ST. PETERSBURG — At least nine local groups will unite for the YWCA's third annual "Stand Against Racism."
The local event, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday in the Legacy Garden at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, is dubbed "Standing Against Racism — Moving Toward Healing."
Coordinated by YWCA Tampa Bay, it is co-sponsored by the Council of Neighborhood Associations, People Advocating Change Together, Community Tampa Bay, the League of Women Voters, the Woodson Museum, the Pinellas County Urban League, St. Petersburg Healthy Start Federal Project and Pinellas Infant Mortality and the Racism Action Group, as part of the national YWCA's "Stand Against Racism" movement.
"The purpose is to end racism," said Gwendolyn Reese, who is coordinating the effort on behalf of the YWCA. "Our event is standing against racism and moving toward healing."
The session will feature a wide range of speakers who will offer their thoughts on racism and how to heal race relations in St. Petersburg.
Lenice Emanuel, CEO of YWCA Tampa Bay; the Rev. Manuel Sykes, president of the NAACP; and Louis Mohammad, student minister of Mosque 95, are just a few of the evening's presenters. The event will also include music and poetry readings, a diversity slide show and refreshments.
Terri Lipsey Scott, board president of the Woodson Museum, said she is excited to take part.
"We were asked to partner with the Y for this event, and we were delighted to do so," said Scott. "We understand the plight with regard to racism in our community, or any other 'ism' for that matter, and it is time for us to take a stand."
In light of recent events, "Standing Against Racism" has taken on extra weight, Reese said.
"This event has importance for St. Petersburg because of the police shootings and the firing of Goliath Davis. There are mixed feelings and mixed emotions in the community."
But another incident sparked calls for greater racial tolerance.
In October 2010, racially charged e-mails surfaced that had been written by some leaders of CONA in a private forum.
Since then, CONA has taken steps to ensure that the organization is more open and inclusive.
"We want to make sure to prevent anything like that from happening again. That is why we established the committee of diversity, which I am co-chairing," said Will Michaels, former CONA president.
"We need to ensure that the values that CONA has held for many years continue to be held."
Organizers see the event as a bridge to more unity in the community.
"The event is very important because of this tension," said Reese, who noted that the mayor will be on hand to present a proclamation. "It is an opportunity to come together and provide communication," she added.
"St. Petersburg is a diverse community, and it is important to recognize that everyone brings something to the city," he said.
"We recognize the value of diversity, that everyone has good ideas and that we must listen to each other to have a community that is truly seamless."
"Stand Against Racism" is a national event organized by the YWCA, with hundreds of thousands of citizens participating in the movement.
There are hundreds of sites across the country hosting private and public events to discuss healing racial issues in their local communities. Schools and other organizations, including the Infinite Potential Learning Center, the Yvonne Reed Christian School and Gibbs High School, will have separate events Friday in St. Petersburg.
"The event is held annually across the country, and this is the first year the Woodson Museum is involved," said Lipsey Scott. "It could not have come at a better time."
While Lipsey Scott is confident that the event will bring together residents with differing cultural experiences and outlooks, she said she hopes that everyone's point of view will be respected.
There is one point that is beyond debate, she said: "We will not tolerate racism in the community, and it is time to move toward healing."