On Dec. 30, the Collective Empowerment Group of the Tampa Bay Area’s Pre-Summit Strength In Growing Numbers Luncheon was attended by pastors, faith leaders, community influencers, and business owners in hopes of recommitting to their communities’ physical and economic.
ST. PETERSBURG — A group of pastors, faith leaders, community influencers, and business owners gathered with great hope and high expectations at the historic Manhattan Casino to recommit to their communities’ physical and economic health.
The invocation for the Collective Empowerment Group of the Tampa Bay Area (CEGTBA) Pre-Summit Strength In Growing Numbers Luncheon was delivered by Pastor Louis Murphy, Sr., CEGTBA vice-chair for Pinellas County and senior pastor at Mt. Zion Progressive.
The I Took the Shot (ITTS) COVID-19 vaccination education and messaging campaign team offered the luncheon that took place on Dec. 30. It was the third of three events offered since November to remind adults and youth of all ages that our health is our most valuable wealth.
The reason for the sense of urgency is the anticipation of the winter surge in COVID-19 infections and positivity rates due to Omicron, Delta, and other potential new variants!
Following CDC safety precautions, the room buzzed with excitement as the mask-wearing audience of about 50 interfaith and community leaders from throughout the Bay area sent warm acknowledgments to each other and greeted each other with fist bumps and broad covered smiles.
The highlights of the luncheon included a spirited word from Ret. Brigadier General (US Army) Dr. Carrie Nero, former head of the office of minority health division of the Pinellas County Health Department, reminded the audience to take care of our community’s health with a military general’s authority.
Rev. Kenny Irby, senior pastor of the 127-year-old Historic Bethel AME Church in St. Pete, taught the history and meaning of Kwanzaa. He emphasized the importance of UMOJA (unity), UJAMAA (cooperative economics), and NIA (purpose.)
The keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, was introduced by Pastor Clarence Williams, CEGTBA treasurer and senior pastor of Greater Mt. Zion AME. Dr. Willis is vice president of the National Collective Empowerment Group, the retired senior pastor of The Church of the Open Door located in Liberty City, and president and CEO of the Collective Empowerment Group of South Florida, Inc. Miami.
Willis gave a powerfully inspiring message and shared information regarding his experience collaborating with local governments, lenders, churches, and the Enterprise Foundation to return wealth to the Black community by engaging churches that own properties and leveraging resources for designing and building affordable housing.
For the culminating activity, Dr. Chloe Coney led the audience in reviewing and signing a “Health to Wealth Pledge,” with which attendees reaffirmed their commitment to continue to follow basic health precautions for COVID and promote good health wholistically while working collectively towards the economic empowerment of our communities.
Coney asked leaders and influencers to use their positions to teach and mentor others into generational wealth. Coney is the former district director for U. S. Representative Kathy Castor and the founder of the seasoned and highly successful nonprofit Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc.
The benediction was delivered by Rev. Watson Haynes II, president of the Pinellas County Urban League. Members of the ITTS Team include Vannetti Carter, Mamie Slaughter, volunteer consultant Rev. Dr. Katurah Jenkins-Hall, and Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil.
“There is indeed strength in growing numbers (SIGN),” said CEGTBA Board Chair and luncheon coordinator Imam Aquil. “This luncheon is a precursor to a larger summit that will serve as a SIGN of collective forward movement towards health and economic empowerment for this community and the Tampa Bay area.
“If influencers work together — regardless of faith, denominations, and creeds around messages and modeling of good health and unity — we can make a lasting difference,” he stated.
Aquil announced that, like many other groups and agencies, CEGTBA had pivoted to community health because of the COVID crisis, but ultimately its mission of it is buying, building, and banking collectively to achieve economic empowerment and to build community wealth.
“However, we must never neglect the health of our community beyond the unanticipated global Covid pandemic. Before COVID, and to this day, there is still high blood pressure, still diabetes, still heart disease, still strokes, and HIV/AIDS, etc. Without question, our health is our wealth,” finished Aquil.