Chief’s Creole Café celebrates history

Carolyn Brayboy, Chief’s Creole Café owner, greeted the customers before the event started.

BY SHAWN LEUNG KIU FOK, Neighborhood News Bureau

PHOTOS By Indhira Suero Acosta, Neighborhood News Bureau

ST. PETERSBURG — Right next door to the Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum, more than 50 people gathered at Chief’s Creole Café last Saturday to celebrate the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

The Smithsonian Institution’s latest museum in Washington D.C is a milestone in U.S. history. The event was also a commemoration of the 1968 black sanitation workers strike in St. Petersburg, one of the most significant moments of the Civil Rights Movement in the city.

“Seeing the opening of the National Museum and seeing the picture of my father leading the Strike here locally were the best moments at the restaurant this morning because both made an impact on the life of people, locally and nationally,” Abdul Karim Ali, son of Joe Savage, the leader of the St. Petersburg Strike, said. “We have to understand that the price was paid yesterday for us to be here today. We also must pay a price for those who will come after us.”

As President Obama spoke at the opening in D.C., people in the restaurant applauded.

“The best history helps us recognize the mistakes that we’ve made and the dark corners of the human spirit that we need to guard against. A clear-eyed view of history can make us uncomfortable, and shake us out of familiar narratives. But it is precisely because of that discomfort that we learn and grow and harness our collective power to make this nation more perfect,” the president said as people in the room nodded and cheered.

Elihu Brayboy, the organizer of the event and the owner of Chief’s Creole Café, said that he was inspired by a customer who made him aware that he could carry the opening of the museum live.

“Then we, in turn, contacted Mr. Joe Savage’s family members and asked them if they would consider doing the presentation about local St. Petersburg’s race relationship,” Brayboy said.

“Just to see all of the faces, black, white, old, young here this morning. That’s the best moment of this event,” Brayboy said. He added that he wanted to introduce the Afro-centric food to the new customers, which were crawfish fritters, gumbo, shrimp and grits and the New Orleans style beignets.

One of the participants, Marleen O’Connor, said that she liked the story about the four-month union workers’ strike and how they made it through. “Black workers and white workers. I’m a strong believer in union rights. And they succeeded. That was a very powerful message,” she said.

Former Governor Charlie Crist summarized the historical moment saying, “I would call this the day of justice. By the opening of this incredible museum, we celebrate as Americans our proud heritage and future.”

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