A Sunday Best Supper Event
The city’s Urban Affairs mission is to strengthen an area rich in African-American tradition, pride and a vibrant human spirit among all ages. In the community south of Central Avenue, residents and businesses historically have struggled in a high poverty area, where gun violence persists and five challenged schools are located. Twenty years ago, this area was home to rioting as a result of a police shooting. Some racial tension and distrust of police remains – however, all facets of the community are mobilizing and working together to change the story.
Revitalizing this part of our city is an ongoing priority. The city has established a 7.4 square mile section of the city as the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and Tax Increment Financing District – a positive change which has been designed to help sustain investment in South St. Petersburg for the next 30 years.
Along with the establishment of the South St. Petersburg CRA, city officials report new community dialogue and increased participation in South St. Pete events, such as standing room only for a Citizen Advisory Committee open house for the Redevelopment Area, and a series of a new “Community PTA” meetings. Follow up includes a monthly display advertisement in a minority-owned weekly newspaper – highlighting social, business, education and recreation activities related to the area.
The city is also investing in our youngest citizens by offering scholarships to preschool teachers in early childhood centers to help standardize school readiness and by providing for scholarships for more young learners to attend preschool. Research shows that investments like these will reap benefits as children enter school prepared to learn.
The unique 2020 Plan, organized by concerned citizens in concert with the city of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, the Urban League and other local organizations, aims to reduce poverty in South St. Petersburg by 30 percent by the year 2020 and to add 5,000 adults and teens to the ranks of the employed – before the 2020 census. In 2015, more than 35 families were lifted out of poverty through the programs identified and supported by city and 2020 leaders.
Our work with 2020 to eradicate poverty in a substantive way is creating jobs, enhancing education and arming our citizens with the skills required to change their lives. We will continue to partner with Pinellas County, corporations, Pinellas County Schools and the many local service providers who are working every day to engineer opportunity and ensure readiness when opportunity presents.
As noted above, over the past two years, the Kriseman administration has initiated a number of initiatives all aimed at improving the quality of life for those living in South St. Petersburg. Despite the number and quality of the initiatives, their collective impact on the community was not as impactful because there had been no organized communication tying these initiatives together.
As such, in January 2016, a first-of-its-kind progress report on Urban Affairs initiatives was produced – outlining the city’s efforts in South St. Petersburg over the first two years of the Kriseman administration. – Called the Sunday Best Supper, a longest table style event in an outside formal dinner setting served as the setting for Mayor Kriseman to deliver his address at a city state dinner.
The Sunday Supper provided the opportunity to share the two-year report with more than 300 interested constituents from throughout the city and was an excellent venue to showcase existing programs, roll out new and upcoming programs, and increase program opportunities for citizen involvement.
Because in the weeks preceding the gathering, the city had suffered the shock of seven lives lost to gun violence in just a two-month period, all of them young black boys and men, one of the most significant outcomes was the Mayor’s announcement of a commitment of up to $1 million to invest in the needs of young at-risk black men in St. Petersburg.
“What you should know is that this is the issue that I care most about. Not the Pier or a baseball team. I care about people’s lives,” Mayor Kriseman said to a round of applause.
Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin shared that day, “So many of our issues in south St. Petersburg are tied to generational poverty—a deficit of the resources required to pursue the self-actualization that is implied in our vision of a city of opportunity.”.
The city vision is to build a city of opportunity by investing in people, as well as the places that make our city great.