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In Context by Doris Weatherford 9/13/19

AFRICAN DIARY CONTINUED

Except for jokes about presidential Sharpies, things are relatively quiet in the political world, so I’m continuing the mental break from contemporary news that I began last week. I quoted then from “Olivia’s African Diary,” the day-to-day journal of a six-month trip through southern and eastern Africa in 1932. The writer was Oliva Stokes (later Hatch), and the photographs that accompany the published diary were by Mary Marvin Breckinridge (later Patterson).
And yes, women’s history is much harder to do than standard history because it was (and is) routine for women to change their surnames at least once in their lifetimes — with remarriages, even several times. Can you imagine tracing Thomas Jefferson if his surname were “Franklin” or “Washington” or “Hamilton” at different points in his life? And no one called him “Tom” or “Tommy,” unlike Mary Marvin Breckinridge, a woman called “Marvin.”
Olivia and Marvin were young college graduates who traveled with Olivia’s parents; they were checking on progressive projects in Africa, some of which were funded by the Phelps-Stokes family. They began their trek after landing at South Africa’s Cape Town in August, the weather equivalent of February in the Southern Hemisphere; when we left them last week, it was October, the equivalent of April. They were in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, and we will pick them up again at the southern edge of what then was the Belgian Congo and now is Zaire.
Belgians (at least most of them) speak French, and the broad area was called “French Equatorial Africa.” Globalism is further reflected in that their destination here was the new village of Elisabethville. As its English name denotes, it was a company town built by Britons who mined its copper, which “is supposed to be the richest ore in the world. It was started only five years ago and seems amazingly well run,” Olivia wrote:
“We visited the attractive village where the Natives are given little houses with one room and a kitchen, their food, and the men their working clothes, besides from ten to twenty-five francs a day. It is all very clean and trees have been planted, which adds a lot. The Natives are a cheery group… The women are stunning. Many tribes have very becoming tattoo marks, made by rubbing juice from the rubber tree into scratches made on their faces… Their dress is…gaily printed cotton worn off the shoulders… They twist a bandana of the same color about their foreheads and it hangs down the back of their heads.
“We visited the baby welfare center where every day the babies are brought in and bathed…. On Sundays, they all bring their tables and chairs outside, spread their best tablecloth, and sit about in their best… Many of the men, it seems, wear dinner jackets. We asked one woman to open up her trunk. She said she was very poor, but it contained a fine hat, several silk dresses, and in a notebook, four or five hundred franc notes… We went down into the mine and noticed several Natives in positions of responsibility.”

“THE TRAINS EVEN HAVE SHOWERS”

This community was strongly influenced by a Belgian Catholic physician who had been there for twenty-five years. He also had overseen the creation of other such communities, and at Pandar, “they have a Camp d’Acclimatation just outside the town where all recruited labor, wives, and children, have to stay for one month, undergoing physical examination [and] vaccination…before they can go to one of the mines.”
When they took the railroad further north, she commented, “the Belgian Congo trains are quite grand and even have showers.” The railroad tracks ended at Bukama, however, where she said “the shopkeepers were mostly Greek.” From there, they took a tri-level boat that featured “good food” supervised by the captain’s wife. This family had their home on the upper deck, and because the captain needed his sleep, the boat docked at sunset. Then, she said, the 162 “Native passengers who crowded the lower deck got off and lit their little fires all along the bank.”
The Lualaba River, however, promoted mosquitoes, and brief trips ashore led them to conclude that “half of the Natives have sleeping sickness.” The river connects to Lake Tanganyika, a huge north-south waterway that looks on the map more like a river than a lake. The town where they stayed waiting for the next boat was Albertville, even though “of the 250 Europeans here now, only two are English.” Again it was a global mix, with many from Cypress, “a few Mohammedans, and the rest Belgians… The place seems very active and bustling with even white-robed priests dashing about on motorcycles… They say that about five Natives a month are eaten by crocs, so we resisted the temptation to swim in the lake.”
Kigoma, one of the next towns, is in modern Tanzania, and at its hospital, she reported “distressing cases of leprosy, sleeping sickness, and awful yaws” — a serious tropical skin infection that can penetrate to the bones. Yet she described the town as “quaint, with its thatched roofs and trees planted by the Germans.” They also witnessed a trial in Kigoma, in which a Muslim woman accused two Christian Natives of having stolen her cassava. “A group of older ones seemed to serve as a sort of jury. Witnesses were called in. The men were proved guilty and marched off to the lock-up.”
As they approached Dar-es-Salaam, on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya, she said “we saw several giraffes from the train window.” While the parents took a plane to Mombasa, the young women stayed at the palatial “Government House.” Diplomats there were glad to squire them around “through groves of cocoa palms, bananas, breadfruit trees, and endless clove trees with their perfume pervading everything.” The minister of agriculture told them that they had experimented with raising silk worms, but it was not a success because “a fat and healthy silk worm was too much of a temptation for the Natives, who ate them.”
To the north of Dar-es-Salaam, in Zanzibar, they began to encounter more Muslim culture, and she wrote: “Mrs. Johnston took Mother, Marvin, and me to an Arab wedding, or one part of the three-day ceremonies, the one for women only. Mrs. Johnston runs a school for Arab women. Most of the teachers are twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years old – the ages at which they usually marry… We were shown into a room downstairs where were the young unmarried girls who were not permitted to see the performance, or those who, though married, were still in their “period of modesty,’ which lasts for a year or more after marriage… An Arab will always take a pure-blooded Arab for his first wife, while others were Natives or mixed who tried to plaster their kinky hair down to conform to Arab fashion.”
Nairobi is a big modern city today, but then, she said that its Kikuyu natives “wear skins.” They had seen skin-wearing elsewhere, though, and what they found “most amazing” here were the huge earrings. Women wore “loops of them, stuck all up and down the ear,” while “men have distended ears with different sorts of rings.” She added, without explanation of what we understand today is the tradition of genital mutilation: “The women seldom get very far in their studies because apparently the Kikuyu ceremonies for women are so horrible and the operation so cruel that they are dulled thereafter.”
North of there, they stayed at a hotel in the coffee-growing area of Kenya, and she reported: “although only twenty miles from the equator, it is about 7,000 feet up and quite cold at night… Some Native men came around selling monkey skins.” In Uganda, they found the best roads in all of Africa. “Under Native law,” she explained, “each petty chief has to maintain a road… They are fine and wide…and really park-like. Beyond them are forests of mahogany trees…, with their owners’ huts hidden among the banana trees.”
At Kampala, they toured “a very good maternity hospital where they train midwives. They have reduced the death rate…so that of every pregnancy, now only 7.6% of the babies die within the year…, while before it was 74%.” An earlier hospital in Zimbabwe had given them a glimpse of brutal traditions associated with childbirth: This “small hospital” featured “a special place for twins where the mother can bring them as soon as they are born to prevent them from being killed according to tribal custom.”
Also at Kampala, they observed “a parliament… efficiently run entirely by Natives. The only European we saw there was an electrician mending one of their telephones.” On the other hand, when they peered into a tomb for the latest king: “We could see a couple of his widows sitting on the floor and moaning. Some widow has to keep up this lament and vigil all the time… Now the leading widow is a young woman of eighteen who, according to their custom, was married to the corpse!”

HOLLYWOOD MEETS UGANDA

Because of Marvin’s interest in photography, Olivia spent ink on movies that were being made in Africa. I won’t try to summarize this topic, but she remarked that one – a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film – “was banned in Uganda because of the fact that a Native carries a white girl.” It was a land of contrasts, as on the same day that she recorded this Hollywood presence, she also wrote: “We passed a herd of about forty elephants going in single file up a hill.” Later, in Sudan, she said that natives told them elephants sometimes “committed suicide by curling their trunks into their mouths and blowing their brains out.”
Uganda is home to pygmies, and she wrote of “the really saintly Apolo, a Native minster who works among them.” Although an African, Apolo was not a pygmy, and she said that because adults were not allowed to learn the language, he had some small boys go and live with them and learn it… Most of the Pygmies live in grass and leaf shelters on the ground, while some tribes still live in little leaf shelters in the trees. If a Pygmy is hungry, he will cut a chunk off the leg of a passing elephant, while if he really wishes to kill an elephant, he sneaks between his legs and spears him in the stomach…. They steal grain and fruit from the Forest people, but always leave a piece of meat hanging outside the village in payment.”
In contrast to pygmies, the people in Sudan were “very tall,” with some estimated at seven feet. They were “practically naked, and “all carry at least one spear and many also a bow and arrows.” Modern technology was being introduced, however, as they saw “a large Raleigh bicycle advertisement of a Native thumbing his nose at a pursuing lion.” The most surprising thing about Sudan, though, was that “there is no color bar.” Natives who could afford it sat with them (and Australians) on the train to the White Nile branch of the huge Nile River.

NAKED CHOIR BOYS

On the boat north, they met a Miss Wolf “who has charge of all the midwifery work in the Southern Sudan.” Again, they learned interesting things: “This lady said that the Shilluks have an old custom which makes it necessary for their king to be speared – he cannot die in his bed. The present one has managed to live fifteen years, but they tried to kill him a couple of months ago.” Stokes described the Shilluks as “very tall,” but statistics were hard to come by because they refused to be measured – for valid reasons, from their point of view, as the only time they were measured was when their graves were dug. “They have to give a cow to the gravedigger and he cannot return to his home until he has passed through a purification ceremony… The Presbyterians have not tried to clothe the Shilluks, so Dr. McLenahan said it was a wonderful sight to see the stark naked choirboys march up to their place in the church on Sundays!”
Khartoum, a city on the Nile about midway between modern Eritrea and Chad, was the only place where they spoke directly about slavery. They asked the Headman if “there were any slaves in the town,” and he replied, “No, but there were several Negro women, unveiled, walking about [who] were practically, though not technically, slaves. He knew one man who had gained his freedom who was still paying ten piasters a month to his former owner. Theoretically, everyone can get his freedom through applying to an official, but inherited slaves are married off to other slaves and thus a sort of domestic slave class has arisen. In Abyssinia there is supposed to be still actual slave raiding going on.”
Abyssinia was another terms for Ethiopia — and very soon, the practice of raiding enemy villages for war captives to sell as slaves would be abandoned, as in 1935, all natives faced bombs from Italian airplanes during the first incidents of World War II. Just as an aside from the diary and for your information, historically most slaves were captured by enemy tribes and brought to the western coast of Africa. The biggest slave markets were in ports controlled by Portugal, especially Ghana and Senegal, which were closest to the Western Hemisphere. The east coast had less slave trading, but the unfortunate point is that virtually all Africans initially were sold by other Africans. The question of how much slavery still goes on, both there and on other continents, is worthy of more attention.
The last places that the diary details were in Sudan and some of the lower regions of Egypt. Stokes had seen Cairo and other aspects of the Nile Valley, including Luxor and Karnak, earlier in her life and understandably found it less noteworthy. Her December summary of two schools at Khartoum was the last to focus on women and girls. With a big Muslim population, she said, “the teaching has to be largely in English as there are few books in modern Arabic… Miss Grove gets all shades and colors, and mixtures of French, Egyptian, Greek, English, Arab, and Negro, among others. The girls receive a certificate…, but there seems to be little for them to do with their education, and they aren’t often wanted as wives.”

doris@dweatherford.com

A Tale of Two Cities

This article originally appeared in the March. 23, 2018 edition of La Gaceta
Chairman of the Bored
A Tale of Two Cities
By: Gene Siudut
The prospect of the Rays coming to Ybor City is very exciting and may be the most significant move here since Vicente Martinez-Ybor left Key West. The groundswell is significant and all throughout Ybor City, signs welcome the Rays and proclaim “RaYbor City” the team’s new home.
But there are some who are not happy. Their unhappiness is not about the potential move, possible public funding nor the location of the stadium. It’s about the marketing.
First, a little history.
A little over a decade ago, a few community leaders, such as Carrie West, started the GaYBOR District Coalition in support of the LGBTA community in Ybor City and served as a way for business owners to express their support of equality for all, to paraphrase its mission.
There was a lot of blowback at the time because of the name choice. Many interested parties, including this newspaper, were not in favor of renaming a piece of the district. There wasn’t a problem with its mission, at least as far as La Gaceta was concerned, but changing the name of a piece of the district seemed a bridge too far.
Over a decade later, GaYBOR is still here, and while the coalition is not as visible as it was 10 years ago, it is still strong and relevant. There was never an official name change, but the hub around the corner of 7th Avenue and 15th Street is known as GaYBOR and is marketed as such.
That fact rubs some people the wrong way. They feel that the village in which they grew up has been renamed to serve one group when Ybor was, and is, representative of all cultures.
And now we have the RaYbor issue. There are those who don’t want the team here, don’t want public dollars spent and don’t want Ybor to become subservient to Major League Baseball.
Those are all relevant concerns, but without a funding plan, stadium design, choice of vendors, sponsorships or any other plans save for a site designation, people are trying to split up a pie that has yet to be baked.
Actually, it’s worse. They have no idea what flavor the pie will be, but they know they don’t want it, like a toddler who who’s never tasted broccoli but knows not to eat it.
The Rays chose Ybor City as the team’s future home and in turn, our community is showing the team love. Part of that love is marketing to locals that we are in support of the move. Tampa Bay Rays 2020 was founded to help facilitate that support and several locals have come up with ways to express that support.
One form of support has been with banners throughout the historic district with “RaYbor” emblazoned upon the welcoming messages.
Where RaYbor and GaYBOR diverge in terms of naming is that there is no movement to change the name of any part of Ybor City. They Rays haven’t asked for a change and the creators of the RaYbor name have no desire for any such change. It is just marketing and not meant to insult anyone.
La Gaceta is what some would call a liberal-leaning newspaper. With that moniker, we are often accused of being too sensitive and easily offended by slights that most people would not consider. Being the voice for the voiceless when we can, we take that as a compliment to inform the masses but this is different.
La Gaceta has Ybor’s past, present and future at heart. I hope people out there believe that if we are for this marketing term, the rest of you should take no offense to it as well. It’s no different than hearing people call the Hillsborough River the O’Hillsborough when it was dyed green over the weekend. It’s a fun play on words meant to drive discussion.
So please discuss.
Gene Siudut can be contacted by emailing gsiudut@lagacetanewspaper.com

WFLA’s Tedd Webb: Radio Then and Now

Tedd Webb in 1973

Tedd Webb in 1973

Tedd Webb now

Tedd Webb now

Published Dec. 30, 2016

By: Mike Merino

Over the years, the Tampa Bay radio scene has had its share of great ones who have come and gone. But amidst the sea of countless music and talk show personalities that permeate that magical box on the dashboard of our cars and home stereo systems, few have stood the test of time as successfully as WFLA 970 radio host Tedd Webb. His name and voice have been a mainstay in Tampa`s nationally recognized, and always growing, entertainment market. His social and intellectual impact on our community is immeasurable. This talented media star has been shinning strong for over 53 years, and there`s no glimpse of retirement in his future. I sat down with Tedd to get some of his thoughts on his illustrious media career and the state of radio`s future.
Why did you choose a career in radio?
I was singing with a band for two years, but my voice started cracking and they kicked me out. I was 14 years old at the time. A friend, John Madiedo, told me WALT radio station was having a “contest” and if you won, you could be a disc jockey on weekends. I went to the station for the so-called “contest,” which turned out to be an audition for a weekend slot. I didn’t get the job. I was pitted against a bunch of 20- and 21-year old guys with experience. I saw the guy on the air working in an air-conditioned room – we didn’t have AC at my house growing up. He had 10 phones loaded with young ladies calling in requests, AND there was no heavy lifting: BINGO! I found what I wanted to do for life. I hung around the station and Paige Kinsey, one of their weekend guys, gave me “hi time” and instructed me on how to run the board [controls] and how to ready commercials. He would tape me after the station went off the air and allowed me the chance to learn. Before long, I became one of their high school correspondents [Jesuit High], and from there to a weekend slot. The rest is history. Here I am 53 years later.
What’s been your most significant radio accomplishment?
In 1986 I was awarded the Toastmasters International Communicator of the Year. I took a nun, Sister Rosalie, as my date that night to receive the award. She inspired me to be a public speaker when I was going to school at St Joseph’s. She forced me to give five-minute speeches, while others were only given a two-minute assignment. I owe everything to her!
Who was the craziest celebrity you ever interviewed? What did he/she do that was so memorable?
National Football League bad boy John Matuzak, who is now deceased but was 6’8” and 275 pounds, showed up at the radio station with a girl whom my mom used to babysit. Her name was Eileen, but she was going by Candy then. When he found out we knew each other he got jealous and threatened to kick my ass. Because of the massive amounts of steroids he was taking, he thought she was an ex-girlfriend of mine. We went to commercial break for eight minutes before the situation was settled. WOW, that was a close one!
Has social media changed radio?
We at the station are doing a great job with social media. It has become the focus of what we do; the on- air stuff is secondary nowadays. Our streaming numbers are through the roof and we utilize the Internet as much as possible. We have adapted rather well and use Twitter and Facebook a lot to promote the show and other interests that I have.
Where do you see radio in 20 years?
I think radio is shrinking in influence. Young kids don’t rely on the radio to determine what is hip – they get that from social media and other sources. They download their music from the Internet; they don’t sit around waiting for the same seven songs to be played every 63 minutes. Radio is a compacting business, not expanding. When Rush Limbaugh is heard on 600-plus radio stations, it means he’s put 600-plus announcers out of work. Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, etc. – do the math, that’s a lot of announcers replaced by syndication. On the music end, there are voice-over DJs. One guy gets off the air, goes into another studio and does voice tracking for four or five other stations across the country. There goes another four or five jobs. Not a good sign for the future if you are starting out in the biz.
What is your advice for young people entering the industry?
I tell them not to get in the business. Why? It’s like pro athletes. Only a handful of the many who try are going to make it. Go to school. Earn a degree in a profitable field with a future. I warned my son Lee eight years ago NOT to get into the biz. He didn’t listen. Here he is eight years later, still working part-time, with little chance of promotion. He is reconsidering his career choice right now. Go to school or learn a trade, but broadcasting is not one of those fields I would recommend to anyone.

Silhouettes presents Copeland Moré

By: Tiffany Razzano

Originally appeared in the July 15, 2016 edition of La Gaceta Newspaper

It’s not often that a business survives 100 years. It’s even less likely that a company with such vast history will remain in the hands of a single family the entire time.
This is part of what makes the story of Ybor City’s La Segunda Bakery, which celebrated its centennial anniversary last year, so amazing.
“I’ve read about this. I’ve heard that the third generation is the one that usually fails,” said Copeland Moré, the fourth-generation owner of the bakery known for its authentic Cuban bread. “So I have to give a lot of credit to my dad, [Tony,] and his cousin, [Raymond.] They were really just hard workers. There’s really no other way to put it.”
Copeland said the driving force that has kept the family bakery in business is a shared passion for the bread that has continued from generation to generation. Even today, his father, who is now 74 and co-owns La Segunda, comes into work every morning and often puts in a full work day. “He loves it. He doesn’t ever want to retire. He doesn’t want to just go home and lay around, just sit there,” Copeland said. “He wants to stay active and be involved in the business.”
Copeland added, “And there’s part of that in me too. I love it. I love talking about it. That’s how the business carries on and becomes a family legacy.”
La Segunda was founded by Copeland’s great-grandfather, Juan Moré. Hailing from Spain’s Catalan region, he traveled to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War in the late 19th century. This was where he fell in love with authentic Cuban bread and learned how to make it himself.
After the war, like many others, he was drawn to Ybor City during its cigar boom, with one goal in mind: opening a bakery. At the onset of World War I, he joined a small baking cooperative that opened three bakeries: La Primera, La Segunda and La Tercera. When the other two folded, Juan purchased La Segunda in 1915. He made a name for himself supplying local restaurants, such as the Columbia, with bread, and residents of the district knew La Segunda was where they could purchase authentic Cuban bread.
Over the years, the business passed on to other family members, first to Copeland’s grandfather, and then to his father and his father’s cousin. It was Tony and Raymond who started the company’s wholesale operations in the mid-1990s.
The Columbia Restaurant Group began making its wholesale food purchases through food distributor Sysco. When the Columbia made the change, they told Sysco: “We need La Segunda bread.” So Tony and Raymond figured out a way to freeze and ship the bread, which opened up opportunities to get their product to new customers.
Meanwhile, Copeland, who worked in the bakery as a child and teenager, doing everything from delivering bread to packing cookie boxes, never thought he’d enter the family business. “I grew up in the bakery,” he said. “It was always a big part of our family … But I never thought I’d run it one day.”
His father never pressured him to feel like he had to enter the family business and instead encouraged Copeland to pursue his own interests. His father had a PhD in chemistry, teaching for a while and even had an offer with a chemical company. But his father felt compelled to take over La Segunda. “It was a business that I don’t think my dad really wanted me to be exposed to,” Copeland said. “He was there long hours. We are open 24 hours a day.”
After graduating from Berkeley Preparatory School, Copeland headed to Ohio, where he studied business at Miami University. He returned to Tampa and began working at his friend’s company, Franklin Street Financial, a real estate financing company. Then the real estate bubble burst in 2008. The company hung out – and today is doing well, Copeland said – but he began to rethink what he wanted to do for a living.
At the time, Raymond was ready to retire from La Segunda. So Copeland decided to step up and become co-owner of the family business. “The opportunity happened really organically,” he said. “I weighed all the options, looked at the numbers, met with everyone and made a decision. It was a big opportunity. I felt we had a great brand and a great product.”
He also saw the chance to modernize the company, a bit, while retaining its old-world charm that is such a draw for customers. The first thing he did was build a website for La Segunda.
Next, the father-son team looked to rebrand the company. “If you say ‘La Segunda’ to people, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, great bread,’ but they don’t come here,” Copeland said. “They know our bread from the Columbia and other local restaurants.”
There had always been a large divide between La Segunda’s wholesale business and its café business, where they sold bread, sandwiches, pastries and coffee. So they looked to improve the café side of the business. “It was just about rebranding it a little bit so people were aware of it being a destination and show them that it’s a different concept than Panera Bread or wherever else you might get a sandwich,” Copeland said.
They renovated the building, making it more trendy and appealing, while still offering an old-school feel of a century-old business. “I feel the most important part of marketing is making sure the internal stuff looks good and is functioning,” he said.
He also brought in a digital register, allowing the café to accept credit cards for the first time. He also focused on customer service. “We wanted people to come in and feel like they’re part of the family and also get served quickly,” he said. While the café doesn’t offer seating, “we want people to come in and out fast without being rushed. We want families to see what an old-world bakery is like and take their time. But once they make their decision, we get them out fast.”
Café sales improved drastically with the changes. Though wholesale sales still make up the bulk of La Segunda’s business – wholesale accounts for 75 percent of all business for the bakery – café sales tripled, Copeland said.
He also brought a pair of fresh eyes to the wholesale end of the business. His father and cousin had done a great deal to grow that side of the company. But as La Segunda began to provide bread to national chains – World of Beer, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Larry’s Giant Subs – Copeland saw an opportunity. “We market towards the markets that already have distribution established” thanks to these chains, he said. “We have sales reps that really hammer those markets and work on expanding our distribution.”
Today, La Segunda Cuban bread is used by restaurants from Seattle to Texas and throughout the East Coast, he added. As the Cuban sandwich gains popularity throughout the country, more and more restaurants are offering it on their menu. “But they put it on hoagie bread of Italian bread because they don’t know any better,” Copeland said. “They don’t know that they can get handmade Ybor City bread. Now we can get it to them.”
Despite the growth and changes, La Segunda retains its family feel, Copeland said. Many employees have worked for the bakery for decades. Sheila, who works up front, has been with the company for 44 years. Many of the master bakers have worked for the bakery for 20 or 30 years. “We’re fortunate a lot of the staff has stayed with us,” Copeland said. “Making Cuban bread way we make it is difficult. There’s no air conditioning in the back of bakery. So they’re really at the mercy of the elements and the weather. Being able to adjust and know this flour is different from that flour and today there’s more humidity and it’s hotter out and making all those adjustments takes years and years of experience of working with the dough and touching the dough. Without those guys there wouldn’t be Cuban bread the way people taste it.”
Copeland has also become involved with the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. In May, he was inducted as chair of the chamber board. He started out as a board member five years ago, before becoming treasurer and then incoming chair.
He has a big year planned for the chamber. He plans to create a small business council, which would offer resources and information to small business owners. “I feel like what a chamber should be to a district is to really help small businesses and I think it’s something we’ve lost focus on a little bit over the years,” he said.
He added, “Big businesses move in and the government gives them tax incentives, and this and that, and small businesses don’t really get anything. We want to help them get into business and stay successful.”
The chamber will also rebrand some of its seminal events to make them more family friendly. “We want Ybor City to be thought of as family friendly and not just night clubs and bars and a part district,” Copeland said. “There’s a lot of history here and people should know about it.”
He added, “It’s an important organization for me and our family, so I definitely want to give back. It’s important to give back to the district that has done so much for us over the years.”

Silhouettes profiles Joan Rixom

Silhouettes
By: William March

Printed May 29, 2015

England, says Joan Rixom, “is a small island.”
When she was growing up in Newcastle, a mining and shipbuilding town in the northeast of England, the island seemed to offer limited opportunity for young people.
Elderly people and neglected kids in Tampa can be grateful she felt that way.
It’s the reason Rixom ended up in Tampa, where she has become one of the foremost workers in two crucial programs that depend solely on volunteers to help some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Rixom has put her career skills as a nurse and nurse educator to work as a “long-term care ombudsman,” one of a corps of volunteers who check to make sure nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are taking proper care of their residents.
Without them, many nursing home residents who lack attentive family members would have no independent person checking on their welfare.
She’s also a volunteer in the state guardian ad litem program, which provides court advocates for children who are under state supervision because of family abuse or neglect.
The guardians are needed because in a typical case involving child abuse, neglect, foster care or state custody, the state agency and the parents may have lawyers, but there’s no one in the legal system whose sole job is to speak for the welfare of the child.
Last month, the state Department of Elder Affairs announced that after eight years in the long-term care program, Rixom had been named Ombudsman of the Year.
“All should admire her stamina and commitment to others,” said Lynn Penley, manager of the program for West Central Florida.
Rixom, 77, and her husband Roger live part time in Apollo Beach and part time in one of several houses they’ve renovated in Ybor City. Both are retired after long careers.
Today, she devotes around 20 hours a week to her demanding volunteer tasks, which involve a lot of driving, walking and working with bureaucrats, at an age when most people think mostly about taking it easy.
She doesn’t seem eager to talk about her motivations or feelings about the work.
When she retired, she said, she realized that if she weren’t volunteering, “I’d have to do housework.”
“I’m not good at it, and I don’t like doing things I’m not good at.”
But in a conversation in their tiny 5th Avenue house, both speaking in accents from their native England, Roger is a bit more forthcoming.
“She’s always been a carekeeper of some kind, from when she was growing up with a younger sibling to raising children to being a nurse,” he said.
“I feel immense pride in what she’s done, but I’m not surprised.”
Rixom was born just before the outbreak of World War II, to a father who was a blue-collar worker in Newcastle’s mining and shipbuilding industries and a mother who worked occasionally as a maid.
Like many English children, she didn’t see much of her father until the war was over – he was in the army, mostly in Europe. She started helping take care of her younger brother at an early age.
She knew from early in life that she would be a nurse.
“I don’t remember ever giving a thought to why or how,” she said. “I just knew it was what I wanted. I was one of the lucky ones who knew what I wanted to do.”
She got married young, at least by today’s standards, and not long after she started her nursing career in England, she and her husband moved to Toronto, where he found better job opportunities.
They ended up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where she trained for a specialty as an intensive care nurse, and then moved into nursing education. Eventually she became director of a three-year “diploma program” for training nurses, now phased out and replaced by bachelor’s degree programs.
She and her husband then moved to Atlanta, where she headed a hospital’s continuing-education department for nurses.
That’s also where her first marriage ended, and she met Roger, another émigré Brit and a member of a circle of friends with connections to the old country.
He had had an even more cosmopolitan career, working for the chemical company Unilever in Liverpool, South Africa and Germany.
He’s the same age as the world’s most famous Liverpudlian, as they’re called, Paul McCartney.
“No, I never met him,” he says without being asked when a reporter mentions the Beatles, and managed to miss to grow up without ever even hearing the Beatles play in their hometown – it’s a big town.
Joan and Roger have now been married for 28 years, have five children from their previous marriages and a dozen grandkids – “a wonderful blended family” who all enjoy each other’s company, she said.
Her ombudsman work involves visiting facilities where her clients live to check on complaints by residents or their families. Her caseload includes 15 local facilities.
As a guardian ad litem, she handles the cases of six children.
As a veteran and unusually skilled volunteer, she’s also a field trainer for other new volunteers.
“We find out if the residents are satisfied with the care they’re getting, that they’re being treated well, they’re in a secure area, they’re happy with the meals they get,” she said.
The complaints often involve cleanliness, lack of privacy, food or finances. Ombudsmen also check on such issues as discharges and evictions and medication administration.
In some cases, an ombudsman must get permission from the state to initiate an investigation, which can involve questioning staff and checking records. It’s not like a law enforcement investigation – ombudsmen don’t have subpoena power and depend on cooperation from the administration of the home.
“We try to work cooperatively with the administration,” she said. “For the most part they work cooperatively because they also want their residents to be happy.”
In rare cases – it’s happened to Rixom only once in eight years – when the ombudsman doesn’t get the necessary cooperation or results, they can refer the matter to the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which regulates and licenses long-term care facilities with the force of law.
The ombudsman program is run by the state Department of Elder Affairs, which recognized Rixom as ombudsman of the year.
According to its figures, there are 321 volunteers statewide in the program, who completed 6,077 facility assessments, traveling more than 360,000 miles to do so, and worked an estimated 91,790 unpaid hours.
If that sounds like a lot, there are 679 nursing homes in Florida with 83,129 beds and about 73,000 residents, plus 3,042 licensed assisted living facilities with 85,000 beds, according to the Florida Health Care Association, a trade group.
Nearly 60 percent of those residents don’t receive visits from family members and friends, according to the Department of Elder Affairs web site.
“It’s shocking,” Rixom said. “It’s like they were dumped.”
The need for more volunteers, she said, is always pressing – “People burn out, or move away.”
She got into the work, she said, because, “We saw an advert.”
“I tried it and liked it. I could use my background. It’s very rewarding.
The need for volunteers is so great, and the rewards so satisfying, that retiree volunteers like Rixom tend to want to remain in the job for a long time.
Occasionally, a volunteer will try to work too long, she said, and the director of the program will have to “ease them out.”
How long does she want to remain?
“That’s a good question,” she responded. “The best answer is, as long as I’m capable of doing a good job. I want somebody to tell me if I’m not.”
Rixom discusses her work professionally, giving concise, direct answers to questions. Even at 77, she’s clearly a long way from being eased out.
“That’s why I usually don’t discuss my age.”

Silhouettes profile of Father Carlos Rojas

Silhouettes (Originally published May 1, 2015)
by: Tiffany Razzano

Father Carlos Rojas

In his late teens, Father Carlos Rojas found divine inspiration in the most unlikely place: the movie “Braveheart.”

More specifically, this inspiration originated from the film’s tagline: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” Every time he glanced at the DVD box, the words seemed to jump off the packaging to speak directly to him.

“This was really the start of my own personal, spiritual journey,” said Rojas, now 38. “I was living in this world, but I was longing for something more. I was looking for something that would help me feel less empty and wanting more.”

The phrase didn’t leave his mind and forced him to think about his own path.

“I wanted to do something I could do the rest of my life and not just make money, but be happy and fulfilled with it,” he said. “Because of that movie I kept asking myself, what’s going to be that thing that I do with the rest of my life so that I live life to the fullest? Little by little, I landed on priesthood.”

He’d grown up in a Catholic household in Puerto Rico. His father was a deacon at their church and he attended Mass on a regular basis.

“So I was raised in a Catholic environment,” he said. “It was very sheltered in many ways.”

At 15, his family relocated to Tampa and he was enrolled at Chamberlain High School. This was an eye-opening experience for Rojas.

“I came to the United States from this little island and things were huge to me,” he said. “I was learning about different cultures and people for the first time.”

He graduated from high school in the mid-1990s and attended the University of South Florida.
But he was uncertain about what he wanted to do with this life, and switched majors several times.

He loved the social aspect of college though. He joined the fraternity Sigma Lambda Beta, becoming president of the group, and also became involved with student government on campus.

In the evenings he taught Latin dance in Ybor City, merengue and salsa, enjoying the nightlife as many of the local college students do.

During college, Rojas also rarely went to Mass. “If I went five times that would be a lot,” he said.

He added, “It’s not the typical setting for a guy who was called to priesthood. But it was during my college years that I felt the Lord calling me. Through his gentle persistence, he eventually reached me.”

In 1998, he began attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.

“I felt the calling,” he said.

There he finished his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Because of the credits he’d already accrued at USF, he could have finished the degree in just under two years. But he enjoyed the environment so much that he dragged it out an extra year to write a 50-page thesis about Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.”

It wasn’t all about academics for him, the pull was about spiritual fellowship as well.

“It’s a place where men come together wanting to learn how to serve God,” Rojas said.

From there he headed to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. There he earned two masters degrees, one in divinity, the other in the arts.

On May 20, 2006, he was ordained a priest.

His first assignment was to St. Clement Catholic Church in Plant City. Its members were predominantly Mexican migrant farm workers.

“It was a whole different world,” he said. “I learned about their life and the injustices they suffer.” He even spent two weeks living in a migrant camp.

“I tried to pick strawberries,” Rojas said. “I lasted 35 minutes. I’m pretty athletic and I don’t know how they do it. I guess they do it out of the love they have for their families and their willingness to make sacrifices for them.”

He remained at St. Clement for four years. During that time, he helped to transform the church’s annual celebration of the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe into a large-scale community event.

He was instrumental in moving the festival from the church to the Plant City Stadium, where they held a 5 a.m. mass on the feast day, Dec. 12, with a full mariachi band, and also brought in vendors and carnival rides.

Nearly 5,000 people attended the event that first year.

“It had a pretty powerful impact on the people,” Rojas said.

He spent a year at Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O’Lakes before being called up to serve Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, the largest church in the diocese, where he spent two years.

From there, he was abruptly called up to serve the migrant community again, this time at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Wimauma.

He was brought in not long after the pastor, who had previously served the church, was injured in a Sun City bicycling accident.

“He went flying over the handles,” Rojas said. “He hit the concrete head first. It was a mess.”

The priest survived, which Rojas “attribute[s] to the prayers of the people. But he was in no position to lead the mission and do the work a pastor needs to do.”

So Rojas took over the church leadership. During the Lenten season, he led a campaign where parishioners spruced up the church – painting the building, installing new signage, planting flowers and foliage.

“It looks so beautiful now,” he said. “It was quite the masterpiece.”

By then, he’d become known as “the troubleshooter of the diocese.”

So one year ago, he was called in to lead St. Joseph Catholic Church in West Tampa.

Rojas had his work cut out for him. He was called to take over for Father Vladimir Dziadek, who hanged himself last May after being confronted about embezzling church funds.

It would be a tough job. “To be a parish and to have gone through the scandals and challenges they have gone through, of course their spirit was broken,” he said.

He organized a similar program to the one he spearheaded in Wimauma and rallied parishioners during the Lenten season to clean up the church grounds.

But he looked for other ways to bring the parish community together. From the beginning, he noted the diverse cultures represented at St. Joseph. When a group asked to celebrate the feast day for Our Lady Madonna de la Rocha – the patron saint of Italians, he agreed.

Rojas added, “It was a hit. It was just amazing. There were a lot of Italians who hadn’t been to church in a long time who came out to church that day.”

It snowballed from there.

Since then, aside from the Easter season and the Feast of St. Joseph, each month the church has recognized a feast day celebrated by a different cultural or ethnic group – Cubans, Guatemalans, Puerto Ricans.

Even during its annual March Feast, these different groups set up booths serving their native foods and celebrating their cultures.

“We have a place where cultures and religion are celebrated and supported,” Rojas said. “[The March carnival] highlighted not just the beauty of each culture, but our unity as a community.”
On July 19, the Colombian culture will be celebrated at the 11:30 a.m. Spanish Mass. Costa Ricans will celebrate their patron saint on Aug. 2, while Bolivians get center stage on Aug. 3.

Incredibly, because of this, he’s watched his parishioners rally together to overcome “their grief, sorrow and pain.”

“We’re good,” Rojas said. “We’re moving forward. Christ has not abandoned us.”