Meeting with Sky is usually all business—quick greeting, settling in our seats, then laptops and planners out. Sky is dedicated to doing the work, the work of building community, the work of showcasing our community’s best and brightest, but she also represents so much about what I’ve come to love about Tampa: there’s the business, the day-to-day hustle that demands fortitude and flexibility, but there’s also the vibe, the lighthearted, easy-going chill that invites us all to find our own version of much-needed Black joy.
To capture the business and the vibe of Sky White, I interviewed her at a Starbucks in Riverview after our very official, extremely focused meeting about REVIVED Magazine’s update and after she’d finished her customary Strawberry Acai tea—no ice. I started the interview with a hunch that I would catch her off-guard and would accurately guess her zodiac sign. Sky is a Scorpio, her ferocity palpable but quiet. “I’ve learned to suppress it until it absolutely has to come out,” she said with a slight smile.
Some of the interview was rapid fire, the Tampa-native answered questions quick and matter-of-factly.
What does Tampa mean to you?
Tampa is like the tale of two cities. There’s just so many different areas, with different levels of income, and different demographics. But I see Tampa as a city that has so much potential. Tampa could be the next Atlanta or Los Angeles, and I see it as very possible but we have to have leadership that sees that vision as well.
Describe Tampa in three words:
Diverse. Young. Unique.
What’s your favorite Tampa memory?
Going to MacDill’s Air Show. My father is an immigrant from Jamaica, but he is really obsessed with military things, like the movies—Top Gun and Crimson Tide—all that stuff. He’s really into it. I remember every year when I was younger, we would go to the air show at MacDill [Air Force Base].
If you could make anything about Tampa true with a snap of your fingers, what would it be?
I would make Tampa as equitable as it sometimes appears. We have prevalent race issues in Hillsborough County that get ignored under this guise of [celebrated] diversity.
It’s here that Sky took a pause. She thought through her answer, reflecting on her activism work to face the racial inequity in Hillsborough County head on. Sky was a major voice in the contentious 2017 debate over the removal of Memoria in Aeterna, a 106-year-old Confederate monument that stood outside the county court house in downtown Tampa. The monument has since been removed, but the fight got ugly. “It felt like we were back in the 70’s or in Mississippi where they burn crosses in your yard,” Sky said of the backlash she experienced. “Being listed in the white supremacist newspaper and getting death threats… I just didn’t expect that to happen here.”
That experience is at the core of her feelings about Hillsborough’s reluctance to engage in real action regarding racial inequity. And action is what drives Sky to create and develop solutions to the problems she sees in Tampa.
Sky started REVIVED Magazine shortly after founding Reborn Tampa, a nonprofit that provides tutoring, back-to-school drives, and community-based workshops to empower the Black community. She said of starting the organization and the magazine that she was “tired of negative pictures of the urban community. And I’m not going to keep begging someone to do something for our community when I can do it myself.” With our attention turned to magazine, that quick-fire focus returned.
What’s the easiest part of running REVIVED?
There are a lot of talented Black people here in Tampa. Finding something to write about is never hard.
If you could snap your fingers and make anything true about REVIVED Magazine, what would it be:
I’d make us a full-fledged multi-media company doing everything, finding any way we can provide positive media for Black people, that’s what I want REVIVED to be.
Who is REVIVED writing for? Who is the magazine writing to?
Our team is writing for anyone looking for positive stories—the Black community specifically because there’s so much negative coverage, even from some Black-owned media.
Why does Tampa need a magazine like REVIVED?
We have a growing population of millennials who grew up always hearing bad news, and we know how biased the media can be. Representation matters, and there are young Black men and women with thriving businesses and contributions to the community that we never hear about, positive things that reflect us as a community. It’s like if we don’t see it or hear it, it didn’t happen. But it is happening. All the time.
Talking about the magazine gets Sky excited, but she maintains an air of coolness that bodes well for career goals, which includes politics. Sky is running for a Hillsborough County Commissioner seat as an individual in District 3. She is no stranger to the challenges of a political campaign. Sky ran an impressive campaign last year, commanding 20% of the vote with what she called “the least amount of money in the history of campaigns.” She is clear and confident in her platform, citing a dedication to equitable housing, improved transportation—particularly making roads safer for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles, and sustainability. With an exaggerated mock-shiver, she said, “I’m a democratic socialist… oooooh.” A slight smile showed itself again, and she talked about how her experiences with the Democratic Socialists of America, the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus, NAACP, REBORN Tampa, and Florida Restoration of Rights Coalition is the foundation of her community activism and passion for advocacy.
What’s your biggest challenge in running for office?
My age. Everyone I talk to says, “you’re so young. Why don’t you wait another eight years?” Everyone wants me to wait. I don’t want to wait. We can’t wait. We’re tired of waiting.
What was it like running a magazine while running for office, and are you ready to do that again?
It was extremely difficult. Running for office was like a second full-time job. I’m a mother. I would wake up, do my motherly duties, go to work, come home from work, if I could come right home after work. My son would be with his grandparents. I’d campaign a lot after work. Pick my son up. Make sure he did his homework. Then, it’s like ten o’clock, and now I’m doing my entrepreneurial work with the magazine. I’d usually be to bed after midnight, just to get up and do it all again. And this was seven-days-a-week. But, it is doable. I just did what Black women always do: we make it happen.
Sky White continues to do just that: make it happen. With REVIVED Magazine’s new format, new business and computer partnerships, and new ways to access content combined with Sky’s dedication to real community change through her political run and real-time activism, Sky is showing no signs of slowing down.
QUICK SKY WHITE FUN FACTS:
Drums of flats: Both.
Favorite Color: Lavender
Favorite Movie: Panther (1995). Everyone needs to see it.
Coffee or Tea? Morning coffee, and afternoon tea.
Most inspired by: Fannie Lou Hamer, Angela Davis, and my mother.
Surprising Fact: I played the tuba in high school. I was 98 lbs, so I would always have to get help putting on the sousaphone.
If you could send a text to everyone on the planet what would it say: You are worthy.