St. Pete Stories
Everyone in our community has a story to share. “These community conversations are about diverse segments of our community coming together and sharing our unique stories with one another,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman. “We want to have real conversations about inclusiveness, our similarities, as well as our differences – which is what makes our community so remarkable – in a meaningful way.”
The four Community Conversations, “This is my city: St Pete Stories,” featured professional actors presenting the stories of a diverse group of citizens. The St. Pete Stories model was developed to spotlight cultural differences among citizens and allow for additional community dialogue in a performing arts style format. Presentations were followed by facilitated small group conversations, where participants reacted to the stories and shared their own experiences.
“This is my city: St Pete Stories” is part of a larger city of St. Petersburg "Inclusion and Sensitivity" initiative. Event organizers featured the stories of various community members and allowed time for people to engage in real conversations. The public was invited to add their voices to the city's collective history, discuss the experiences of the performers, and talk with others about their vision for St. Pete.
The goals of the Community Conversation series were to raise awareness about the power of our collective story and how it could impact the future of St. Petersburg, and to help people become aware of the diversity of our community and see what that diversity means for every citizen and visitor.
The Stories took place over a five-month period, at four locations throughout the city, so as to bring the performances close to everyone. Storytellers portrayed the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, a clergyman / lumber company retiree, a Boston native, a same-sex couple, a youth role model and others – who among them, faced situations like being a Jewish leader in a southern city, an inter-racial marriage or racial discrimination in the workplace.
Profiles also included a 43-year old who spent 20 years in prison and now directs a non-profit that helps young men avoid his fate; an immigrant from Bosnia who shared how her home country was divided along racial and religious lines; a Puerto Rican-born young father who spoke of wanting his daughter to feel connections to all people – even those who may look different; and a business owner/collision repair specialist who at age 16, was stealing cars to drive across town and impress his girlfriend – before turning his life around and staying on the right track.
The audience for Stories grew from about 60 at the first gathering to about 200 at the fourth program.
The success of the St. Pete Stories can be summed up in comments from participants:
“I really like that we are working from strength – a love of St Petersburg – instead of the typical ‘fighting’ discriminations, biases, etc. Maybe Love (of St Petersburg) is the answer.”
“I will tell my friends and look forward to the next one! I could relate to all the stories and found them very moving and inspiring.”
“Unexpectedly moving and revealing.”
“Great, fantastic evening – everyone does not look like their story!”
“This was my first time at one of these. [A friend] told me about it. Hope there are more.”
“It was the most revealing and transforming experiences that I have had in years living in this city.”