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Tampa now has a racial reconciliation committee. Here are the members.

The 13 members will make policy recommendations to “address our economic and racial divide.”

The Tampa City Council listens to public comment on establishing a race reconciliation commission during a Tampa City Council meeting on April 18 at Old City Hall. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

By Olivia GeorgeTimes staff

Last month, the Tampa City Council unanimously approved the formation of a committee tasked with examining and addressing persistent racial inequities in Florida’s third-largest city.

The formation of the 13-person Race Reconciliation Committee came more than three years after the council formally apologized for the city’s racist past. The members are tasked with crafting policy recommendations to “address our economic and racial divide.” They will probe five topics: affordable housing, development, youth empowerment, residents returning from prison and ignored history.

The committee is expected to prepare a written report for the City Council next spring. It will then be dissolved. All members will serve without compensation.

On Thursday, council members unveiled their appointees:

  • Connie Burton, nominated by council member Bill Carlson. A lifelong East Tampa resident, Burton is chairperson of the Hillsborough County NAACP’s housing committee.

  • Malik Moore, nominated by council member Alan Clendenin. He is the chief aide to state Rep. Dianne Hart, a Tampa Democrat.

  • Cheryl Rodriguez, nominated by council member Gwen Henderson. She is a professor of Africana studies and anthropology at the University of South Florida.

  • Daryl Hych, nominated by council member Lynn Hurtak. He is the founder and president of the Hillsborough County Black Chamber of Commerce.

  • Jeffery Johnson, nominated by council member Guido Maniscalco. He is the director of strategic initiatives for the economic empowerment nonprofit CDC of Tampa.

  • Bishop Thomas Scott, nominated by council member Charlie Miranda. A pastor of the 34th Street Church of God, Scott is a former Tampa City Council member and Hillsborough County commissioner.

  • Pastor Christopher Harris, nominated by council member Luis Viera. He is a pastor at the Crossover Church of Tampa.

The mayor approved of the creation of this committee but declined a proposal from City Council member Viera that she make six appointees.

Six community organizations were each permitted one appointee. They are:

  • Jarvis El-Amin, representing the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP. El-Amin is a consultant, organizer and one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed last month challenging two state Senate seats they say were drawn up to illegally pack Black residents into a single district.

  • Kiah Wilson, representing the Urban League of Hillsborough County. Wilson works for nonprofit Girls Inc., which works to empowers girls and young women.

  • Fred Hearns, who has dedicated decades to sharing a fuller picture of the city’s past. He is the curator of Black history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

  • Pastor Clethen Sutton, a retired Tampa police corporal, with the Tampa Bay Coalition of Clergy.

  • Robert Blount, who for more than two decades has served as president of Abe Brown Ministries, a nonprofit that provides reentry services and advocates for criminal justice reform.

  • Robin Lockett, longtime local advocate and Tampa Bay regional director of progressive advocacy group Florida Rising.

In 2020, the pandemic and protests over police brutality underscored the nation’s persisting racial inequities. A growing number of cities across the U.S. began to form panels aimed at studying inequities, confronting the past and offering paths forward.

That September, the Tampa City Council unanimously passed Resolution 568, officially apologizing “for any and all past participation in sanctioning segregation and systemic discrimination of African Americans.” The resolution declared the “support for the creation of a reconciliation commission, with a mission of studying and developing proposals to redress the enduring negative effects of the institutions of slavery and the subsequent systemic discrimination.”

For about three years, little was done.

But last month, the council approved the creation of the committee. It will serve “as a catalyst for greater citizen participation in the determination of racial harmony, racial equality and matters of justice and inclusion.”

All committee meetings will be open to the public.


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