Rededicating the Woodson Museum

Woodson
On April 20, city council authorized the City’s Real Estate and Property Management Department to enter into a five-year agreement with the Woodson Museum Board of Directors to remain as operator of the museum for a term that began June 1, 2017, through 2022.

 

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – City officials and community visionaries gathered to rededicate the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum last Sunday, Aug. 20. The three-year battle to save the museum is over.

Located in Jordan Park, the process for the City of St. Petersburg to purchase the building the museum is housed in and the adjacent Legacy Garden from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority (SPHA) was authorized and approved by city council more than two years ago and completed this May.

“This museum is so important to our community, and we’ve had a lot of talk in our community over the last couple of days about the importance of preservation of the history that unfolded here on this corridor,” said Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin, referring to the city accepting a proposal to lease the Manhattan Casino to the Callaloo Group.

Dr. Tomalin expressed how important it is for the city to demonstrate its commitment to preserving the history of the area by showing up to celebrate this “important institution that has stepped up to serve as the shepherd for that history and the entirety of the history of the African-American community…”

She also reminded the large crowd that just a few years ago the Woodson’s future was uncertain. The SPHA, under the leadership of Darrell Irions, said the current museum administration never met the museum’s original objective of being a fully functional African-American museum, and that it was nothing more than a social club.

Irions had plans to sell the property that would have left the museum homeless, but the community had different plans.

“And our entire community came, and held hands, and gathered around and said, ‘Not on our watch,’” said Deputy Mayor Tomalin.

Inviting Terri Lipsey Scott up to the podium to speak on behalf of the board of the museum, Dr. Tomalin said the city will be forever in her debt and owes a great deal of gratitude to her for fighting to keep the museum alive.

“The vision of this museum did not begin with those who fought tirelessly to preserve it, but by individuals who were visionaries in understanding community,” said Lipsey Scott. The vision was broadened by others to not just make it a community museum, but one that celebrated African-American history throughout our nation.”

Lipsey Scott said the Woodson pays homage to the vision and commitment of the city’s pioneers and the residents of Jordan Park.

“They’re our friends. They’re our neighbors. They’re our allies. And to you, to us, Jordan Park will always matter,” she said.

For more than three years, the board at the Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum faced numerous obstacles, hurdles, insults, innuendos and intimidation from those who felt the museum didn’t deserve a place in this city, but with this acquisition, history has a home.

Lipsey Scott thanked members of the museum’s board for their tireless efforts along with Council Member Steve Kornell for standing by her side and Council Member Charlie Gerdes for suggesting the city purchase the property from the SPHA.

“Terri, because of you and the people you work with on your board, to me, this is the womb of the African American future,” said Gerdes. “Right here, in this place, and I will do everything I can to make sure that that womb stays healthy.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman promised as long as he is mayor, he will do everything in his power to optimize the building.

“Architects will look at how to make it even better and more functional,” said Kriseman. “We will work with the museum’s board and the community to raise the museum’s profile, further ensuring its success and making it just as popular as any other museum in St. Pete.”

Longtime Jordan Park resident Deloris Fletcher was on hand to thank all the key players in making this museum a permanent part of the City of St. Petersburg and to explain why there is such a need to preserve the city’s African-American history.

“The African-American children need to see themselves. They need to know they can do, and they can be,” said Fletcher, explaining that when she was a child prominent African-American businesses dotted the landscape.

“These children need to see that. They need to know that. There’s no future if we don’t give them a past,” she said.

And in typical Woodson fashion, a reception in the Legacy Garden followed with live music, art exhibitions and food.

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