The community is invited to stream a virtual social justice seminar Saturday that will feature an in-depth conversation on the local social justice movement throughout the past several decades. Panelists will span multiple generations and will offer their insight on how to navigate advocating for impactful change in the community.
The Improvement League of Plant City is hosting a free Social Justice Virtual Seminar this weekend that will focus on generational viewpoints of local activism.
The event will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and will run until 3:30 p.m. Viewers are invited to register and then stream the event from the comfort of their own homes.
The panel will be moderated by Bonnie Carr. Carr has served on a variety of committees and boards throughout Plant City including the City of Plant City’s Planning Board, the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce’s Ad Hoc committee, working for years for Hillsborough Community College and serving on the Hillsborough County’s Citizens’ Oversight Committee.
SunCoast FCU, Nielsen, and WellsFargo, Hillsborough Community College and the Hillsborough Community College Foundation are sponsors of the event.
The group will offer free lunch to the first 50 who register for the event. You can swing by the Bing Rooming House Museum, 205 Allen St., from 12 to 1 p.m. on Saturday to grab your free meal. Then attendees are asked to take the meal home and eat it while they log in to the virtual seminar.
“This is going to be a generational conversation full of different perspectives on social justice locally and what progress we’ve made in the city over the years,” William Thomas Jr., president of the Improvement League of Plant City, said. “There’s a lot of good stories and I think our four panelists are going to have a lot of insight on the work that has been done and the work that we still need to do.”
Those who wish to have their questions asked during the panel can email them to event coordinator Liesta Sykes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions will be accepted up until the morning of the event. Sykes will also be doing a giveaway during the conversation to virtual attendees.
The link will be given to those who register after they’ve signed up. After the seminar ends, the video wil be posted to YouTube and Facebook for the general public to watch. To register for the event, you should call Sykes at 813-545-1390.
Thomas said the afternoon’s conversation will largely be focused on how residents can effectively build relationships with local government in regards to improving the quality of life for all areas of the city. It will focus on “three basic principles of social justice: equity, diversity and supportive environments.” Everything from quality of life to preserving historic neighborhoods to focusing on improving amenities in a community will be discussed.
“When people talk about social justice it’s not just crime related, or hate crime related, it’s also about having a conversation on how to get improvements to our playgrounds, to our schools, or to ask questions like ‘Why do the first improvements to social areas go to certain neighborhoods and not others?’” Thomas said. “‘What programs are available to the entire community? What role does Parks & Rec. have in the community?’ Back in the 90s there was a big movement focused on Lincoln Park and the programs that were offered there. We also will talk about what we can do to make sure that Plant City is included in the social issues and changes and topics like housing that are being discussed in other areas of the county. It’s a conversation on how the community’s character is changing. How can we ensure that the character of those neighborhoods don’t get eradicated? All of that is social justice and we are excited to talk about what that has looked like right here in Plant City.”
The Improvement League’s mission has long been to provide equal opportunities to all who call Plant City home. Thomas said the city is changing and that those changes are good and exciting in many ways. He hopes this conversation will help enlighten those in the community on how to get a seat at the table and how to fight for improvements they hold dear to their heart.
This is just one of many events the Improvement League of Plant City will host over the course of the next month. April will be a busy month for the group as it hosts three large events in the span of just a few weeks. The parade and street fest for the annual MLK Festival is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 3 with the parade kicking off at 1 p.m. and ending in the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center parking lot, 1601 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Pastor Calvin “PeeWee” Callins will lead the 2021 Plant City MLK Parade as the Grand Marshal. Vendors and live entertainment will carry the party on well into the evening.
The MLK Festival’s annual Leadership Breakfast will be at 7:30 a.m. April 11 at the Trinkle Center, 1206 N. Park Road. This year’s guest speaker will be Cynthia Downing, the commandant of Summerlin Academy in Polk County. Downing is the first woman to lead the military-style school of choice and spent more than 25 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a command sergeant major. She was the first female commandant of the Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Va., as well as the first female deputy commandant of the NCO Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. Scholarships will be given out to college students and community champions will be presented with awards at the breakfast.
On April 24, the Improvement League of Plant City will host a new event, Blues, BBQ and Berries, on Evers Street. Originally the event was intended to be held this weekend, but since it was created with the intention to highlight the many new businesses coming to the historic street, the group felt it was best to postpone until all of the businesses have officially opened. They are hoping that will be the case by the end of April.
Thomas said this is part of a “history after hours” event series they hope to highlight in Plant City. Laura Street and the Bing Rooming House are a part of Plant City’s rich history, but Thomas said they want to make sure they are helping to shine a spotlight on and support the many other historic assets in this community including the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum, the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center, the 1914 Plant City High School building and the Glover School.
“My belief has long been that we’ve got to get some lights on at night in downtown Plant City,” Thomas said. “I think Evers Street is doing that and there are some great things coming to that area. We want to have this event to highlight that, to highlight the vibrancy of downtown. Falling off the Bone BBQ is coming out and we’ll have some great blues music playing and those new businesses will hopefully all have just opened. The Photo Archives will be open and people can check out its exhibit. Afro Shades, a local artist, will set up their memorabilia in the Archives as well. It’ll be a night for people to really soak in the potential of this spot and hopefully this will encourage people to get more vocal and more active with the great transformation that is underway.”
He added that there are many other ideas for Evers Street that have been floated in the past including transforming the alley on the street into an interactive space that would either be mixed-use or fully closed off. Examples of what it could become featured images of decorative archways and a variety of art projects and installations. Back in 2019 commissioners agreed to begin “exploring the concept.”