TAMPA, Fla. - Super Bowl LV is bringing a lot more to the Tampa Bay area than just football. There is work being done daily to make sure that when the game's over, we are left with a stronger community than before.
Forever 55 is the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee's social legacy program, aimed at changing life for the better in our area. It's focused on solving problems in areas like food insecurity, health and wellness, and early childhood education.
But the initiatives introduced Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, are focused on the issue of systemic justice and racial inequality, "what that looks like and what that feels like and what that sounds like and how we as a community can step in," said LaKendria Robinson, director of business connect and community outreach on the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee.
The first initiative is focused on financial literacy, providing coaching and match savings incentives for local families to eliminate opportunity barriers in disadvantaged communities.
The second highlights community policing, bridging the gap between youth and law enforcement, particularly in black and brown communities, to build stronger trust, communication and relationships.
The third initiative is based on having open, honest and difficult conversations about inequality - what's working and what isn't, based on real data collected here. Monday brought the first of six virtual discussions in a series called "Huddle for Change."
"We found a lot of areas where the experiences of the region's black and white residents are radically different," said Dave Sobush of Tampa Bay Partnership as he analyzed data from a Tampa Bay Racial Sentiment Survey. "As our pollster put it, it's one community and two completely different worlds."
Future meeting topics include the wealth gap, mental health, physical well-being, community policing and education. They're words that can be put into action.
"If you're serving on a board that's not diverse, you need to speak up and ask why we don't have more people of color at the table," Former State Rep. Edwin Narain said during the discussion. "We all have to take responsibility to educate those who may not understand truly why people are in the situation they are in, for example."
All are welcome to participate in future discussions.
"Think about how you can change behavior within yourself and advocate, intervene and change behavior in others," Robinson said.
Regardless of who takes home the Lombardi Trophy, Tampa Bay is promised a win that'll benefit us all.
"It is about ensuring that we can see the impact from these events, these initiatives for a lifetime," said Claire Lessinger, Chief Operating Officer of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee.
Forever 55 has done so much good already. They've donated nearly 4,500 books, school supplies and pieces of sports equipment to local kids, they surprised a local mother with a brand new car and gave out $280,000 in microgrants to local nonprofits, just to name a few, with much more to come.