ST. PETERSBURG — The ongoing controversy regarding the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African America Museum continues to prompt the vilification of Darrell Irions and the St. Petersburg Housing Authority Board of Directors. As a victim of vilification during my professional career by those who disagreed with decisions I made, I take this opportunity to address the injustice directed towards Irions and his board.
Goliath Davis, PhD
I have friends on both sides of the issue and have responded to numerous phone calls from a host of diverse individuals who shared a myriad of Facebook opinions regarding Irions, members of the board and their character. These calls have afforded me with an opportunity to convey pertinent information I wish to share with a broader Weekly Challenger audience.
First, I think it’s important to inform those who may not know that the alleged MONSTER, Irions, personally worked to install the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum. His commitment is evident in many ways to include advocating for the rehabilitation of the building, recommending the allocation of residual housing authority funds to the Carter G. Woodson to assist with their monetary shortfalls, and worked to prolong the museum’s viability.
I am confident Irions and the board regrets the current situation; however, the current Woodson Museum leadership team, like the director and board preceding it, share the same problem, which is insufficient financial capacity to remain operationally viable as a museum. This problem also plagues other museums across the country.
I was hopeful that a workable partnership agreement could be reached between the museum and St. Petersburg College (SPC). The college’s infrastructure and resources presented opportunities for an array of exhibits and educational programs for the community and students of all ages.
Capacity building was a central tenet of the Midtown Economic Development initiative. Recognizing African Americans in our area did not own major grocery store chains or the U. S. Postal Service, we sought to partner grocery chains and the postal service with African Americans with the capacity to make some form of ownership a reality.
Felton, Wooten and Felton are the property owners where the post office resides, and Urban Development Solutions owns the Tangerine/Midtown Plaza Shopping center. I was hopeful a partnership between the Woodson Museum and SPC would yield the same positive outcome for Midtown and all of St. Petersburg.
It is time now for leadership and an end to the name calling and vilification. I fully understand why white policy makers and board members want to avoid being stigmatized by some who feel partnering with SPC might be perceived negatively by members of the African-American community. Therefore, I implore all sides to focus on the core issue.
If the Woodson organization cannot meet its fiscal responsibilities, why can’t the housing authority make a business decision? And more importantly, why can’t there be a collaborative agreement between SPC and the Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s governing body to continue and enhance the museum’s viability and service? These outcomes require leadership, compromise and a community focus.
I worked endlessly to elect Mayor Rick Kriseman who ran on a leadership platform. Mayor, it is time to get off of the sidelines and lead. On this and other important issues to the African- American community; e.g. education, your voice is loudly absent.