From medicine to marketing to engineering, university researchers will work with community partners to address long-standing disparities and roadblocks to equity.
TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 9, 2020) – A University of South Florida research task force working to address racial issues and attitudes on a local, national and global scale has selected 23 projects exploring a wide range of issues in systemic inequality, economic and health disparities, Black history and contemporary challenges for funding.
The USF Research Task Force on Understanding and Addressing Blackness and Anti-Black Racism in our Local, National and International Communities, which was first announced by the university in July, selected the projects as a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to create deeper understanding of complex issues while forging solutions and productive community partnerships. The effort was prompted by several factors, including the long-standing issues of racism and institutional violence brought to the forefront by the recent deaths of Black men, women and children due to excessive force from law enforcement, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s Black communities and other concerns.
Projects spanning eight USF colleges and all three campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee will be part of the year-long initiative funded through $500,000 provided by the Office of the Provost and USF Research & Innovation. The Florida High Tech Corridor Council is also providing support.
The projects include a series of efforts within the Tampa Bay region to address systemic issues in education, health care, economic inclusion and identity, while other projects will take USF researchers to as far away as Brazil and South Africa to examine those same issues.
Including co-principal investigators, nearly 90 USF faculty members are involved in the research projects, some of which also will include undergraduate and graduate student researchers.
The initiative reinforces USF’s Principles of Community, which affirm the values of inclusivity, equity and mutual respect.
“The University of South Florida has a responsibility to help create a civil, humane and compassionate society that deeply values diversity and inclusion,” USF President Steve Currall said. “Advancing innovative, interdisciplinary research is a key element of our active commitment to addressing racism in society.”
Among the projects selected:
- African American Burial Grounds & Remembering Project — Living Communities Challenging Silenced Histories in Florida
Principal Investigator (PI): Antoinette Jackson, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
Community Partners: Robles Park Village and Robles Park Tenant Council Association; Hillsborough County Branch of the NAACP; Carter G. Woodson African American Museum; Florida Public Archaeology Network; Cardno; and Diamond View Studios.
The proposal focuses on activities to identify, interpret, preserve and record unmarked, previously abandoned and underserved African American burial grounds in Florida, with a focus on Tampa’s Zion Cemetery and St. Petersburg’s Oaklawn Cemetery.
- Colorism, Police Killings, and Anti-Black Discipline
PI: David Ponton III, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Interdisciplinary Global Study
Community Partner: IDEA Tampa Bay
The project will study police killings and intra-racial disparities based on skin color and facial features. Studies show that racial disparities in educational attainment, income, employment, health care and criminal court sentencing persist in the United States and that Black people with darker skin and stereotyped “African” facial features fare even worse compared to lighter skinned counterparts with stereotypical European facial features.
- Storytelling Saves Lives: Challenging the Stigma of Mental Illness through Stories from the Black Community
PIs: Kyaien Conner and Kristin Kosyluk, College of Behavioral and Community Science
Community Partners: This is My Brave (TIMB), WE-CARE and the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network
Despite research that suggests Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience mental illness, only one in three seek treatment. The project proposes to deliver and evaluate a special series titled “This is My Brave (TIMB): Stories from the Black Community”. This virtual three-part series highlights the voices of Black Americans living with mental illness and/or addiction who bravely share their experiences with illness and treatment as well as messages of hope and recovery, with the goal of reducing stigma and encouraging critical conversations about Black mental health.
- A Strengths-Based Approach to Addressing Racial Challenges Impacting Black Students
PI: Ruby Joseph, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences
Community Partner: Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc.
This grant will investigate Black student enrollment, retention and graduation disparities in institutions of higher learning. The project will examine racial, educational and other challenges faced by two groups of Black students: USF juniors and seniors and 12th grade students in East Tampa who are planning to attend a four-year university in 2021-2022. The project aims to develop a comprehensive action plan of solutions that addresses specific disparities in enrollment, graduation and other issues identified in the focus groups.
- Black Microbusiness Economic and Social Resilience to Natural Disasters: The Case for Targeted Policy Interventions and Resiliency Support Network for Minority Lead Microbusinesses
PI: Matthew Mullarkey, Muma College of Business
Community Partner: St. Pete Chamber of Commerce, St. Pete Innovation District and Grow Smarter St. Petersburg.
One of the hardest hit sectors of the economy in St. Petersburg during COVID-19 is the microbusinesses of five or fewer employees, especially in historically underserved Black neighborhoods. As the region rolled out various small business loan and grant programs, such as those afforded by CARES Act, community leaders discovered almost all of the Black hairdressers, childcare providers, creatives, auto repair shops and many other microbusinesses in the community could not qualify for economic relief. Many of these microbusinesses employing thousands of people, often at subsistence levels, have closed. The project will investigate and address the inequity and develop a plan to intervene with microbusiness owners and aid agencies to build future economic resiliency.
- Mad Men: Using Cultural Competency to Reduce Racist Portrayals of Blacks in Advertising
PI: Kelly Cowart, Muma College of Business
Community Partners: WILLMOORES, LLC and Fully Promoted
Black and non-Black audiences can benefit from a better understanding of the harm caused by negative portrayals of Blacks in the media. Although the intersection between racism and marketing is longstanding, it is highly visible in the current sociopolitical environment. Advertising catchphrases such as #WeStandTogether may seem sincere when included in corporate messaging. Yet, they are hypocritical and opportunistic if they do not accompany meaningful social action. In this pilot study, researchers will develop a cultural competency learning module specifically for marketing professionals and evaluate its ability to improve understanding, communication and interaction across cultures and reduce racist content in marketing.
The full list of projects selected is available here.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.