The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. Click the play arrow above to watch the full video.
On this episode, Veatrice Farrell and Antwaun Wells of the Deuces Live Historic Main Street join Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst to talk about the Deuces Live and the good news coming out of the corridor with a new grant award.
First, while reopening continues, Steinocher breaks down the number of new COVID-19 cases. The 14-day average of daily new cases now sits at 34.5, and the percent positive hovers at 2.24 percent. Wednesday brought 67 new cases and another death was reported. Steinocher notes that testing is also increasing rapidly, with three recent days above 2,200 tests. Steinocher also notes that ICU beds are still available.
Hamilton and Steinocher discuss the new campaign to get community members to make a 30-second video to help other community members remember their masks when going out in public. The winner of the contest will be shared on the St. Pete Catalyst.
Then, the conversation moves to the Deuces Live, a nonprofit organization created to revive and revitalize the historic neighborhood of St. Petersburg’s 22nd Street, which was historically the heart of St. Petersburg’s Black-owned business community. Steinocher asks about how life on Deuces has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been challenging,” says Farrell. “It’s one thing to read statistics about how communities of color are impacted. It’s another thing to live it.”
Farrell noted that many residents of the corridor work in front line positions, including nursing homes, and nursing services, as well as hospitality and retail.
“What people don’t talk about is the spirit of people who do these jobs,” Farrell explains. “I think sometimes we get overwhelmed with the negative information. We live in a community that’s bursting with everything that’s positive about people in general. It exhibits itself in the midst of all of this bad news.”
Farrell described the self-sufficiency of the Deuces – the historic African American corridor on 22nd St. South – community, how businesses did things differently to stay open and how the community came together to take care of itself.
Steinocher and Farrell also spotlighted the “digital divide,” a disparity of access to high speed internet and laptops/tablets. The issue was brought to the forefront during the Equity Amid Crisis conference earlier this month. The Deuces has worked alongside the Innovation District, Grow Smarter and other community partners to set up free WiFi access points at the ArtsXchange in the Warehouse Arts District and at Tangerine Plaza. There is also a satellite space in the Child’s Park neighborhood.
Farrell explains that the partnership sprang out of conversations that began before the first official meeting on the digital divide in February, an issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be top-of-mind during hurricane season. “There’s no such thing as luck,” Farrell says, “it’s when preparation meets opportunity.”
Finally, Farrell and Wells get to the major news of the day, announcing that the Deuces Live has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant. With only 51 grants awarded this cycle, Farrell explains that this is a very big deal.
The grant will fund a project called Arts Explosion On The Deuces Live, a multi-dimensional artistic and cultural infusion of regularly scheduled musical concerts, dance performances, and theatrical productions that highlight the cultural heritage of the community. The grant will also include aesthetic upgrades to the corridor.
Farrell explains that this grant is the latest of many steps over the last several years to raise the profile of the Deuces Live. The Deuces/Warehouse Arts District Master Plan began creating a vision for the corridor for the next 20 years, but the City of St. Petersburg’s I-275 underpass project in 2017 was the first of the recent capital projects on the corridor. It engaged the SHINE mural festival and local artist Zulu Painter, to bring the underpass to life. Farrell also mentioned CapEx Advisory Group, which helps community based organizations marry the energy and excitement they bring to the table with technical expertise to get capital projects done.
The latest Deuces Live project was a coordinated effort between the Deuces, the City of St. Petersburg, Catalyst For Good, CapEx Advisory Group and others.