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Waveney Ann Moore: A return to neighborliness

Waveney Ann Moore



December 2021: A Community Conversation at Boyd Hill. Photo: Transformative Learning Community.

There was a time when dozens and dozens of neighborhood associations sprouted and flourished across St. Petersburg.  

Unique signs mapped out newly created communities. The energy thrived against a backdrop of determined community leaders and the Council of Neighborhood Associations, or CONA, which through the years has established itself as a powerhouse and feeder to City Council leadership.  

Admittedly, some neighborhood associations have since faded. A few leaders found themselves in permanent and often thankless roles, despairing that their neighbors ventured out to meetings only when controversies arose. 

Now there’s a movement afoot to revive neighborliness across the city, to shun political and other divides and bring residents together to dream, talk – and listen – work to improve and upkeep their communities, and solve problems with fervor and goodwill.  

It almost makes you want to join hands and sing Kumbaya. And there’ll be a chance to do just that  – sort of – Tuesday evening at the Enoch Davis Center. The free event will even include snacks, I’m told, from nearby St. Pete Youth Farm. 

The event has been organized by the Florida Council of Churches, University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the Connection Partners. They’ve named their collaboration TLC, which stands for Transformative Leadership Community. 

Frank Biafora, professor of sociology at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, is optimistic about the event and others that will follow before year’s end. Next Tuesday’s Neighborhood Conversation will involve small group discussions led by specially trained hosts.  There will be no mics, no speeches, no declarations about what’s amiss in society. Just calm, cordial conversation.

“We want to engage individuals who feel they are not welcome in community spaces anymore,” Biafora said. And he hopes that by the end of the evening, people will have a sense that they’ve “had a chance to walk in somebody else’s shoes.” 

The plan is to take these conversations to other neighborhoods throughout the city. Three more are to be scheduled this year, Biafora said. 

A $14,000 grant from Community Foundation Tampa Bay is helping to fund this “Growing More Vibrant Communities Through Conversations” project that’s designed to “reignite the power of neighborhood associations” in St. Petersburg. 

Hosts of the Sept. 13 conversation have been trained in World Café methodology, which includes cooperative action and ideas, and is utilized by organizations internationally.

This is the second phase of the Growing More Vibrant Communities effort, Biafora said. A $25,000 grant from the city about three years ago enabled TLC to provide World Café training to launch the project. Around the same time, Community Foundation Tampa Bay also gave the group an initial $25,000 to evaluate the effectiveness of the project.

Here’s some of what the invitation to the event says: “Besides our jobs, our neighborhoods are where we have the most invested. Our homes are there. Our families. Our sense of peace, belonging, identity and even pride. Yet, so many of us have lost our connection with where we choose to sink our roots, spend our time, and call home.” 

The vision is to revive our neighborhoods and “build vibrancy, connection, and trust.” This effort, idealistic as it may seem, is about civility and collaboration, neighbors working together to help each other thrive. It’s certainly a worthy goal. 

Neighborhood Conversation, 6:30-9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, Enoch Davis Recreation Center, 1111 18th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Contact project manager Jenny Fessler at 



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