“You can lie down and die, or you can get up and fight, but that’s it – there’s no turning back.” –Jon English
When I think of how far we have come as a community, I pause to remember the trailblazers who laid down their lives so that we wouldn’t have to live with the struggles they faced during their time here on earth.
In order to appreciate where we are, we must not forget how far we’ve come. The road to freedom hasn’t always been easy, but nevertheless, as a people we have always persevered.
In this election season, I reflect on the memories and works of community leaders who have transitioned from labor to reward. I wonder what they would say about the community they entrusted us to lead.
Would they be proud of us or embarrassed by our actions? Would they say we preserved our history or allowed it to be taken away from us? Would they say we used our position and power for self-gain or community empowerment? What would our ancestors say?
I think about the late C. Bette Wimbish, the first African-American to be elected to the St. Petersburg City Council. A woman, who faced so many trials and tribulations in her lifetime, was never easily silenced. She fought for what was right, even if others thought she was wrong. That’s the type of leadership that we are missing in St. Pete today.
The legacy of the late Dr. David Welch is still very much visible, especially along the 16th Street South corridor. He valued education, faith and family. He organized interest-free loan programs through the city to renovate blighted neighborhoods and tackled deficient housing and lax code enforcement. Dr. Welch opened the doors of his accounting office to anyone in need. This is the type of leadership our community is yearning for more of.
Then there is the legacy of the late Ernest Fillyau. He understood the importance of equality for all and spearheaded the integration of Spa Beach in the 1950s. He worked his way up from managing city pools to representing the people of South St. Pete on the City Council. Mr. Fillyau never forgot where he came from, nor did he forget the people who placed him where he was.
We stand on the shoulders of giants and have a rich legacy to be proud of; we don’t need career politicians to remind us of that. Rather, what we need is a renewed sense of hope that things will get better. Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.
There’s no turning back. The only place for us to go from here is forward. We can’t afford to drop the baton as its being passed to the next generation.
Let’s make our ancestors proud. Let’s fight to preserve what is left of our past as we prepare for the future. Let’s unite St. Pete!
Corey Givens Jr.
Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 6