USF students host picnic for Syrian refugees

Students Organize for Syria (SOS) hosted a picnic for refugee children and families to kick off the sunny April weather. The University of South Florida organization used to focus on advocating awareness and activism about Syria, but when many Syrian refugees came to Florida, the group shifted to catering to their needs.

“This year, we focus most on integrating the refugee families that are in Tampa into our communities,” said Nour Shahout, president of the USF organization.

SOS often collaborates with Radiant Hands, a local help agency that focuses on women and children empowerment. The organization is centered on immediate help as well as providing long-term sustainability and self-sufficiency programs for those who reach out to them.

The volunteers tutor students in a center from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Earlier in 2018, they added an additional location to accommodate elementary students too. There are  now students from first through 10th grade.

The picnic was a way for the tutors to interact with the children without being in a classroom setting. They also wanted to introduce them to new field games.

“At the picnic, we played games. Growing up in the United States, we’re very familiar to them,” said Shahout. “But for refugees that are coming from Syria, they’re not familiar with the three-legged race, hula hoop chain or sponge relay.”

Most of the families do not have transportation, so many of the volunteers drove them to the event, which was held at Riverfront Park. Because transportation is difficult, organizers said it’s hard to have all the children socialize together at the same time. Events like this take SOS weeks to plan and coordinate.

“It’s very rewarding, and you can just tell the kids are very grateful and very happy to see that there’s people, there’s a group of young people that really care and are willing to help them,” Shahout said. “When we go out, either if we’re going to drop something off at their house, or we’re you know tutoring them we have more of a personal relationship with them.”

The children got to let out a lot of their energy with students they see as mentors and role models.

“Most of us are college students, so we can relate to them, we are like their friends,” Shahout said. “We treat them like our younger siblings. They feel loved, they feel cared, and they feel like they want to excel and do their best.”

Another board member, Nour Bitar, was pleased with the turnout.

“It was a ton of fun for everybody,” said Bitar. “It’s just so satisfying when in the end of the day, you go and ask these kids ‘was there anything we lacked or need to improve on?’ And they give you a big smile and they say no it was so fun it was perfect thank you guys so much for doing this. That smile just keeps you going, recharges your battery, and makes you want to put in more work and never stop helping these people.”

3 places to visit on Tampa’s Riverwalk

Tampa’s Riverwalk now features three activities, all within steps from one another.

These activities include the family friendly Tampa Water Works Park, the repurposed fire station now restaurant Armature Works, and the Native American themed restaurant Ulele’s.

Kathy Slough, a resident of Atlanta, makes an annual trip to Tampa and  ensures the Riverwalk is always part of her trip.

“A group of us – we’ve been doing this trip for about 12 years. ” said Slough.

Many people like Slough enjoy spending time walking along the waterfront sidewalk. The air is filled with chirping birds , laughing children, and exciting  music.

“This, this is part of my lifestyle, it’s beautiful here,” Slough said. “We got the waterway, we got the public market, Ulele’s.”

Bikers can ride along the Hillsborough River and secure their bikes  at several bike racks along route. There are several docks next to the railings where people can park their boats or board the private water taxi that provides tours along the river for purchase.

Tampa Water Works Park is located along the Riverfront. Children may wear swimsuits and play inside a  gated splash zone. If children do not want to get wet, they can enjoy the nearby playground located next to the water activities. The pavilion is great for hosting parties, as the large grassy area is perfect for picnics.

People now have access to the new  Native American restaurant from the Riverwalk  by crossing a small bridge. The restaurant is named Ulele after a Native American princess. The restaurant cooks Native American inspired foods like the Native Sauté, Native Chili and Mahi Trevino. This resturant shares its name , Ulele, with one of  Tampa’s water springs.

Next to the Riverwalk area stands the repurposed fire station, that has been converted into a  series of restaurants all under the property name Armature Works. The restaurants combined  offer a  large variety of foods, from barbecue to Acai bowls. The current restaurants inside the station include: Astro Ice Cream, Butcher N Barbecue, Graze, Inside the Box, Union, Zukku, SwamiJuice, Hemingway’s, Cru Cellars, Ava, Cocktail Emporium, Imoto, and Surf and Turf. The Property  plans to add more variety to its current offerings in the near future.

In addition to restaurants  Armature Works includes a  fresh foods market, Heights Public Market and retail store AW Mercantile. The market offers guests the option to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the week. AW Mercantile is a retail shop that offers items that fall under the theme “rustic chic”. The shop is gaining popularity on social media with the hashtags “ #HPM” and “#armatureworks.”

All the shops  inside Armature Works have social media profiles, encouraging customers to share pictures of their experiences.

Couches, chairs and stools are available inside all restaurants at Armature Works for seating. There are benches, chairs and umbrellas in front of the building as well. The location also offers  life-sized chess and checker boards for family amusement. The area is also very pet-friendly and almost always A musician can be found nearby strumming tunes.

Armature Works is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. It opens an hour later at 8a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Museum in St. Petersburg honors black excellence

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum is an excellent place to learn about the Father of Black History Month, as well as the African-American culture in the Bay area.

“We here at the Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum take delight in not only preserving, presenting but interpreting African American history,” said Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the museum. “We celebrate the contributions of those past, but more importantly those of our community of current.”

The museum features bits of information about Woodson, but a fact not in the museum is that Woodson was selected as the doodle for Google.

Scott continued by saying, “His popularity is growing, particularly with this generation.”

“It wasn’t until 1976 that we begin celebrating Black History Month as a result of him introducing in 1926, the study of Negro History Week,” Scott said.

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum is the only museum in St.Petersburg dedicated to African-American history.

According to Scott, what makes this museum different than others is its prime location.

“We’re the only museum that does not sit on sit on the pristine waterfront, but that’s nestled in a community where the rich history was in fact cultivated,” Scott said.

The museum is free to the public, but the staff kindly accepts donations.

“We take pride in being able to showcase the talented work of so many artists throughout the Bay area and beyond,” Scott said.

“The Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Museum, in fact, hosts every six to eight weeks a new exhibit. Because of the limited space that we have here,” Scott continued, “We are prideful in order to just showcase the talented art of African American artists who have never been seen or shown anywhere else, locally, nationally, or internationally and beyond.”

Many art pieces do not get the opportunity to be showcased and are often stored away in garages. The museum provides a forum for artists to get a chance to display their art.

On Feb. 1, St. Petersburg’s City Hall held a flag ceremony honoring the Woodson flag. The flag was raised at 10 a.m., marking the beginning of Black History Month. Across the nation, the city of St. Petersburg is the only place that raises the Woodson flag on a government entity.

The museum also hosts a number of activities, such as book clubs and piano lessons.

“We’re the home of the One City Chorus,” Scott said, “Who practice here every week, and they sing songs of the Civil Rights Movement.”

In addition to the One City Chorus, the museum partners with The Florida Orchestra. Once a month, from January through April, the museum hosts one of their segments.

Previously, the grounds of the museum were the Jordan Park community. In the early 2000s, the space was renovated. Behind the museum is a Legacy Garden. It features bricks with donors’ names on them. The garden is an ongoing fundraiser for the museum.

Scott is, “Delighted that folks are embracing not only the culture of African American history, but looking back, and recognizing and in fact celebrating the individual who in fact brought it to the forefront.”