Glen Gilzean Jr. is a key figure in Governor Ron DeSantis’ Florida. And very busy.
Here is a sample:
Gilzean is currently under fire for at least two of those positions. He defended DeSantis and the African American Task Force for Florida’s controversial New African American History Standards against claims that they whitewash history and demand instructions that “slaves developed skills” for “personal benefit”.
And after announcing that the new district governing Disney World would abolish its diversity, equity and inclusion program, its former employer, the Central Florida Urban League, blasted his “betrayal”.
Here’s what you need to know.
Who is Glen Gilzean Jr.?
Glenton “Glen” Gilzean Jr.’s grandparents emigrated from Jamaica. He grew up in the Lauderdale Lakes area of Broward County, Florida, and graduated from Nova High School, participating in field training and even spending a semester studying in Israel.
Gilzean, 40, holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of South Florida.
After college, Gilzean worked for U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, R-Florida, then spent three and a half years working for the Florida Department of Education as a regional field manager. He left to form a non-profit group called Educate Today and grew it into a multimillion-dollar organization, but quit in 2012 when the then-Governor. Rick Scott appointed Gilzean to fill an empty seat on the Pinellas County School Board even though he had only been living in the area for two months at the time.
Gilzean was defeated in the next election, despite an endorsement from former Governor Jeb Bushbut the following year Scott appointed him to Florida A&M University Board of Trusteeswhich was also seen by some as a controversial choice.
Gilzean withdrew his candidacy in 2014 before it can be confirmed after the Herald/Times reported that as Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach for Step up for students, a Jacksonville nonprofit that ran Florida’s college voucher program, he would have to register as a lobbyist. State law prohibits university administrators from working as registered lobbyists, and the Times/Herald verified that Gilzean lobbied “at least six lawmakers on this issue.” In 2016, Scott named him to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission to select candidates for judicial vacancies.
In November 2015, Gilzean assumed leadership of the Central Florida Urban League, an affiliate of the National Urban League, as they floundered in $1.2 million in debt, and got them out of it in less than two years. He was named President and CEO in 2016 and was named one of Central Florida CEO of the Year in 2019 by the Orlando Business Journal.
DeSantis appoints Gilzean to several Florida committees
In 2019, DeSantis appointed Gilzean as Florida Ethics Commission And reappointed him to his post in 2022. In January 2020, Gilzean was appointed to Florida State Census Full Count Committeemade up of different organizations promoting participation in the census within their respective constituencies.
After initially shutting down the state when COVID-19 became a pandemic, DeSantis decided to reopen things. Gilzean was appointed to a task force in his Reopen Florida Task Force.
Gilzean criticized for his conservative leanings
Gilzean has worked tirelessly throughout his career to provide new opportunities for black people.
“Glen was like a breath of fresh air for the Central Florida Urban League,” Board Chair Paula Hoisington told the Orlando Sentinel. “It was his love for the community, his love for the kids, his love for just wanting to make it a level playing field for anyone who needed a helping hand, not a gift.”
“We are doing this now through the three Es: education, employment and entrepreneurship,” Gilzean told the Agents of Innovation podcast in 2020. “We believe the three Es will truly eradicate generational poverty.
But his conservative political leanings and support for Governors Scott and DeSantis have drawn criticism, especially since DeSantis is seen by many as diminishing black influence. representation in government And representation in school history lessons.
In 2020, when Gilzean testified before the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Regarding community engagement following the murder of George Floyd, he emphasized the importance of respect for law enforcement, a goal the Central Florida Urban League is working on with various community engagement programs like “Coffee With a Cop”. He blamed young people’s skepticism of law enforcement on “adverse influences in the media and in the community”, with barely a mention of widespread law enforcement. lack of respect, violenceand the higher death rates blacks.
Gilzean also endorsed DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s decision to classes open in 2020 as COVID continued to surge in Florida, highlighting the number of black-owned businesses that had closed due to lockdowns.
After Gilzean wrote a Black History Month Editorial for the Orlando Sentinel in February, supporting the state’s attack on the Advanced Placement course in African American history offered to high school students, which Florida eventually refused to use despite its popularity, National Urban League President Marc H. Morial wrote a letter to the editor denounce it.
Gilzean’s view “does not reflect the position of the National Urban League or the Urban League Affiliate Network” on “DeSantis’ blatant politically political effort to ban African-American history from the AP” and “the weaponization of white grievances,” Morial wrote. “(DeSantis) blatantly exploits racial fears and perpetuates a distorted view of the nation’s history, thereby thwarting efforts to end systemic racism.”
Gilzean has been a fellow or member of two conservative institutions, the James Madison Institute and the American Enterprise Institute Leadership Network.
Gilzean under fire for Florida black history program Disney DEI
More recently, Gilzean has received high-profile blowback for his role in two major DeSantis policies.
The Florida Board of Education was tasked with writing a new African-American history curriculum last year because it conflicted with the state’s new “Stop WOKE Act” that prohibit any teaching it could make students feel that they bear personal responsibility, guilt, anguish, or “other forms of psychological distress” for their race; blocked instructions suggesting that anyone was “either privileged or oppressed” based on race or skin color; demanded that discussions of race be taught in an “objective manner”; and prohibits any discussion “used to indoctrinate or persuade students to adopt a particular point of view”.
Florida has been required to teach black history since 1994 when the Legislature established the Task Force on African American History. The task force was abruptly reinforced by DeSantis allies in June, with Gilzean as leader. THE new program was created by another African-American History Standards Task Force consisting largely of conservative appointments and was unanimously approved by the Board of Education despite protests and criticism from mainstream black advocacy groups, community leaders, Greek Letter Fraternities and the state teachers’ union.
Among the complaints were that the program taught the benefits of slavery to slaves, suggested that the actions of victims of historic black massacres contributed to the events, named prominent abolitionists and historic court rulings in favor of civil rights but not the role of Florida in its resistance, and featured almost exclusively Republican leaders of the civil rights movement.
In May, Gilzean was elected as a trustee of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, a board that DeSantis had created to replace the one disney world is used to managing its roads, building permits, fire protection, water and waste collection and other infrastructure needs on 25,000 acres of property in Orange and Counties. ‘Osceola since 1967.
Disney spoke about DeSantis’ anger last year, when then-CEO Bob Chapek criticized the governor’s behavior Parental Rights in Education Actsentenced as “don’t say gay,” by opponents, and pledged to end political contributions in the state and work to repeal the new law. an ongoing feud this resulted in the removal of Disney’s tax district, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and its replacement with the new Governor’s hand-picked Board of Directors, but not before Disney has taken back much of its power.
This week, Gilzean announced that the new district was abolish its diversity, equity and inclusion programssomething that DeSantis has been denouncing for a long time and signed a law againstand he dropped out of his former employer, the Central Florida Urban League.
“Our district will no longer participate in any attempt to divide us by race or promote the idea that we are not created equal,” Gilzean said in Tuesday’s announcement. “As the former leader of the Central Florida Urban League, a civil rights organization, I can say with certainty that our community only thrives when we work together despite our differences.”
The National Urban League fought back.
“The National Urban League and our national movement of more than 90 local affiliates are shocked and appalled by Glen Gilzean’s betrayal of the values that are at the very heart of our mission,” said President and CEO Marc Morial. in a statement to the United States. TODAY NETWORK-Florida.
“His rejection of the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion is a rejection of the Urban League movement and the pursuit of racial justice itself,” Morial said. “We vigorously and categorically reject any implied association with Mr. Gilzean’s current words or actions. His crass political expediency is all the more offensive given his previous view of the harm he knows it will cause. ”