BY HOLLY KESTENIS
ST. PETERSBURG – Amid rumors of a tumultuous first few months at University Preparatory Academy, a new principal has been assigned to the helm—Darius Adamson. And his mission is one of healing and rejuvenation.
It was Saturday morning and Adamson had just awakened. The house phone rang, then his cell. The deliveryman pulled up to unload his new bed. Adamson has only been in town for roughly 45 days and already he’s working on a weekend.
“It’s all good,” he laughed. He knows sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.Adamson was just designated executive director/principal for University Preparatory Academy, a charter school housed in the old Southside Middle School building at 1701 10th St. S., St. Petersburg.
Located in an area of south St. Petersburg that has schools failing when it comes to Florida’s school grading system, University Prep was built up as the best alternative for local families forced to send their kids to low performing schools. In fact, two Pinellas County schools in the area, according to the Florida Department of Education, have both been on the list of F schools for the past three years.
It is with a heavy heart that The Weekly Challenger family has to say goodbye to one of its own. Rick Gee passed away early Saturday morning after complications with surgery he had a few days before.
Born on December 3, 1934, Mr. Gee graduated from Howard University and did his postgraduate studies from Williams College and American University.An avid swimmer, he missed the Olympic tryouts in the 1950s after hurting his elbow playing basketball. He is also in the Athletic Hall of Fame for Howard University and for the city of Newark, NJ.
He never stopped swimming; in fact, this year he was heard complaining that a man almost 30 years his junior beat him swimming laps. He said his ego just wouldn’t allow that.
A veteran of the army, Mr. Gee blew into town in 2003 from Newark, NJ, and in a short time galvanized the whole jazz community in the Tampa Bay area. Always with a smile on his face, he excitedly spoke of some new adventure he had on the horizon.
He is a former President of the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association and was the current Vice President of the Sarasota Jazz Association. He was not just a lover of jazz, for he could bring you to tears when he played the flute.
Mr. Gee is survived by his two daughters Gina and Ginger Gee from Maryland and Texas respectively. He also leaves behind his loving companion Yvonne Alsup and a host of friends that will surely miss him.
A celebration of life will take place Sat., March 22 at Bethel Community Church, 2901 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg at 11 a.m.
BY HOLLY KESTENIS
ST. PETERSBURG – Saturday marked a milestone in the history of St. Petersburg College (SPC) as prominent community members converged along 22nd Street South to pay tribute to two community heroes with a prestigious past.
Both Cecil B. Keene Sr. and Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. will be forever remembered and revered as their names stand out in a community that will always commemorate their tireless contributions to St. Petersburg and the residents of the Midtown area.
“We stand here in celebration at a location that hasn’t always had cause to celebrate,” said Dr. William Law, SPC’s president for the last 25 years. “Midtown is the heart of St. Petersburg, south of Central Avenue.”
46 Years of Service to the Tampa Bay Area
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BY HOLLY KESTENIS
ST. PETERSBURG – The Inaugural Whitney M. Young Jr. Leadership Awards Luncheon was held last Thur., Feb 27 at the historic Manhattan Casino, located at 642 22nd St. S., in an effort to recognize outstanding achievements in community and public investment. And it was a hit.
“This event is intentional,” said Pinellas County Urban League President and CEO, Watson Haynes, II speaking of the location in which they chose to hold the event. “It sparks the history of the African-American community.”
And the tenant at the bottom catering the soiree was no accident either. Groups and organizations all over the neighborhood have pledged their support for the revitalization efforts of the Midtown area, so Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food, which is quickly becoming a staple, is no exception.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL
ST. PETERSBURG – Campbell Park Recreation Center held their black history celebration Thurs., Feb. 27. With a large teen participation, this celebration was a perfect example of our youth doing great things in the community.
The night was packed with tributes to African-American history such as creative dance, Negro spirituals performed by the kids from ACT 1 and biographies read by the Campbell Park teens dressed as their historical figure.
In many black history celebrations, the same names are repeated year after year. There is more to black history than Martin Luther King, Jr. or Harriet Tubman, and the kids proved that they were aware of their history.
ST. PETERSBURG – As a part of Black History Month, Wildwood Recreation Center, 1000 28th St. S., St. Petersburg, put on a standing room only black history program that left parents teary eyed.
The Feb. 28 program consisted of dance routines by Girls United Dancers, a poem by Courtney Bynum and drumming by Johnny Brown and Dontavius Crapps that would have left Questlove of the Roots jealous.
The highlight of the evening was memorized biographies by the children. Each child took to the microphone in front of a packed room and recited short biographies by a historical figure such as scientist, surveyor and almanac author Benjamin Banneker; Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female to hold a pilot’s license and activist Ruby Bridges known for being the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South.
BY HOLLY KESTENIS
ST. PETERSBURG – Twenty Second Street South has been undergoing a reconstruction of sorts over the last few years. Restaurants and shops have worked their way into the area with hopes of breathing life back into the historic section of St. Petersburg. So on the 22nd day of the month of love, couples gathered at the Royal Theater in Midtown, located at 1011 22nd St. S., to pay tribute to 11 couples who have stayed together through thick and thin.
“We wanted to honor and promote lasting relationships,” said Antwaun Wells a master barber at Esquire Barbershop, who makes it his mission to support businesses in the Midtown section of the city and who hosted the event. “It’s a very rare thing, something that is not really found much in our community anymore.”
Five couples were spotlighted for their years of devotion and dedication to one another. Wells who also is known for his work as Project Manager for Wells Builders, a mentoring and tutoring organization, strives to teach others in the African-American community how to build those relationships that last.
So we asked them. What is your secret?
“I learned that God did not give me a perfect wife,” said Arch Bishop Clarence Davis of the Joy Tabernacle Cathedral in Tampa as he smiled and hastily admitted he wasn’t faultless either. “Celebrate each other’s positive attributes and forget the negative.”
With 52 years of marriage under their belts, after only one date, both Clarence and Ava Davis have weathered many storms. With three sons, one now deceased, and a lifetime of living God’s will, the couple credits their attitude about relationships as being the glue that holds everything in place.
“We didn’t go into it thinking short-term,” said Arch Bishop Davis who recalls attending counseling for marriage before the holy ceremony. “The counselor said, ‘I will not marry you unless you plan to stay together 75 years.’”
But times today are different. Longevity, an aspect of culture, no matter the race, is arguably going by the wayside, disappearing among married couples.
But don’t tell that to the Brayboys though.
Married for 35 years, both Elihu and Carolyn are widely recognized in the community for their work in the revitalization efforts throughout Midtown. With a consignment store, a pizza-and-ice cream shop, and a Cajun restaurant on the way, there is plenty to keep them both busy.
They met in 7th grade and dated until they went their separate ways in college. They didn’t see each other for ten years. So when their paths crossed again the couple knew their attraction was still strong. And although Elihu credits his love and respect for his wife as their strongest asset, anyone who knows the husband and wife team would venture to speculate on their polar oppositeness when it comes to comparing personalities and skills as the key to their success.
Antwaun Wells and Veatrice Farrell hosted the event.
BY HOLLY KESTENIS
ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg was all abuzz last Saturday with the arrival off former governor Charlie Crist. In town for a book signing, he generated a huge crowd of supporters and a few naysayers as well.
The first stop on his list was Ferg’s, the local sports bar along Central Avenue, known for its game day lore and good food. And although the place was packed with nearly 150 people, there wasn’t a person sitting.
“They were really anticipating his arrival,” said Jeff Copeland, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Pinellas County (SCLC). No one was sitting down. Everybody was just on their feet waiting for Charlie.”
Copeland has known Crist for years and is ecstatic for his run at governor. With the release of his book, The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat, it seems Crist isn’t squirming over the fact that his opponent, current Governor Rick Scott, has a rumored $100 million at his disposal.
An exorbitant amount of money to rally a trash talking campaign that is sure to have Crist dodging more bombs than a beachgoer caught in a seagull horde after a fish dinner. But with all the free publicity surrounding the just wrapped up book tour, he probably doesn’t have to worry just yet.
“Charlie embraces everyone; he’s a people’s governor,” said Copeland pointing out the now democratic candidate for governor’s uncanny ability to mesh with any crowd. “That’s what you need, someone who knows what both sides of the train tracks look like and how they operate.”
A firm supporter of Crist since his previous term as governor, when he convinced the cabinet to restore rights to nonviolent offenders, a decision since reversed by now Gov. Scott, Copeland is hopeful Crist’s popularity among longtime residents and Florida’s working middle class will be the right ammunition in the upcoming campaign.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Watson Haynes, president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League were both on hand to say a few words to the crowd, both adamantly pledging their support.
But the day for Crist was about meeting and greeting the supporters of his book and when he arrived at Haslam’s Book Store to autograph some copies, he was met with signs reading, “The People’s Governor” and mostly smiles. The few protestors who showed up were a bit more subdued when compared to what is becoming known as the Fort Lauderdale incident where Tea Party Protesters spit out a round of offensive insults aimed at Crist.
But Crist didn’t seem to notice and greeted all his supporters with a smile and a wave.
“He is a great addition to what we need in our community,” said Copeland. “We have a topnotch mayor so now it’s time for a top notch governor.”
Crist’s book, “The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat,” is available at Haslam’s Book Store, Barnes & Noble and other fine book stores.
BY JON WILSON
ST. PETERSBURG — A Mecca for baseball’s spring training since 1914, St. Petersburg in 1961 became a focal point in the battle to end discrimination in the lodging of black and white players.
Jackie Robinson broke the Major League’s color barrier in 1947. But as more African-American players begin to be signed by the big leagues, an old custom prevailed in St. Petersburg and in 10 other training sites throughout Florida.Eighteen teams trained in the Sunshine State, and all except the Los Angeles Dodgers housed their African-American players in segregated housing.
In St. Petersburg, white players for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees typically stayed at such posh establishments as the Vinoy and Soreno hotels downtown. Because of segregation customs, black players stayed in homes, apartments and boarding houses in the community.
It wasn’t that the accommodations for the black players were substandard. But the separation from their teammates was one more insult in a system that also denied the players equal access to many amenities such as restaurants, recreational facilities and movie theaters.
The situation began to change in 1961. Black players were excluded from St. Petersburg’s annual “Salute to Baseball” breakfast. The omission may or may not have been deliberate. But black players, given the era’s racial climate, felt slighted.
Said Bill White, the St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman: “I think I’m a gentleman and can conduct myself properly.” He and others used the episode as a starting point to bring change.
“This thing keeps gnawing at my heart,” White was quoted in the Pittsburgh Courier. “When will we be made to feel like humans?”
Doctors Ralph Wimbish and Robert Swain were civil rights leaders who also housed African-American players. At about the same time, they decided to take on baseball’s housing segregation. Wimbish had helped desegregate the city’s lunch counters, and said he couldn’t square his activism in other areas if he didn’t make a stand for the players.
Wimbish told newspaper reporters he would no longer house Elston Howard, the Yankee’s all-star catcher, and he asked Yankees and Cardinals management to join him in calling for an end to segregation.
The state NAACP backed Wimbish, but St. Petersburg business leaders and other officials didn’t like it. They voiced opposition. But the ball was rolling. In March of that year, the Chicago White Sox canceled their hotel in Miami after the hotel refused to accept the team’s black players during an exhibition game. Other teams took similar stands, and the spring training issue became a national news story.
Perhaps to avoid a deluge of bad publicity, most Florida ballparks ended discriminatory practices, and by the following spring, most black players were able to stay with their white teammates in the same hotels. Officials in St. Petersburg worked to find accommodations in hotels other than the Soreno or Vinoy.
Meanwhile, the Yankees moved to Fort Lauderdale, but it was unclear whether racial discrimination was a reason. Team officials said the move had been in the planning stages for several years. The New York Mets came to town in 1962.
Not every landlord who had provided segregated lodging supported Wimbish’s and Swain’s initiative. Nonetheless, the season of ’61 was an important turning point in St. Petersburg’s – and Florida’s – journey toward equality for all..
Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente was consideredtoo dark to stay with the white players.
BY RAVEN JOY
ST. PETESBURG – U.S. Representative Kathy Castor held her Annual Black History Month Celebration Luncheon Mon., Feb. 24 at Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. This year all honors went to the late Dr. David T. Welch for his life and legacy.
Every year during Black History Month, Castor recognizes some of our hometown leaders and is able to put a statement into the congressional record and the Library of Congress, which will live on in history.
So, a hundred years from now when someone is doing research in the Library on Congress about great Americans and people who have served their community and country, they will come across the service of Dr. Welch.
“He was an American hero because he served his country and came back and built this community one brick at a time. What he was able to do over his lifetime was remarkable. We simply cannot forget all that he put into growing this community. He even grew a county commission,” Castor jokingly said referring to Dr. Welch’s son County Commissioner Ken Welch.
Dr. Welch was a City Council member and a community leader who worked to improve his city for more than a half-century. Besides his stature as a community leader and spokesman, Dr. Welch was a respected businessman. He had operated Welch Accounting & Tax Service since 1966. He was among the first to integrate that section of 16th Street, where African Americans were for years forbidden to live or have businesses south of 15th Avenue South.
Ken Welch thanked Castor for her leadership in Washington and on behalf of the Welch family for the recognition of his father.
“Dad’s life was really about servicing this community whether it was in elected office or not, so this recognition is very special to my family,” said Ken Welch.He went on to say that public office is a family affair and how his mother, Alletha Welch, has always been front and center.
“I want to recognize my mom who has been the rock of our family. She was married to my dad for 50 years. Through all the madness and politics and everything else that goes on, her leadership has been so important,” he said.
Castor highlighted a few issues going on at the federal level such as the Head Start budget that is now battling back from steep cuts. And on the local level she spoke of transportation in and out of St. Pete to jobs. She mentioned that no plans have the rail lines coming into south St. Pete.
“When you look at the proposal and maps, it doesn’t have the rail lines coming into south St. Pete. Now I think it is very important that on future plans that they at least show that rail connection coming into south St. Pete. It doesn’t have to be the first thing that is built, but to incentivize construction and job creation in south St. Pete you have to show that there is a future commitment to bring it here,” she stated.
The luncheon closed out with a question and answer session and a special thank you to Reverend Louis Murphy for the use of his church and the wonderful lunch that was provided. Also to Alex Harris for his stunning a capella rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come” that made attendees rise to their feet in praise.
BY JEANIE BLUE
ST. PETERSBURG – As you walked into the fellowship hall of Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church Tuesday evening, the sounds of up-tempo jazz greeted you at the door. Usually the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association (GPPCA) monthly meetings aren’t so festive, but the February 25 meeting was also their Black History Month program.
After some light housekeeping, Jodi Davis, president of GPPCA, got the program started with Thelma McCloud, a representative of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum African American Museum, 2240 9th Ave S., St. Petersburg.
McCloud invited the audience to visit this “beautiful oasis in the middle of Midtown.” She stressed the importance of having access to an African-American museum. “If we as a race do not have a history, then what do we have worthwhile,” she asked as she mentioned the exhibits, the beautiful Legacy Gardens and the different events that happen there monthly.
She also mentioned the opportunity to purchase a brick with your name or corporation’s name on it that will be placed in the Legacy Garden.
The last installment of the month long lecture series will take place this Fri., Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. It will focus on the black woman in a program called “Power, Pride and Elegance: Exploring Black Femininity and the Arts.” For more information, call 727-323-1104.
The jazz that had the fellowship hall swaying was being performed by Lakewood Jazz Ensemble from Lakewood High School. In between speakers and while the food was being served, the band played melodiously.
Band teacher and piano player in the ensemble, Jacob Merrett, explained that the jazz ensemble has an opportunity to travel to the birthplace of jazz — New Orleans, but not without the community’s help. If anyone would like to donate to the Lakewood Jazz Ensemble and have them come play at your event, call 727-893-2916 ext. 2189 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
While attendees feasted on fried chicken, BBQ pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, potato salad and a slew of desserts, actor/motivational speaker Donald Dowridge began performing an historical piece from portions of one of Frederick Douglass’ autobiographies entitled “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.”
Dowridge performance was riveting. He presented his captivating and emotionally charged portrayal of Douglass from enslavement to freedom all while becoming a strong advocate and ambassador for the anti-slavery movement in America.
While the audience sat enthralled, Dowridge was able to give a history lesson and shed some light on this dark period of in American’s past.
Rounding out the evening was Tavaris Butler with a spoken word piece he wrote the day before. He admits to procrastinating, but when he sat down and asked the Lord for help, what came forth was an account of the African-American journey.
BY HOLLY KESTENIS
ST. PETERSBURG – The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service was a hit around St. Petersburg and the two neighboring counties who joined in on the act of giving January 20. A record number of volunteers gave of their time this year; and for that, they were honored for their efforts last Sat., Feb. 22.
“As I look at you all it’s such a great thing to see an array of people here today to celebrate what happened,” said James Robinson, Day of Service project manager.Dollars, volunteer hours and percentages were rattled off and it was clear that the second year of the MLK Day of Service grants were put to good use. With over 2,000 volunteers providing a cumulative total of over 50,000 volunteer hours, the event was a success. Robinson valued the free hours roughly at $347,000. The original investment from the state was a little over $260,000.
ST. PETESBURG — Have you heard of Emma Hill, or perhaps Emma Hill Stewart? The 17-year-old girl’s name came up during a recent tour of 22nd Street South, conducted by St. Petersburg Preservation Inc. Ms. Hill was shot to death on May 26, 1924 during a raid by a county posse led by a deputy sheriff.
Her story is little known to history, though at the time, the incident was published on the front page of the Evening Independent, St. Petersburg’s afternoon newspaper. There was no investigation into the circumstances of her death and the article did not describe her other than to refer to her as a “negress.”
A headline on the newspaper article named her as Emma Stewart, but the article itself referred to her as Emma Hill.
Fifty to 60 people on the tour learned about the girl from Gwen Reese, a tour leader and chair of the city’s African American Heritage Association.
The tour started at the Carter G. Woodson Museum of African American History and lasted about 90 minutes. It included stops near the Manhattan Casino and Mercy Hospital and on the steps of the Royal Theater. Tour guides told stories about the history and lore of 22nd Street when it was the heart and soul of St. Petersburg’s African-American community.
The tour also included a walk-through of the old Harden Grocery, which is being renovated by Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy. A lunch at the Woodson museum followed the tour.
The story of Emma Hill surfaced during research for the African-American Heritage Trail, and the tale gained rapt attention as it was told. The shooting took place during a time when 22nd Street was just beginning to grow. It was still thought of as “out in the country.” There were some residences and a few businesses, but at the time, the Manhattan Casino and Jordan Elementary had yet to open. Mercy Hospital was about a year old.
An intended raid on a purported gambling house was advanced by Sheriff W.S. Lindsey as the episode that led to more than 20 shots fired at a car said to be a Cadillac carrying seven or eight passengers. The circumstances as described in the newspaper article were not clear. But the car apparently pulled onto 22nd Street about 300 yards from the gambling house. Deputies said several people had escaped from the house, which was between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.
The car was said to have sped past deputies, and that someone in it fired a shot. That was when deputies opened fire. The bullets punctured the gas tank in several places and tore up the back seats. Ms. Hill had been sitting in a small chair in the middle of the car. One of the bullets hit her in the head, and she apparently died immediately. A coroner’s jury said it could not determine who fired the fatal shot. Passengers in the car denied shooting at deputies.
During this era of strict segregation and the Ku Klux Klan, it was not unusual for white law enforcement officers or citizens to injure or kill African Americans suspected of crimes or accused of breaking racial codes. St. Petersburg’s most infamous example occurred 100 years ago in 1914, when John Evans was lynched and his body riddled with bullets on Ninth Street South.
Ms. Hill should be remembered on one of the historical markers to be installed on 22nd Street, said heritage project chair Reese. If any among our readers know of Ms. Hill, please contact the author of this article through The Weekly Challenger.
Royal Theatre (then)
22nd Street during its heyday in 1969.
Nurses standing in front of Mercy Hospital circa 1960.Johnnie Ruth Clarke Center now is on the site of the old hospital.
ST. PETERSBURG — Vintage photos featuring African American interests in St. Petersburg, events in civil rights history and prominently displayed easels about the city’s pioneer black doctors are being exhibited at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library on the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus.
In addition, a classic bust of pioneer African-American entrepreneur Elder Jordan Sr. is on display, also in connection with Black History Month.
“The Poynter Library at USFSP is honored to preserve this important chapter of St. Petersburg’s history.
Although the images of our segregated past are difficult to view, we must remember these moments to ensure that we never return to a world where racial intolerance is treated as an acceptable behavior,” said James Schnur, special collections librarian.
On the first floor, easels include biographies of Drs. James Ponder, Orion Ayer, Fred Alsup and Ralph Wimbish. Along the floor’s northwest wall, an exhibit examines major events in the nation’s civil rights history and includes books from the library’s substantial collection of African-American history.
Near the first-floor elevator, glass-case displays examine the history of segregation in St. Petersburg, the construction of Jordan Park and the importance of Jordan Park as a place of new opportunities in St. Petersburg. Powerful photos are included.
The displays are free to see and are available for public viewing during normal library hours, which can be found at http://lib.usfsp.edu/library-hours/.
The Jordan Park/Elder Jordan exhibits continue on the third floor. Next to the elevator is a bust of Elder Jordan commissioned by St. Petersburg African-American historian Minson R. Rubin, Rudy Bradley and the Jordan Park Projects Nostalgic Association Inc. The bust, designed by Eckerd College visual arts professor Brian Ransom, will remain on display after the rest of the exhibit ends. A display case on the third floor also talks about the importance of preserving our city’s African American heritage.
The third floor displays will remain in place at least through March.
There are both free and metered parking spaces near campus, as well as one-hour visitor parking spots.
For information, visit http://www.usfsp.edu/financial/parking-transportation/.
Students of Gibbs High School were treated to tea and dinner to honor their accomplishments while offering them an escape from daily school life. An afternoon where they were treated as royalty.
Young men donned suits and the ladies wore exquisite dresses as they entered through the doors of the Crystal Room located at Pinellas Technical Education Center, St. Petersburg campus.
Made kings, queens, princesses, and lords for the day, 12 students joined their families in a four-course meal of soup, salad, steak, and a heavenly slice of Royal Valentine chocolate cake. Wine was served, non-alcoholic of course, after all it is a school function and the honored guests were minors.
But the dinner was not your normal recognition dinner. Dr. Cody Clark of Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School was on hand guiding the room in formal dining etiquette. From where to sit at a table, to how to properly eat soup, to common faux pas such as which fork to use for what, he guided the entire dinner training students on the act of dining in a formal setting.
“It’s a lot to learn. You must concentrate,” Clark said as a young lady left a table and only one man stood. “That’s a problem. Pay attention to what’s going on around you.”
Gibbs High Principal Stephanie Adkinson is on a mission to prepare each student that walks through her doors in not only academics, but in life. One that can explore the world and feel comfortable in any setting or direction life may take them.
“There will be a time when you are in a position that you will be looked at and you will be judged,” Adkinson said. “So what we’ve done with you all is assisted you in that process.”
Those in attendance were from across the Gibbs High campus. Some were part of the magnet programs, others athletes, most traditional students at the school.
School board member Renee Flowers took to the podium and discussed possibilities with students. “Today you have an opportunity to not only dress the part, play the part, but to be the part,” she said. “You are royalty.”
After dinner and the etiquette lessons, the spotlight turned to the Royal Court and Nobel men being honored. The 2013-14 Homecoming Court was recognized, Alias Middleton as Homecoming King and Brittany McKenzie as Queen. But it was the Nobles that seemed to take center stage.
ST. PETERSBURG – In recognition of Black History Month, Pastor Martin Rainey was honored by the Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist Church Black History Honorary Committee for a lifetime of accomplishments.
But for longtime residents of St. Petersburg, Rainey is a pillar of the community, and worthy of being honored every day.“There are so many contributions that African Americans have made to this country, and they deserve to be observed and celebrated,” said Black History Committee Member Cora Redix. “Our honoree is very deserving of the recognition that he’s received today.”
So celebrate they did and in style.Along with spectacular music and even a righteous drum solo from none other than the honoree himself, Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist, located at 1800 18th Ave. S., put on a skit of Rainey’s life entitled, “The Road We Travel.” It was a hit with both the audience and Rainey alike.
A man of the cloth, Rainey has been preaching for decades. He served as Pastor of the Leonard Street Church of God in Brooksville and Bealsville Church of God in Plant City. Well known and respected in the St. Petersburg community, he has answered other callings over the years and has always risen to fulfill the Lord’s wishes. Now as he proudly announces his daughter Jayda as following in his footsteps and becoming a minister, he is set to embark on yet another church.
“We’ve been working to get our parents engaged, the community to engage, in education and the success of our children,” said Rainey speaking of his work as president of the Parent Support for Education Council. “So the streets of south St. Pete are apparently my church for right now.”
Rainey grew up in Harlem and remembers his time in what he labels the “asphalt jungle” selling day old newspapers and waiting in welfare lines with his family for government cheese and miscellaneous canned food items. His mother passed away when he was just a toddler and at an early age he was prone to delinquent behavior. He learned to mug drunks in the subway station, shoplift whatever he could, and even recalls stealing money from his brother David as he worked in his tailor shop. Eventually he arrived in St. Petersburg, which he labeled a “hick town, an unpaved mud hole,” to live with his dad and stepmom.
ST. PETERSBURG – Folks at BayWood Nursing Center, located at 2000 17th Ave. S., were in for a big surprise last Fri., Feb 14 as students, teachers and other personnel from Melrose Elementary took it upon themselves to spread a little Valentine’s Day cheer.
“We started talking about giving back to the community about six months to a year [ago],” Ottesha Williams explained. Williams is co-founder of G.R. O. U. P., a local organization that aims to support orphans, along with the elderly and widowed.
G.R.O.U.P. stands for Glorious, Radiant, Outstanding, Unstoppable and Passionate women all focused on giving back to the community. Williams, who is a fourth grade teacher at Melrose Elementary, is just that kind of woman. And upon meeting up with fellow churchgoer and owner of event planning company Exquisite Designs Teresa Mathews, both women decided to take the plunge and are now embarking on a new mission, a life of community service.
“It is something that has always been on my heart,” said Mathews who credits God with planting a seed of giving in her and allowing her to meet up with Williams. “She was sharing with me her goals, her vision, and ideas and it went with everything that I was already thinking, so we came together and we made it happen.”
G.R.O.U.P. joined up with sponsors and students from Girlfriend’s, a program where young girls are mentored by teachers and community leaders, to create the Sweetheart Luncheon for the residents at BayWood, a nursing center that specializes in occupational, physical, and speech therapy.
Williams, who is a mentor for the Girlfriend’s program, thought to create an opportunity for the girls to not only fulfill their community service requirements, but to bond with one another. And since G.R.O.U.P.’s mission is to be a guide for young ladies for generations to come, the setting couldn’t have been better.
Both Williams and Mathews used their own money to provide food for the residents, as well as decorating the hall where they ate. Members of the Girlfriend’s program made Valentine cards and spent the afternoon mixing and mingling with the residents. Something the residents don’t normally see.
“It’s been a long time since the residents have been able to enjoy something like this,” Williams said. “Just a little bit of something different, and I just see smiles.”Smiles from all involved.
Although the Sweetheart Luncheon is the first community service project the women have put on, G.R.O.U.P. has plans to continue helping out in the community. With dreams of providing scholarships to female seniors, adopting local classrooms at back-to-school time and putting on a Christmas breakfast at a local community center, G.R.O.U.P. has hefty goals and is inching its way to becoming a nonprofit organization.
“All those plans are still in the works,” admitted Williams who aims at creating a membership based organization where people in the community can join up and help make a difference. “We’re not asking people to give an enormous amount of money, just $5 to be a part of us so we can do more things.”
But of course sponsors are always welcome.
“It’s just an awesome thing to be able to give back to the community,” Mathews said. “I’m hoping that it’s gonna take us far, that this is just the beginning of it.”
For more information on G.R.O.U.P. and how you can join or become a sponsor, contact Teresa Mathews at (727) 225-2044 and Ottesha Williams at (727) 290-9260. Or they can be reached via email at email@example.com
To reach Holly Kestenis, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LARGO — The North Pinellas Service Center of the Florida Department of Children and Families SunCoast Region celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, Fri., Feb. 7. Named the Golden Jubilee of the Civil Rights Act, the morning’s program highlighted the movement for equality five decades in the making.
A packed room, located at 11351 Ulmerton Rd., anxiously awaited a local hero in the archives of black history.
Racial segregation in the south was rampant. Separate but equal, although ruled unconstitutional, was very evident in every aspect of American life. As a young adult, Kredelle Petway was living in the south where Jim Crow laws reigned.
While attending Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, she decided to protest for desegregation only to find herself arrested. In July of 1961, Petway became a Freedom Rider as she, along with her father and brother, boarded a plane from Montgomery, Ala. to Jackson, Miss. and was again arrested for attempting to desegregate the airport there.
“There have been many sit-ins, boycotts, marches and various forms of protest for us to achieve some semblance of racial equality,” Petway said as she looked over the crowd gathered to celebrate equality among the races. “Otherwise we would not have such a diverse group to assemble here today. For that, we celebrate.”
Freedom Riders consisted of black and white volunteers who traveled throughout the south on buses for a period of about seven months to test the 1960 Supreme Court decision that declared segregation of interstate passengers illegal. It was met with threats and violence.
As a Freedom Rider, Petway experienced firsthand the degradation and dehumanization African Americans endured during that volatile era in American history. Although Petway acknowledged positive strides forward, she remembers a timeline that spanned the last 50 years; her tale a bit somber.
Painting a picture of resistance from the general public and politicians alike, Petway urged African Americans to not be complacent and rest on the accomplishments of the past, but to continue to find nonviolent ways to keep up the fight for true equality among the races. To press on and build a road to a brighter and better future.
ST. PETERSBURG — Landon Donovan. David Beckham. Pele. These soccer greats all had to start somewhere, and with the world’s most popular sport coming to the Childs Park YMCA (CPY), a future superstar could very well kick off his or her journey right here in St. Pete.
“This is a new venture for the Childs Park YMCA,” said Deborah Figgs-Sanders, executive director of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg Childs Park Branch.
The CPY soccer program is an excellent opportunity for the community’s youth to participate in a team sport at a very reasonable rate, Figgs-Sanders explained. She believes this experience will provide both boys and girls a great physical workout and a fun way to exercise.
Though the official early registration ends Feb. 14, registration will continue until the first practice. Teams are grouped by age (3-4 year olds and 5-12 year olds) and the number of teams will depend on how many children sign up. Each team will only practice one day a week (Mon-Thurs.) and the games will be held Saturday mornings. The season runs from Feb. 24 to Apr. 19.
“Since soccer is a team sport, children will also have the opportunity to learn how to work together as a team toward a common goal with an emphasis on sportsmanship,” said Figgs-Sanders, who has been executive director since April 2010.
She affirmed that the Childs Park YMCA has always advocated holistic life skill experiences for the youth participating in its programs.
“This soccer experience will encourage leadership, respect for one another and parental engagement,” Figgs-Sanders averred. “Hopefully, everything that the children will gain will positively impact them for the rest of their lives.”
Ages 3-4: $45 member, $70 non-member
Ages 5-12: $60 member, $90 non-member
It is free for families who participated in the 2013 YMCA Neighbor to Neighbor Christmas Program. Based on household income, families may be granted up to an additional 20 percent discount on fees. A $15 City of St. Petersburg Resident card is also required. Jerseys and chin guards are included in the cost.
Contact Childs Park YMCA at (727) 209-9622 for more info.
To reach Frank Drouzas, email email@example.com
St. Petersburg —If you ask 10 people what the secret is to maintaining a long-term love affair and marriage, it’s possible you could get 10 different answers. But for Yvonne and Bernard King, Sr., there is only one answer—love.
The couple recently celebrated over 50 years of marital bliss last month and wanted to share their insight and personal experience with other couples for Valentine’s Day.
Two suggestions they both found important when considering marriage are to make sure that both people are attracted to each other and both people understand the importance of staying together.
For maintaining a happy marriage, Yvonne said that good communication is a must, and Bernard quipped: “It’s cheaper to keep her.”
All joking aside, Bernard believes what has kept them together all these years is teamwork, cohesiveness and of course love.
The happy couple has shared unconditional love since the 1950s when they first met at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). They were both sophomores when they joined a service fraternity and sorority. They met at one of the general meetings along with other lifelong friends, Charley and Frances Williams, with whom they still maintain a close relationship with.
“At that particular time I could say that it was love at first sight perhaps,” said Bernard. She was an excellent dancer. She was cute, intelligent and dressed nice.”
Yvonne saw the practical side of Bernard in the sense of him being a good provider for her and subsequently their three children. They have one granddaughter and one grandson too.
“He was dependable, intelligent and a good singer and dancer,” Yvonne stated. “I figured that he would make me a good husband. And oh yea, he has met that objective over the years.”
After graduating college, they both moved to St. Petersburg to start their life together. Yvonne an early education teacher and Bernard an industrial arts major, the two carved a life out together.
Yvonne describes herself as a God fearing woman who enjoys singing, dancing and baking cakes. She performs community service through her sorority - Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. and Links, Inc., a national community service organization.
ST. PETERSBURG — Master storyteller Dr. Linda Hogans, Ph. D. hypnotized both children and adults with African storytelling last Sat., Feb. 8 at the Carter G. Woodson Museum, 2240 9th Ave. S.
She got her oral history and storytelling start in the early 1990s when she was a director of community daycare center. Asked to put together an African-American history program, Hogans decided to get creative and do a storytelling, thus launching her oral historian career.
Hogans shared with the audience that her grandmother had a great impact on her early life.
“Even though my grandmother was blind, she could tell me how to travel safely in the woods or walk with me and tell me specifically where to go,” she recalled.
One of the highlights during her performance was the tale about how African people could fly. In this old folkloric tale, Africans had the magical ability to fly until their captors arrived to bond them with chains and bring them to the “New World.”
In the process, the Africans lost their wings and were forced to make the infamous journey now referred to as the Diaspora. After landing on the shores of North America, an African woman with a child strapped to her back was worn out from working all day, but the overseer of the slaves tried to force her to continue working.
ST. PETERSBURG —Lillie Nash passed away February 10, 2014, at Bayfront Hospice.
Born May 1, 1916, in Union Springs, Ala., she married her longtime sweetheart, George Miles Nash, in the early 1940s. The happy couple moved to St. Petersburg on January 1951, where she became a housewife and mother.
Always the entrepreneur, Lillie sold flips and potato pies in the neighborhood. She also provided daycare for children of all ages until she and her husband purchased a number of properties and became landlords. Her husband preceded her in death in 1983.
Lillie attended God’s Anointed Ministries International where she had been a faithful servant since 1962, and was the church mother. Lillie loved to cook and bake, and one of her favorite hobbies was going fishing. She became an avid Tampa Bay Rays fan and wouldn't miss a televised game.
She is survived by her only son, Harrison Nash, daughter-in-law, Sara, nine grandchildren and had 20 great-grandchildren with one preceding her in death. She will be missed by many family and friends.
Wake and visitation will be held at Smith’s Funeral Home, 1534 18th Ave. S., Fri., Feb. 21 at 7:15 p.m. Funeral services will be held at Reach the Unreached Church, 1315 18th Ave. S., St. Petersburg, Sat., Feb. 22 at noon.
ST. PETERSBURG – Tues., Feb. 11, The Florida Holocaust Museum announced its initiative to collect objects, photographs and artifacts that document the civil rights struggles and movement in the Tampa Bay-Sarasota area.
“Our goal is to put together a comprehensive exhibit that will tell the story of heroes in their own community who suffered and fought to change the world,” said Zoe Gustafson, FHM’s Chief Finance Officer, reading from an official museum statement.
This exhibit is scheduled to open in August 2015 in conjunction with another exhibit, which will document the national Civil Rights Movement.
“We are at a critical juncture,” Gustafson said. “The people involved with the Civil Rights Movement, like the survivors of the Holocaust, are aging. We feel it is vitally important to collect, preserve and showcase their stories for future generations.”
After the announcement the museum held a screening of the documentary “Through the Tunnel,” which centers on Lincoln Memorial High. Lincoln was the only high school for African Americans in Manatee County until 1969, when the school was integrated with Manatee High.
The title refers to the actual tunnel that ran under U.S. Route 41 through which Lincoln High football players had to walk to get from the campus to the playing field. This walk became a ritual and the team would often sing prayer songs and spirituals such as “Wade in the Water.”
Former NFL star Henry Lawrence was one of these players and is featured prominently in the award-winning documentary. Lawrence shares his stories and recollections of playing for the Trojans in the days of segregated schools, and says of the pre-game of singing and praying: “It was an emotional thing. Emotion is a big part of the game.”
ST. PETERSBURG — Montford Point Marine William C. Scott, rode into the path of a car and was struck and killed Monday night in south St. Petersburg, police said.
Last November 87-year-old Scott received the Congressional Gold Medal for his years of military service during World War II. More than 400 African-American alumni of Montford Point were honored for their service in 2012, but an oversight left him, John Tyrone Ayers and Samuel L. Blossom (now deceased) without their medals.
Early in 2013, Scott walked into the St. Petersburg Housing and Community Development to see if he could get some assistance in repairing his roof. Wearing his red United States Marine Corp cap, he got the attention of Linda Byars who was working in the office.
When he left, she looked him up and realized he was not only a marine, but part of the original Montford Point Marines, the first black unit of the U.S. Marines Corps. “I did my research,” Byars continued, “and I said, this is history.”
Along with city officials and a whole community of volunteers willing to donate their time and money, she set out to get the necessary paperwork completed so that Scott, who served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, could get his new roof. But when the inspector showed up, it turns out his situation was more dire than what he was letting on.
Not only did the roof need to be repaired, but the entire roof structure. Conditions were so bad that building officials would not allow him to return to his house until the necessary repairs were made.
“We scrambled about and came up with a little money,” Byars said.
With thousands of dollars for repairs either found or donated, volunteers helped move Scott out of his home in May of last year so they could fix the dilapidated roof and make other improvements to the home. Mold was eating away at its interior and he had been without running water or electricity.
The city also rectified the medal oversight, and on Nov. 8, 2013, a huge ceremony giving Scott, Ayers and Blossom’s wife their long awaited medals. Holding back tears, Scott said, “It’s been a long time. It feels good.”
Police did not say whether the driver of the Nissan, 23-year-old Brittany Harris of St. Petersburg, was injured or cited.
By Joyce Nanette Johnson
ST. PETERSBURG — Volunteering and being of service to others has been the life-long passion and galvanizing force in the life of Dr. Frank Scruggs, Ph.D. Through the years, he has been involved with many organizations, government agencies and projects that have offered assistance to the community.
Scruggs is a volunteer tutor in math, physics and chemistry at St. Petersburg College, St. Petersburg/ Gibbs Campus Learning Support Commons (LSC). He is also a volunteer at the James B. Sanderlin Family Center where he tutors students in computer classes, which are offered free to the community.
“I enjoy it and it gives me self-satisfaction,” he explained. “This gets them [students] exposed to high technology.”
His first volunteer project in St. Petersburg was at Wildwood Recreation Center, where he tutored adult students on various computer programs in 1987.
Scruggs has had a successful and heralded career in the U.S. Navy and retired in 1985 after 27 years reaching the rank of Captain. He began his military career in his native Santa Barbara, Calif. high school ROTC program. He went on to serve on the USS Perry and the USS Los Angeles. He was a navy seal officer in the then segregated black unit “The Black Frogs.”
However, it is his role of volunteer that he is most proud of because it propels him forward and allows him to continue to give back to the community.
By tutoring, it allows him to share his love of education while he encourages and motivates those around him. He credits his family for instilling those values in him. His father was the esteemed Dr. Sherman Scruggs, Ph.D. who at one time was president of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Miss., and his mother, Olga Scruggs, graduated from Howard University with a master’s degree in music.
“To father, education was paramount,” Scruggs stated. “He said to me ‘no matter what you major in, get your education. It will be valuable and you will not have to be a field hand or do labor work.’”
Those were lofty achievements for blacks during the turbulent times of the segregated 1940s. He stated that his mother imparted in him that education was a special gift and an obligation that he had to pass on to his children and future generations.
Graduating Phi Beta Kappa, from Cornell University in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in physics, Scruggs then continued on to Princeton University obtaining his master’s in physics in only one year. He received his doctorate two years later from Harvard University.
He has sat on the Board of Directors for Suncoast Mental Health Center, Advisory Board for St. Petersburg City Office of Aging, the Greater St. Petersburg YMCA, James B. Sanderlin Family Center Advisory Board and an Advisory Board member for the Pinellas County Education Foundation.
The awards and accolades have been many and include the JC Penney Golden Rule Award, Juvenile Welfare Board South County Community Council Award and the St. Petersburg Senior Citizen Hall of Fame Award.
Scruggs continues to volunteer and is currently working on four projects: Retired Sr. Volunteer Program, Civilian Police Review Committee, Parents Support for Educational Council, Inc. and the Learning Support Program at St. Pete College, Gibbs Campus.
He wants the community to be aware of the free tax assistance that is available where he volunteers at Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave., St. Petersburg. It is called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and besides the Enoch Davis Center location, there are 11 more sites in Pinellas County. You can call 211 or visit www.taxes-4-Free.com for details.
However, he is saddened by the lack of volunteering within the community. “Everybody wants to get paid,” he lamented. “There are time restraints, and people are working one sometimes three jobs to survive. We’re supposed to have more unity and working together. But not since integration, we’re all for ourselves. We should have more volunteers especially for our young people to give them guidance.”
Scruggs does not plan to stop his volunteerism anytime soon. “I’m going to wear out instead of rust out,” he said with a chuckle.
BY JEANIE BLUE
ST. PETERSBURG — Theresa D. Jones has a reputation of being community minded. She works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for everyone she meets. If she’s not serving on a board or committee, she’s delivering food for Meals on Wheels.
“I am a strong-willed, community minded woman, who genuinely cares about improving the community, with an emphasis on the inner city,” said the Erie, Pa. native.
The oldest of seven children, she was raised in public housing and used education and activism as a vehicle for improving her life and as a platform for helping others.
“I care deeply for the community and in particular the children within the inner city because I was one of those children while growing up,” said Jones.
She graduated from high school with honors and went on to Edinboro State College (now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania) where she majored in secondary education. Although she decided not to go into teaching, she knew she wanted to spend her career helping others.
Jones eventually ended up in Florida and working for the City of St. Petersburg where she has just recently retired after more than 30 years. During her time there she worked in many different capacities such as Minority Business Enterprise Coordinator Development and Community Affairs Director.
She also had either staff oversight or direct responsibility for the City’s Summer Youth Intern Program, and the Workforce Development Program. Both of these programs specifically provide opportunities for low-income at-risk youth to have employment opportunities during the summer and/or workforce training.
But what she feels is her most worthwhile contribution to community development is when she served as a relocation officer for the city. She helped people move out of slum housing with the Methodist Town area, now known as Jamestown. She’s also very proud of assisting minority owned businesses in learning how to obtain and successfully execute construction and service contracts for the city and other governmental and private entities.
During her time at the city, Jones raised her now 23-year-old son as a single mother and made sure she was involved in every aspect of her son’s life. She served as team mother, kid transporter and all around cheerleader for his little league, football, soccer, band and a myriad of other activities he belonged to.
Her retirement has given her more time to pursue her first love – helping others. She continues to serve as an officer of the board of directors for R’ Club Child Care, Louise Graham Regeneration Center and the Pinellas County Urban League Guild. She remains an active volunteer in the community doing such things as delivering Meals on Wheels twice a week and assists with the annual Homeless Point in Time Count.
Jones is also proud to have established and chaired the original Wealth Building Coalition, which is now known as the Prosperity Coalition. It was specifically established for assuring that individuals who were eligible for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit actually filed for the credit.
“These were the early starts of community wealth building within the minority community. And some folks actually bought their first home, when they received their relocation dollars, or their earned income tax refund,” said Jones.
Jones added that she is not currently working on any community development project, but continues to enjoy her retirement and volunteer duties. In the future she plans to travel and settle further into the life of a retiree.
Her expectations for the future are to see continued growth and development within both the Midtown and Childs Park areas through the city’s initiatives, community based initiatives and increased private sector investment.
ST. PETERSBURG —For over 25 years Marcina Dowdell-Williams has been braiding hair and creating designer hairstyles. She first embraced the concept of natural hair when as a young child her mother would take her to get her own natural hair braided.
As a young teen, Dowdell-Williams used to braid the smaller kids hair in the neighborhood and impressed her parents, Casandra DuPont and Abraham Dowdell, so much that they put her in charge of her sister Raquel’s hair.
After graduating from Lakewood High School (Go Spartans) in 1987, she attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). Dowdell-Williams desire to braid hair accompanied her to Tallahassee where she’d style hair for friends in her dormitory for some extra cash.
“I can remember during the early 1990s when chemical services such as relaxers were very popular and in demand. I was just coming out of a Jeri curl myself,” said Dowdell-Williams. “In those days a lot of women were under the mindset that in order to be accepted in society and considered ‘sexy,’ you needed to wear your hair straight like the way commercials were strongly advertising like Revlon, Dark & Lovely and Ultra Sheen.”
Dowdell-Williams draws a correlation between natural hair and mother and daughter bonding. The healthy hair regimen she grew up with helped bring her closer together with her mother. Every two weeks her mother would shampoo, condition and style her hair. In those couple of hours, they would talk and enjoy each other’s company.
ST. PETERSBURG – The Carter G. Woodson African American Museum is celebrating Black History Month with a month long lecture series kicking off this Sat., Feb. 6 with “Folk Tales and Fables: Passing on the Oral Tradition to the Youth.”
Dr. Linda Hogans, Ph.D, will transfix the audience as she tells stories with passion emanating from her voice while her body emoting and transporting the audience to a different place and time.
This is a celebration of the African tradition of oral history and storytelling. In Africa, storytelling is more than entertainment. Through storytelling, questions are answered, history is conveyed and lifelong lessons are taught and learned. Centuries of enslavement in the Americans only strengthened the tradition.
Hogans does not feel that she is a griot, which is a West African storyteller who is responsible for preserving the principles and values of the people. They are musicians, poets, spokespersons, teachers, genealogists, and keepers of the people’s history and traditions. She said the stories she tells are to honor her great-grandmother, her mother and five aunts.
“To me it’s history; my family history. There were always stories being told,” she said, “stories about when my family was young, ghost stories, wild animal stories and some stories from books, but with a different spin on it.”
ST. PETERSBURG — For the past 22 years Sister Dianne Hughes has been celebrating her anniversary of being an on-air radio personality at WRXB Praise 1590. This year, however, the celebration was different. Not only did she celebrate another year of being on the radio, she was also celebrating life.
During the holiday season, traffic is always at its worst, and last December was no different. The entire staff of WRXB was involved in a serious car accident on I-4 driving to a Christmas dinner. From the station manager to the radio personalities that you have come to know and love, the whole radio station could have been lost if not from the grace of God.
“God brought us out,” said Sister Hughes at her anniversary party Sun., Jan 5 at Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church where Pastor Clark Hazley presides.
This anniversary extravaganza was spearheaded by Brother Michael Walker, who she calls her spiritual son, friend and colleague.
“During the accident I found myself on the floor and I grabbed a hold of Brother Walker’s leg and I held on to him,” she said laughingly.
Sister Hughes thanked the community for their donations, cards, phone calls and hugs and kisses and also the committee members Brother Walker, Chairman, Sister Thelma Ferguson, Co-Chair, Sister Marsha Tarver, secretary, Sister Peggy Wells, Sister Yolanda McCloud, Sister La Gloria Johnson, Sister Betty Davis, Sister Thelma Burns and Rev. Fleming Taver, advisor.
The night was filled with music as the many choirs’ sounds reverberated off the walls of the church. The host church, Mt. Pilgrim, First Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, St. James Unity Choir, St. John of Clearwater, soloist Debra Thomas, Queen Street Church of God in Christ,
St. James Missionary Baptist Church, the group Chosen and Fifth Avenue Church of Christ all performed two selections.
The room was full of love and praise for Hughes and she proudly said, “I love what I do. I work seven days a week and this is my heart working at WRXB. It gives me joy and peace while I’m at work at the station,” she finished.
Congratulation on 23 wonderful years as a fixture on the Tampa Bay gospel scene. We look forward to many more years with you in our lives.
ST. PETERSBURG — To say that January was a busy month would be an understatement. The Edible Peace Patch Project has been absolutely blessed with opportunities to extend their mission, recruit and work with wonderful community volunteers, and put healthy food in children’s tummies.
Last month they grew their schoolyard gardens from four to seven, adding three additional gardens at Melrose Elementary, John Hopkins Middle School and Fairmont Park Elementary. They have nearly reached their goal of having gardens in eight Title 1 schools in south St. Petersburg.
When The Edible Peace Patch Project initially proposed a garden at Melrose Elementary, similar to four other gardens they have installed in Title 1 Elementary Schools, Principal Nanette Grasso was enthused. However, the plan was rejected because the site is a designated brownfield area (the ground cannot be penetrated). Melrose was built on a hazardous waste site, rendering the ground unusable.
Phi Theta Kappa Club at St. Petersburg College approached Kip Curtis, the Peace Patch director about hydroponic gardening. Knowing that gardening without soil would be a perfect solution for Melrose, he accepted their offer. The school immediately signed on and to complete the project, Garden Patch GrowBoxes donated their grow boxes to build the hydroponic garden structure.
The Peace Patch also offered two full wellness kitchen programs in January, providing healthy recipes to more than 200 schoolchildren at Sanderlin IB World School and Campbell Park Elementary. Getting children to make healthy food choices is one of the foundational goals of the Edible Peace Patch project.
Last week they recruited college and community volunteers to help us offer our garden based education program for the spring of 2014. Contact the Peace Patch right away if you’re interested.
Curtis and his staff, Garden Program Coordinator Alita Kane and Garden Manager Pab Baker, have been hard at work helping to deliver healthy gardens and meaningful programs to serve our community.
Volunteers needed to help with weeding, fertilizing and planting. Gloves supplied.
• Sat., Feb. 22: 9-1 p.m. @ Lakewood Elementary
• Sat., March 15: 9-1 p.m. @ Sanderlin Elementary
• Sat., April 19: 9-1 p.m. @ Campbell Park Elementary
• Sat., May 17: 9-1 p.m. @ Maximo Elementary
BY HOLLY KESTENIS
ST. PETERSBURG – Kristina sits in her office at a local substance abuse clinic encouraging addicts to come clean and find a better way of life. But what few know is that Kristina herself was once an addict. Not one who couldn’t put down the pipe or stop guzzling alcohol. No, Kristina fell victim to a lesser-known addiction that consumed her life, ate away at her self-worth and robbed her of her childhood.
“I would walk the streets at night looking for a boyfriend,” she explained admitting she enjoyed having sexual relations with the opposite sex. “I slept with 10 guys that first night, it became like an adrenaline rush.”
But Kristina’s story doesn’t start at 14 when she was sneaking out of the house to meet up with men. It begins much earlier. Introduced to sex before she was old enough to even know what it was, her earliest memories are not ones of playing with blocks or the smiling faces of family. Instead she remembers waking up at the age of three with her mom’s male friend between her legs.
“He put his finger to his mouth to tell me to be quiet, so I didn’t say anything,” she confided remembering not a sense of fear, but the sensation of his touch. “I remember how it made me feel, it felt good, you know?”
And although her mom ran him off with the machete she kept hidden under her bed, the cycle would continue throughout Kristina’s young life. There are no memories of sleepovers with her girlfriends. Just men taking advantage of her innocence, the betrayal of family members she trusted and boys lining up outside a parked car waiting for their turn.
And instead of childhood theme songs forever etched in her subconscious, there are only the images and sounds of the pornography she would sneak a peek at. Images that still flash through her mind even as a young woman of 25 trying to start anew.
“Me and a relative would actually practice the things that we saw on the video,” Kristina confided revealing how they’d stay up at night watching adult films. “I was about five; she had to be about 14.”
When Kristina turned seven her mom got married and it seemed a happy ending was still within reach, that the adult life inflicted upon her at such a young age could actually cease to exist allowing Kristina a chance at a normal childhood. But the grooming for what has turned out to be a life of sexual addiction was only just beginning. The cycle unfortunately continued.
Rather than memories of kickball in the backyard or family cookouts, what Kristina says will be forever stamped in her mind is the relentless string of advancements and sexual abuse she endured.
ST. PETERSBURG — Actors Alan Bomar Jones and Bryant Bentley are excited to perform their two-man show “The Last Days of Martin Luther King, Jr.” at the American Stage on Feb. 4 and Feb. 18.
A veteran actor, writer and director, Jones started the research in June 2013 before writing this fictional account of Dr. King’s last interview. He said that one of the biggest inspirations, aside from various old interviews with Dr. King, was the book “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down” by Ralph Abernathy, a minister who was Dr. King’s most intimate friend.
“He reveals a lot of personal information about Dr. King that America probably doesn’t know, so I try to incorporate some of that in this work,” Jones said in his rich, baritone voice.
In the play Dr. King (played by Bentley) grants a TV interview to Preston Spencer of WKBC (played by Jones) the day before going to Memphis, where he will ultimately be assassinated. Spencer does his best to root out private, tabloid-type information, Jones explained, and where Dr. King is thinking he’s doing a legitimate television interview for a station that may help his cause, Spencer has a hidden agenda.
“He’s trying to advance his own career,” Jones revealed. “So it has that element of surprise.”
In viewing archived interviews with Martin Luther King, Jones confided that he and Bentley were very impressed with how composed Dr. King remained and how he stayed focused, no matter what the question was, as he was not easily manipulated by the press.
Other characters played by the duo are Ralph Abernathy and Calvin Payne, who asked Dr. King in one flashback scene to help bring justice to his son, who was killed during a march in Memphis. Even though the play is set in 1968, Jones and Bentley include a subtle reference to the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Payne describes his son as wearing a hooded sweatshirt, just like Martin did when he was killed, Jones said.
“What I really like about it is how we staged this piece,” Bentley said, clearly excited about the project. “The way we’re telling this story, those like myself who weren’t born in that era, they would get it. They would understand.
ST. PETERSBURG — Minister Jimmy L. McCloud, Jr. grew up as a typical African-American teenager in the 1970s. He was raised in the original Jordan Park Housing Projects and graduated from Dixie Hollins High School in 1975 right around the time of desegregation.
The oldest child of five siblings, his father retired from the arm forces and his mother a nurse, McCloud took an afterschool job as a bag boy at Webb’s City department store. Like many teenagers, he had a bunch of friends and enjoyed being young and carefree.
After graduating high school McCloud decided to enlist in the United States Coast Guard. He served his country for 10 years and reached the status of Sergeant. Once he left the coast guard, “all hell broke loose,” as he described it.
Finding it hard to cope with the everyday challenges of being a marginalized black man in the south, he started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Things went from bad to worst until he ended up in the intensive care unit of the Bayfront Medical Center fighting for his life in 1987.
Shot at close range in the stomach by a man with a sawed off shot gun, headlines in the St. Petersburg Times read: “Man shot in drug deal, police say.”
Doctors advised his mother to get his affairs in order because he wouldn’t be leaving the hospital alive. “God had other plans, he spared my life,” said McCloud.
A family friend, community activist and Sunday school teacher, Iveta Martin-Berry, from Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist Church encouraged him to take his testimony to the street and encourage other young men dealing with the same problems. However, he wasn’t finished living a destructive life.
“I felt that I was tougher than that. I was bad,” recounted McCloud, “I really felt that I was a G.”
After a routine hospital visit to see how the gunshot wound was healing, McCloud had a life altering vision of a very large rock with blood streaming out of it. The rock was positioned in front of him with blood streaming out of it covering him.
BY MARLO SCOTT
ST. PETERSBURG – Vitu (V-too) is Swahili for things, and there are some beautiful things at the little shop in Skyway Mall, 4301 34th St. S., St. Petersburg, called Vitu. Owned and operated by Gwendolyn S. Fields, her unique store brings a little piece of Africa to St. Petersburg.
Fields opened the shop filled with African art, jewelry, clothing and exotic plants after retiring from 27 years as a librarian for the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Her introduction to the work world started off much more labor intensive than documenting our nation’s history. Indeed, Fields grew up on a farm in Georgia where she was raised to respect hard work. She grew up tending cotton, tobacco and cropping vegetables such as cucumbers, beans, peas, peppers, tomatoes and okra.
Not wanting to toil in the unforgiving Georgia clay for the rest of her life, she knew education was a way out of the fields. Upon graduating from high school as the class valedictorian, Fields was awarded a full scholarship to Morris Brown College in Atlanta where she graduated with honors majoring in French and English. She went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Maryland.
With such academic credentials as those, she didn’t languish on the vine long after college. She landed a job teaching English and French in South Carolina for two years before heading off to our nation’s capital where she spent more than 30 years of her life.
After retirement she decided to go on an adventure and traveled to St. Croix in the U.S Virgin Islands. Her retirement went out the window when she took a job as a librarian. For two years she enjoyed the beautiful weather and fell in love with the Caribbean Sea. Who would have guessed that her time in St. Croix would lead her to part three of her retirement?
What does that mean you ask? Well, while working as a librarian in St. Croix, she went on a student trip to Africa. Fields spent 18 days in Senegal, 14 in Kenya, 14 in Zimbabwe and five days on the Ivory Coast. That trip opened her mind and made her want to learn more about her African heritage. She would visit Africa two more times.
Thinking that round two of her retirement would stick, Fields moved back to Washington, D.C. Like a good retiree she started crafting jewelry and showcasing her skills at local craft shows, bazars and festive type events hosted by different Washington governmental agencies. However, after the tragedies of September 11, it became much harder to get government work and that opportunity all but dried up.
So instead of taking cruises with her girlfriends or learning how to play golf, Fields took a job as a librarian in the D.C. school system. It seems that retirement just isn’t in the cards for this adventurer.
After six years as a librarian, she decided to leave the District of Columbia for good. Her third round of retirement came with only two prerequisites: must be near the water and must have fruit trees on whatever property she bought. After doing some research, she found and fell in love with a Mediterranean style home in St. Petersburg near Lake Maggiore.