A year has passed since the Hillsborough County Commission passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, and religious leaders say they are ready for more action around the declaration.
The resolution points out that in Hillsborough County, residents of color experience dramatically higher unemployment rates, face a higher poverty rate as a community, have lower homeownership rates, and are much more likely to experience food insecurity. They also have substantially less annual median income, among other racial disparities.
On Sept. 16, Bible-Based Fellowship Church will host a public forum called “Envision Resolution: Moving from Intent to Impact” on the one-year anniversary of the resolution’s passing. The forum will take place virtually on Zoom from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. All those who register are welcome to attend.
Antoinette Davis, Director of the Justice Ministry at Bible-Based Fellowship Church says that the event is to “commemorate, not celebrate” the anniversary of the resolution.
“We can celebrate when actual change comes,” says Davis. “This commemoration event is intended to challenge our elected officials and our community to engage around the resolution and bring about real results.”
Davis says County Commissioners Kimberly Overman, Gwen Myers, and Pat Kemp will attend the forum, along with Tampa City Council Chair Orlando Gudes and an equity consultant that the county has hired to assess Hillsborough’s race-based issues. The Bible-Based Fellowship church advocated for the resolution back in September of 2020, and the resolution was presented by Commissioner Kemp.
In an email to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Kemp expressed gratitude to Davis and Sheila Simmons for their work on the resolution and added that the count is working on an equity profile, which will make recommendations for action Hillsborough County can take.
“I’m very pleased that Our Community, Our Voice is engaged with the consultants who doing this important work,” Kemp said. “I know the contributions of the community will make the final product stronger.”
In August, Plan Hillsborough released a nondiscrimination and equity plan to address issues that people of color face when attempting to access reliable public transportation.
Davis says that beyond the consultant’s hiring, not much has happened yet. But she and others in her collective are hopeful that the coming months will lead to a solid analysis of Hillsborough’s equity issues. But this will also require community involvement, not just elected officials, she says.
In the resolution, the commission suggests steps to assert that racism is a public health crisis affecting our entire county. They also suggest making the Board of County Commission an equity and justice-oriented organization and supporting the community in amplifying issues of racism, among 10 total goals.
The forum is the first of a three-part series called “Our Community Our Voice,” says the church, all intended to foster a community conversation on improving health and quality-of-life issues for marginalized populations.
“The Commission’s resolution was an important recognition of the disparities that exist in our community,” said Rev. Anthony C. White, senior pastor of Bible-Based Fellowship Church, in a press release. “Now, we must move from recognition to action. That starts with ensuring our communities have a voice in cultivating solutions to close the gaps.”
UPDATED: 09/13/21 11 a.m. Updated with comment from Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp.
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