As nonpartisan organizations dedicated to freedom of speech, thought, and inquiry, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU-FL), and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) are deeply disturbed by reports indicating that Daytona State College canceled an upcoming exhibition at the school’s Southeast Museum of Photography because it refers to racialized police violence in the United States.
Stranger Fruit was to be on display at Daytona State College’s Southeast Museum of Photography (SMP) from January 11 through April 15, 2023, and is a solo photography exhibition by artist Jon Henry that had been in development for over two years and received a grant from the Florida Division of Arts and Culture. Responding to high-profile cases of racialized police violence, Stranger Fruit focuses on the maternal and familial loss that endures far longer than media attention and criminal trial proceedings that accompany such tragedies.
In December 2022, a museum employee wrote the artist to explain that the exhibition would need to be indefinitely canceled due to recent HVAC issues that resulted in building leaks. However, in August of 2023, the artist received an anonymous letter from a former employee stating that the real reason for the cancellation was the show’s content and that the Daytona State College administration felt the exhibition’s subject was at odds with the school’s small police training program.
As a public school, Daytona State College is subject to the First Amendment imperative to not discriminate against ideas based on their viewpoint. NCAC, ACLU-FL, and FIRE urge Daytona State College to reschedule the exhibition as soon as possible.
Read our full joint letter to Daytona State College here:
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