Notes from the Field: This is What We Know
It’s ANYTOWN season at Community Tampa Bay. Two weeks ago, we transformed the lives of 48 youth who had the opportunity to experience a community free from all forms of discrimination – a community where their voices mattered and were heard – for one week.   Sunday, we welcome over 60 ANYTOWN delegates to our second session.   Heading into this ANYTOWN session, this is what we know:   • Last year, more than 100 unarmed black individuals were killed by police officers. In the Jim Crow era south, there were an average of 40 lynchings of African-Americans per year. That is to say, in 2014, the institution charged with ensuring the safety of our towns, cities, neighbors and families was responsible for more than double the deaths of black individuals than race-based lynchings during our country’s period of legal segregation.   • Just this week: Sandra Bland was pulled over, removed from her vehicle and slammed to the ground, as captured in video footage, after failing to use a turn signal. She was subsequently jailed. The Waller County Sheriff, in whose jail Sandra Bland was found dead, was fired for documented racist conduct in another county in 2008.   • […]
Empowerment in Action [How I Learned to Lead]
Growing up in the Unites States as a poor young man from a foreign country with only my mother as my blood family had a pretty unique effect on my narrative for where I should strive to be in my life. From an early age I was taught that this is the land of opportunity and anybody, yes even me, can make it to the golden-honeyed land of success… granted I fall into the box of what society deems successful. My chosen career in poetry does not fit into that box. But poetry did give me the opportunity to see myself in a way that I never thought possible: as a speaker for and a leader to hurt, oppressed and marginalized people. However, that thought became a fleeting one. As traditional ideas of what a “true leader” is flashed through my mind it was accompanied by images of Huey Newton, Martin Luther King, Jesus, presidents, religious leaders and revolutionaries who moved thousand, if not millions, of people to action. I just couldn’t see myself stacking up to the “greats” as a 24 year old college dropout with a criminal record who was washing dishes in a kitchen to make ends meet. […]
Charleston Hate Crime Latest Tragedy in Ongoing Violence & Discrimination Against African-Americans
Community Tampa Bay offers our sincerest condolences to the families of the 9 victims of the hate crime at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last night in South Carolina. We offer our thoughts, prayers and hopes for healing to the church community and the wider community of Charleston. And even as we offer these condolences and prayers, we fear this terrible crime will devastate another community because as a society we continue to resist, let alone take action against, the mounting evidence that there is more discrimination and hate in our country today than we have seen in decades. The incidence of hate crimes is up 500% since 2008, the year our first African-American president was elected. In 2014, 117 unarmed black Americans were killed by police officers. This is more than double the number of African-Americans lynched annually in the Jim Crow era. Black students, who make up just 15% of students nationwide, make up nearly half of all school suspensions, resulting in the systematic criminalization of our black youth. These are not opinions. These are facts. In the very places where they should feel most safe – their churches, their schools, their neighborhoods – black Americans’ very lives […]
Please Stop Calling It Dialogue
  “Let’s talk about these African-American teens. They sag their pants. They live in fatherless homes where the mothers don’t know who the fathers are. They drop out of school. Many of them are criminals. These black teenagers, they’re not developing empathy. Let’s talk about these problems. Let’s talk about these black teens.”   This is how the host of last night’s town hall about race relations and criminal justice started the program. I felt shocked, angry and sad. This is not how I expected an event like this to open. As I sat among my African-American friends and colleagues, my heart broke for them that they would be assaulted with such racist rhetoric – by the host, no less! – in a setting to which they were lured with the promise of “respectful discussion” of an issue that is, frankly, a matter of life and death for them. I had hoped we were coming together to validate the fears and concerns of people of color in our community. Instead, we heard the biased platform of a person in a position of power who could have used his significant influence to advance social justice and blatantly did the opposite.   […]
The Importance of Encouraging Courage in Women
If we intend to sincerely honor women — during Women’s History Month or any other — that needs to begin with championing them to live authentically and stretch their comfort zones. In failing to do that, we fail everyone – - including future generations. We fail everyone who has a woman for a friend. We fail families. Certainly not least, we fail women. As boys, men generally get the message that they can be anything they want to be. Until the point that we’ve broken their spirit, we encourage strength and tenacity in them. Not so much with women. Forever worrying about their presentation we expend endless energy to keep them pristine, to shield them from strife and hard times. In the process we shield them from their own greatness. We discourage them from developing and shield them from acquiring the grit and vision required of them by life. Almost every woman knows what it’s like to be told they can’t from an early age.  “Girl’s don’t sit like that.” “That’s not ladylike.” We do this and then wonder why women don’t see themselves as capable and deserving: capable of leaving unfulfilling relationships, worthy of the best life has to […]
Why Black History Month Still Matters: #BlackExcellence
In her post about the myth of of a post-racial America, Jenn Russell pointed out that far from solving racism, Obama’s election has instead served to highlight the ongoing pervasiveness of systemic racism and has perhaps even ushered in an era of heightened race-based aggression targeting communities of color. Concrete numbers and police reports exist to back this up. What’s less visible is the ignorance and invisibility that has persisted in part because of the belief in a post-racial America. In response to society collectively ignoring the black experience and its contributions to culture, #BlackExcellence has picked up steam in the last few years to highlight them. The hashtag exists because noticing black contributions and achievements isn’t the norm. It’s an exception. The fact that this hashtag exists is yet another reason why we’re not past needing Black History Month. Below are three more reasons informing #BlackExcellence’s existence as to why this is so: 1. Because contributions by blacks are celebrated only one month of the year, and what black contributions are routinely lauded have been attributed to Europeans. This is easy when the libraries that originally housed this information have been destroyed. Whether through omission or intentional misinformation, you can make your […]
Why Black History Month Still Matters: The Myth of Post-Racial America
*At Community Tampa Bay, we find ourselves frequently having to field questions about why diversity and inclusion still matters, when we’ve “come so far”, when our society is “past racism”. This is why. It’s not a new notion: the myth of a post-racial America has been examined, refuted and re-examined over these seven years since the election of our nation’s first black President. The most optimistic among us (and arguably, those of us among the least marginalized) have been eager to tout that the US could officially close the book on racism now that our top leader is a man of color.  People of color know differently. In her essay in the February 2015 edition of Essence magazine, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson parallels the experience of black Americans today to that of the post-Reconstruction era. During Reconstruction, in the decade or so after slavery was abolished, blacks made significant gains in all areas of public life, establishing successful businesses and schools, creating vibrant and thriving communities and successfully establishing political toe-holds in black communities and beyond. This progression did not sit well with many of their white neighbors and many of those in established positions of power. Fearing the […]
Dialogue: A Matter of Life & Death
Community Tampa Bay recently held district wide one-day youth leadership conferences for middle and high school students attending Pinellas County Schools. The theme of the conferences was: “What’s Your Story?”   This question lies at the heart of Community Tampa Bay’s work with both youth and adults, as we strive to create a community free from all forms of discrimination. Everyone has a story, and our personal narratives – those we are born with, those we tell ourselves and those other decide for us – shape our lives.   Sharing our stories with others and having others listen to those stories, whether they are of triumph, struggle or everything in between, creates the opportunity for genuine relationships. And relationships are the foundation from which we can end discrimination.   When we have the opportunity to build genuine relationships with people who don’t look like us or who come from different backgrounds, we not only learn about them, we learn about ourselves. Through these relationships, we have the opportunity to question our assumptions and biases and to expand our hearts and minds. Through these relationships, we can engage in transformative dialogue – those discussions that are sometimes hard to have but […]
CTB on Leading Edge of D&I Strategy
Last Thursday, Community Tampa Bay (CTB) hosted Evident Impact, a panel discussion featuring Pinellas County leaders sharing their perspectives on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce.   For more than two decades, Community Tampa Bay’s leadership and diversity education programs (which are based on our trademarked ANYTOWN curriculum and adapted to be age- and setting-appropriate) have emphasized three primary ways to foster inclusion effectively: dialogue, relationships and modeling diversity at all levels of an organization.   Throughout the discussion at Evident Impact, each panelist in their own words validated these proven approaches by sharing how dialogue, genuine relationships and intentionally building a diverse pipeline of leaders and employees have influenced their organizations’ success.   President & CEO of the Greater St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, Chris Steinocher, mentioned the Chamber’s approach to gaining comfort in having the sometimes uncomfortable conversations about bias that pave the way for genuine dialogue.   The importance of relationships was emphasized by Joe Conrod, Director of Diversity & Employee Relations for All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, who shared his own story of the various cross-cultural relationships that have influenced his life and personal success. Speaking passionately about taking inclusion to heart, Joe earned […]
“ANYTOWN changed my life.”
“ANYTOWN changed my life.”  I’ve heard this statement more than any other since I joined Community Tampa Bay as its new Executive Director in March. If there is anything I’ve learned in my brief time here so far, it’s that we change lives. I am so humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead such an incredible organization! My whole life has been dedicated to social justice, both personally and professionally, and I am excited to continue the journey with Community Tampa Bay. Growing up in a diverse community, surrounded by a family passionate about civic engagement and service, I naturally gravitated toward non-profit leadership. Most recently, I was the Executive Director of an organization in the San Francisco Bay Area where we provided new shoes and clothing to thousands of homeless and low-income children each year. For over 15 years, my experiences have allowed me to manage programs, lead fundraising and communications initiatives, serve on Boards and Advisory Boards and volunteer with community organizations in the US and overseas. My passion has always been celebrating diversity and supporting an end to discrimination. I’m thrilled to be a part of a team of devoted donors, volunteers and staff working to do […]
F.L.Y presents: “As Long As I Got My Dress And Tie”!
The F.L.Y. (Facilitating the Leadership of Youth) Society presents the final summit for the 2013-2014 year: As Long As I Got My Dress And Tie (Gender Stereotypes And Why They Suck) May 31st 4-8PM This summit will revolve around gender stereotypes and answers the question, “are they relevant?” It was created by youth for youth with FREE food and entertainment! REGISTER HERE! Questions? Call (727-568-9333) or email ( *A waiver is required for participants under 18! For more info, see the flyer below!
Mar 13
F.L.Y. Teens to Host IDERD Summit!
The F.L.Y. (Facilitating the Leadership of Youth) Society proudly invites you to the I.D.E.R.D. (International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) summit, The Art of Togetherness: An Epic Showcase to End Racial Discrimination March 21st 600- 900 PM This summit was created by youth for youth with FREE food and entertainment! REGISTER HERE! Questions? Call (727-568-9333) or email ( *A waiver is required for participants under 18! For more info, see the flyer below!
Hey ANYTOWN™ Volunteers!
As the ANYTOWN™ sessions draws nearer, it’s time to refresh, enhance, and strength your skill sets with the Staff Development Trainings! Just remember, you must attend 1 (new or existing) Administrative Trainings, at least 3 out of 6 offered Topic Specific Trainings, and you may use 1 of 3 Quadrant Trainings as replacement for a topic specific. Ready?! Here’s the link to all the training dates and times! If you have any questions or would like to RSVP, call (727) 568-9333 or email Sarah at
ANYTOWN™ Applicants and Volunteers!
The ANYTOWN™ season has already begun! ANYTOWN™ is the area’s premier youth leadership and diversity education program. Thousands of young people have already created more inclusive and just schools and communities where everyone is treated with respect and understanding. We begin THIS summer’s intensive residential program now. We will continue growth throughout the 2014-2015 year via the Be Intentional Institute, which provides ongoing opportunities for service and leadership development utilizing the skills and attitudes developed at ANYTOWN™. Community Tampa Bay brings together a diverse mix of students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds to create each delegate class. All youth meeting ages 14-18 or entering grades 9-12 are encouraged to apply!   Want to attend ANYTOWN™ this summer for the first time? The 2014 ANYTOWN™ Dates are: Sunday June 29th – Thursday July 3rd Sunday July 20th – Thursday July 24th How do you apply? Click here to download the 2014 Program Participant Application! Want to be a Residential Volunteer at ANYTOWN™ this summer? Put your passion for ending discrimination into practice! ANYTOWN™ begins in less than 5 months!!! The Volunteer Interest Form, via SurveyMonkey, has officially been released.  This is the first step to applying for service at a residential session of ANYTOWN™ 2014. […]