A neighborhood builder, a place maker, Veatrice Farrell has been honoring the history of the Deuces corridor by driving its future. Her work as Executive Director of The Deuces Live is to revitalize the historic 22nd Street South district through advocacy, development and promoting the deep cultural roots of the community. It has been said that one could live their whole life on the Deuces, and Veatrice Farrell has dedicated hers to making sure that's a life well lived.
Years in St. Pete
I’ve been in St. Petersburg about 22 years. I’ve been in the Tampa Bay area about 27.
Organizations involved in
In addition to the Deuces, I’m on a couple of boards. I went to a training, and they said that if you’re on more than two, that you should get off of them. Now, I’m embarrassed to say. I’m on more than two. We’ll just say they are arts related organizations, financial institutions, charter schools and community-based organizations.
What gets you out of bed every day?
I have two adult daughters that get me out of bed every day.
Why St. Pete?
I used to live in Detroit, Michigan. One day it took me 30 minutes to drive a half a block, because I was on a street that had a slight incline. It was in a suburb that hadn’t been iced yet. I told myself, I’m not going to live here the next time it snows. I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. I mentioned, I went to FAMU. After I left FAMU I was like, “I want to see the seasons change.” Then a couple of years later I was like, “Never again.” I got a job in what used to be Sun Trust is now True, as a commercial lender. They had an opening in Tampa Bay or Miami. Tampa, more closely resembled Indianapolis. I was like, “Let me go back to my mid-western roots in Florida. That’s what brought me to Tampa Bay.
What is one habit that you keep?
I say prayers every day that I wake up. I thank the Lord for waking me up.
Who are some people that influence you?
It’s actually a bunch of people. If I think about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was all the everyday people who boycotted for more than a year – the bus system. When we talk about history oftentimes, the people who participated in that march or in that boycott, don’t have any names. To me they’re an influence, because it’s a historical recording of how everyday people can change the trajectory of a country, even though people don’t know their names.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
It’s like two, actually three. On the serious side, eyes on the prize which again talks about what people, the Civil Rights Movement from a historical standpoint. They focus on the movement and the ordinary Americans that participated. Then another one would be The Color of Law which Rothstein wrote a book that talked about how legally municipalities discriminated against historically African American communities. Those are important as a reference point of how far we’ve come. And how do we address the inequities? When you look at it from a purely historically standpoint, it’s easier in my opinion to come up with solutions, because you are a looking at it from a historical standpoint, devoid of emotion.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I wish I knew – three years ago – that it would take four years to complete projects. I work in a main street. We have some fairly large capital projects that we’re working on. When you start, and engineering gives you a timeline, you’re like, “Oh my goodness. It really does take this year,” but look at the timeline and add a year. I would tell myself that if you stay patient and focused, you’ll be finished. I just didn’t realize how long the patience had to run.
There are a significant number of projects on and around the Deuces corridor. There are a group of people that are working on bringing funding to those projects. We’re calling it Ignite Deuces Water. Over the next 24 months, there will be significant changes on 22nd Street. A significant number of those projects are community-based. I want to thank everyone who continues to support the Deuces corridor, who’ve always supported the Deuces corridor. Thank you for making sure that you continued to support a place that has so much history in the City of Saint Petersburg. Now that people other people are discovering it, have no fear that we will never forget everyone who was here when there was not a lot of people. That’s one thing that you’ll see as the corridor gets redeveloped. We’re hoping that… Our goal is for anyone who’s been there not to get moved. That the new people are just sliding with everyone who’s already been there. We’re hoping – to a degree – to be a story about how redevelopment happens in the community that’s had a foothold there is not replaced.