on July 25, 2013
In the fall of 2012, the Institute on Black Life (IBL) initiated a project that explores diverse perspectives on Tampa’s African American neighborhoods. “Our Stories Are Here” is one component of a larger study, the African American Neighborhoods Project, in which data on demographics, history, mobility, and economic conditions will be collected and made accessible to local residents and to an interdisciplinary body of scholars interested in these issues locally, statewide, and regionally.
This study asks questions about the lives of people who live in historically Black neighborhoods, including residents’ historical relationships to these neighborhoods and how people feel about the future of life in Black communities. Most importantly, the residents of Progress Village and Carver City-Lincoln Gardens play a critical role in setting the agenda for the project and in communicating how the project can benefit their communities.
IBL’s community partners for “Our Stories Are Here” are the Hillsborough County Office of Community Affairs and the City of Tampa’s Black Heritage Committee. OCEP awarded funding for this project through our Research that Matters Faculty–Community Partner Grant Program. IBL and OCEP share common goals in building mutually beneficial and reciprocal university–community partnerships. Also, the Office of Undergraduate Research provided one student researcher, who completed significant archival work for the project.
The project’s first phase is already underway in Carver City-Lincoln Gardens (bordered by Westshore Blvd, Dale Mabry Hwy, and Cypress St) and Progress Village (southeast Hillsborough County, about 9 miles from downtown Tampa). Students, faculty, and staff are involved in collecting community histories and pertinent documentation on these two historic communities. Residents have the opportunity to share photographs and primary documents. Residents will also participate in oral history workshops to learn how to care for their family papers and ephemera. Additionally, the project will reinforce and enhance the research data of a major ongoing project, Central Avenue: Tampa’s Black Business District. New documents, photographs, and aerial maps are being added to the IBL Archives & Africana Studies Research Library.
During the spring 2013 semester, undergraduate students enrolled in African-American Community Research, a course in Africana Studies, conducted archival research and interviews with residents of Carver City-Lincoln Gardens and Progress Village. Students prepared for ethnographic research in these communities through class discussions on research methods, readings, tutorials in USF Special Collections archives, meetings with community leaders, and group field trips to the communities. At the end of the semester, students presented their research to residents and community partners.
This coming fall semester, graduate students will conduct research in the same communities. In February 2014, the Institute on Black Life and the Department of Africana Studies will host a related conference, Race and Place: Cultural Landscapes of Black Life in America, on campus in the Marshall Center. This event received a Conference Support Grant from the USF Office of Sponsored Research.
At the end of the spring semester, OCEP caught up with the IBL and attended the African American Community Engaged Research Colloquium, in which the spring 2013 undergraduate students presented their findings to their community partners and the USF community.
Nicole Bowman and Maya Brown examined the role of churches in the Progress Village (Bowman) and Lincoln Gardens (Brown) communities. Kenneth Holland discussed the cultural and historical significance of barbershops in Progress Village and the Historic Central Avenue District, and Michael Perdomo explained the importance of recreation centers for children and youth in the Carver City-Lincoln Gardens community.
Among the attendees at the Colloquium were Dr. Maurice Harvey, President, Carver City/Lincoln Gardens Association; Maurice Kemp, Progress Village Civic Association; Frank Crum, President, City of Tampa Black Heritage Committee; Albert Coleman, Hillsborough County Office of Community Relations; and Fred Hearns, President, Friends of the Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Library Foundation.
After the presentations, the students answered questions from the audience, and a general discussion ensued about the rewards and challenges of community engaged research and experiential learning.