BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer
CLEARWATER – Grassroots activist Winnie Foster celebrated her 92nd birthday at Pinellas County Jail protesting against the disproportionate number of young males of color that end up incarcerated before the age of 21. Once black males initially enter the system, the chances of them returning are statistically higher than their white counterparts.
With a picket sign in hand last Sunday, Foster suggested that resourceful people in the community could play a significant role in helping to reduce juvenile delinquency. She then grabbed the hand of Carla Bristol, gallerist and community leader, and asked her to share her latest venture.
“I call them youth ambassadors, and we are starting a community youth farm, which will be right behind the Enoch Davis Center,” said Bristol, who is the project’s leader.
Funded by CRA dollars, more than 40 partner organizations and community leaders are collectively working to develop a cradle to career pathway for food systems careers and entrepreneurship in the public school system, starting with the establishment of a youth farm.
Such a project lends itself to developing skills that many of the young people would never have had the opportunity to learn and experience firsthand.
Bristol said the farm could have a positive ripple effect because it provides a unique opportunity for youth to “give back to their own community by developing a sustainable garden that could beautify and feed local residents as well.”
According to statistics gathered from the “Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration” report, the incarceration of youth of color has increased by 22 percent since 2001.
A discussion about racial profiling sprang to life in the comments made by Lee Hall Perkins, senior pastor of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Clearwater.
“As a black man in America, I can’t begin to tell you how the weight of racism weighs on a person from day to day,” said Perkins, adding that his wife calls him several times a day to make sure he’s alive and well.
“All it takes is one traffic stop, for example, and he may not come home,” asserted his wife, Jana Hall-Perkins, senior pastor at McCabe United Methodist Church.
“That’s why I appreciate you all here and speaking out about this kind of injustice! I’m so grateful for Mrs. Winnie, and I aspire to be like her when I grow up,” she continued.
Foster’s ultimate goal was to have had a meeting with the on-duty sheriff and have the protestors share their concerns, but the birthday girl and partygoers/protestors had to settle for a deputy who said he would relay the message to the sheriff.
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