The 2017 mayoral race in St. Petersburg is over. The incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman was re-elected by the city to serve four more years. Candidate Rick Baker has conceded and promised to continue working and fighting for the city he loves.
The next day the sun came out and the city lit up as usual as people went along their usual routines. The city survived one of the most contested races in recent history. During this election, relationships were destroyed, families were against one another, clergy was attacked for their endorsements and civic leaders viciously attacked one another.
There was a dark side indeed in this election, but sadly it was primarily in the black community and it was primarily “black on black attacks.” The black community was ripped apart at a time when it is imperative for it to heal, overcome and thrive. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy, and the last few months in the black community of St. Pete he was working overtime.
But now that the election is over, what is the black community going to do to heal and to unify? First, I believe that it will call for some honest introspection, a deep look at the one in the mirror as you ponder your motives, responsibilities and accountabilities.
In order to truly come together in a bipartisan way will mean swallowing pride, overcoming anger, nurturing inner humility that leads us to be the best leader, resident, business owner, politician we can be as we put St. Petersburg first and our petty differences last. In such a divisive time as this, leaders must lead, not divide.
The promise for a prosperous community is staring us in the face. The reason why we cannot see the window that was just opened to us by God is that we are still staring at the door that was just closed.
If we can address our hurts and disappointments, our pain and our defeats, our setbacks and our anger, perhaps then we can discern the times and seek God’s face as to what He wants you to do to bring the community together, make the community better and lift the community higher. If all you have is misery and malcontent because things did not go your way…then you are now the obstacle, you are now the problem.
As I watched Mayor Kriseman give his victory speech at the Nova, I couldn’t help but notice the strong presence of skilled, caring and brilliant black people hugging, praying, laughing, some crying — all as one people. I was welcomed in and the only question was: “What are you going to do as a pastor to bring our city together, our churches together, our organizations together and make our community stronger?”
Nobody was divided that night; no one was negative. There was no time for that. As we huddled together throughout the night, the conversation was all about where do we go from here? How can we implement our agenda and finally, how can we unify our community with our brothers and sisters over at the Rick Baker watch party?
That is now the question. Because if you genuinely love your community as you boasted that you did over the last few months, then you must find a way back to your brothers and your sisters and continue the struggle for a common goal — to make our city stronger. One line that Mayor Kriseman used over and over and is still using it is that he sees only one St. Petersburg, not St. Pete, Midtown and Childs Park.
That redlined model will no longer work in making sure that all of St. Petersburg enjoys in its prosperity and economic healthiness. The Manhattan Casino can now serve as a catalyst, a springboard that can break down the unhealthy and antiquated Central Avenue divide and unite us all together as one city. And now we are well on our way.
We will no longer be defined as a community by geography; this entire city belongs to all of us. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!