Activists at Juneteenth rally demand St. Pete keeps promises to the Black community.

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Faith In Florida and Florida Rising Organizers pose with their letters to the City of St. Petersburg. By: Josh Holton (6/16/23)

Yesterday community organizers in St. Petersburg gathered to celebrate Juneteenth coming up on Monday, which was made a federal holiday two years ago to celebrate the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Event organizers and residents say the City of St. Petersburg already broke promises to create jobs and housing in the historically Black Gas Plant District when hundreds of homes were destroyed to make room for a baseball stadium in the 1970s and 80s.

Now that the district has $15 million going into affordable housing in an effort to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in town, organizers say 850 affordable housing units doesn’t go far enough. Jabbar Edmond is an organizer with Florida Rising,

“The City of St. Pete is known as the Sunshine City. They’ve been known as different things in my mind, to the black community is the city of broken promises. We promise after promise, and the gas plant district is just a sign of those decades of broken promises. And if we can fix and correct the big broken promises, I think we have potential to fix a lot of things in our community.”

Edmond says the project could change the city for the better if it were redesigned.

“We just really got to change how we look about things look and talk about it. Because if we continue to think of it as the Gas Plant or even just Tropicana Field, we miss what we truly have. And what we have is a golden opportunity. We have 86 prime acres in a downtown development that one day could potentially finance this whole city.”

One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singing…

That’s Jameka Williams singing. She’s a volunteer with Faith in Florida.

“I believe that everyone deserves a home. I believe it’s a human right, and I will continue this fight for others and for myself. To me, Juneteenth is a day about community and freedom, and both of those have been threatened as of late with the onset of developers.”

Only 23% of the approved res Hines plan is committed to providing affordable housing. Nick, Carey is an organizer for Faith and Florida,

“Say every person with a job located in St. Pete, or has lived in the city for a few years, or a direct descendant of the gas plant is guaranteed to pay no more than 30% of their income on rent. What if every new development for housing includes a mixture of units for the poorest among us, middle-income families, and market rate? The city’s land could be used to build land trusts allowing residents to buy a home at lower costs and have a place in their community. The loss of a job or an unexpected bill wouldn’t come with the danger of homelessness or displacement. A St. Pete where stable and secure housing was guaranteed for every resident would be a St. Pete with lower crime rates, better health outcomes, and better educational outcomes for our children.”

Like a bridge over troubled water…

That is Dylan Dames singing. He is a Pinellas Organizer with Faith in Florida.

“When you get evicted because your landlord has raised the rent, you’ve been abandoned. And I think it’s time especially Gen Z- for us to start thinking about these things. We’re not going to just inherit a terrible place by luck, or by happenstance, or by chance. We need to understand that these things are happening on purpose in the rush forward towards profit, and profit that doesn’t benefit all of us. I mean, regardless of what happens with this proposal, we still finna have to pay to get into that stadium.”

Tamika Morris is a second-grade teacher in Pinellas County and says her land has been targeted for development.

“Don’t put our city up for sale. Don’t further erase any more of our Black history. Do what I do. When these companies or businesses keep calling my house every other week trying to buy my property, all I do is say, ‘No, my house is not for sale,’ and I continue to say, ‘No, my house is not for sale, will you stop calling me.’ So 33712 is not for sale. 33705 is not for sale. St. Pete is not for sale!”

Alexa Manning is a volunteer with Faith and Florida.

“Yet we still have a chance to be a part of the rebuilding of the Gas Plant to keep us a part of this community my Black community to remain a part of the city of St. Petersburg. The Gas Plant was taken from us once, so please do not take it again. Please keep at least a part of that promise not to sell the land. Please keep it city owned so that we can remain a part of this city- The city of St. Petersburg.”

Faith in Florida has an online petition to keep ownership of the historic gas plant district in the hands of the city instead of a private developer.

More information about their petition:

https://secure.everyaction.com/IQyvcJccMk67P7BhH3D2YQ2

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