Let’s not rush to criticize those who are in the arena advocating for a brighter future

‘Racial similarity should not, does not mean we should turn a blind eye to everything else – most of all, the education of our children,’ said Deveron Gibbons, who serves on the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees.


ST. PETERSBURG — Leadership is hard, and it’s awfully easy to play armchair quarterback.

I’ve been reminded of those truisms lately, following some wholly unwarranted criticism of one of the true pillars of our community, Dr. Goliath Davis. It seems that certain segments of our community are upset with this good and decent man for having the temerity to criticize the performance of a school principal because, in his educated view, she wasn’t getting the job done.

And why did his criticism come under attack? Because the administrator is Black, and so is a large percentage of the school’s student body. Apparently, these critics believe that the principal’s race should render her immune to criticism, regardless of how effective she is at lifting her students up.

As a Black man, as a civic leader and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Florida’s only predominantly Black public university, I say no way. Racial similarity should not, does not mean we should turn a blind eye to everything else – most of all, the education of our children. And we should not turn on those who point out the failures around them.

Dr. Davis has dedicated his life to education. He grew up poor but worked hard to get a good education. St. Petersburg’s first Black police chief and deputy mayor, he transformed underprivileged communities within the city, bringing economic development to neighborhoods that had long been abandoned. Not content with that, he earned his Ph.D. and taught at multiple universities.

He has been a mentor, a leader, an activist and an unflinching advocate for quality education, quality instruction, and making sure all students are prepared for the world and the workforce. Goliath Davis has long been on the front lines fighting for education in our community. He has dedicated himself to the core belief that education is the key for young people to unlock their potential.

So, when he saw shortcomings at Lakewood High, he spoke up — never mind the color of the principal’s skin. Now he is being denounced as if he was the one failing the children. We cannot allow our attention to be consumed by such a groundless distraction; we need to remain sharply focused on creating and implementing real solutions that will positively impact students in St. Petersburg. Now.

The reality is that we need more people like Goliath Davis to move our community forward. The best days are still ahead of us; the best way to get there is quality instruction and quality education. Dr. Davis knows this far better than most, and his judgment should be our guide, not a point for misplaced criticism.

I am reminded of the oft-quoted observation of Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

Goliath Davis has been in the arena, and he has sweated and bled and so much more to lift up so many in our community. We should honor him at every opportunity and let the armchair quarterbacks slink back to the shadows where they belong.

3 Replies to “Let’s not rush to criticize those who are in the arena advocating for a brighter future”

  1. Keith Griffin says:

    How many hours have you or Goliath spent on the campus mentoring these so called failing kids??? Zero.I hate when u SIDELINES QBS critique we who show up every day. Let’s wait to see who he’s backing for principal and we’d see 👀 the games played.

  2. Marilyn Bell says:

    Deveron Gibbons article about Dr. Goliath Davis was on the spot. I know of no one in this community who has given on a consistent basis to this community as Dr. Goliath Davis. Let find out how we can help him and our scholars not criticize. Let’s join hands and help this district meet the needs of our scholars. It will take effective resources to provide the necessary assistance, to move scholars in a position direction.

  3. S. Rose Smith-Hayes says:

    I agree Dr. Goliath Davis has contributed well to the community. Also, he is not wrong about Lakewood High School. This was an elite school with some of the best African Diaspora survivors as scholars. As other predominantly schools with survivors of the African Diaspora have fallen below the curve, so has Lakewood High School. However, I also would like to know what Dr. G. Davis has done to help our children at that school other than point out the leadership issues.
    Our survivors of the African Diaspora are struggling in all the schools in Pinellas County. The lawsuit against the District has Not been fruitful. We as members of the Black community will have to wake up and find ways to help our children to succeed. The 2018/2019 school year reading scores had our children between 25 to 27% successful in reading. What happened to the other 70+ percent?? As of 2022/2023 school year, there has been no progress. We need to stop pointing fingers, roll up our sleeves and get to the root of the problems. Are there vision issues, hearing problems and family trauma affecting their ability to succeed in school???? Please let us focus on helping the children.

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