STRAZ Center debuts second season of BIPOC-centered discussions

The new Voices of the Community season starts Thursday, Sept. 23, and continues through May 26, 2022. Each session starts at 8 p.m.


TAMPA BAY — When the world watched as George Floyd was murdered last May, America was plunged head-first into a long-overdue reckoning with the damage that continues to plague industries, communities, and individuals as a result of systemic racism.

The performing arts community was no exception. Fred Johnson, STRAZ Center for the Performing Arts' community engagement specialist and artist-in-residence, said the local institution wanted to take immediate action.

“The immediate commitment STRAZ made was to look at what we could do better and how we could be more deeply committed to our community,” he said.

First and foremost, the company wanted to ensure it could “fully articulate antiracism and inclusion and diversity and equity and accessibility.”

A top-down approach, including a commitment to hiring a more diverse leadership team and ensuring the board better, resembled the Tampa Bay area community, was part of the commitment to that vision, Johnson said. Additionally, the internal staff hired professional implicit bias consultants to hold workshops.

However, improving the accessibility of the performing arts and listening to the wants and needs of the community are just as important, Johnson said, which is how the Voices of the Community Town Hall discussion series came to be.

With a focus on the performing arts, the Town Hall series illuminates the impact of local Black and Brown artists and performers, discusses the culture’s influence on music and performance, and highlights the opportunities the performing arts provide in terms of employment, enrichment and education. But Johnson stressed, the series is about more than what’s seen on stage.

“It’s about manifesting change. It’s not just about talking. We want to create an opportunity for everyone in our community. We want to help others recognize the scourge of racial discrimination. This is an opportunity and responsibility to be committed to the change.”

Fred Johnson, community engagement specialist and artist-in-residence, STRAZ Center for the Performing Arts

He also noted that these discussions are geared toward all of Tampa Bay — not just the city of Tampa — and he hopes to see many people from across the area participating in the discussions held virtually.

Johnson hopes the town hall discussions will also inspire people to attend the STRAZ’s Arts Legacy Remix, a monthly live, outdoor performance on the river that’s free to the public.

“Arts Legacy Remix celebrates the rich cultural tapestry of Tampa Bay,” Johnson said. “Spanish, European, African Diaspora, Caribbean culture — it’s all celebrated through this live experience.”

A Black man and artist, Johnson said that right now, he sees and feels the commitment to change in a way that he hasn’t in the past, and the STRAZ’s commitment to equity and antiracism shines a light on that change.

The new Voices of the Community season starts Thursday, Sept. 23, and continues through May 26, 2022. Each session starts at 8 p.m.

Full Schedule:

Sept. 23 -- Giving Voice: The evolution of the dynamic artistic and social power of spoken word, hip hop and its Caribbean elder, reggae.

Zoom link:

Oct. 28 -- Behind the Curtain:  A conversation about the careers and job skills needed to make the magic happen on stage.

Zoom link:

Jan. 27HBCU’s and their Cultural Impact: A conversation with way-makers from several historical Black colleges and universities.

Zoom link:

March 24 -- Meet the Creators: An evening with regional composers, playwrights, choreographers, film makers and designers.

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April 28 -- An Evening of August Wilson: Celebrating the great American playwright.

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May 26BIPOC Voices in the Media: A deep dive into the ever-changing media landscape.

Zoom link:

For more information about the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and its upcoming events, visit

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