Anyone may make a request to any city agency for public records. About three weeks ago, I made such a request, and the response I got back was shocking! It would cost $18,192 paid in advance for the City of St. Pete to provide me with public records showing the actual amount of money Elder Jordan Sr., a noted St. Pete pioneer, loaned the city in 1929 to get out of debt and when it was paid back.
This figure is astronomical, and it seems unreasonable. If city officials think it was unreasonable for the St. Petersburg Housing Authority to charge a housing commissioner $900 for requested public records, what thoughts arise about this charge?
It was stated that it would take six months and 960 hours to look for these documents. I wonder if city agencies have charged other residents such amounts for public records. Who decides the costs and time estimated to procure requested documents? Where does the money go? What happens if documents are found in less time than the estimated? Are refunds given?
My grandfather loaned the city money to help it get out of debt. It would seem that the city would be happy to find out the answers and lift up this black man as an example of love and concern for racial equality. For a black man to show such patriotism in 1929 during the height of segregation and racism in America and in the city where he lived, says more than words could ever express. African Americans could not shop downtown, had to drink out of separate water fountains, attend separate schools and feared for their lives in1929 St Pete.
However, at the same time of the public records request, my Sunshine City, through the Public Arts Committee, secured a local artist to erect a seven-foot bronze statue of Elder Jordan, Sr. next to the Manhattan Casino, (formerly the Jordan Dance Hall) which he and his five sons built in 1925.
As I served on this committee with blacks and whites, an attitude of appreciation and honor for me and my grandfather glowed at each meeting. One Caucasian committee member handed each of us a 126-page in-depth document he had done on Elder Jordan dating back to the United States Census of 1880.
It revealed information I had never seen such as the name of the first bus line for blacks that went from St. Pete to Tampa was named Royal Express Bus Line, Inc. (Document #108342, date filed 2/19/26) and Jordan Beach, Inc.
(Document #117866, 8/3/28) in south St. Pete both owned and operated by Jordan.
I knew my grandfather was born into slavery in 1848 but had no knowledge of his three sisters Laura, Georgia and Martha. The document also revealed the name of my grandfather’s stepfather Rosko Carter. It’s amazing how God can use people we don’t even know to be a blessing to us if we allow ourselves to open up to each other for a common good.
I thank God for those in St. Pete who exude love for my family and give hope to one another no matter what race, gender or sexual preference. My prayers go out to those among us who, because of the lack of experiencing compassionate, one on one, “cross racial and inner racial brother/sisterhood,” still harbor superiority or inferiority complexes that keep us divided.
It’s time that our city take a critical look at how the sun shines on some, yet its radiance is blocked from shining on others because of economic, educational, residential, political, sexual and self-centered clouds that keep many of God’s people from receiving an overdue harvest.
I have faith to believe that change comes through addressing the tough issues openly with genuine concern for my fellow persons, with the help of God, through Jesus Christ, rather than talking about issues and people behind their backs.
I’ve learned during 41 years of pastoring that only people who love me will tell me the truth about me, in private. This is the way I live, and we build community and trust this way. It may hurt my feelings, but I have more respect for them than hearing about myself some other way.
And remember, no matter what’s going on with you today, there is “Hope 4 U.”
Dr. Basha P. Jordan, Jr.
The Hope Dr.