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The USF Institute on Black Life Conference will focus on community engagement

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University of South Florida St. Petersburg
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The annual University of South Florida Institute on Black Life Conference is back in person this year, with a focus on outreach and engagement in local African American communities.

Following last year’s virtual conference because of the pandemic, the 2022 event will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 1, on the USF St. Petersburg campus.

Fenda Akiwumi, Director of the Institute on Black Life, said that holding the conference at a new location allows them to focus on issues that affect St. Petersburg’s Black neighborhoods.

“We’re very excited to be on the St. Petersburg campus and we’re excited about that community -- the campus community and the African American community itself,” she said.

This year’s theme is The African American Neighborhoods Project of Tampa Bay.

The project was created by the institute’s former director, Cheryl Rodriguez, who decided to research the history of African American neighborhoods in the greater Tampa Bay area. She and her students interviewed community members and used their research to create a web portal chronicling current and former Black neighborhoods and their history.

“I just thought that this was a program that we needed to complete or at least build on,” Akiwumi said.

The conference will feature presenters on a variety of topics affecting these communities, especially the work of researchers from the USF St. Petersburg campus. Topics include environmental justice issues, climate change, and health issues in African American neighborhoods.

“It’s not going to be a formal academic and intellectual conference,” said Akiwumi. “We’re having more conversations with our community partners and faculty and working together collaboratively.”

Akuwimi is hopeful that the community will join in this discussion and celebration of these neighborhoods and the issues they face.

“I think it’s very important for us to disseminate information on the very important work we’re doing,” Akiwumi said. “Without community support, our work is meaningless.”

The conference takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the USF St. Pete’s University Student Center. It is free and open to the public, and registration is available on the Institute’s webpage.

Another new feature of this year’s conference is an African Art Exhibition. The art, including pieces from the Ivory Coast and the Contemporary Art Museum on the USF Tampa campus, will be displayed in Harbor Hall on the USF St. Petersburg campus Feb. 1-11.

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