ST. PETERSBURG, FL—It was the typical beginnings of a city hall meeting where rich white people, with a sprinkle of petty bourgeoisie negroes, all sat around and decided how they were going to further gentrify the African community without, of course, the inclusion of the poor and working class Africans who live there.
That is, until 11 members of the revolutionary African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), and African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC) walked in.
The attendees of the meeting pretended to be unbothered as they saw us enter the room. A new energy had emerged, however, and the entire room could feel it.
As one of the councilmen presented his argument for the use of some development money, a fierce Gazi Kodzo, Director of Recruitment for the African People’s Socialist Party, stood abruptly and stormed up to the microphone. The rest of us stood up and in unison we shouted our slogan, “Uhuru!”
The attendees went wild. Councilmen flew from their seats and residents clutched their chests. Gazi had barely finished the second sentence to his speech before he was hauled off by a little security man.
This did not bring down our momentum. We stood and chanted, “Tear it down!” We also handed out club cards for Black Community Control of the Mural as we tore up printed copies of the mural and left the remnants on the floor.
We were escorted out within a span of 2-5 minutes, but we kept the chants going even as we descended the steps and headed off to our cars.
The city council thought the APSP left them a bomb
Some of the remaining comrades were approached by the cops and one member of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, Kefira, was taken inside with them.
It turned out that the councilmen believed that Gazi’s purse—which fell from his person as he was dragged off by security—had a bomb in it. They evacuated all the attendees outside of city hall, as they brought in bomb-detecting dogs.
With everyone now on the steps of city hall, the African People’s Socialist Party used this to our advantage and had Gazi present his speech in full.
Gazi boldly stated, “This shows that the city of St. Pete still don’t give a damn about Africans! They wanted to do this all under our noses, without even reaching out to the man that was imprisoned because of it! We’re going to show y’all that St. Pete’s Africans ain’t nothing to f**k with!
“If we don’t choose it, TEAR IT DOWN!”
It was a powerful demonstration that led to city hall literally being shut down. It was a powerful demonstration that led to the city deciding that the Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, Omali Yeshitela, should be included in the plans for the new city hall mural.
History and context
Fifty years ago, in 1966, a mural hung at St. Pete City Hall; a racist, demoralizing caricature of African people, dancing, playing the banjo and eating watermelon, all for the purpose of entertaining white people.
It was a mural that mocked the African population of St. Pete everyday as they went to pay their bills or file complaints in regards to their colonially imposed conditions.
Chairman Omali Yeshitela and others taking the mural back to the African community in 1966
Fifty years ago, Chairman Omali Yeshitela tore that mural down and tried to bring it back to the African community, but he was arrested and sent to prison for almost three years.
Fifty years later the city is trying to put another mural up without consulting those whom are responsible for it not being there.
The city wants this mural to represent the progress and inclusivity of St. Pete, regardless of the fact that statistically, the conditions of African people here are worse than they were fifty years ago!
Africans refuse to give the city free reign to whitewash our struggle. Africans refuse to let a mural not selected by our community hang on the walls of city hall again.
Black community control of the mural!
Join the African People’s Socialist Party!