Advertisement
  1. St. Petersburg

Tiger Bay's 'long overdue' discussion of race and racism in Pinellas, St. Petersburg

Suncoast Tiger Bay on Thursday drew one of its largest crowds to listen to a panel talk about the history and reality of racism in Pinellas County and St. Petersburg. From left to Right: Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, community leader and equality activist Gwen Reese, United Pinellas executive director Tim Dutton and St. Petersburg political activist Winnie Foster. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Jun. 28

ST. PETERSBURG — Suncoast Tiger Bay on Thursday drew one of its largest crowds to tackle a difficult topic: race.

It was the first time in the nonpartisan political organization's 41 years that it dedicated an entire lunchtime discussion to race in the community. Suncoast Tiger Bay president Elise Minkoff opened the event by saying the conversation was "long overdue" — and promised it would not be the only conversation.

"The way to right our wrongs is to turn the light of truth," she said.

But 75 minutes wasn't nearly long enough to examine the history of race and racism in Pinellas County and St. Petersburg in front of a packed room of about 160 people at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

FAILURE FACTORIES: How the Pinellas County School District turned five once-average schools into Failure Factories.

County Commissioner and St. Petersburg native Ken Welch moderated the panel discussion titled "Race and the Legacy of Racism in the 'Burg." He was joined by Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, community leader and equality activist Gwen Reese, United Pinellas executive director Tim Dutton and St. Petersburg political activist Winnie Foster.

Welch wanted the panel to address three topics: the level of racial awareness in the community, the relationship between the black community and law enforcement, and the gentrification of black neighborhoods.

FROM 2017: After 100 years, St. Petersburg's green benches evoke history and a mixed legacy

The panelists talked about the infamous history of the city's green benches, which African-Americans were forbidden to use, and the destruction of the Gas Plant District, the African-American neighborhood that the city bulldozed decades ago to build the then-Florida Suncoast Dome, now known as Tropicana Field.

The panelists said many in the community are unaware of the past and present conditions facing residents of African-American neighborhoods.

"Obviously we're not doing well, we're not even doing average, so I'm going to say we're doing poorly," Reese said.

She added: "Most of us don't know the history of the black presence in this community. Not even black people know the history of our presence."

"If you don't know the history, how can you then relate in an effective way, in a true, open, candid way to the issues about race?"

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Why the Rays think their Montreal idea is so 'amazing'

Aquil recalled visiting the old Harlem Theater in the Gas Plant District in the 1950s, by Third Avenue S. It was the time of segregation, and the theater was one of the few serving African-Americans. Today that site is part of the Trop's parking lot.

"That was the entire community that I grew up in," Ken Welch said. "Churches, houses, businesses. My granddad's business was right on 16th (Street S), like where the ticket window is now."

His father, David Welch, served on the City Council in the 1980s when the Trop was approved and built.

Ken Welch said he remembers the promises made of jobs and economic development that were never fulfilled.

Now the city has a second chance. Whether the Rays stay in St. Petersburg or not, and whether or not the city builds the team a new stadium, the Trop will be torn down in the coming decade and the land redeveloped.

"That should be our primary focus as we redevelop those 90 acres," he said, "and the Rays' new home, in my view, is secondary."

Contact Monique Welch at mwelch@tampabay.com. Follow @mo_unique_.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The traffic signal for eastbound traffic on Drew Street at McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater. Image by Archive
    A reader wonders why the sign at the end of Bayside Bridge instructs trucks heading north to exit during specified hours rather than stay on the bridge.
  2. James Dailey, 73, is set to be executed on Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Left: Dailey at his 1987 trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. Middle: Dailey in 1993, when he was again sentenced to die. Right: The most current photo of Dailey on Florida's Death Row. Tampa Bay Times
    James Dailey’s execution remains set for Nov. 7. On Monday, a judge denied efforts to overturn his death sentence after a former prosecutor testified.
  3. Investigators are collecting evidence at the scene of a fatal stabbing on the 4000 block of 68th Street N. The victim was trying to break into a house, the Sheriff's Office said. KATHRYN VARN   |   TIMES  |  Kathryn Varn
    The dead man had sneaked out of a group home a block away. It’s unlikely charges will be filed, the Sheriff’s Office said.
  4. Archie is available for adoption for free. FRIENDS OF STRAYS ANIMAL SHELTER  |  Friends of Strays Animal Shelter
    The 4-year-old cat is available for adoption for free.
  5.  Designed by Tara McCarty
    And more Pinellas news
  6. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The death was reported early Monday and doesn’t appear suspicious, the agency said.
  7. The Pinellas School Board recognized James Krull as the district's bus Driver of the Year at its meeting Tuesday. From left are board members Bill Dudley, Eileen Long, Carol Cook, Rene Flowers, Krull, and board members Nicole Carr, Joanne Lentino and Lisa Cane. Pinellas County Schools
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  8. A dinner guest at the Maritana Grille at the Don Cesar Hotel contends in a lawsuit filed Friday that she was seriously injured when a waiter poured some of the liquid nitrogen that he was using to prepare a dessert at an adjacent table into her water glass and she drank it. (Times file photo)
    Stacey Wagers contends she was injured while dining at the Maritana Grille last year.
  9. Center: A 43-year-old fugitive wanted in Sarasota County for sexually battering a teenage girl he kept trapped in a room for 18 months there was captured in St. Petersburg on Friday, authorities said. Dwight Bainbridge, right, is now being held in the Pinellas County jail. His girlfriend, Jessica Bambrilla, 39, was also arrested in Sarasota County case in September. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office | Sarasota County Sheriff's Office
    The girl said was kept trapped in a room and given a bucket to urinate in, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. His girlfriend was arrested months ago.
  10. Prosecutors dropped the two first-degree murder charges against Charles Edward Hixon Jr. last month after a key witness changed her story. JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon
    Charles Hixon was released after the prosecution’s key witness changed her story.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement