Omali Yeshitela celebration at USF St Pete listen01/22/10 Tom Baur
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In 1966, Joe Waller was so fed up with the City of St Petersburg’s refusal to remove a repugnant racist mural that he tore it down and fled with the police close behind. But last night, he was honored in the same city.
The mural Waller tore down depicted what many felt were grotesque images of black musicians playing for a white audience. Joe Waller, who later changed his name to Omali Yeshitela, was arrested that day and spent nearly 3 years on one of Florida’s infamous chain gangs.
John Wesley Bryant was surprised his friend Joe Waller would carry out on his threat to take down the mural.
More than 100 family, friends and admirers turned out last night as the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library at USF celebrated its recent acquisition of the complete works of Yeshitela, leader of the Uhuru Movement. Jim Schnur, the library’s representative, says it’s an important collection of writings.
During the ceremony there were pictures and videos about Yeshitela’s life and work. One of videos was of the night in 1996 the Uhurus were accused of inciting a riot after police shot Tyron Lewis, an unarmed young black man. Their house was surrounded by a St Petersburg Police SWAT team and set ablaze during a tear gas attack. Yeshitela says the police murdered Lewis.
One admirer, Clay Colson, drove all the way from Lakeland to celebrate Yeshitela.
To make an appointment to view the Yeshitela collection at the USF Poynter Library call Jim Schnur Monday thru Friday 9AM to 5PM at 727-873-4094.