Yeshitela honored for 1966 removal of racist mural

 

ST. PETERSBURG — Omali Yeshitela (formerly known as Joseph Waller) will be honored in an evening reception where he will tell the story of the 1966 protest that culminated in his tearing down of the racist mural that once hung in St. Petersburg’s City Hall.

The event will take place at Akwaaba Hall at the Uhuru House, 1245 18th Ave. S, next Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.

Yeshitela, now Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, will reveal his plans to counter the city’s current attempt “to co-opt the issue of the racist mural and undermine its significance for the African community of St. Petersburg and the U.S.”

Fifty years ago Yeshitela was a local leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Along with other SNCC members he removed the mural on December 29, 1966. The mural was seen by the African community as “bitterly representing the place that black people were relegated to in this city,” as one observer explained.

Yeshitela and the local SNCC branch had repeatedly petitioned the city in writing to remove the mural that had been displayed on the stairwell of City Hall since the early 1940s.

The mural depicted caricatures of African people playing music on the beach for white revelers, “in the most despicable, derogatory manner,” stated Yeshitela.

For that bold act in defense of black dignity Yeshitela was sentenced to five years on multiple felony charges and served two and a half years in prison.

The space on the wall has remained empty since Yeshitela tore the mural down.

While an article in the Tampa Bay Times in June reported that the city’s public arts committee tasked with replacing the mural was going to “extend a personal invitation to the man who removed it,” Yeshitela confirmed that he has not been contacted by the committee or the city.

The reception is open to the public and is an opportunity for all those who support Yeshitela for his bold action and his continued life-long work for justice and liberation to meet and talk with him.

To RSVP or for questions call 727-888-3739 or email stpete@uhurusolidarity.org. Refreshments will be served.

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