Just like my other attempts at public office, this run for the St. Petersburg City Council District 6 has been fun and I have enjoyed meeting all of the new faces that have moved into the district or who have been redrawn into District 6 as a result of local redistricting.
For the candidates whom I have shared the stage with, there have been some interesting moments, but for the most part, I have enjoyed the group of young (with the exception of Jim Jackson and myself) people who are talented beyond measure and whose life experiences are very diverse.
There, however, has been one aspect of this campaign that has been disturbing to me.
In addition to myself and other candidates, I have heard us called names that I have never heard before by individuals representing International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (INPDUM).
I had an opportunity to participate in INPDUM’s candidate forum, which I found to be refreshing at some points because it allowed community members to discuss real issues impacting black people. At the beginning of the forum, I gladly recited the African pledge, which I had previewed prior to saying it. I wasn’t familiar with the pledge and didn’t want to recite something that was contrary to my beliefs.
While I found the entire pledge to be meaningful, the following line was one that I felt the most compelled to repeat. The line read: “I will discipline myself to direct my energies thoughtfully and constructively rather than wasting my time in idle hatred.”
It became obvious to me after participating in the candidate forum hosted by the St. Petersburg Downtown Neighborhood Association that these young people have not digested the power of the words they often recite.
These young people have publicly displayed behavior that is disrespectful to their parents, themselves, local leaders and most importantly black women. I have been called names I had never heard of before.
Omali Yeshetali, this is unacceptable! You have been given an awesome charge of leading young people and people who are disenfranchised.
Omali, you owe me nothing, but you do owe these young people and those who are in pain the respect to lead them in a manner where your message can be heard and in such a manner that they retain self-respect.
Many of them will not be a part of INPDUM in the next 20 years. They are bright but they could potentially find themselves taking public actions today that could potentially destroy them for life.
Those of us in leadership within this community must be about unifying this community around an agenda of dignity and respect; those things we demand of others we must be willing to do the same! Uhuru!
Maria L. Scruggs, Candidate, St. Petersburg City Council District 6