Uhuru movement winds up Days in Solidarity national tour in St. Petersburg listen10/24/13 Janelle Irwin
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Members of the Uhuru movement and their allies have been rallying in cities across the country in what they call their Days in Solidarity with African People. WMNF spoke with Stephanie Midler, the national chair of the Uhuru Solidarity movement about the conclusion of the tour Thursday night at the Uhuru House in Midtown St. Petersburg.
"The Days of Solidarity with African People is actually a nationwide campaign. The event tonight in St. Petersburg is the final event of a nationwide tour. There were events in San Diego, in Oakland, in Gainesville, Florida and a musical benefit in Miami and people across the U.S. have been participating in this campaign. The purpose, as you can probably tell from the title, Being in Solidarity with African People, it's like a tribute to the African liberation struggle of the past and of the present and really celebrating the African liberation struggle, what it presents, the opportunity it presents to us for the future. For the future of humanity and how we can all participate and support it. Because I think people, especially in our community, in the white community. I think people see the struggles of oppressed and () peoples around the world right now, like everywhere you look, people are rising up and resisting oppression and we see it kind of as something that's happening but how does it involve us? Even if we support it, how can we get involved, how can we support it? That's what this event is about. It's about how we can take a stand on the side of oppressed peoples fighting to have power over their own lives and their own resources and their own land. So that's what tonight's event is all about. It's really a celebration and also an educational forum. It's going to feature, our keynote speaker is the chairman of the African People's Socialist Party, which leads the Uhuru movement, Omali Yeshitela, which many people in the Tampa Bay area are familiar with. And also Penny Hess, who's the chairwoman of the African People's Solidarity Committee, and we're going to have a special performance by Princess Bela, a hip hop artist here in St. Petersburg. And we're going to have refreshments, a lot of information, items for sale, and it's going to be a really exciting event."
Locally, in this community, there's been a lot of really positive things happening with the Walmart opening where Sweet Bay used to be, things like that I don't know if you're familiar with but, what's kind of the local connection with this effort here in mid-town St. Petersburg?
"Yeah, well there's a deep, deep, local connection. The Uhuru movement has been in St. Petersburg, doing work in this community for forty years. It's an organization that grew right out of this community in St. Petersburg. The Uhuru movement has been here on the ground struggling against police brutality, for economic development and more than a WalMart or a Sweet Bay which really just takes resources out of the community, but really struggling for the community members themselves to be able to get loans, have businesses, build their own economic development that stays in the community. So it's a long term struggle and connection to St. Petersburg that the Uhuru movement has had for, like I said, for forty years."
What are some of the success stories?
"Ah, look around the room. You can see some of the pictures here and if people come out to the event you'll hear a lot more about it. The Uhuru movement here in St. Pete has built the All People's TyRon Lewis Community Gym and Wellness center which focuses on not just economic development but health and fitness in the African community. I mean you look at the statistics of poverty here in St. Pete, there's 70% of the people living on the south side of St. Pete are either at or below the poverty line. And you don't see any kind of access to fresh foods, to health and wellness centers, to gyms, anything like that that addresses people's health. The Uhuru movement has really taken that on and the gym, right over there on 9th Street and 13th is amazing. It's an example of how a community can take it on and deal with it. They have boxing aerobics now every week. They had a kids fit camp that was really popular, so that's a success story. And then there's the Uhuru Jiko that's here in Akwaaba hall, the community center. That's also addressing economic development. Allowing people really low cost rent to use the kitchen to be able to grow their catering or other food businesses which, here in St. Pete people vend food. You know that the cost of renting a commercial kitchen really prices a lot of people out of that business. Being able to grow their catering, or maybe they bake cakes for weddings or whatever. So it's another success story."
I saw a sign outside for HIV testing, what's the story behind that?
"It's one of the people that rents out the Akwaaba hall space, it's like a community center that people can use, and the woman that runs the free HIV testingn is just one of the people that uses this, from the community, is able to use this space."