At the edge of a U-Haul lot flanked by vans, a small group gathered Tuesday to unveil a marker to a 1914 lynching in St. Petersburg.
“How do you welcome people to the site of tragic horror?” asked Sen. Darryl Rouson, who grew up in St. Petersburg. “Welcome to the memorialization of what should never happen again.”
Community groups worked for a few years to bring the marker to a piece of grass at Second Avenue S and Ninth Street, also known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. The city of St. Petersburg provided the land. It’s the same spot where a white mob lynched and shot a Black man 107 years ago.
Mayor Rick Kriseman thanked those who recognized the importance of the memorial.
“It is incumbent on us as city leaders to call out, not just the injustices of today but to recognize the horrors and injustices of the past as well,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin agreed. “As a collective,” she said, “we must own that such atrocities were real, even here in our beloved Burg, our city of opportunity.”
As part of the effort, the Equal Justice Initiative provided $5,000 in prize money for a public high school essay contest devoted to racial justice issues. The Tampa Bay Rays also donated $10,000 for an arts contest.
“We must apologize for it,” said Rays President Brian Auld before the marker was unveiled a block from Tropicana Field.
“It is ugly, it is horrifying. It speaks to the very worst of who we are and of what we are capable. But we cannot turn a blind eye to it, sweep it under the rug, ignore it. We cannot just move on and leave it in the past. That’s what we’ve been doing for all too long, and it isn’t working.”