The 100+ Black Men Victory Walk held Saturday, Aug. 7 to promote unity and strength amongst the city’s Black community.
BY MARK PARKER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — It was a hot August Saturday when a group of Black men appeared in bright yellow shirts, carrying signs and marching through south St. Pete.
However, they weren’t marching in protest of police brutality, gun violence, or any of the many other negative issues that plague the community and nation as a whole – they were marching to promote the progress of self-love and unity.
The St. Petersburg chapter of 100+ Black Men held their third annual victory march Saturday, Aug. 7 to promote unity and strength amongst the city’s Black community. Starting at 34th Street South and ending at Bartlett Park, a group of around 15 Black men, women, and children made the two-and-a-half-mile trek down 18th Avenue South.
Covered in sweat and carrying signs that read “Unity is Power” and “Black Men are Winning,” many people who passed by honked their horns in solidarity or stopped on the sidewalk to take pictures.
“We don’t want to have a walk or a march just because something bad happened,” said Jason Bryant, who co-founded the event. “We’re just trying to highlight the positive things that are going on. No matter what your religion is or whatever it is, if you care about our community, this is why you should show up.”
Bryant pointed out that members of the Nation of Islam attended, marching next to Christians and others with different beliefs. He said even if they only see each other once a year, it is a good time to get together and say, “nice to see you again,” talk about what everyone has going on and support one another.
The victory walk started three years ago in the aftermath of several youth shootings in the area. Bryant said he and others were having a conversation about how the only time the community holds a march is when somebody dies. Bryant and his co-founders – Antonio Brown and Marques Clark – decided to turn that around and march to highlight the positive things occurring in the community. Bryant pointed out that many in attendance directly contribute to bettering the community, especially among the youth.
Brown is one of those people as his Barbershop Book Club has received praise across the area for its impact on youth literacy. Brown said the day was all about “uniting brothers, holding the community accountable, and talking about ways to protect the common welfare of the community.” He added that camaraderie and conversation were two essential parts of the day for him.
Looking forward to the future, Bryant said he would like more people to get involved and pool resources so that it is more like a festival at the end of the rally. More educational material and a blood drive are some specific things he would like to see, but most of all, he wants to see more people come out and support the cause.
“It’s called 100+ Black Men, and even though there’s a 100 plus Black men that support us – we actually want to see them here. This walk is more about the image, so that’s the goal,” said Bryant. “There are people that support us behind the scenes, but we want them out in the forefront.”
The end of the two-and-a-half-mile victory walk gave a chance for everyone to sit down together and enjoy a nice meal together. A table was set with a bounty of food, and everyone was encouraged to make a big plate. Another table held clothing, purses, and other personal items for any of the less fortunate that walked by.
Several stopped to talk and take a couple of things. Many children were in attendance – especially young men – and they climbed trees and laughed amongst themselves. The number of children brought along for the march is a testament to the group’s importance in raising the youth in the community the right way. The fellowship exhibited by all drove home the reason for being there.
“Even if it was a perfect world and everything was good in the city, we’d probably still be here,” said Bryant.
The last thing Bryant said was that times are changing, and people need to change with them. He feels the city is growing around south St. Pete, and “if people don’t change their thinking, we will get left behind.”
“Don’t get left behind. Change your way of thinking and those habits you have.”