Paul Congemi's 'Go Back to Africa' rant goes viral after St. Pete mayoral forum
ST. PETERSBURG — Mayoral candidate Paul Congemi has made national news for a racial tirade at Tuesday’s mayoral forum when he told supporters of International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement-affiliated candidate Jesse Nevel to “go back to Africa.”
In the midst of a question about opportunities for youth in the city, Congemi veered off topic in a bizarre way:
“Mr. Nevel, you and your people, you talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations," Congemi said. "Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama.”
The large contingent of Nevel’s supporters erupted in disbelief and outrage. “Get out of here!” a woman shouted repeatedly.
Congemi didn't stop there: “My advice to you, my advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour. Go back to Africa, go back to Africa.”
His comments were directed at Nevel, who is white. He is the national chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, a group that organizes white support for black-led community social justice. It is an organization that works with the main Uhuru organization, which has many African-American members, including founder and activist Omali Yeshitela.
As his comments reverberated around the internet on Wednesday, Congemi, who usually favors handwritten letters, emailed the following statement to the Tampa Bay Times.
“I must comment on the remarks I said last night ... Yes: I did tell those people to go back to Africa," Congemi wrote. "My remark was meant for the group Mr. Nevel represents. Not all African Americans. Just those that Nevel represents."
After Congemi’s outburst, Nevel dismissed him as a “non-factor.” Former Mayor Rick Baker later rebuked Congemi. Mayor Rick Kriseman didn't say anything at the forum. On Wednesday, the mayor said he regretted not confronting Congemi for his "bigoted rhetoric."
Nevel plans to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday to criticize Kriseman for remaining silent at the forum.
Congemi wasn’t done with his attacks. He also assailed Kriseman for his support of the LGBT community.
“I will never endorse sin,” Congemi said.
This is the 60-year-old Congemi’s third run for mayor. His previous runs netted a few hundred votes. Over the years, he has referred to himself as a retired builder; a homeless advocate; a singer-songwriter; the founder of his own political party with 105,000 members; and, most recently, as a “constellation.”
Congemi berated the Times for not running a photo of himself that he provided on behalf of his mayoral campaign: It showed his disembodied head surrounded by stars.
Congemi said at Tuesday’s forum that he wants to hold the record for the most bids for mayor in St. Petersburg history before he dies.