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Q&A with NAACP president Ray Tampa in St. Petersburg

Ray Tampa takes a moment at his Kizmet Old School Cafe. He readily answered questions on education, leadership, crime and the future.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR | Special to the Times

Ray Tampa takes a moment at his Kizmet Old School Cafe. He readily answered questions on education, leadership, crime and the future.


Since taking the helm of the NAACP's St. Petersburg branch, Ray Tampa has made strides to pull government, education and community leaders together to address civil rights issues. The St. Petersburg native has pointed opinions about city leadership, crime and education.

A retired Lakewood Elementary school principal and lifelong educator, Tampa's also is a business owner. Relaxing at his Kizmet Old School Cafe at 1101 First Ave. N, he sat down for questions with the St. Petersburg Times.

"I have an answer for every question you can ask," he confidently asserted.

What's the meaning of life?

Okay (laughs). Something to enjoy to the fullest each and every day, each and every moment. Life has no meaning if you're not enjoying it. See how fast that came out?

Let's imagine your term as president is over two years from now. What have you accomplished?

My goals are to grow the membership to 3,000 and to leave the organization on firm financial footing, to have the organization operating more efficiently and more effectively.

What needs to be done to close the achievement gap?

We need a School Board and a school administration that is willing to work with all segments of the community to develop effective strategies.

1. Get the parents to understand the importance of closing the gap.

2. Get educators trained with the skills to instruct all the kids.

3. We need to develop incentives for kids to come to school prepared to learn.

Do you listen to any rappers? Do you feel you can connect to the younger generation without knowing what they listen to?

Generally, no. I feel I can connect with anybody. Having been a schoolteacher and administrator for 33 years, I've always had a knack for developing a rapport with the students. I've always been able to connect with young people.

What is your take on the St. Petersburg mayoral race?

My take on the mayoral race is I feel that we do have a competent group of candidates running for mayor. As the NAACP we can't and will not endorse a candidate. But personally, I have had conversations with all the candidates for mayor.

What does the next mayor need to do?

The next mayor needs to be a person who offers transparency. He or she needs to be inclusive. The next mayor has to understand all segments of our community, of our city and be willing to deliver services and support all segments of our community. The next mayor must be willing to hold his or her staff accountable for misdeeds.

Did the current mayor do that?

Maybe not in all instances. I don't feel he did. I don't want to get into specifics. I'd rather look forward than backward.

What are the three biggest issues affecting black households in the area?

The economy, huge. Crime, huge. And education. I would tend to suggest that most people would come up with those three categories, though maybe not in that order.

Has St. Petersburg police Chief Harmon been effective fighting crime in the black community?

Not as effective as we would like. There's still quite a few crimes going on. There are too many homicides unsolved. I'm not a criminologist or a police strategist. I think he might want to go back to community policing.

What's the biggest misconception of the NAACP in 2009?

The biggest is that the NAACP has lost its relevance as a result of the election of President Obama, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Austin Bogues can be reached at or (727) 893-8872.

Fast facts

Ray Tampa

President of the local NAACP, owner of Kizmet Old School Cafe and retired elementary school principal

Family: Wife, Shelia, three adult children

Age: 57

Q&A with NAACP president Ray Tampa in St. Petersburg 03/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 14, 2009 4:31am]
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