L, R – Rev. Watson Haynes, president & CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League, Congressman Charlie Crist, and Congressman John Lewis
When I became the president & CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League in 2012, I reached out to Congressman Charlie Crist about the conditions at Jordan Park Public Housing. The residents had lived with inattention from their absentee landlord. Their cries for help were unheard.
The residents complained about infestation and property neglect. Congressman Crist reached out to Congressman John Lewis, whose staff immediately detailed him to St. Petersburg to take a first-hand look at the situation. He walked through Jordan Park, sat on their porch, walked through their apartments, and declared their deplorable conditions.
We had a meeting with elected officials at Greater Mt. Zion AME Church, and Congressman Lewis had an impactful time talking with students at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg.
After the meeting, we had a meal at Chief Creole Café; before departing, he stated, “that’s the best gumbo I’ve had in a long time.”
A meeting was held with Housing and Urban Development officials in Washington, D. C., and changes began to happen to the residents’ benefit.
During these past nine years, I have had the opportunity to see him at the annual Urban League and Congressional Black Caucus Breakfast. He always remembered me as “Congressman Crist’s friend.” This was a powerful man who took time for the common man.
I was there in 2013 when the National Urban League gave him the highest honor, the Civil Rights Champion Award.
This is the time to push for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the House version, and rename it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and then move on to that vestige of racism called the Edmund Pettus Bridge and rename it in honor of John Lewis.
Rev. Watson Hayne