ST. PETERSBURG – Leadership St. Pete (LSP), a division of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and one of the oldest leadership programs in America, has chosen the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club as their 2017 class project.
This dynamic six-month experience designed to promote and enhance community leadership through an in-depth introduction to social, economic, business and political issues in the St. Petersburg area will raise money to help give the once African-American theater a much-needed makeover that will benefit the Boys & Girls Club housed within its walls and the community.
The mission of LSP is to identify, recruit and develop leaders who represent the diversity of the community and who will assume future leadership roles in the Chamber and other community organizations.
“We chose the Boys and Girls Club for what they do for the community in general. How they are literally keeping kids off the street, how they are offering them a different opportunity they would otherwise never get,” said Audrey Grounds, LSP liaison.
For over 50 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast has been giving local youth (ages 5-18) a chance to succeed by equipping them with essential skills for thriving in college, work and life. As a result, hundreds have broken out of the cycle of poverty, been the first in their family to graduate from college, started families of their own, established a fulfilling career and are model citizens in their communities.
LSP was given three different projects to choose from and the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club came out as the front-runner.
The Royal Theater was one of two movie theaters serving African Americans during era Jim Crow St. Pete. In operation from 1948 to 1966, the theater closed a few years after desegregation and the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. By 1975, the Royal Theater had been converted to a youth center.
Integration in the sixties and seventies combined with the destruction of wide areas of the African-American community during the construction of Interstate 275 dispersed the 22nd Street South community to other areas of the city.
Grounds, one of the 39 people chosen this year to participate in the 2017 class, said LSP wanted to be a part of the revitalization of the 22nd Street Corridor, and classmate JerJuan Green echoed her sentiments.
“We’re trying to bring the Royal Theater back to its prominence and what it meant to the community back in the day,” he said.
Green explained that with a fundraising goal of $55,000, they would be able to paint both the inside and out, pressure clean the walls, replace furniture and do small upgrades in the kitchen. But the number one fix on their list is getting the electrical wiring up to par so that there can be outside lighting and the marquee will be able to illuminate once again.
LSP plans to incorporate the theater back into the community and with outside lighting, it will be possible to hold classes and events in the evenings. Once the project is finished, it’s also a possibility that weekend movies in the historic building won’t be a thing of the past.
During the fundraising event, there will be a silent auction and eventgoers will also get a chance to bid on artwork created by the young boys and girls who attend the Royal Theater Boys and Girls Club. The theme of their masterpieces will be “illuminated hope.”
“They are creating pieces of art that are their vision of hope,” said Grounds. “These are sort of their hopes and dreams collection.”
Any amount over that goal will go to fencing so that the children can go outside and much-needed storage space.
A Royal Night of Illumination presented by Freedom Bank and hosted by Leadership St. Pete will be held at ROCOCO Steak, 655 2nd Ave. S, on April 20 from 6-8:30 p.m. Tantalizing bites will be served at the cocktail party. $35 per person in advance and $40 at the door.