President of St. Pete NAACP speaks at Tiger Bay
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03/11/09 Seán Kinane
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Ray Tampa, president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP


photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Ray Tampa, a former school principal, was elected president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP in November.

Today in St. Petersburg he spoke to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club about education, civil rights, and the continuing relevance of the NAACP.

The education achievement gap between African-American students and white students is as wide as 37 percentage points, according to Tampa. He says African-American males are most affected.

“Twenty-one percent of the black boys are graduating from school here in Pinellas County, 21 percent. That’s horrible. This represents a crisis situation. What’s happening with the other 79 percent?”

Pinellas School Board member Linda Lerner doesn’t agree with the exact number, but still thinks that more must be done to improve the graduation rate of black males. “I think it’s a little higher. It’s not good.”

St. Pete chapter NAACP president Ray Tampa used strong language to criticize state Representative Adam Hasner, who attempted to rally opposition to yesterday’s Muslim Day at the state capital.

“We have a major leader in this state government demonstrating KKK-like tendencies as a result of his response to the news that a group of citizens planned on visiting the state capital to talk to their representatives.”

After the Muslim Day was announced last month, Representative Hasner sent out an email that read, “By now, I can't imagine you haven't heard about this upcoming lobbying day for Muslims in Tallahassee … Do you all intend to be part of an information campaign in opposition to it?”

In a press conference on Tuesday, Hasner said that one organizer of Muslim Day has ties to groups that promote hate. But St. Pete NAACP president Tampa says those tactics by Hasner are inappropriate.

“We believe that these Muslim citizens have as much right as anyone else to speak to their legislators. … But we do not appreciate the response from such a major political leader in Tallahassee.”

In a speech to honor Black History Month in February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States is “a nation of cowards” when it comes to race relations and the country is “voluntarily socially segregated.” NAACP St. Pete chapter president Ray Tampa says he feels that race is a topic that people tend to avoid.

“I don’t agree with the manner in which he offered that response. … But what I think he was more or less trying to suggest is, when it comes to serious discussions about race in this country, a lot of people don’t speak their mind as they should.”

Tampa offered a history of the accomplishments of the NAACP but pointed out the many problems that African Americans still face.

The NAACP continues to take on these issues, according to Tampa.

The next Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting is Tuesday, March 24 at the Feather Sound Country Club and will feature Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee chair Ramsay McLaughlan.

Suncoast Tiger Bay Club

Rep. Hasner’s response to Muslim Day in the Capital

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