New plan, old results?

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor,

Rev. Don A. Gaskin, Apostle Clarice Pennington and Mordecai Walker are names of just a few leaders from this community who have played major roles in my life, but who have also been among the many Weekly Challenger readers urging me to continue submitting letters to the editor in hopes of bringing attention to the many issues and concerns facing our community.

For that I am honored and in deference to them and so many others, I will continue to submit my thoughts to the editor for as long as the Challenger is willing to print them! However, I have a confession! I am writing with a purpose!

It is my hope that by writing about issues and concerns in our community, these letters will spark discussion that will hopefully lead to leaders within this community putting down their gauntlets and working collectively with their constituents, whether they voted for them or not, to resolve issues that have continued to plague our community for years.  At some point Blind Barabbas could see if one  keeps doing the same thing, the chances are one will continue to get the same result!

Remember when $500,000 was spent on linking the 16th Street Business Corridor to Tropicana Field with palm trees? The trees were supposed to entice baseball fans to drive down 16th Street and ultimately stop and patronize the business. Well, it didn’t work.

Community, those plans didn’t have any measurements to hold public officials accountable. We simply have to ask ourselves if the new community redevelopment plan for south St. Petersburg looks very similar to the last failure.

What makes us think that 30 years from now or even five years from now that south St. Petersburg will look any differently than it does now in terms of seeing the results of tangible positive socio-economic development outcomes that directly impact the residents and business within the community redevelopment area?

One of my favorite statements when referencing Africans collectively in St. Petersburg/Pinellas goes something to the effect that we have some of the smartest African Americans they knew, but were baffled as to how year after year our socio-economic influence  remains stagnant with  very little signs of progress toward positive change.

I find it difficult to accept that after all the struggles and sacrifices our ancestors have made thus far, that we could have been reduced to a cadre of educated folks waiting on our 20 minutes of fame, or on crumbs someone will give us if we simply remain compliant and complacent.

Often times when trying to understand the current status of black America in St. Petersburg and beyond, I look to three reference sources: the bible and two of  the world’s most prominent African-American  leaders,  President Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a gauge as to whether my  thought process is intact or if  is it flawed.

I find nearly 100 percent of the time my thought process is right in line with my favorite three references. The one area that I often seek council in is the issue of personal responsibility and accountability, particularly when it comes to our acceptance of the need to collectively work to better our own socioeconomic conditions.   Let us review what my favorite three resources say about the need for us to design, seed and harvest our own destiny by utilizing personal responsibility as one of our foundational principles.

The apostle Paul touches on personal responsibilities in his concluding statement in the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. He declares that if we really believe and if we are truly thankful that our resurrection is sure, we should therefore demonstrate our assurance and our thankfulness by “standing firm, letting nothing move us” and “always giving ourselves full to the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Could this be why the church is declining?

With the harvest being plentiful, one of the largest categories of laborers who consistently remain silent, who can’t stand if they are not leading or who wavers at the risk of being politically incorrect is the church. Yet, there seems to be a lot of angst about churches not filling up their pews. Bishops, apostles, imams, preachers, rabbis, ministers or other spiritual leaders, we can’t and must not continue to do the same thing with an expectation of getting different results.

One of the many quotes attributed to Dr. King that demonstrated his belief regarding personal responsibility and accountability is this quote: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Another good quote:  “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

Then there is President Obama, the leader of the free world who often shares his perspective on the need for African Americans to take personal responsibility for their socio-economic environment.

Ironically, when the president has delivered speeches or made comments regarding Africans and personal responsibility, it is unbelievable how his critics have attempted to paint his comments regarding personal responsibility as evidence of his lack of understanding regarding the institutional racism that exists and the ultimate impact the minority socio–economic climb.

For those that insist on holding on to that notion, maybe someone could explain to me some of the following scenarios that disproportionately impact black and brown people:

  • Racism does not cause the disproportionate number of black boys and men that kill each other, and even though there are hundreds that run toward the violence, police often struggle to get one person of color to stand  and bare witness, doing the Godly thing  
  • Racism doesn’t cause African people who have ascended into positions of authority, and who waive the Christian banner back and forth when it comes to doing the right thing or the Godly thing
  • Racism doesn’t cause black women to hate on each other simply because
  • Racism does not cause a community of educated African people to remain silent when every majority black schools in the predominantly African community are D & F schools

I attended my 93-year-old cousin’s going home celebration last week.  Hearing about the impact she made on thousands of young people’s lives, on the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, her church and the impact she made on her family caused me to think about what will be said at my funeral.

The celebration caused me one more time to thank our Father for those awesome warriors who have gone on to their eternal resting place or to those warriors who are still enjoying their earthly rest and retirement, I could not help but feel as though we are at jeopardy of losing much of the ground that was paved for us.

Family and friends we must not forget we have a debt to pay!

~ Maria L. Scruggs

One Reply to “New plan, old results?”

  1. Clarence Williams says:

    In response to Mrs. Scruggs recent comment the St. Petersburg black community itself is also to blame for not putting those elected politicians feet to the fire. They elect them but seem to never QUESTION them on what they are going to do or are doing to help improve the plight of the black community.

    It seems that the only responsibility of those that are elected is to NOT “rock the boat” with critical issues that are vital to the community’s growth. Also the black media themselves must start posing questions on the progress and goals of the elected politicians and not just pasting their picture to give them a photo-op preparing them for the next election. St. Pete has too many “toothless tigers” in leadership positions.

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