Community choir serving on MLK Day

Photo courtesy of the Spirit of the Tampa Bay Community Choir



ST. PETERSBURG – Dr. Yvonne Williams remembers the mornings when she passed by the infamous Mosley Motel. She saw children waiting outside for the school bus and noticed some wearing improper clothing and untidy uniforms.

“Their clothes look so inadequate and not well-kept,” said Williams.

She does not see any children there, nor anyone else for that matter, for the Mosley Motel was recently foreclosed on and many of the residents displaced.

But Williams, founder of the Spirit of Tampa Bay Community Choir (STBCC), was not the only one concerned about the displaced children.

Yvonne Clayton, president of the choir, felt the need to assist after reading articles about the Mosley in the Tampa Bay Times.

“There was enough to inspire us to do something for those families, especially when those families were displaced,” Williams said.

Both decide to have the STBCC join the MLK Day of Service for the first time next month. Their two-day project aims to introduce the younger generation to music from the Civil Rights Movement, and to distribute sleeping bags and other personal items to children displaced from the Mosley Motel.

The song festival will take place at the Moore’s Chapel AME Church, located at 3037 Fairfield Ave. S, on Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. The choir will sing songs from the Civil Rights Movement such as “We Shall Overcome,” “Go Down Moses,” and “Freedom of Freedom.”

Williams believes that it is important for young people to remember what the movement stood for and its important role in the African-American community.

“It’s a good opportunity to sing about such events that affected communities like ours, “James Sykes, pastor of Moore’s Chapel AME Church, said.

Monday, Jan. 16, day two of the project, member of the STBCC will visit different locations where the former Mosley residents now live and hand out much needed supplies.

According to the Times, the former 110-room motel, located at 401 34th St. N, has housed more than 400 denizens. Many of the residents were low-income families, veterans, seniors and the disabled. Mosley became for rest stop for those looking for new jobs, assistance or housing.

The motel has gained attention over the years for crimes such as drugs, domestic violence and prostitution. It also accumulated thousands of dollars in fines from the city’s nuisance abatement board.

The former motel’s owners were evicted in July and the motel went into foreclosure.  Altis Cardinal, a real estate firm from Miami, brought the property and sent out 30-day eviction notices to the residents. Many fought to have extra time to find affordable housing. The last group left on Oct. 3, leaving an empty building.

About more than 150 families and children were displaced. Many of them, according to Williams, were relocated to other motels on 34th Street, some stay with friends and families or homeless shelters such as Saint Vincent de Paul.

By contacting several social service agencies, the choir was able to ascertain where many of the families are now residing, and anticipate on helping 10 to 12 of them.

“It is our right… our obligation,” said Williams. “It’s just part of the rent we pay for living here on earth to be able to assists others.”

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