Category Archives: News

Pinellas County Media Alert – Vaccine Appointment Registration Re-Opens Friday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m.

Posted on Jan 28, 2021


Immediate Release

Jan. 28, 2021


Media Contacts 

Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County: 

Maggie Hall, PIO 

(727) 824-6908 (Media Only) 

Tom Iovino, PIO 

(727) 281-5094 (Media Only) 


Pinellas receives new shipment of COVID vaccines for 65+ residents

Appointments re-open Friday at 3 p.m.; slots expected to fill quickly


Appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone 65 and older re-open at 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, following a new shipment of 10,000 doses from the State of Florida. Appointments start early next week and are expected to fill quickly.


Appointments are mandatory to get the first of two vaccine injections and can be scheduled online through the CDR HealthPro portal starting at 3 p.m., Friday, Jan. 29 at Residents accessing the portal prior to 3 p.m. on Friday will be able to create an account, but will not be able to book their appointment until the set time of 3 p.m. No appointments will be booked prior to Friday at 3 p.m.


Pinellas County Fire paramedic crews are operating the four public vaccination sites for seniors over 65 in coordination with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County.


To get a vaccine appointment, residents must first create an account and then select an available time.  Creating an account does not guarantee availability for this round of appointments. There will be no vaccines for residents without appointments, and there is no waiting list.


As required by the State of Florida, patients must show proof of Florida residency to receive a vaccine. Examples include: a valid Florida Drivers License, state issued ID, deed, or utility bill with the patient’s name and address. Part-time residents will be asked to provide a part-time rental agreement.


Those without internet access or who need assistance with the portal can call (844) 770-8548. The call center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can provide guidance in English and Spanish. Any resident with the ability to access the internet is strongly encouraged to use the online portal, as phone wait times can be lengthy.


For the latest information on vaccine appointments and updates, residents can check, or the Department of Health in Pinellas County Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor.


Appointments will be scheduled at sites in various parts of the county. Details about access to the vaccine distribution sites will be given to residents upon appointment confirmation. Appointments for the required second dose can be made at the time of scheduling.


Family members must sign up and register individually for appointments.


Those arriving ahead of schedule may be turned away and instructed to return at their scheduled time.


The Power and Legacy of Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation

Posted on Jan 26, 2021

Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation is a curriculum based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy of nonviolence and developed by Dr. Bernard LaFayette. Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, LaFayette was a close friend and confidant of MLKCivil Rights Movement activist, minister, educator, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and director of the Selma Voting Rights Campaign.  

What is Kingian Nonviolence?

The curriculum entails learning and analyzing MLK’s Six Principles of Nonviolence and six-step methodology. The Six Principles of Kingian Nonviolence are 

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for brave people;  
  2. the Peaceful (Beloved) Community is the goal for the future;  
  3. attack problems not people;  
  4. know and do what is right, even if is difficult;  
  5. avoid hurting the spirit and body of yourself and others;  
  6. the universe is on the side of justice.  

The six-step methodology includes personal commitment, information gathering, education, negotiation, and direct action. Through these principles and methodology, the curriculum enables people to become familiar with a viable, practical, and historically effective map for how to create lasting social change through nonviolent direct action and dig deep below conflicts to find true reconciliation.  

Global and Local Implementation

The program has been implemented globally, including Nigeria, Columbia, South Africa, Mexico, and the Middle East.

Femi Kennedy and Dr. LaFayette Jr. used the protocols to help 16,000 Nigerian ex-militants regain their citizenship and re-engage themselves in society. Although the pieces of training sometimes had a rocky reception, Kennedy said that by the second day there was always a shift in the room explaining, “It’s natural for a person to want to love and be loved and be in a comfortable environment without any fears…everyone wants that.”

In the Tampa Bay Area, Kennedy launched Abel’s Community Services (Abel’s)—a nonprofit organization which helps individuals and organizations develop long-term plans to champion problems plaguing their communities. Kingian Nonviolence techniques are apparent in all of their services.  For example, the Godparents Program teaches self-esteem and self-discipline to children by pairing them with several adults. They use positive group mentoring and mediation to address critical issues. The Clean Slate Program provides job training and other services that effectively change ex-offenders’ perceptions of life’s potential. Kennedy emphasized that Kingian Nonviolence is a “way of life” saying, “My entire approach to everything is a nonviolent approach. See every person as a potential ally. See every person with the gifts that they have.”
Kennedy says that one of the areas where Kingian Nonviolence has the most potential in the St. Petersburg community is the school system because children are so receptive and open to the philosophy. Kennedy points out, “The first principle of Kingian Nonviolence is that ‘Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.’ It’s aggressive but not aggressive towards a person, it’s aggressive towards a condition.” The enthusiasm of the community’s youth reflects not only their courage but also the power they hold to address race equity individually and as a collective. Kennedy continues, “I’m not here to harm, and I’m not here to hurt. And I will prevail.” And if the St. Petersburg community embraces Kingian Nonviolence in the fight towards race equity, they too can prevail.

“Enough is Enough”: Tackling Gun Violence through a Race Equity Lens

Posted on Jan 26, 2021

Gun violence, trauma from gun violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic combined have highlighted and exacerbated already-existing racial inequities in the St. Petersburg area. In Pinellas County, there were 531 incidents of gun violence including 283 deaths over the last 4 years. Over half of this violence occurred in St. Petersburg where 281 incidents of gun violence took place including 135 deaths. 

Recent incidents of gun violence experienced in south St. Petersburg ignited local leaders and the community to demand systemic change—especially when it comes to race equity. Councilmember Lisa Wheeler-Bowman asserted, “We don’t like to see the gatherings on 16th Street, that they are now calling Crenshaw Blvd., where people are being killed. We don’t like seeing the corner stores allowing people to sell drugs out of them. We don’t like seeing them allowing people to gather, and they won’t sign blanket trespassing warrants so that our police officers can go and do their job. Gun violence affects more than just the victim. We have to address the root causes of violence in Black communities if we want to see results.” 

Young adults provided a fresh and hopeful perspective voicing their opinions in a virtual forum to curb gun violence in St. Petersburg. The Department of Urban Affairs is working specifically in south St. Petersburg to improve quality of life through job training, youth programs, and crime prevention efforts. The “Not My Son” campaign attempts to engage the community to reduce gun violence and create a safer environment, especially for the city’s youth.  

 Councilmember Deborah Figgs-Sanders was sparked to create the “Enough is Enough” campaign. The purpose of the initiative was to educate and provide resources, opportunities, and alternatives to solving problems related to violence in Black communities. Figgs-Sanders explains, “We can’t tell people ‘don’t do it’ without providing them alternative ways to solve their problems. St. Petersburg should be a city of opportunity. We have to reach those most at risk and connect them to the resources they need most.” Enough is Enough has a multi-faceted approach with a focus on advocacy, education, job skills training, youth empowerment, and strengthening family structures.  Figgs-Sanders emphasized putting the needs of the community first, saying “We want people to know we see you, we hear you, and you are not alone.”  

There is a critical need to utilize a race equity lens when addressing gun violence in St. Petersburg. Community leaders are on the right track with equity-focused campaigns like Not My Son and Enough is Enough. But these campaigns are just the beginning. The community, businesses, and leadership need to unite more than ever to tackle the root causes of racial inequities and the root causes of gun violence in the St. Petersburg area. When it comes to creating a safer and more equitable St. Petersburg, the more aggressive the response is, the better.  


  • Not My Son Campaign – Take the Not My Son Pledge and find out about the upcoming Community Intersection Rally here 
  • Sources vary greatly in how they count gun violence statistics. The data referenced above was sourced through The Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection and research group with no affiliation with any advocacy organization.
  • Please note that the article “incidents of gun violence.” Please note, this is broader categorization than “gun related homicides.”  Additional information about what GVA includes in this category can be found here.

COVID-19 Vaccine Updates

Posted on Jan 23, 2021

As of January 23, 2021 at 10:53 a.m. there has been a national outage for the Vaccine Appointment Website. Florida Department of Health is working rapidly to get the site back online. At this time, for Pinellas residents, there are appointments still available. The best method to try to obtain one will be through the Patient Portal Help line (844) 770-8548). As of 10:53a.m., residents are reporting approximately an hour wait time. Updates will be made on this webpage as they become available.

Read More

Advantages of Representation

Posted on Jan 08, 2021

While talent is evenly distributed amongst diverse populations, opportunity and representation are not. Black and Brown people are significantly underrepresented across many professional and political arenas. While progress has been made over recent years, both locally and nationally, according to data, working African-Americans — from those laboring in warehouses to those working in executive roles — still face obstacles to advancement that other minorities do not. According to the Labor Force Statistics in 2019, roughly 8% of managers and 4% of executives are Black. When Black and Brown employees do not see themselves represented in upper management, they may not believe there are opportunities to advance. These inequities can be attributed to structural, institutional, and systemic racism.

There are several advantages when people of color are better represented in leadership roles. McKinsey & Company conducted an analysis of 366 companies that revealed a statistically significant connection between diversity and financial performance. “The companies in the top quartile for racial/ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. This correlation indicates that companies that commit to diverse leadership are more successful.”

These same disparities in representation can be observed across the field of healthcare. African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, but only 4% of U.S. doctors and less than 7% of U.S. medical students. Despite the lack of representation in the medical field, research reveals Black Americans are more likely to get better medical care from Black doctors and nurses. It has been argued that sharing a racial or cultural background with one’s doctor helps promote communication and trust. This results in patients being more likely to follow recommendations from doctors and take advantage of more preventative care services.

In education, it is critical for young Black and Brown children to see people that look like them in leadership roles and to be able to learn from people with similar lived experiences. When youth have a positive view of their racial and ethnic identity, it acts as a protective factor by increasing their self-esteem and buffering against racism and discrimination; therefore, reducing or protecting against psychological distress and improving mental health. A study reveals black students who are exposed to one black teacher by third grade were 13% more likely to enroll in college, and those who had two black teachers were 32% more likely to enroll in college. Despite the benefits, the education workforce also lacks representation. Teachers of color represent 18% of educators, and Black males represent just 2%, according to Department of Education statistics. Comparatively, approximately half – 49% – of public elementary and secondary school students are children of color.

Representation is also critical in politics because those elected to office should look like the populations they serve. This aids in the creation of more fair and inclusive policies. 89% of elected officeholders nationwide are white. From City Council to the President of the United States, Black Americans are underrepresented in elected positions on all levels. According to Pew Research, as of 2019, there is greater representation in some areas – 52 House members are Black, putting the share of Black House members (12%) on par with the share of Blacks in the U.S. population overall for the first time in history. But in other areas, there has been little change. Currently, there are three black senators and no black governors holding offices in the country. There have only been four Black governors in U.S. History. Many Black people view political representation as a potential catalyst for increased racial equality, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey.

All across the board, diverse organizations perform better due to: Increased talent pool, strengthened customer orientation, increased employee engagement, increased innovation, improved decision making, and enhanced company image. There is a lot of work to be done to dismantle systems that keep people of color from achieving equal success and fair representation. Organizations must do more to take full advantage of the opportunity that diverse leadership teams offer. In order to do so, it is imperative that organizations make an intentional effort to attract, develop, mentor, sponsor, and retain the next generations of global leaders at all levels. If representation is increased, people of color will have more equitable outcomes in health, education, policy and more.


Racial Justice Essay & Arts Contest

Posted on Jan 05, 2021

The Equal Justice Initiative in partnership with the Pinellas Remembers Community Remembrance Project Coalition is pleased to announce an essay scholarship contest open to 9th – 12th grade students attending public high school in Pinellas County where prizes totaling at least $5000 will be awarded to participants with winning essays. With the support of the Tampa Bay Rays, the coalition is also pleased to announce an art scholarship contest that will encourage visual arts and performing arts submissions from 9th-12th grade students attending public high school in Pinellas County where prizes ranging from $250 – $1500 will be awarded to participants with winning artwork.

Both the essay and art contests require students to examine the history of a topic of racial injustice and to discuss or explore its legacy today. Submissions should explain the chosen topic using a specific historical event(s), explore how the injustice persists, and imagine solutions for a future free from racial injustice. Students are also encouraged to reflect on how the topic impacts their own lives and communities.

Learn more and apply!



Grow Smarter and Leadership St. Pete Stride Towards Race Equity

Posted on Jan 05, 2021

Grow Smarter is a strategic plan within the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce that aims to reduces gaps by race and place in St. Petersburg, Florida, by introducing equity to economic development efforts. Since its start in 2014, Grow Smarter contributed to increasing St. Petersburg’s median household income by 25% and decreasing the city’s poverty rate by 14%.  

Jocelyn Howard, the Grow Smarter Program Manager, stated that the plan brings to St. Petersburg a “wider focus of economic development that is really more accurate and reflective what it actually means.” Howard attributed the success of Grow Smarter to the dedication of all the people and partners involved as well as increased awareness of the social determinants of health framework going on to say “More than one thing makes a person healthy; more than one thing makes a city healthy.”  

As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, Grow Smarter pivoted their response to help areas of the St. Petersburg community where they could make the most impact. This response included transitioning funds to build scholarships for Leadership St. Pete 

Leadership St. Pete (LSP) is a six-month program that provides an intense curriculum, retreats, and receptions that connect participants to leaders in the community and equip them to become leaders themselves in the futureThis year’s seminars include St. Pete History, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Education, St. Pete Culture, Healthcare & Social Services, State Government, Economic Development, Criminal Justice, Local Government, Environmental Sustainability and Leadership Application. LSP participants also complete a class project where they provide planning, fund-raising, and physical labor to execute a facility improvement project for a local nonprofit that has often exceeded a value of $25,000. This year’s project focused on COVID-19 relief for the broader St. Petersburg business community through the Fighting Chance Fund 

Lucinda Grant, the current LSP Chair, graduated from the program in 2000LSP has been a part of Grant’s life for 20 years, and she says it is the best thing she could have done for herself personally and professionally. Although LSP has been around for nearly 50 years, Grant is only the fourth Black leader, and it has been 17 years since the last Black female leaderAs racial injustice continued to perpetuate in the U.S., Grant was motivated to actively create an equitable environment within LSP and ensure that people of color were represented in this year’s class. This shift to a racial equity lens caught the attention of Grow Smarter St. Pete who reached out to Grant offering their support. More than one-fourth of this year’s class was comprised of people of color—the most in LSP history. Grant stated Grow Smarter support was essential in making that happen and spoke on the necessity of representation emphasizing, “When you go places and you see people that look like you, you tend to want to be more involved.”  

Grant is a living reflection of LSP’s enduring impact beyond its six-month duration. The program’s explicit shift towards increased representation is already making great strides towards race equity in Pinellas County. Grow Smarter’s LSP support and their own economic development initiatives—thanks to a holistic perspective and race equity lens—make for promising future of race equity in Pinellas County.  


  • Grow Smarter  
    • Sign up for virtual events on the here  
  • Leadership St. Pete  
    • Find out how to join the next LSP class or Planning Committee here.

“We Are Here, and We Care”: Empowering Businesses and the Community Amidst COVID-19

Posted on Jan 05, 2021

The economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to be $16 trillion or roughly 90% of the annual GDP of the U.S. The largest drop in active business owners ever recorded occurred from February-April 2020 with the number plummeting by 22% or 3.3 million. Businesses owned by people of color were especially hit hard. Black-owned businesses experienced a 41% drop in business activity, Latinx-owned businesses experienced a 32% drop, and Asian-owned businesses experienced a 26% drop.   

Although they are hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses owned by people of color are proven to be more optimistic and more likely to offer support to their local community. A recent poll found that 40% of businesses owned by people of color added new services to support their communities and employees, compared with 27% of all respondents. 56% of businesses owners who were people of color also reported they were optimistic about post-COVID-19 economic conditions, compared with 49of all respondents.  

Business Resiliency in St. Petersburg  

St. Peterburg’s Business Resiliency Team (BRT) program empowered local businesses—especially those owned by people of color and women—to enact pandemic-driven change so that they could not only survive but also grow and thrive during and after it. The BRT program was a partnership between Grow Smarterthe St. Pete Economic Development Corporation, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerceand the Greenhouse and focused on creating business stability within 90 days. Over four months, eight Navigators from the BRT program helped more than 200 local businesses by connecting businesses to professional mentorship and training opportunitiesAlongside the BRT Program, the “Give Us Five” program enabled attorneys, accountants, bankers, tech gurus, marketing professionals, business consultants, and professionals from multiple other sectors to volunteer their time, skills, and resources free of charge to St. Petersburg’s business community. Jocelyn Howardthe Grow Smarter Program Manager, highlighted that the BRT program was modeled after Patient Navigation. It aimed to overcome barriers to understanding and was critical to ensuring businesses were made aware of all the already-existing and pandemic-driven resources available to them. Nearly 15% of the businesses helped were Black-owned and over half of them were women-owned.  

The Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) also enacted pandemic-driven change by adapting to the drastically changing job market and equipping individuals to deal with the evolving workforce and resulting financial instability. Their programs operate through a lens of racial equity and have the overarching goal of reducing inequality in the workforce and reducing racial income gaps. PCUL houses a Career Connection Center that offers workforce development activities and helps job seekers overcome employment barriers, the Serious Business Academy for entrepreneurs and business owners, and the Financial Empowerment Program to address income and earning power. COVID-19 doubled the demand for many PCUL services, but they reacted to the changing market by significantly increasing job placements in the medical field.  

Charlotte Anderson, the PCUL Vice President of Operations, asserted that all staff are motivated and continuously meet the increased demand. She stated“We do what we have to do to make sure we are serving the people because we understand that it could be us on the other side of the table needing that assistance. We feel so blessed that we are available to help people during this pandemic and this time of economic crisis.” In 2020, PCUL was able to provide specialized guidance to nearly 100 small businesses, help over 40 businesses attain funding, and provide over 80 job-seekers assistance through their Career Connection Center. Some participants reported increasing their monthly income by $700 while others reported increasing their savings by $3000. All PCUL services transitioned to virtual environments so that they can still meet community demand in a safe and healthy way. Anderson emphasized, “We want people to know that we are here, and we care.” 

Race Equity through COVID-19 Relief Efforts  

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought and continues to bring devastation to every aspect of life. However, the community strived for resilience by redefining business models and utilizing federal and local aid to survive and grow. Local Organizations—like Grow Smarter and PCUL—proactively pivoted their responses to best meet the needs of the community and meet the increased demand for their services. As businesses, organizations, and individuals continue to showcase the need for and power of a race equity lenspolicymakers can be pushed to implement the systems-level interventions that will propel us to lasting, long-term change.    


  • St. Pete Greenhouse  
  • Pinellas County Urban League  
  • One Community St. Petersburg  
    • If you are a small business owner, you can reach out to the One Community team for 1-to-1 help and resource access (by telephone, zoom, or social media).  

Advancing Racial Justice Through Mindfulness

Posted on Dec 18, 2020

Unconscious, implicit racial bias—rather than individual, White supremacist action—plays a role in nearly every stage of a person’s life.  Americans, including people of color themselves, hold a range of unconscious biases against people of color. However, research on mindfulness-based interventions provides grounds for optimism and potential long-term solutions.

Mindfulness Provides Grounds for Optimism

Mindfulness can play a key role in recognizing one’s own biases, how they harm others, and how to work with compassion towards racial justice. Mindfulness involves focusing on being intensely aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment. It involves breathing exercises, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and reduce stress. Generally, mindfulness can be practiced by paying attention, living in the moment, accepting yourself, and focusing on breathing.

The unconscious is quite malleable. Just 27 minutes of mindfulness a day can make a difference. A 2011 Harvard study confirmed that a half-hour of daily meditation resulted in positive changes to the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness. Research indicates that mindfulness can reduce implicit bias in individuals, reduce negative outcomes of implicit bias, and sustain these effects over time. The key is to become aware of one’s implicit bias, be concerned about the consequences of bias, and learn to replace the biased response with a non-prejudiced response—a response that is likely more matched to one’s public position of racial equality.

When applied through a racial-equity lens, mindfulness-based interventions can effectively address implicit racial bias, racial inequities, and health inequities. Subtle cues triggered by mindfulness can change brain activity to react to Black faces with less fear and less bias than they previously would have.

In equity workshops, mindfulness promoted empathy, connected participants to their own emotional involvement with prejudice, and helped participants become more self-reflective and self-aware. Educators can incorporate mindfulness to better understand the impact of race, minimize implicit racial bias, improve student performance, and promote racial justice.

In clinical trials, mindfulness has also been effective in treating stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure—many of which disproportionally affect people of color. The field of integrative medicine incorporates mindfulness into therapies because of its beneficial impact on brain health and cognitive impairment. One study found that mindfulness helped disadvantaged and minority college students implement lasting, healthy habits. It concluded that mindfulness is a low-cost, accessible way to curb the effect of racial health disparities.

The St. Pete Youth Farm is a youth development program that holistically supports the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs through an urban farm project. The program is offered to high school students residing in South St. Pete’s Community Redevelopment Area. Thus, it primarily impacts young, often socioeconomically disadvantaged, people of color. The students learn everything from agricultural skills to financial literacy. Carla Bristol, the program’s Collaboration Manager, emphasized the importance of developing the “whole child,” saying that “we start dealing with areas in their [personal] life that they need to unpack and do wellness, do yoga, do mental health Mondays.”  The program incorporates mindfulness enabling the youth to reflect on racial injustice, the effect of COVID-19 on their school-life, and their own mental health.

Anyone and Everyone Can Grow Through Mindfulness

As a human, it is impossible to be completely without prejudice or implicit racial bias. But the potential of mindfulness is immense and can help us address the negative outcomes of such biases. Mindfulness creates a judgment-free space for the self-compassion necessary to face the painful thoughts and feelings that arise when confronting implicit racial bias both within ourselves and others.

Any individual can practice free, simple, and brief mindfulness exercises from the comfort of their home or office. Mindfulness-based interventions can be feasibly incorporated into equity training, leadership training, classroom settings, and any other diverse, conflict-laden setting or scenario. As opposed to seeing themselves as racist or not, people and institutions must begin by seeing themselves as capable of growth.


Project Implicit

  • Harvard University offers a virtual laboratory for educating the public about hidden biases. You can test your own bias here.

Mayo Clinic

  • The Mayo Clinic offers an overview of free, simple, and short mindfulness exercises you can do from anywhere.

ColorInsight Practices

  • Law professor, mindfulness teacher, and social justice advocate Rhonda Magee provides a set of ColorInsight Practices that provide guidelines and exercises for teaching and learning about race primarily in classrooms and in any setting where racial issues may arise.

Courageous Conversations

  • Through a Framework for Systemic Racial Equity Transformation, Courageous Conversations help individuals and organizations address persistent racial disparities intentionally, explicitly, and comprehensively.

Affiliate Group Gains Understanding of Personal Judgements, Perceptions and Biases

Posted on Dec 18, 2020

When it comes to race and racism, the learning curves and needs of white people and Black people are very different. Many white people seek to understand—and perhaps confront for the first time– the history and current manifestations of white supremacy and racism in America. It seems entirely reasonable that this learning takes place with those who need it most—a group of committed white people. Historically, Affinity Spaces create a safe place for people of the same race to come together to learn about racism, anti-racism, racial equity, social justice, and the consequences of their racial identity within the context of white supremacist culture and history.

“White Women for Racial Justice in Pinellas County” launched in 2020 following an exploratory conversation about the role of white women in an anti-racism movement between St. Petersburg City Council member Amy Foster and Julie Rocco, Senior Community Engagement Advocate for the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. Approximately 50 women committed to a 7-session series on white fragility, history of racism between black and white women, performative activism, power-politics-policy and race, and how to activate as a Black ally.

Black mentors served as learning partners to develop the curriculum for each session and provided additional resources. Smaller breakout groups allowed participants to reflect on their personal journeys and individual opportunities for growth.

In many instances, participants may wish to spare their Black colleagues, friends, or acquaintances the burden of responsibility for educating white people about the racism they experience daily. Participant Caryn Nesmith believes,An affinity group creates the space for White people to deeply reflect on their own whiteness and the harm that the dominant White culture has inflicted, which is imperative for us to be effective allies. But this type of self-reflection can be messy and vulnerable; Black and brown people should not have to take on the burden of our growth and understanding of racial history, trauma, and injustices.  It is our work to own and do.”

White Women for Racial Justice have applied the Courageous Conversations protocol to navigate uncomfortable and challenging topics. One tool, the Courageous Conversations Compass, identifies four primary ways that people deal with racial information, events, and issues: feeling, thinking, believing, and doing. This mindfulness exercise encourages participants to center themselves in all four methodologies before engaging. For example, in discussion, a comment may cause a strong emotion (feeling), and learning to process those feelings, thoughts, and ideas can help propel the individual towards appropriate actions. Connecting with others through all four segments can yield increased empathy and understanding.

For the final session, Black Male Mentors led a panel discussion about topics including:

  • fears and biases of white women towards Black men
  • interracial marriage, and fathering biracial children
  • The experience of being the only Black male in the room
  • Generational differences in St. Petersburg for Black men living in Pinellas

Affiliate groups can inform and educate and build individual capacity for conversations about race and deepen understanding of the systemic drivers of racial inequities. They can be helpful to better understand one’s own judgments, perceptions, and biases.

As the year comes to a close, the White Women for Racial Justice participants will translate their knowledge into activism and advocacy work toward systemic change.

Addressing Racial Inequities Through Medical-Legal Partnerships  

Posted on Dec 04, 2020

In the U.S., 25% of all renters are severely rent-burdened. In Florida, that percentage is 21%. But when we look at the data by census tract in Pinellas Countythere are several communities—mostly comprised of people of colorthat are up to 91.5% severely rent-burdened. People of color in these communities disproportionately spend at least 30% of their income on rent and most spend over 50%Upscale development, rent spikes, and stagnant wages continue to cause barriers for equitable growth in Pinellas County

Beyond shelter, housing problems disproportionately affect people of color when it comes to their ability to pay for basic expenses, save for emergencies, and make long-term investments in the community. When a family experiences an eviction, the repercussions can be generational and often reverberate into other areas of lifeDisplacement from a stable home disrupts the social fabric of a community and can disconnect people from social, educational, and occupational resources. And when families can stay in their home, build social networks, and invest in their neighborhood, the community can thrive. 

Home ownership is also one of the major ways to build wealth across generations, but home ownership rates for Black (35%) and Latinx (41%) households in Pinellas are well below the county average (64%)Housing problems disproportionately negatively affect people of color in multifaceted ways. For that reason, solutions that are holistic and multifaceted themselves are essential steps towards achieving race equity.  

Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) programs intersect medical and legal interventions to address the root causes of patients’ problemsmany of which perpetuate racial inequities and health inequities. Doctors and lawyers are cross trained to mobilize medical and legal resources to address problems more effectively like housing, eviction, and civil justice that can compromise health. A patient’s asthma might be because of their home’s mold and pest infestation. A patient’s declining health might be because of eviction notices or income instability. Any legal issue can be intimating and act as a stressor triggering new and existing medical issues and inequities.   

Through MLPs, doctors treat patients’ problems not just as medical in nature but as potential legal issues that might negatively affect their health now or in the futureIn turn, lawyers are provided with medical evidence and guidance to substantiate legal claims and seek appropriate remedies for conditions at odds with both legal rights and health. 

2016 study by Columbia University found that MLP programs provided a comprehensive approach that effectively addressed widespread health disparities rooted in problematic housing. Participants described having a doctor-lawyer team as giving them an “extra oomph” and that it “kind [of] gives you the edge up on what to look for and how to go about it.” In most cases, participants were able to conveniently access lawyers through their healthcare providers and subsequently received legal services that prevented eviction, appealed increases in rent, and secured housing subsidies. 83% of the participants who benefited from the MLP program were people of color. The study noted that MLPs enabled a “shift in legal consciousness for those at the intersection of inequality—race, gender, and socioeconomic status” in which people learned, legitimized, and leveraged the law. MLPs thus have the potential to be more than a short-term, temporary solution to race inequities and health inequities, especially those related to housing.  

Lisa Brody—an attorney at Bay Area Legalhas been advocating for and implementing MLPs for the past 10 years. She iterated that MLPs holistic approaches are essential to enable equitable outcomes for marginalized populations and people of colorBrody stated, “the trickle-down effect of families losing housing is so detrimental that we want to do anything we can to not allow that to happen.” Brody also emphasized the critical role of full commitments from all partners in MLP saying that everyone who encounters the patient—doctors, nurses, receptionists—must be just as motivated as the legal partner. 

Addressing housing problems through MLPs not only improves population health and access to their legal options but achieves outcomes towards health equity—especially race equity. As COVID-19 exacerbates Florida’s housing crisis and people of color are disproportionately affected, MLPs provide a unique opportunity to address housing problems through a social determinants of health framework. Root causes of racial and health inequity can be effectively addressed and lead to lasting, long-term change.  


Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Inc.

  • If you are an established patient with housing problems and other Civil-Legal needs, the Medical Legal Partnership Program at Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Inc. can assist you for free in a familiar and accessible setting. To schedule an appointment, call 727-824-8181.    

Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program  

  • If you are struggling to pay rent, the Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program offers several free legal services to tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and their landlords. This program provides repayment of overdue rent, free legal help, virtual mediation, and help locating a new place to live if unable to stay in your current residence. To apply for help, please call (727) 582-7475.   

Homeless Leadership Alliance  

Written by: Mala Coomar, Research Analyst Intern at the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg


Women Talk Black a Force for Voter Turnout

Posted on Oct 22, 2020

Florida, historically known as a swing state, holds the power to determine election outcomes. According to a Pew Research report, in 2016 the Black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% after reaching a record-high 66.6% in 2012. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic voter suppression, and a broken economy threaten voter turnout. With just 10 days until election day, organizations and community leaders are combining efforts to turnout Black voters in Pinellas County, including the popular Roll to the Polls project.

Taking a lead in these efforts is Women Talk Black, a non-profit organization that aims to harness the power of Black women’s voices and drive changes in voting behavior in communities of the Rising American Electorate (people of color, unmarried women and youth). In collaboration with the Carter G. Woodson museum, the group has quickly become an  influencer in efforts to get out the vote in St. Petersburg. Through Covid-conscious community events, online education, and civic engagement resources at the local, state, and national levels.

Rolls to the Polls was organized by a partnership among Women Talk Black, the Carter G. Woodson Museum, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Tampa Bay Rays and more than 60 community organizations. The project honors the life and legacy of Congressman John Lewis by helping people exercise the power of their voice through their vote. Over the last 9 weeks, it has brought together hundreds of residents, elected officials, and candidates to get the vote out. Participants take their completed- ballots to the secure drop box at Tropicana Field on a designated date and time, stay for the (COVID-friendly) voter rally, and then hit the streets to encourage community members to cast their own ballots.

When asked why Black women are critical to the voting movement, Women Talk Black founder Stephanie Owens said “Black women’s work and influence as leaders of social justice, civil rights and civic engagement for hundreds of years, is the cornerstone of the growth of our nation’s social conscience. From Sojourner Truth to Stacey Abrams, we continue to make America great.”

She added: “Today, our leadership is needed more than ever to encourage a new generation of voters to keep fighting for change to make America all that she should and could be for our community. Past generations had to fight after witnessing brutal lynchings, after joining Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and after electing the first Black President Barack Obama. Now we are still recovering from the deaths of Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Yes, it’s exhausting and frustrating, but we are not afraid to do the work we have always done. We stand on the shoulders of too much greatness to ever give up.”

To learn more, find out about upcoming events, or get involved in the movement visit

Women Talk Black is currently seeking community partners to help amplify their message through the Voting is Our Voice 2020 Election initiative as well as activities beyond the election. Become a partner at

Should My Child go to School Today? Best Practices During COVID-19 

Posted on Oct 15, 2020

The decision to reopen schools came after months of deliberation and careful preparation between the FL Department of Health and district officials who mandated doors could only open after county-wide infection rates decreased.

In late July and early August, families were given the option of virtual learning, or returning to physical schools. Despite the pandemic, continuing education is crucial so students can advance to the next level. For some, sending children back to school enabled access to essential services, including nutrition. Reopening school doors also ensured parents could return to work. 

In Pinellas County, teachers and students follow CDC guidance, implementing precautions such as mandatory mask requirementsupdated cafeteria guidelines, and cleaning protocols. In addition, Pinellas County visitors and employees must complete a self-screening tool confirming their wellness each day prior to entering any school building. Parents are encouraged to do the same for their children. 

CDC precautions greatly minimize risk, but do not absolve it entirely. Nearly 700 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Tampa Bay schools since the beginning of the school year.  

Children under age 18 represent 8.5% of all national cases, with relatively few deaths compared to other age groups. Although the disease generally presents as mild in children, critical illness has occurred, and risk is exacerbated for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Those exposed to the virus can act as a carrier, spreading COVID-19 to others. According to Dr. Allison Messina, chair of the division of Infectious Disease with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospitalpediatric transmission to other students is a lot lower than transmission to teachers and staff, as 50% of children are asymptomatic carriers. 

The time between exposure to COVID-19 and when symptoms appear is generally 5 to 6 days, but ranges from 1 day to two weeks.

It is essential that families, teachers, administrators, and the community at large unite in following best practices. Engagement or disengagement will be reflected in how widespread, or contained, the virus will be in schools.  

Students who have been tested for COVID-19 with pending test results should remain quarantined, as should the other members of the household, until a negative result is received. 

“In order to keep the infection rates at a minimum, please adhere to the recommended guidelines. It takes a village. Contact the Department of Health if in doubt,” shares Delquanda Turner-Smith of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.  


  • Wear a mask. Review special precautions about masks for children under age 5.  
  • Maintain social distancing to avoid unnecessary exposure. Exposure is defined as being in proximity of 6’ or closer, for 15 minutes or longer; a guideline set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay home if you feel ill, experience a fever above 100.4 degrees, live with someone who has COVID-19, or are waiting for the results of your COVID test.  
  • Teach and model good hygiene practices for your children: 
  • Wash your hands with soap and safe water frequently, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.  
  • Always wash hands with soap and water, if hands are visibly dirty. 
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose. 
  • Coordinate with the school to receive information and ask how you can support school safety efforts. 
  • Encourage your children to ask questions and express their feelings with you and their teachers. Remember that your child may have different reactions to stress; be patient and understanding. 
  • When in doubt about whether your student, or members of a household should come to school, review the Coronavirus Decision Tree provided by the Florida Department of Education. 


Education during COVID-19

Posted on Aug 07, 2020

On Saturday, Aug. 1, Dr. Ricardo Davis, president of Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students (COQEBS) and Delquanda Turner Smith, community engagement advocate for the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg (FHSP), discussed Pinellas’ ongoing battle for educational equity on WTMP’s “Equity Now” radio broadcast.

Read More at The Weekly Challenger

90 Days of COVID Response

Posted on Jul 27, 2020

In April, Grow Smarter conducted a Community Needs Assessment with our steering committee and community partners. Based on that document, we designed a comprehensive response to COVId-19 to help build resilience and continued prosperity for all of St Pete.

Read More at Grow Smarter

The 2020 Census: ‘Equity Now’ focuses on its impact on Florida and Pinellas communities

Posted on Jul 24, 2020

The 2020 U.S. Census is still underway – and with just over half of Floridians having completed it, community stakeholders and organizations are sharing the dire need for residents who haven’t to “act now.”

On Saturday, July 18, Carl Lavender, chief equity officer of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, was joined by public policy strategist and expert Stephanie Owens to discuss the state of the 2020 Census on the WTMP radio program “Equity Now.”

Read More at The Weekly Challenger

Tampa Bay Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund

Posted on Jul 02, 2020

As Hurricane Irma threatened in Fall 2017, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and other local funders sprang into action. They joined to provide a trusted source to gather and disburse disaster relief and recovery funds.

Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, the Pinellas Community Foundation, four area United Ways and others pooled their resources with the the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, whose disaster fund had been established a decade earlier.

Read More at Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

Q&A with Chief Equity Officer, Carl R. Lavender, Jr.

Posted on Jul 01, 2020

Carl R. Lavender, Jr. has been appointed to the newly created leadership role of Chief Equity Officer, focused on applying a race equity lens to all the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg’s work and policy positions. He shares insights about his vision and responsibilities of the new role, below.

Read More

MASK UP! ST. PETE Campaign targets COVID-19 in South St. Pete, beginning Friday, July 3

Posted on Jun 30, 2020

According to the most recent Florida statistics, COVID-19 is skyrocketing in Pinellas County and is being largely felt in communities of Black people. Numbers indicate that Black people are contracting COVID-19 at rates four times higher than whites.

Reasons for these numbers could include the fact that Blacks are more likely to be first responders and service personnel, therefore at greater risk for public exposure. Many health experts and organizations have pointed out systemic racism as an underlying factor for the high rate of the disease in Black communities.

Read More at The Weekly Challenger

‘Equity Amid Crisis’ day two: The way forward

Posted on Jun 06, 2020

Time is ticking.

That was a key takeaway from the second day of a virtual workshop centered around equity, inclusion and diversity hosted by Inclusivity LLC. The conference looked at systemic issues, such as health disparities that became more noticeable amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and racial injustice that rose to the forefront after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

After the initial discussion Thursday about data and gaps in equity in the St. Petersburg area, panelists from corporations, nonprofits and civic groups regrouped on Friday to talk about how to move forward.

Read More at the St. Pete Catalyst

George Floyd protests: How you can support Tampa Bay’s black community from home

Posted on Jun 05, 2020

You’ve read articles and watched videos of protests erupting across the country after the death of George Floyd. Maybe you’ve been out on the streets marching for days. Maybe you’re staying inside due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you are hashtagging on social media, you need to also go out and do something as well that will change the conversation,” said Hillary Van Dyke, co-founder of black business directory Green Book of Tampa Bay. “Because we keep coming back to this every few years.”

Read More at Tampa Bay Times

UNITE Pinellas on tracking COVID-19 in the black community

Posted on Jun 04, 2020

The “Equity Now” broadcast on WTMP reviews events through a lens of racial and health equity. Hosted by Carl Lavender, chief equity officer at Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg (FHSP), the program features conversations with local health experts, civic and political leaders, community activists, and stakeholders.

On May 30, Lavender was joined by Dr. Stephanie Reed, MPH and Tim Dutton, executive director of UNITE Pinellas.

Read More at The Weekly Challenger

During COVID-19, St. Pete Timebank offers new ways to consider community economies

Posted on Jun 04, 2020

COVID-19 has triggered a breakdown of the U.S. and world economy within three months. In rebuilding our economy, individuals, communities, and groups might want to consider developing alternate ways to receive and offer goods and services.

The idea of communities and individuals sharing and swapping services and goods without using money is indeed as old as time. Here in St. Pete, one group has already come together to establish a new social exchange system.

Read More at The Weekly Challenger

A rent and eviction crisis is looming next week

Here are some ways to keep renters in their homes, write two local advocates.

Posted on May 26, 2020

On June 2, the moratorium on evictions issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis expires, and a rent crisis that could impact thousands of local families is at hand. Like many states, Florida is on the cusp of a significant housing crisis that has been radically worsened by the pandemic COVID-19. For many, rent for both April, May and June will soon be past due. Local legal aid organizations (Gulfcoast Legal Services and Bay Area Legal Services) are gearing up for a rush of evictions even as the economy is restarting.

Read More at Tampa Bay Times

‘Equity Now’ on WTMP highlights recovery in St. Pete’s post-COVID-19 economy

Posted on May 22, 2020

The “Equity Now” radio show on WTMP brings St. Petersburg and Pinellas County community members and activists, political and nonprofit leaders, and social service and health experts together to review current events through a lens of racial and health equity.

The program is hosted by Carl Lavender, chief equity officer at Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg (FHSP), and is one of many ways FHSP is addressing community needs and issues.

Read More at The Weekly Challenger

Stressed out during COVID-19? Local mental health experts offer help

Posted on May 05, 2020

Recent data on the impact of COVID-19 on black and brown communities reveals a perfect storm of distressing information. From the health impact to economic data, reports show that the virus is wreaking havoc in African American and Latinx communities – and taking a toll on the emotional health of many of us.

The good news? In St. Petersburg, and throughout the Tampa Bay area, many free behavioral and mental health services are available.

Read More at The Weekly Challenger

Grow Smarter Pivots Foundation Funding to Address Small Business and St. Petersburg Residents

Business Resiliency Program to Give Consideration to Minority- and Women-owned Businesses

Posted on Apr 28, 2020

Grow Smarter St. Petersburg, an equitable economic development initiative based at the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and primarily funded by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, will be redirecting an estimated $151,741 of awarded funds towards COVID-19 relief efforts in the community.

Read More

Across the South, Here’s How Local Funders Have Mobilized to Respond to COVID-19

Posted on Apr 23, 2020

Compared to elsewhere in the country, some southern states and jurisdictions were slower to issue shelter-in-place orders and resistant to closing local businesses as COVID-19 emerged as a threat last month. Now, there are growing moves across the region to loosen restrictions, with Georgia’s governor allowing many businesses to reopen this week—a move that’s been strongly criticized by public health experts and some mayors in the state.

Read More at Inside Philanthropy

Nearly $1 million Tampa Bay Resiliency Fund Activated

Four agencies join forces for COVID-19 funding assistance

Posted on Apr 06, 2020

A unique partnership has been launched to help the critical organizations that provide assistance to the most vulnerable of our local residents being affected by the COVID-19 public health crisis. The Tampa Bay Resiliency Fund (TBRF) is a new strategic collaboration of the Pinellas Community Foundation, Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and United Way Suncoast with nearly $1 million of funding assistance available to nonprofit 501(c) organizations and governmental agencies.

Read More

Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg Welcomes New Board of Trustee Members

Posted on Jan 30, 2020

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg is excited to welcome new members to its Board of Trustees. The new appointees will join a group of community leaders who lend their collective passion, expertise, and insight in support of the Foundation’s mission to achieve racial and health equity in South Pinellas County.

Read More

Playing the Long Game

For six years, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg has focused on systems change and health equity.

Posted on Nov 18, 2019

For six years, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg has focused on systems change and health equity.

Read More