Momma Tee: She got the job done

Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter

Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter


In a 2015 post on St. Petersblog, journalist Janelle Irwin wrote an article on Theresa Lassiter entitled “Momma Tee Lassiter: Activist or antagonist?” Well, I’m here to answer that question: Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter was both. She had a sharp tongue and a quick wit, and she’d let you know, as she would always say, “That dog don’t hunt.”

Lassiter drew her last breathe Monday, Oct. 1 at 1:40 a.m. She fought the good fight, but pancreatic cancer is not an easy foe to vanquish. She was 62.

She was portrayed in the media as a baseless rebel rouser, but most outlets never flipped the coin to see the other side. She may not have been your typical palatable community leader, but she got the job done.

And yes, she was loud! She was on the scene at just about every city council meeting giving all of them the what for. She ran afoul with just about every locally elected official possible, and even with some who were just thinking about running for office. She didn’t care if you were black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight.

In her own Momma Tee way, her grandiloquent diatribes were all in an effort to help the community she loved so dearly.

Momma Tee did so much for that single mother or returned citizen that we will never know about. Although she was not shy about making her accomplishments known, the small things such as helping someone pay their electric bill or driving someone to a job interview she didn’t publicize because it was all in a day’s work.

I first met Momma Tee after at a mayoral forum I held in 2013 when she walked out cussing mad because someone was attacking then-Mayor Bill Foster—who she thought was the best thing since sliced bread. And even though we sometimes disagreed on how to tackle an issue, I must say, she got the job done.

How many people you know meet regularly with the chief of police on their turf to discuss and resolve neighborhood issues? She even used her influence with top cop Anthony Holloway to stop an eviction of a young mother with a special-needs child who had been fighting. She got the job done.

After the Tampa Bay Times published an exposé on the state of south St. Pete’s failing schools, she decided to adopt Lakewood Elementary. She rounded up mentors to volunteer at the school, and in 2015, she held a huge Christmas party for 95 of the school’s neediest children.

With money left over from her LawFest and donated items, she provided food, gifts for the children and each child was able to take a wrapped present home for their parents. She held one of these parties in 2016 and in 2017.

Like I said before, she got the job done.

And speaking of LawFest, Momma Tee founded a yearly workshop where people could obtain free legal advice. In 2002, she and her buddy Foster, who is an attorney, would set up shop at Shirley’s Soul Food Restaurant and he would give away legal advice with the purchase of breakfast.

Last year, the 14th annual LawFest saw close to 500 people stopping by for advice on matters such as patent law, immigration, civil litigation, divorce, wills, child support and even mental health issues. She got things done.

She had planned to take the 15th annual workshop on the road so that more people could be reached, but she had become too ill. However, being ill did not stop her from having one of her famous back-to-school events.

This August, while in a rehabilitation center in Largo, Momma Tee held a back-to-school giveaway for the staff. Being too sick to plan one for the children of south St. Pete, she decided the show must go on. And with help from her friends, she got the job done.

Momma Tee” was born the eighth child of William and Rosetta Morgan Sowell on Oct. 27, 1955. She was one of nine children reared in a close-knit religious family.

She graduated from St. Pete High School and eventually earned an Associate of Arts Degree in Paralegal Studies from St. Petersburg College.

After spending some time going down the wrong path, Momma Tee started her life of grassroots activism after the riots that gripped the city in 1996. Soon after, while serving on the Weed & Seed Prevention Intervention Committee, she created and organized with the police department the first Back to Basics Family Fun Day Festival to unite the community and the police.

In 2000, Momma Tee started a non-profit organization called Successes Unlimited Women & Youth Business Center, Inc., which provided resources and programs to benefit the entire family. One such program was Mother’s First, where parents could obtain much-needed services, education and training, parenting skills and resources for children in grades K-12.

In 2015, Successes Unlimited held their first “How to Prevent Crime in the Black Community?” back-to-school giveaway that featured battling DJs, poster and essay contests, games for the children, food, and of course, school supplies. If a parent were unable to attend the event, she would actually drive to their homes and deliver the supplies.

She got the job done.

Unbeknownst to her, cancer was ravishing her body during her 2017 mayoral run. She put her hat in the ring after flipping through a 1996 city budget book and realizing not had changed in two decades.

Momma Tee leaves behind to cherish her memory her children La Twanya, Kendra, Holly and Herman; grandchildren Imani, Omari, Makayla and Deviji’on and a host of family, friends and her beloved community.

A wake will be held Friday, Oct. 5 from 6-8 p.m. at Bethel Community Church, 2901 54th Ave. S. The funeral service will take place Saturday, Oct. 6 at Prayer Tower Church of God In Christ, 1137 37th St. S, starting at 11 a.m.

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