ST. PETERSBURG — Kiva Williams and her three children traveled from Pasco County for a lesson about Black History Month.
They bore the bright sun as Mayor Ken Welch raised the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History flag at the corner outside City Hall. After, she rushed over so Nathan, 13, Noah, 8, and Nia, 3 could meet Welch.
“I want my kids to see the first Black mayor of St. Petersburg, someone who looks like them,” said Williams, 41.
“It was pretty fun,” Nathan Williams said. “I never met a mayor before.”
On Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month, Welch continued a tradition established in 2016 of raising the Woodson flag at City Hall. Woodson, a historian known as the father of Black history, launched Negro History Week in 1926.
In recognizing the contributions, struggle and achievements of Black Americans, Welch reminded the crowd how far St. Petersburg has come, from his election late last year to the swearing in along with him of Richie Floyd, the first Black City Council member elected north of Central Avenue.
Floyd was present, as were his colleagues Gina Driscoll, Deborah Figgs-Sanders, Lisset Hanewicz, Copley Gerdes and Ed Montanari. Congressman and candidate for governor Charlie Crist, Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers and Pinellas County School Board member Caprice Edmond also attended the flag-raising.
Welch pointed to the city’s report of racial disparity in business contracts and structural racism study, which recommended reparations. He noted the groundbreaking last week of a $93 million Jordan Park public housing redevelopment project in southern St. Petersburg.
That work, Welch said, is informed by the city’s history.
“History, accurate history, does matter,” he said. “The path to progress requires direct and sometimes painful conversations.”
He cited the late Congressman John Lewis’ call to “good trouble,” especially in advocating for “affordable housing, health and safety, safe neighborhoods, youth opportunities, environmental and social resiliency, women’s rights, human rights, civil rights, voting rights and justice reform.”
“This month we recognize and celebrate Black history and the legacy of St. Petersburg’s Black pioneers, which is woven into our city’s history,” he said. “And as we write the next chapter in our history, let us remember that by working together, we will honor our past and build a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”
Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the museum, put the day into context, calling Welch a “history maker.” She recalled how 30 years ago she stood on the City Hall steps with David T. Welch, the mayor’s father, who was the only Black elected official at the time as a City Council member who served as vice mayor.
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“I think I can personally speak on the behalf of your daddy, that on this day he would say, ‘Son, you’ve done me proud,’” Lipsey Scott said. “We celebrate your African American History and those who came before you, on whose shoulders we stand.”