ST. PETERSBURG––The Tampa Bay Times released an article Tuesday, June 28th titled, “St. Petersburg committee will invite Uhuru leader’s input to replace mural he tore down 50 years ago.”
This piece discussed Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and the the Uhuru Movement, ripping a anti-African mural from the walls of St. Pete’s City Hall 50 years ago on December 29, 1966.
That date in 1966 marks a historic trajectory of black power.
After tearing down the anti-African mural, Chairman Omali––along with other local Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members: Jody Wall, John Bryant, Crawford Jones, Lemuel Green and Tommy Williams––led a march through the African community, which ended at the front steps of City Hall.
Why the Chairman tore down the mural
The march was sparked by the State’s abuse of the African poor and working class in St. Petersburg and all across U.S.
Specifically, the city of St. Petersburg was receiving a $50 million grant from the U.S. government.
White city officials decided to use the funds to beautify the downtown area, however Chairman Omali and his SNCC comrades, representing the interest of the African community, demanded that those resources go to the African community who were being starved by the white ruling class of St. Pete.
An older African woman ran out the house in her housecoat and slippers to join the march. Once at City Hall, she began to complain to the gathered crowd the reality of her conditions as an African in St. Petersburg.
As the woman spoke members of the white media callously chuckled and ridiculed her for her broken English.
This infuriated Chairman Omali, who then jolted up the stairs into the City Hall, peeled apart a tiny corner of the offensive 10×14 foot mural, and in one motion uprooted the canvass from its frame.
“You black bastard!” yelled the City Hall clerk from the balcony just as the ripping sound ceased and the hideous tarp began to collapse to the floor.
Chairman Omali, dragged the floppy fabric out the building, asserting to all the stunned white onlookers, “I’m taking this back to the black community to see what they think about it!”
The passive hand-holding while singing “we shall overcome” as white people oppressed Africans was now being replaced by new thoughts of “black power.”
This bold action by Chairman Omali was one of the first example of black power. Just three months later on May 2, 1967, the Black Panther Party showed up to the California capital dressed in black leather jackets, berets and dark glasses bearing arms––the rest is history.
The Original Black Panthers became the image of black power and still is today.
Chairman Omali spent two and a half years in prison for tearing the mural down.
Black Community Control of the Mural
Now, the city of St. Petersburg wants to pay an artist $50,000 (upping it from $10,000 back in February) to create a piece of art that speaks to the “all inclusivity” of the present-day city and shows the overall improvement of the African condition as compared to December 29, 1966 when the mural came down.
“That’s a lie!” says the Chairman.
The truth is 70 percent of the Africans living in south St. Pete live under the U.S. poverty line.
The schools that African children attend have been identified as “failure factories.”
The police roam our communities with mentalities of hunters, preying on our people.
We say Black Community Control of the Mural, not a committee of sell-outs and hand-picked Negroes who work with the State to write out the righteous struggles of poor Africans who have no interest in enabling the existing structure of white power, which can only function properly with the continued suffering of African people.
Chairman Omali is in the process of pulling together his own committee to critique and choose the next piece of art to fill the vacant wall.
The African artist chosen by the Chairman’s committee will receive the $50,000 prize the St. Petersburg City Hall Stairwell Mural Project Committee intended to give its selection.
Interested African artist can submit their artwork to Chairman Omali Yeshitela’s Black Community Mural Committee by visiting Theburningspear.com, click on Mural Artist Registration.
Black Community Control of the Mural!