On a breezy Monday morning, Rick Kriseman raised the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum flag at City Hall for his last time as mayor after denouncing the insurrectionists who stormed the capital as “nothing more than rebranded Klansmen” and said that members of Congress who encouraged the violence aren’t fit to hold public office.
“They’re driven by hate and fear of a country that looks less and less like they do,” he said at a ceremony to celebrate the start of Black History Month. “They are not what America is. And they are not what St. Pete is.”
In his remarks, Kriseman praised the advances that have been made in terms of equity at both the national and the local level, including the renaming of St. Pete’s main library in honor of President Barack Obama. He also spoke of the city’s leadership team and city council looking “more like the city of St Petersburg than ever before.” However, he also acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead.
“We have work to do as we continue to reduce poverty and create more equity and opportunity in our impoverished communities and our African American communities, particularly in South St. Pete,” said Kriseman, who recalled the time when green benches – where Black people weren’t allowed to sit – dotted the streets of St. Pete.
In those days, the idea of flying a Woodson flag would have been unthinkable. But that’s all in the past now.
“I am as excited for the future of this great city as I have ever been. This pandemic will not hinder my enthusiasm nor my optimism,” Kriseman said. “We are resilient and we will persevere and we will overcome, as we do in St. Pete. Our Black brothers and sisters can teach us all a thing or two about that.”
Before introducing Woodson Museum executive director Terri Lipsey Scott, Kriseman also said he’d like to honor the African American community by creating a statewide vaccination system that “works for everyone” regardless of color and economic status.
“The one we have isn’t working right now,” he said.
As she took to the podium, Scott spoke with emotion and love for St. Pete before the Woodson flag was raised for the fifth time.
“We’re proud to live in a city where Black Lives Matter and where Black history matters,” she said.
She also credited city council and Kriseman with coming forward to ensure the survival of the museum as a space where African American history can continue to be preserved, presented and celebrated and also praised their support for the Black Lives Matter mural that was painted outside the museum last summer. Additionally, she spoke of gratitude for the donation of 5.5 acres and the first $1 million from the city to begin the process of creating a new state-of-the-art Woodson museum. At Thursday’s city council meeting, Kriseman will unveil renderings of the new museum.
Scott said Kriseman’s leadership exemplifies the statement “together we rise” and thanked him for commitment, support and celebration of St. Pete’s Black community.
“How blessed we are to live in a community where Black lives indeed matter,” she said. “I am humbled and I am proud to be a resident of the city of St Petersburg, where here we raise a flag in honor of not only Black History Month but also in honor of Dr. Carter G. Woodson.”