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Straz Center's 'Voices Of The Community' Focuses On Artists Of Color

A Black man with glasses and a beard plays a drum
The Straz Center
Straz Artist-in-Residence Fred Johnson

The Straz Center is hosting virtual town hall discussions to give voice to BIPOC artists in the community.

The Straz Center in Tampa is holding a series of live, virtual town hall meetings called Voices of the Community.

The goal is to amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of color, said Fred Johnson, the artist-in-residence and community engagement specialist with the Straz.

He worked with Straz Vice President of Education, Alice Santana, to create the programs, which include:

“You know, given the challenges that have been amplified, in the last couple of years, with the unfortunate murder of George Floyd and a more amplified conversation about the implications of racial discrimination, and what many people don't know and understand about the realities of people who have been the victims of oppression, it really creates an opportunity to empower the BIPOC community." Johnson said.
He said this is an opportunity to give that community at large a voice and "to share the richness and some of the challenges of the realities of growing up as Black and brown in Tampa Bay, and where we are now and what we can learn about each other, and what we can do better, and how we can be more inclusive and really have the opportunity to expand our reach and to be more representative,” Johnson said.

The first of the town halls on Thursday will focus on the ever-changing artistic and social power of spoken word, hip hop, and reggae, its Caribbean predecessor.

The program will feature Melvin and Marvin Coleman from the Inkwell, rap artist D-Y, spoken word artist Wallie B., rap artist Hyfa, and Johnson will host the program.

Johnson said these town halls will include both artists who live and work here and others who grew up here and now live in other places.

He said they will also be working with composers and choreographers who attended historically Black colleges and universities like Florida A & M University, Bethune Cookman-University, Howard University and Morehouse College.

"So it's a great way to give new voice, it's a great way to empower and educate and hopefully inspire so that we can create new ways of being together in the community."

Johnson added the Straz Center is dedicated to rooting out racism, discrimination and separatism, and plans to exercise its full reach in serving the community.

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