Why are we surprised at the rats, the unkempt lawns and the un-kept promises in Jordan Park? These realities are simply the results of what happens when low-income communities’ demographics serve as the conduit to receive public dollars. The work and the investment to build struggling family’s lives become nothing more than political posturing and pandering.
During my tenure as the Hope VI Supportive Services Director at the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, there was a program designed for the purpose of providing the children living in Jordan Park access to tutors every day after school, on Saturday mornings and during the spring and summer holidays.
There was a conversation with an employer who had historically hired residents in the 33712 zip code, but because of the transportation challenges many of them quit. The company, who shall remain nameless, responded favorably to a proposal from me to bring their company to the 22nd Street Corridor if the city would sell them the Manhattan Casino for $1.
The company responded with an offer to bring 100 new jobs to the area and even came with a promise of ensuring all of the supervisory/management jobs would come from residents residing in the 33712, 33711 and 33705 zip codes.
There was a museum committee comprise of everyone in the city that had expressed an interest in preserving and educating others of the significant contributions of African Americans. There was even a 24-member taskforce comprised of residents and other community stakeholders who were willing to work collaboratively to bring the types of opportunities, services and support to the area.
Unfortunately with all of that on the table, residents that were engaged and children that were enjoying the love for learning, even if it were on Saturday mornings and involved their holiday breaks, all of that effort went down the drain when Darryl Irion decided that not only must I go but most of the African-American management team that he simply used for the purpose of gaining the trust of residents to get the HOPE VI development plan completed and implemented.
Left standing was an executive management team that made a lot of money, were majority white and individuals who had little investment into the lives of residents of Jordan Park and any of the other housing units.
I have been back in St. Petersburg living in south St. Pete for 29 years. The formula that worked then is the formula that still prevails when it comes to any type of quality improvements within the African-American community.
The formula involves creating the narrative that black people are criminals, loud, unintelligent and poor. Our demographics are then used to bring billions of public dollars into our communities to fix us. Programs will pop up to save us that have little to no investment in the people. These programs will simply be attached to somebody’s political agenda/name to describe the “great things” they did or are doing for the black people.
If a program appears to have a chance of succeeding, the exterminators are called in, promised a couple of coins and their jobs are to simply ensure the failure of the potentially successful program/project and to discredit the individual or individuals who are working to ensure its success.
The media’s interest will rarely center on the program’s/project’s success; their job is to accentuate its failure. You then of course have to get some black leaders to co-sign on the project to assign legitimacy and a governing body or board that is completely clueless or detached about the work they have engaged in.
In most instances those individuals are simply there to enhance their resumes or position themselves for the next political appointment or election. The program/project will fail and the stereotypes of the African-American community being poor and downtrodden will continue to be perpetuated.
The only way that this pattern of mediocrity and corruption changes is when the African-American community itself says: “Enough is enough!”
Maria L. Scruggs
President, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP