BY Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D, Contributor
ST. PETERSBURG — Data from the most recent mayoral race indicates those in the African-American community most at risk and desirous of reform voted for former Mayor Rick Baker or one of the other candidates on the ballot opposing the incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.
Baker is well known in the Midtown community and his accomplishments during his tenure as mayor were numerous and fueled the Midtown transformation with jobs, basic services, educational opportunities and business assistance.
Baker’s major opponent (Kriseman), on the other hand, was a stranger in Midtown before the recent electoral season, and many of Baker’s accomplishments have been lost under Kriseman’s administration.
Lacking a meaningful record of accomplishments, Kriseman and the Democratic Party have chosen to inject partisan politics into a non-partisan race and, in doing so, have managed to convince some to vote for a party rather than their interests and the interests of those still residing in areas ignored and underserved by Kriseman.
Those familiar with the history of 22nd Street and the historic African-American communities in St. Petersburg will remember the role integration played in dismantling community cohesiveness and economic diversity. Individuals and families capable of doing so moved out of segregated neighborhoods in search of greater opportunities and prosperity.
Those who could not move remained in previously segregated neighborhoods and continued to raise their families and fight for equality, basic services, jobs and economic growth. Some who were capable of moving on chose to stay given their commitment to the communities that nourished them and their ancestors.
Today, those of us who have moved on must answer the salient question: Are we our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers? During the civil rights era, doctors, lawyers, educators and other African- American professionals and middle-class families responded with a resounding: “Yes, we are.”
Community activists responded affirmatively as well. In keeping with the principles of our Christian faith and their commitment to equality, diversity and equal access, Joe Savage led the garbage strike, Dr. Fred Alsup led the effort to integrate Spa Beach, Dr. Robert Swain led the effort to remove racial housing covenants, Dr. Ralph Wimbish led the effort to integrate the lunch counters, the Courageous Twelve integrated the police department and the list goes on.
Community activists who believe in African-American self-determination and police accountability fought then and now for African-American economic prosperity and safety. Omali Yeshitela and Chimueranga Waller continue this advocacy today and the self-proclaimed grass roots activist “Momma Tee” Lassiter remains committed to her advocacy as well.
I am my brother’s keeper, and I have lived a life of service as proof of my commitment. I urge others to stop and think about the fact that while they may be able to go to a grocery store or pharmacy and easily access other basic services, many of our African-American brothers and sisters cannot.
Mayor Baker addressed these issues during his tenure with two grocery stores, pharmacies, a financial institution, Job Corp., renovated historical venues (Manhattan Casino, Royal Theatre, Jordan School, Mercy Hospital), jobs, and 1,000 privately funded scholarships for free and reduced lunch students, etc.
Mayor Kriseman, on the other hand, lost the grocery store, lost Walgreens, lost Sylvia’s, and shipped sewage to south St. Pete. He recently reminded us of his disregard for our history and culture with his attempt to give the Manhattan Casino to entities not of the community and inconsistent with our heritage. The Sno-Peak site was awarded to individuals who will bring a BMW motorcycle shop to the 22nd Street Corridor.
Are we our brothers and sisters keepers? I firmly believe we are and know when we search our hearts we will vote for much-needed change on Nov. 7 and not be fooled by those who are trying to convince us that a man we know is Trump-like.
Rick Baker is not Donald Trump. He has a proven record of commitment and accomplishment with African-American communities.
On the other hand, Rick Kriseman has a record of failure, neglect, and indifference.
Those most in need of change have not been fooled by the Trump card Kriseman is trying to play. They voted for a proven record and the man they know. Let’s support our brothers and sisters in search of change.