Corey Givens has St Petersburg roots that run 4 generations deep. His love of the city, at this point, it literally in his DNA. He expresses that love in a lot of different ways - as part of organizations, running for political posts and through individual activism. Our favorite part is that he does it all with joy.
Years in St. Pete
I’ve been a proud resident of St. Petersburg for 28 years. I’m a fourth generation native. So, St. Pete’s been home my entire life.
Organizations involved in
I’m a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated. Also, a youth minister at my church. I enjoy giving my free time volunteering at the Suncoast Haven of Rest mission. Also mentoring young men through 5000 Role Models program, Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Also, been a long-time member of the NAACP, The League of Women Voters, the Concerned Organization for the Quality Education of Black Students. And also, my neighborhood association.
What gets you out of bed every day?
My determination to make today better than yesterday. You know, this past year has been tough for many of us between COVID 19 deaths and the quarantine. The bible says that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. You know, I wake up every morning looking for joy. Even in the midst of sorrow and sadness, I strive every day to try to find the joy in bitter and sad situations. So, that’s what presses me on about my way every day.
Why St. Pete?
Well, St. Pete has always been home for me. You know, my family’s been here for 90 years. So, it’s the only home that I know. We helped lay the rail roads and pave the streets in St. Pete. This is home. St. Pete is my family. After I graduated from Lakewood High School, I attended FSU. I got a scholarship in journalism to attend USL. And coming back home, I immediately got immersed in the social justice movement. It was right after Trayvon Martin had been murdered. And there was a call. There was a clarion call for a new age of activists to get involved and to make a difference. And I got involved because I saw that as a call for me to be part of the change. To be a catalyst for change, not just sit on the sidelines and watch idly, but to actively be proactive and not reactive when it came to social justice. Between the cost of living rising and the lack of racial progress, many of my high school classmates moved away from home. After college, they never returned but I saw that the onus was on me to come back to St. Pete and to make a difference. And so that’s what brought me back to St. Pete, was I wanted to be a part of the change. If not us then who? That was the question I was asked, and I volunteered. Just like many people before me, I saw it as my responsibility to step up and actually be a part of the change happening in our community.
What is one habit that you keep?
Faith and family are the cornerstones of who I am. They really are what ground me. So, the habit that I try to keep is I try to make time consistently for my faith and for my family. So, whether it’s getting up on Sunday mornings and going to church or after work, going to bible study on a Wednesday evening. This day and age, it’s virtual. So, I can do it from home. Being a minister, I find it very important to be devout to my calling. So, on top of my church and making a commitment to my God, I also try to make a commitment to my family. So, I look forward to family dinners. I look forward to fellowshipping with my family. This day and age we’re all isolated and we’re distant because of COVID 19, but faith and family are the two most important elements and foundations of my life. So, I try to make it a habit to make time for both of them.
Who are some people that influence you?
Shirley Chisholm said that service is the rent that we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. She was the first Black woman to run on a major party ticket for President of the United States. It was her relentless spirit that has always inspired me since I first learned of her in elementary school. And the late Congressman John Lewis, who I had the opportunity to meet multiple times has also been a great mentor of mine. He was an inspiration to get in good trouble, necessary trouble. Sometimes, life puts you in a situation where you can be a catalyst for change. I saw John Lewis as not only the conscience of the congress, but he was the conscience of America. He was a man who, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, he could always help find common ground. So, Shirley Chisholm and John Lewis probably have to be two of the most important historic figures that have influenced my life in a major way.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Howard Thurman is one of my favorite authors. He was a theologian. He said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” So, I see Howard Thurman and his methodology as sort of the blueprint for my life. He was an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement. As a matter of fact, his contribution to the movement, many have said was the book that he wrote called ‘The Search for Common Ground’. Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King actually carried it in his pocket throughout the movement. It was his insight that really taught me that we have to look at life as a process. We have to have this outside of the box mentality where you know, and recognize the fact that not everyone looks like us, not everyone thinks like us. People come from all walks of life and have various beliefs. But it’s what makes us different that really unites us. So, that mindset, that belief, that methodology and that thinking is really what has grounded me in my life, and placed me in a position to be the person that I am today.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
My job is to help find young people jobs. To support at-risk youth who are looking for job training. So, I wish I would have known that there was a lack of job training and job development in Pinellas County. I see the different chambers. I see the different municipalities working to support small businesses, but who’s supporting the employees working at those small business? Who’s helping them to make sure that they have the life skills, the interview etiquette skills that they need? Who’s helping them make sure that they have the high school diploma, the GED that’s going to be necessary to give them a leg up in society? So, I wish I had known that there was such a gap when it came to job training and job development in Pinellas County. And that’s what I’m working to do. Try to fill that gap, and to support the needs of our young people who are that next generation of skilled labor. I wish I would have known that there were more students out there who are interested in trade school, because we have to work on addressing that need as well. Not everyone is going to go to college. So, we have to make sure that we have jobs available for those skilled labor employees.
Continue moving the needle. There’s a lot of issues in Pinellas County and St. Pete in particular that deserve to have a little light shined on them. Those issues for instance include affordable housing, economic development and social justice initiatives. So, for me I want to continue working with the NAACP and The League of Women Voters to address election integrity issues. I want to continue working with The Food Policy Council to talk about eliminating food deserts in south St. Petersburg, particularly mid-town. Then I want to keep working with our local law enforcement agencies to make sure that we end this gun violence that’s been plaguing our communities. The way we are doing it is by hitting the streets. We’re hitting the streets and taking back our streets. We’re taking back our communities from the illegal guns that are proliferating our streets and the crime. We want to make sure that St. Pete is a safe city to raise a family in, make sure that our communities are safe. We want to make sure that we leave St. Petersburg a better city than we found it. For me, what’s to come is what’s greater than what’s been. I believe in the village mentality that we’re all in this together. So, I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that we unite St. Pete. That we work together collectively. To leave this community, this city better than what we found it for the next generation.