In keeping with Suncoast Tiger Bay’s commitment to race conversations, this month’s virtual luncheon celebrated Black History Month by taking a closer look at St. Petersburg’s arts and culture through an equity lens.
Moderated by Tiger Bay board member Adam Smith, the event featured panelists Creative Pinellas’ arts & culture outreach manager Leigh Davis, actor/director Cranstan Cumberbatch and Terri Lipsey-Scott, executive director of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.
St. Petersburg is a land of opportunity for artists, but opportunity is only one step in an overall goal toward equity. There is still improvement needed in terms of access to opportunities. “I’ve been fortunate to have gained a lot of opportunity to work as an artist here in the city,” said Cumberbatch. “But a lot of that opportunity, I had to go and seek out myself. I had to create my own platform for my talents to be discovered, coming from the south side of St. Petersburg.
“One of my initiates has been to create that platform so more artists are aware of the opportunities.”
Lipsey-Scott echoed that sentiment succinctly. “Opportunity, unfortunately, does not equate to what is needed, which is equity. There’s such a lack of equity, particularly in the African American art realm. With consideration to where we are as a city, one that touts art, culture, preservation and history – African American art, culture, preservation and history still finds itself at the bottom,” she said.
Conversations about equity and opportunity for African Americans in the arts, they agreed, are incomplete without discussing funding – keeping in mind that equity and equality are not the same.
“You can’t give to the Museum of History the same amount given to the Carter Woodson Museum and think its equitable,” Lipsey-Scott lamented. After 400 years of disadvantage, African American cultural institutions need more support than their white counterparts. Other African American history museums across the country are state- and city-funded. “We can’t continue to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion without bringing some money to the table,” offered Lipsey-Scott. “How do you create a sense of equity without a financial investment?”
Furthermore, it was suggested, relegating the inclusion and celebration of Black artists to a certain part of town, or only to the month of February, creates a sense of invisibility. “Include us in your programming throughout the entire year,” Cumberbatch said. Black artists should be woven into the fabric of the overall arts and culture of St. Petersburg.
“I absolutely believe it’s important for the entire community to extol, to support, to advocate for our Black arts and culture,” said Davis. “I’m asking for more public-private partnerships, where the business community is thinking ‘wait a minute, can we get an artist on this? Wait a minute, can we get a creative on this?… Artists are innovators. They think about solutions all the time. They’re always collaborating. We’re going to find a way to make it work.”
Click on the arrow to watch and hear the conversation.