that we want to live in where everybody is armed?
I mean, is this Sparta or is this the United States of America? You know, it’s it’s just man, like right now, you know, we just had another incident of of an unarmed black man, you know, killed by police. Right. So what is this going to do for public safety and policing in our state And, you know, the third most populous state in the country with people from all over the world speaking all different languages, you know, just a lot of tourism and things like that.
You know, what are law enforcement going to do? Right. I mean, I know that, you know, at a certain point in this country, they do already assume or have to kind of assume that folks are potentially armed. But now it’s even more so, because now they are going to understand that not only are we all armed potentially, but we’re also untrained and don’t understand how the law works and have no clue about liability if something were to happen.
And, you know, so because here’s one of the things that I thought was really interesting when talking to my husband about all this is that when folks go through the concealed carry permit training course, he was saying that quite a few people they’ll sign up and do the course. And by learning about the laws and sort of your duties as a concealed carry weapons, you know, license holder, they’re like, you know what?
That’s too much responsibility and they end up not doing it. So a lot of people, you know, I don’t know. I just feel like the good guys that want guns can get the guns right. They can take it upon themselves and do the training and understand the response. It’s a huge responsibility. And they could do it with eyes wide open.
Now we’re making it so that folks really don’t know what they’re signing up for. And I think that that in the end is going to harm everybody. So but, you know, back to some of these stats here. You know, apparently, according to our partners at Giffords, in order to be a hairstylist training in Florida. Right. So to be a hairstylist is 1200 hours of training in order to cut hair, which is hilarious to me because I cut my own hair.
Fun story about that. As a biracial woman, my hair, it’s very fun. But not a lot of stylists know how to do it or what to do with it. And so. Even with 1200 hours of training, I get turned away because they have no idea what to do with my hair. So there’s that training to be a massage therapist. 500 hours. Okay, fine. Great training to be a manicurist. So to do nails, 240 hours. And as far as I’m aware, life and limb is not at risk with any of these professions.
But anyway, we’re going to go ahead and take that down to zero in Florida to carry a weapon. And one of the other stats that I think is really important to highlight here for listeners is that in states where they did go ahead and do away with, you know, training and, you know, permits for for concealed carry, they experienced a 22% increase in gun assaults and a 35% increase in gun homicides.
So, yeah, but anyway, like I was some of the law enforcement, I thought it was really interesting. And I want to lift up for folks that there are law enforcement officers out there that are speaking out against it. I know that you know, I’ve heard that many of them are afraid, right, for political reasons to come out and speak.
But there is there was recently an op ed that came out by Sheriff Minor, which is titled I Oppose No Permit and Open Carry Gun Laws. Here’s why. And I thought this quote of his was really, really salient for this issue. And he says, as a law enforcement officer who’s been serving this community for over 30 years, I vehemently oppose any type of permit lists or open carry legislation.
I’m not alone. Many law enforcement leaders, even in states that allow it, oppose this senseless idea. Well, thank you all so much for for joining me on that adventure, that deep dive into concealed carry weapons in the state of Florida. I know it was a lot, but I want you to just hang in there because you got a little bit of something that’ll lighten things up for you at the end.
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And now a special highlight for Black history month. Carrie Meek was the first black woman ever elected to the Florida Senate and the first black person to represent Florida in Congress since reconstruction. A skilled lawmaker, Meek, passed humanitarian legislation, including bills to promote literacy, helped students stay in school and extend U.S. residency for immigrants and refugees. One of her most famous quotes is until we all start to take responsibility.
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Thanks for joining us. We talked about what’s happening in Florida’s education system, gun laws and so much more. We hope that that was all very useful and informative. As always, if you have any questions for us at Keeping Watch, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to join us next time on Keeping Watch.
Take care. See you soon.