Madeline Mahon from Promote Antiracism St. Pete at the lending library, located at Allendale United Methodist Church
BY COURTNEY AMOS, Neighborhood News Bureau
ST. PETERSBURG — “How can we get more white people involved and get everyone to come together and practice antiracism?” As the fight for racial justice ramped up across the country with mass protests in the summer, this is the question that St. Petersburg resident Madeline Mahon wanted to address in her community.
Thus Promote Anti-Racism St. Pete, an organization focused on dismantling racism and transitioning from performative allyship to active accomplices, was conceived.
The organization has three main initiatives: the passing out of antiracism signs, a lending library of antiracism and civil rights literature and an active social media presence to amplify and redirect community members to the voices of Black leaders and groups who are doing the groundwork.
The signs are where it all began back in June 2020. Mahon ordered various signs with antiracism rhetoric and messages of support and posted about it on the NextDoor app. From there, interest in obtaining a sign from Mahon grew, and so she started up a social media presence to further network under the title Promote Anti-Racism St. Pete.
Now, the organization passes these signs out to anyone who wants one. Though payment is accepted if one feels compelled to offer a donation, the signs are free of charge.
All sign batches are purchased with the help of community donations and are provided by Signs of Justice, a small, Black, woman-owned sign shop based out of Portland, Ore. To receive a sign, all one has to do is direct message Promote Anti-Racism St. Pete’s social media outlets for delivery, or pick one up at the weekly lending library.
Hosted at Allendale United Methodist Church every Sunday from 11-2 p.m., the library began in September with the help of fellow St. Petersburg resident Kayla Brown, who originally came into contact with Mahon as a sign recipient. Like the signs initiative, the library is also donations based. Community members can donate money to purchase books or donate their own books for the collection.
“We are currently in an awakening in this country,” said Danielle Reed, who is reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist via the lending library. “Those of us who have benefited from ignorance and privilege are becoming more aware of the systemic inequities that our country was founded on and continues to operate by.”
Currently, the library is complete with 17 titles concerning race and racial justice, seven Civil Rights era titles, and seven children’s books that tackle racism and representation issues. Within the various titles they carry, the library may have anywhere from one to a handful of copies of each.
Community Tampa Bay donated the collection of civil rights literature the library carries, and the main vendor that Promote Anti-Racism St. Pete orders through is Cultured Books, another Black, woman-owned business located in downtown St. Petersburg.
To obtain a book, all one has to do is attend the library pop-up, select a book and sign a lending agreement. Reserving a book can also be done ahead of time via direct messaging with the organization’s social media. The rental period is tentatively two weeks. If one wishes to buy a book, they ask that you buy directly from Cultured Books.
The organization’s social media presence is equally crucial to its overall mission as the signs and the library. The group’s Instagram page regularly features information about the local community and activism initiatives. It also acts to redirect followers to Black leadership in St. Petersburg and educational resources provided by Black people who are speaking about issues of race and white supremacy. Meanwhile, the Facebook page is solely focused on information about the lending library.
Both Mahon and Brown have expressed that their objective is not to center their perspectives in the current movement for racial justice but rather to act as a starting point for further exploration into the work it takes to become an accomplice in combatting white supremacy.
“As white people, it’s easy for us to just let it go and keep living our daily lives,” said Brown. “It’s time for us to be educated and to take that into our own hands.”
The organization recently reached a milestone, having amassed more than 1,000 followers on Instagram.
Though the organization does not currently have any new initiatives in the works, the one thing Mahon wanted to emphasize was that this has to be a continuous effort on the part of those who may find themselves slipping back into complacency as time wears on, and especially in light of Joe Biden’s winning the presidency.
“As long as the other grassroots organizations are still kicking, then we’re going to be right alongside,” said Mahon.
The organization can be reached via their social media, and they want to encourage those who are interested in this activism to follow BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) pages as well.
Courtney Amos is a student reporter in the Neighborhood News Bureau at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Visit nnbnews.com for more info.