ST PETERSBURG, FL — Freedom Summer 2011, a month-long project organized to overturn the conditions of poverty, unemployment, poor education and police violence in the African community, officially kicked off on Saturday, July 9 with a weightlifting competition at the TyRon Lewis Community Gym here in St Petersburg, Florida.
The events included competitions in squats, bench press, and deadlift. The overall winner of the event was Nate Washington who squatted and deadlifted more than 500 pounds in both events. Participants won a total of seven trophies. There were no age or weight categories.
Among the runner-ups was Chairman Omali Yeshitela who won his trophy in the squats category as he squatted 465 pounds.
The kick-off weekend’s activities culminated with a community rally on Sunday. The rally created excitement and anticipation for the upcoming week’s activities and projects for Freedom Summer.
On Monday, participants attended an orientation session in which they learned about various outreach strategies including drops (leaving literature at the door of each house), door-to-door (engaging people in discussion to get them involved in activities), four corners (providing information at traffic intersections) and tabling (providing information and engaging in discussion at an event or community location to recruit new members).
Everyone left the orientation feeling energized and focused on advancing the struggle for black liberation and independence.
On Tuesday, participants were able to put their training in action as they dropped flyers to over 700 doors announcing a community meeting that will organize residents to install community gardens and build a community marketplace.
Comrades from as far away as Toronto, San Diego, NYC, Philadelphia and Houston, teamed up with Florida participants from St. Pete, Tampa, Sarasota and Miami as they went door-to-door making their drops. Experienced organizers worked with those new to outreach work, sharing their knowledge and strategies and providing insight into the conditions experienced by Africans in the community, including a 71% poverty rate and a 21% high school graduation rate for African males.
In addition to making drops and calling on the African community to join in the quest for economic development and education, Jody Burnett, the lead AAPDEP (All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project) gardener from Houston visited and assessed several locations where the Freedom Summer Project participants will install gardens designed to prepare Africans to be able to produce our own healthy food right here in the city of St Petersburg.
The day ended with a showing of the film “Freedom on My Mind”, which chronicles the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. The documentary gave participants in this 2011 Freedom Summer a deeper understanding of the conditions faced by the African community then and that still persist today due to the colonial conditions imposed upon us by a system of parasitic capitalism.
On Wednesday, the outreach continued, as did practical assignments that included archiving the Burning Spear newspaper, media training, and producing a special edition of the Burning Spear.
In the evening, participants viewed “The Battle of St. Petersburg” video documentary, in order to gain insight on the history of the Uhuru Movement in St. Petersburg and the significant events that took place in 1996 after the police murdered a young African, Tyron Lewis.
The 1996 police military assault on the Uhuru House and the African community, and the magnificent resistance displayed by Africans in response to the injustices, was a significant turning point in the African Liberation Movement because the Uhuru Movement was able to employ strategies that neutralized the military attack from the police and popularized the demand for economic development for the African community rather than police containment.
Thursday’s activities started off with early morning gardening. Nine volunteers tilled and planted a community garden in two hours! More gardens will be planted throughout the month.
Other activities for the day included door-to-door conversations with residents in the African community to register them for the Black Community Convention which will take place on August 6-7, and a political education class with Chairman Omali Yeshitela discussing the State and National Question that was broadcast live via internet on uhurunews.com.
For more information and to make donations to Freedom Summer, please go to www.uhurusummerproject.org or call 727-821-6620.
FORWARD WITH FREEDOM SUMMER!!!!