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Gov. Ron DeSantis has faced criticism over his decision to reject an Advanced Placement course on African American studies to be taught in Florida high schools. February is Black History Month, and we asked educators, historians, and community members to weigh in on why teaching the full scope of history is more important than ever. We’re sharing what they had to say, in their own words.

This mom says teaching financial literacy is key to building the next generation

Erica McNeal stands near her 9-yr-old daughter Khrystian in front of a pink and purple banner at the farmer's market
Kerry Sheridan
WUSF Public Media
Erica McNeal and her daughter, Khrystian, at the booth where Khrystian sells jewelry at the Newtown farmer's market

Erica and her daughter, Khrystian, are involved with a group called The Billionaire Babies, which teaches children about money, entrepreneurship and creating generational wealth.

February is Black History Month, and we are hearing from listeners about why studying and learning Black history is important to them.

Today we go to the Newtown farmer's market, in Sarasota's Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Park, to hear from a mom who recalls how far we've come since the era of segregation, and who says teaching financial literacy is key to advancing the next generation.

"I'm Erica McNeil. And why Black history is important to me is because without Black history, I wouldn't be who I am today.

"My grandmother, being born in 1925, she's seen going into the Black and white bathrooms. I have pictures that she left behind to show me, as an indication that this happened, without her being here to tell me the things that took place.

"Her best friend was a Caucasian white woman, who was told that her Black friend, which was my grandmother, couldn't sit in the same ice cream parlor, they had to go in the back. Now he would serve the Caucasian woman up front, but my grandmother had to go into the back.

"We've come too far to be pushed on the back burner. There's no more going back. God said, 'What was last shall be first.' We've been last for far too long.

"How can you take a culture from millions of people and say that they don't matter? We make up a portion of the human race as well. We don't want our kids to be lost in society. We want them to know where they come from.

"No matter what race you are, if you're African-American, if you're Caucasian, if you're Hispanic, you all need to know where we come from. Because we all come from one melting pot. We're all made by one God. We have to be united together no matter what the color of your skin is.

A mom and her daughter hug and smile for camera at the farmer's market
Kerry Sheridan
WUSF Public Media
Krystian Tonstall and her mom, Erica McNeal, at their stand at the Newtown Farmer's Market where Khrystian sells jewelry she's made.

"So we're teaching our kids out here to the farmer's market how money works. And we need for them to be better than what we are. We weren't taught what the other kids were privileged to. It's not fair for our children to be held back based on the different ZIP code that they're in.

"There's no reason that the schools shouldn't be teaching about financial literacy. If they're teaching them what money is in kindergarten and in first grade, to identify money for the dollar bill, tell them how the dollar bill works. Tell them how the change works. Tell them how to credit card works, to start to invest at an early age.

"My daughter, she learned that if you save, you can have what it is that your heart desires."

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.