Tampa is a dynamic destination known for delectable dishes and diversity. Located on Florida’s gulf coast, Tampa Bay awaits and welcomes you. Currently, the state has no travel restrictions. However, wearing a mask is highly advised as well as avoiding crowded places. Still, you can safely enjoy the beauty of the city and it does not matter if you are traveling solo, with your family, friends or as a couple. Tampa has plenty to do and see.
The Beauty of Tampa
Something is always happening in Tampa, and the Riverwalk is a great place to start your trip. However, it is more enjoyable at night when an array of light reflects from the water as you stroll down the strip. The Florida Aquarium, Tampa Museum of Art, Amalie Arena, convention center, restaurants, bars, and parks are located among this waterfront that runs through downtown.
Locals, like the owner of Shear Utopia Unisex Salon, Jashley Green, are fun and friendly and quick to point you in the right direction when you are looking for more ways to engage. She shares, “If you don’t mind the heat, Bush Gardens. If you are into art, the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. The architecture is beautiful and it’s on the water. If you have kids, the park downtown, the Glazer Children’s Museum and Dinosaur World.”
Green stands out in her community. As a female barber, she mixes with the community daily. Her brand is popular in the area, and as an owner herself, she is committed to supporting and advocating for other Black-owned businesses.
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“A couple of my friends own Black-owned restaurants, so I definitely try to support them. There’s Black Chef Eatery. I actually grew up in school with them. It’s a bodega-type style. In Ybor City, you have another one right across the street from him. It’s a new restaurant called Daddy O’s Patio, and it is two blocks from 7th + Grove in Ybor.”
The entrepreneur further shares, “Of course, you have your island restaurant that so many people go to. It’s called Dunn’s River. The Jerk Hut, which is more like an island club and The Rose Bar.”
Ybor City and Tampa’s History
Tampa is a city with a strong Cuban presence. The cigar industry also brought in African Americans, Spanish and Italians in the 1800s. With a vibe similar to New Orleans, Ybor City is an industrial hub located in the heart of Tampa.
“The history of Ybor is a strong Cuban and Italian history, but a lot of people don’t know that there is a strong Afro-Cuban history and a strong rich Black history that happened in Ybor City and downtown Tampa. We used to have different thriving neighborhoods like The Scrub. The Cotton Club was located there. Ray Charles loved to come to Tampa to eat here. We were literally known as the Southern Harlem for a very long time. So, Tampa has a very rich Black community,” clarifies Dr. Jamaris Glenn, co-owner of 7th + Grove restaurant.
Not too far from Ray Charles Boulevard and the historical African American educational Perry Harvey Sr. Park, you can find genealogist, author and docent Gigi Best Richardson and her husband Harry “Skip” Richardson, the proud owners of Best Richardson African Diaspora Literature Museum. Listed on Oprah’s 125 Black-Owned Book Store List, this bookstore, which is also a museum, is the place to go to learn about Black history in ways that you may have never known before.
Featured is a collection of children’s books that teach Black girls to love their hair and skin. Learn all about Juneteenth and The Tulsa Massacre. Go back in time and be astonished as Mrs. Best-Richardson teaches you about Nefartari, the Nubian queen who was the wife of Ramesses II, Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, Hannibal who fought the Romans, or Queen Charlotte Sophia. “She was the wife of King George III. She’s Queen Elizabeth’s fourth great-grandmother. She is actually in the line, Queen of Britain and Ireland 1761-1818,” she explains.
As a genealogist, Best-Richardson helps interested parties trace back their African, Native, and European history. “I break down the myth of the 1870 brick wall. So many people of the African American diaspora have been told that they can’t go back past 1870 because 1870 was the first census that the emancipated people were on and listed by name. So many of them hit that brick wall and don’t know where else to go. I offer them other opportunities.”
Where Minds Mingle
It does not take long for a tourist to hear about the restaurant 7th + Grove several times throughout a visit. 7th + Grove is an amazing establishment of eclectic, creative energy that connects people of all kids from all over, including known celebrities such as DJ Envy, Ginuwine, Bow Wow and Jacob Latimore.
The restaurant is owned by three well-educated, well-known, heavily involved community activists, Khalilaa McDuffie, Dr. Vondalyn Wright and Dr. Jamaris Glenn. 7th + Grove is not only Black-owned but also Black-operated with 80% of that number being women. This chic, voguish restaurant also serves as a shelter for safe conversations that create positive change and strengthens the community through various events and panel discussions.
Some of the frequent events hosted are Love & Lavender, where individuals come together to talk about sensitive issues that plague the Black community, such as mental health, homophobia, and police injustice; Lotus Lounge, where Black artists and entertainers perform; and Legacy Lounge which ask the question, what legacy are you making and leaving behind for your children?
Take a virtual tour of 7th + Grove here.
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“When we decided to become a restaurant and lounge, we just didn’t want it to be a hot spot. We wanted to have those types of discussions that are very important to us,” Dr. Glenn says. “The weather is perfect. The beach is in our backyard. We wanted to develop something in our own community and try to inspire others to create a thriving Black ecosystem where people can develop different Black ideas and essentially it is working.”
With a plethora of parks, museums, restaurants, water taxies, TECO streetcars and beaches nearby, Tampa Bay is a must-see city where you will be on the go from sunrise to sunset. Just remember to try the historic Cuban sandwich before you depart.
For more information about the Best Richardson African Diaspora Literature Museum, which is now moved to St. Augustine, Florida, in September, visit the website at bradlcmuseum.com, and follow along on Facebook or Instagram.