PCUL Pride parade reception

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG –Since the Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) is located right across the street from the beginning on the Pride parade, they decided to open their doors for a reception on Saturday and let the public know exactly what they do.

Located at 333 31st St. N, just a few blocks from Central Avenue where the parade took place, PCUL has been making a difference in the community for decades.

“People need to understand what the Urban League does,” said President and CEO Watson Haynes. He wants to get the word out about the many programs and services they provides. “Everybody can find us when their utilities are off, but you can’t find us for nothing else.”

And as gay and straight people alike flocked into its headquarters conveniently located across from Alibi, a local gay bar, Haynes was hopeful that word of what they do will get out.

A reception was planned by the City of St. Petersburg’s Director of Urban Affairs, Nikki Capehart, who has been entrusted with the heavy responsibility of taking the city to the next level.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and his family showed up along with Chief Anthony Holloway and some of his staff and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin to fill up and hydrate before marching in the parade.

“We are hosting dignitaries and different people from the city here,” Capehart said. But it was an open invitation event. Wine, beer, fruit and sandwiches were provided for anyone that was curious as to what goes on at the Urban League.

In addition to helping out those in need of paying their electric bills, PCUL has many other assistance programs. From housing counseling services, to providing energy related home improvements to cut down on electric costs, they aim to make a difference. They also support a summer youth work readiness program and offer GED assistance and tutoring services. Just two years ago they became the operational headquarters of the 2020 Plan, which is a five-year, $170 million initiative to reduce poverty in south St. Petersburg area.

But opening their doors on Saturday was about an issue more on a national scale, one of togetherness. “That’s the biggest opportunity about today,” said Tomalin who viewed all the different cultures and religious beliefs present at the parade as a giant step toward equality.

“It’s historically significant because there’s a perceived chasm between the Africa-American community and the homosexual community,” continued Tomalin who is part of the movement to bridge the divides in St. Petersburg.

She believes equality in all forms is essential and foundational to the American experience.  “We grow better and stronger every day through celebrations and gatherings like these,” she said. “We believe we can continue to move that agenda forward.”

At the close of the reception, those marching in the parade took their spots while others walked down to party the night away.

To reach Holly Kestenis, email hkestenis@theweeklychallenger.com

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