We recognize that some attendees may have concerns about their safety while onsite in Tampa and we are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive meeting both in person and on-demand online.
The city of Tampa Bay scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign LGBTQ+ Index for the fifth year in a row based on how inclusive their municipal laws, policies, and services are of LGBTQ+ residents and visitors. Jane Castor was the first openly gay person to be elected Mayor of Tampa in 2019, and subsequently won re-election in 2023. Tampa also ranks 17th out of the 228 cities most diverse cities in the US and is listed by Equality Florida as one of 40 “Safe Haven” communities in the state. Both the city of Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County have fully inclusive human rights ordinances on the books ensuring access to employment, housing and public accommodations regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
We will be working closely with our industry partners, to include the Convention Center, all AAA contracted hotels, and the shuttle provider to ensure our attendees experience a welcoming and safe environment. Attendees will be able to use the restroom that matches their gender identity. As a lessee of the Tampa Convention Center, AAA can request that restrooms be used as they specify. The Tampa Convention Center security detail maintains onsite 24/7 security which includes camera coverage overseeing all public areas, concourses, back of house areas, parking lots, and related exterior grounds.
AAA will do what it takes to enforce security procedures, including our Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault, and protect our members, staff, and other individuals from harassment, assault, and other misconduct while they are taking part in AAA-sponsored events and activities. Additional safety procedures include:
Enhanced security at the Meeting, including badge checking to prevent unregistered attendance.
A well-publicized reporting mechanism for those who feel unsafe at the event because of the presence of another attendee or an individual not associated with AAA.
Specially trained individuals, including AAA staff and ombudspersons, who will be easily identifiable by “Report Harassment” badges, along with a phone / text / email hotline distributed via email and posted on the 2024 Annual Meeting website prior to and during the meeting, and widely publicized on signage.
Safety & Security Ambassadors available to discreetly accompany attendees who feel unsafe to Meeting events at their request.
We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure attendees are as safe and secure as possible, and we commit to maintaining clear communication with members and meeting attendees about specifically how we will accomplish this.
The Executive Programming and Local Organizing committees are already working with LGBTQ+ and BIPOC organizations to arrange volunteer opportunities for attendees while they are in Tampa. In addition, a list of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC-owned businesses, restaurants, etc. will be provided for attendees to support. Specific details will be provided as soon as possible.
We can use our presence as a statement of support for vulnerable communities and our colleagues in Florida. According to a report recently released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), “Florida and other states following suit … know well that access to knowledge, free inquiry, and education that employs a critical lens to understanding our past and present injustices are among the biggest threats to their dreams of a nation built for uplifting only certain races or religions.”
“If you have Marxist professors leaving, that is a gain for the state of Florida.”
DeSantis press secretary Jeremy T. Redfern
All the more reason for us to show up and defy this reasoning by applying our anthropological scholarship through our sessions, activities, and participation with local organizations. When we show up, we can use our convening power and our community engagement resources to:
Be good allies
Constructively engage with local public health and safety authorities
Invest in the local community
Introduce the public schools to anthropology
Engage the local media about the relevance of our scholarship and practice
We sign contracts for annual meeting facilities 5-7 years in advance to get the best rates for our members. The Board chooses locations based on a range of factors including regional rotation for the sake of fairness, the availability of suitable facilities on the preferred dates, a strong preference for union-staffed facilities, the affordability for attendees and the Association, and the destination’s attractiveness. In addition to Tampa, future sites include New Orleans (2025), St. Louis (2026), and Portland (2027).
The contracts for the 2024 Annual Meeting with Tampa hotels and the Convention Center were authorized by the Board in 2017. In accordance with our bylaws, the Executive Board considered a motion, brought before them at the 2023 business meeting in Toronto, requesting the 2024 Annual Meeting not take place in Tampa.
The decision to move forward with the Annual Meeting was based first and foremost on our mission and values, which hold that anthropological scholarship can make a difference to solving human problems, and it was not by any means a decision we took lightly. We heard varying opinions and are well aware of the concerns about going to Florida, including the fear of people who are the targets of political activity and legislation being harmed physically and/or emotionally and, by attending the meeting, our supporting the state and its “slate of hate” policies. We also weighed the positive impact we could have by showing up and we heard from members working at Florida universities and colleges imploring us to come to Tampa, join them in their resistance, and make our voices heard collectively.
Comments from our colleagues on the front lines in Florida have been overall in favor of showing solidarity in Tampa. To view the full listing of comments, go here.
“I believe strongly in the power of boycotts, but the forces now running this state would not care at all if a comparatively small conference did not show up. They are taking on Disney, after all. Meanwhile, those of us on the ground fighting and those suffering the most direct effects of this 21st century social death will simply become more isolated than we already are.”
“I think we need the AAA in Tampa now more than ever. A silent protest (silent on the governor’s ears anyway) seems much less effective than having 6000 unwanted guests show up in Florida to call attention to these issues.”
“I think it’s important that we show up, be heard, and carry on with our business and scholarship as usual. Plus, there are plenty of people that will benefit from the conference being here.”
“Having a big annual meeting here is a big plus for our grad students, and likely will result in the largest ever number of presentations by us locals.”
The AAA cannot pull its money out of Florida as it is already contractually obligated to pay approximately $1.5 million to the Tampa Convention Center and surrounding hotels whether the meeting takes place or not. We have also estimated that the loss of Annual Meeting registration and overall member retention (as many members sign up specifically to take part in the Meeting) could mean an overall loss of over $3 million for the AAA, which represents 60% of our annual operating budget. The financial impact of a boycott would be devastating to the AAA but would not impact the Tampa Convention Center or corporate hotels that the AAA has binding contracts with.
There is the question of whether these advisories hurt the wrong people. Regarding the NAACP advisory, the Future of Black Tourism, Blacks in Travel & Tourism and the Black Travel Alliance issued a joint statement saying that while it was understood that Black people had to take a stand against DeSantis’ policies, warning Black people out of the state would hurt Black-owned businesses. “We believe there is a better way to make a statement to Governor DeSantis beyond a travel advisory petitioning African Americans and people of color to stay away from Florida,” the release said. “Small Black businesses and marginalized communities certainly should not be the sacrificial lamb.”
Tampa was such a perfect place for us to reset and restart our organization’s in-person conferences after being virtual for three years. And the Visit Tampa Bay staff was nothing short of tremendous in supporting our vision of what we wanted our attendees to experience. We received raving reviews for our conference!
Ralph Cleveland, American Association of Blacks in Energy President and CEO
Visit Tampa Bay has elevated tourism and the greatness of a meeting experience. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. is witnessing firsthand how the city is embracing diversity and inclusion with action. The fraternity feels honored and welcomed to bring the 86th Grand Chapter Meeting to Tampa Bay, Florida.
Laws are not reflective of an entire state or population. IGLTA will always stand with our members against boycotts, choosing to unite with the many destinations, tourism businesses, and individuals in Florida and beyond that celebrate equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is through these connections that we can create and maintain safe spaces for all travelers.
International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association
The travel advisory from Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign called out to “the devastating impacts of laws that are hostile to the LGBTQ community” but specifically does not call for a boycott of the state or a blanket recommendation against traveling to Florida. “If you come to Florida, join us in this fight,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director. “If you decide to leave or avoid the state, don’t abandon this fight. Florida is the frontline, but this is a national battle for freedom.”
Conduct research that generates credible evidence about the effectiveness of approaches to the protection of human rights.
Speak out on the principles and practices of justice and human rights – in your classrooms, on your campuses, in your writings.
Share your views in op-eds and other forms of writing that increase general public awareness.
Share your views with your state and national political representatives.
Organize scholarly exchanges with people holding diverse perspectives on the uses of anthropological research to effect policy change.
Review your own investment portfolios and retirement programs to assure that these investments reflect your decision about whether to invest in organizations associated with substantial operations in Florida.
Stay informed on the issues happening not only in Florida, but throughout the country.
* Stay tuned for more from the conference planning committees on how you can come to Tampa and help in person.