Standing With Florida’s People and Communities
Registration for this year’s Annual Meeting is opening this week – and we look forward to sharing all the details of our agenda with our members. Before that, however, we wanted to address concerns around our meeting’s location in Amelia Island, Florida.
This spring, Florida enacted multiple pieces of legislation that target and isolate people who have historically faced discrimination and marginalization while also seeking to limit discussion of related issues in the classroom. These include the measure widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as well as HB 7, which bans educators from teaching certain subjects related to race.
While Philanthropy Southeast has not taken a position on these specific bills, we are deeply alarmed by these measures and their potential to harm educators, students and their families. Both bills appear designed to create a chilling effect that will limit the discussion of issues that have historically not received the attention they deserve.
In response to the passage of these laws, some organizations have responded by moving or canceling events slated to take place in Florida. We have also heard calls to move our own Annual Meeting from the state. While we understand and respect this perspective, we are still planning to hold the Annual Meeting in Florida, for a few reasons.
First, many Philanthropy Southeast members, in Florida and beyond, work hard every day to support organizations that serve the LGBTQ community and communities of color. The Annual Meeting provides a safe space for members concerned about these issues to share insights and learn from one another. We will not deprive our members of this opportunity – this applies especially to our members in Florida who may not be able to attend a meeting in another location as easily.
The second reason is rooted in Philanthropy Southeast’s role as a regional philanthropy-supporting organization based in the American South. Our membership includes organizations in 11 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We aim to place our programs evenly throughout the region as best as we possibly can and consider it antithetical to our mission to exclude a state in our own footprint from hosting our events.
Related to this is the unfortunate reality that Florida is not the only state in the region to pass legislation that runs counter to the beliefs expressed in our Equity Framework. Bills like Florida’s are under consideration, or have already passed, in several Southern states. Other states have recently passed bills interfering with people’s right to vote. Applying a legislative litmus test when selecting venues for our programming would leave us with very few locations to choose from and ultimately limit the ability of our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.
We also believe that hosting the Annual Meeting in Florida provides an opportunity to express our solidarity with marginalized communities in the state and throughout the region. With this in mind, we will ensure this year’s Annual Meeting includes programming dedicated to philanthropy’s role in combating anti-Black racism and supporting the LGBTQ community.
We believe that philanthropy is at its best when it is, in the words of Bryan Stevenson, proximate to the issues it seeks to address. By bringing this year’s Annual Meeting to Florida, we hope that proximity will result in ideas and actions that improve the lives of all people in Florida and beyond.