House cancels Tampa Bay education program on erased black cemeteries

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The Chamber continued to wait for an appropriation that would launch an education program on local abandoned African-American cemeteries in Tampa Bay.

In the latest news from the House PreK-12 Education Budget Offer in the Senate, House negotiators ruled out the point, despite its presence in the original Senate proposal.

Sen. Janet Cruz be p. Driskell Fencewho has defended legislation to remedy abandoned African-American cemeteries, filed the applications for appropriations (SF-1469, HB 1134). The pair originally requested $1.2 million for the program, which the Senate halved to $750,000 in its original budget.

The credit would be used to establish an education program in Tampa Bay on African American cemeteries. The program would “preserve local African American history and cemetery sites through place-based educational programs, school materials to be incorporated into K-12 classrooms, professional development for teachers and community workshops”, depending on the requests.

The program would also encourage collaboration between students and the community and educate participants on contemporary local issues.

While the $1.2 million requested from the state so far represents the entire project, the requests suggest “that in addition to state funding, the program will leverage support from community donors and private as well as federal and state cultural grants.

The applications detail the funding breakdown, with $400,000 to cover the cost of curriculum development materials and instructional resources; $300,000 for cemetery commemoration, including monuments, historical plaques, gardens and visitor trails; $250,000 for staff salaries, including a curriculum developer and four part-time graduate student assistants; and another $175,000 for archaeological consultation and cemetery preservation services. An additional $70,000 is provided for program travel and facilities.

Depending on requests, some of the local cemeteries to be included in the program include Whispering Souls African-American Cemetery, Rose Hill Cemetery, and Zion African-American Cemetery.

The requests also cite recent developments among experts who have studied the existence of the erased cemeteries.

In 2021, the state passed HB 37, sponsored by Cruz and Driskell, which established an African American Cemetery Task Force. This team explores the extent to which abandoned, neglected, and obliterated African American cemeteries exist across the state.

Cemetery experts estimate that there are more than 3,000 unknown cemeteries whose local history has been erased, including eight recently discovered African American Cemeteries in Tampa Bay, says the request.

Program cites support from Pinellas County Public Schools, Florida Public Archeology Network, Hillsborough County Public Schools, City of Tampa, Whispering Souls African American Cemetery Nonprofit Preservation, Rose Cemetery Association and the University of South Florida.


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