ST. PETERSBURG — While the street filled with music, eager dancers, red hot charcoal grills and cold beverages for the Deuces’ weekly Thursday evening street party, city officials and community partners rallied for the safety and enrichment of each and every child and teen in the area.
During the first Safe Summer Not My Son meet up, the St. Petersburg community promised to and implored everyone to take community involvement a step further.
“Our village is broken, our community is hurting and the only way that we can overcome that is to reestablish relationships. We do that with one person at a time,” said Kenny Irby, Community Intervention Director for the City of St. Petersburg.
In 2014, President Obama introduced his campaign My Brother’s Keeper, a public-private partnership of the United States Federal Government to promote intervention by civic leaders in the lives of young men of color to address their unique challenges and to promote racial justice.
St. Petersburg took President Obama’s campaign and expanded it to include young women in addition to young men, ages 12-24 in their program My Brother’s and Sister’s Keepers (MBSK).
MBSK and Not My Son is “an attempt to join the sources of the community together, redirect the trajectory that we see in many of the young people, particularly African-American boys in our communities, which is not only happening in St. Petersburg, but is an epidemic that is happening across the nation,” said Irby.
Councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Brown gave a heart-wrenching address to the public about the importance of saving the community’s children by keeping them off the streets and out of harm’s way.
As a parent who lost a child to street violence, she begged the crowd from the podium to know where their children are and to check their Facebook page.
“Until you make it personal we will keep losing them,” exclaimed Wheeler-Brown.
“We are here for one purpose; that is to save our children,” said Irby. “To stop the blood running in the streets of our own children.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman openly admitted that many political endeavors and promises lack follow up. However, the difference between the MBSK and Not My Son initiatives is that he wasn’t asking for help, he was asking the community to help their own.
“It is time to say enough is enough,” said Kriseman. “To make a pledge to keep our young people safe, and say not our son!”
Irby explained that the rally was simply a community accountability call to action to do something beyond wearing the colors of the garb, a true commitment to increase the peace.
The rally concluded with a canvas and engagement of the community along the Deuces and will continue every Friday night throughout the summer initiated by recreation centers and places of worship.
As the meet up came to a close, excitement rose as committed community members huddled close along the sidewalk as enough echoed through the thick Florida summer night’s air.
More information about My Brother’s and Sister’s Keepers and the Safe Summer Not My Son campaigns can be found at stpete.org/mbsk