The Big Payoff:

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A flyer featuring this image of Darryl Rouson (l) and Louis Murphy showing which side they were on was passed out in the African community.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — In 2002, Darryl Rouson filed for bankruptcy to erase nearly $400,000 in debts he said he accumulated during his 15-year addiction to crack-cocaine and alcohol.

Three years later, he is flying high, reaping the benefits of a sweetheart real estate and development deal with the City of St. Petersburg worth millions of dollars.

How did a “former” crack addict with no money get in favor with the government and big business interests that arranged the deal for him? He sold us out.

He broke the unity that the African community had achieved under the leadership of the Uhuru Movement after the police murder of 18-year-old TyRon Lewis in 1996. There had not been a single police killing for 8 years since the community rose up in rebellion and made the city suffer a consequence for killing Lewis.

In 2001, Uhuru movement leader, Omali Yeshitela ran for mayor of St. Pete and won every African and mixed race precinct in the 9-candidate primary. His emphasis on economic development for the African community as opposed to police containment forced the winning candidate Rick Baker to put economic development prominently on his platform.

Consequently, the African community voted Baker into office, overcoming the majority of white votes cast for the openly racist Kathleen Ford in the general election.

Then Darryl Rouson came forward to let Baker off the hook, declaring that economic development in the African community, where more than 70 percent of the people live in poverty, should wait until “crime” was reduced. Instead of demanding resources for our community, he held press conference after press conference, blaming the people for the poverty, homelessness and oppression we suffer.

But while Rouson opposed resources for economic development that could uplift our whole community — loans and grants for start-ups, existing businesses and collective enterprises — he was secretly making deals to get resources for his own pocket.

Rouson took ownership of 4 lots on Queensboro Avenue for free in exchange for dropping a lawsuit he had filed against the property owners, which charged that the houses were drug houses.

He and realtor Larry Newsome formed a partnership called “Aracle Homes” that initially sought to acquire the rest of the lots on the block to build housing. Rouson transferred ownership of his lots to the partnership in an apparent move to hide his assets as he prepared to file bankruptcy.

After learning that the City was interested in working with them to develop a commercial strip mall on the block, Rouson and Newsome formed a “non-profit” development corporation called Urban Development Solutions (UDC).

They acquired the rest of the lots on the corner of 18th Avenue and 22nd Street South in the heart of the African community. They acquired some of the houses through tax deed auctions whereby the city seizes the homes of impoverished families who often have paid off the mortgage over generations, but can’t keep up with rising property taxes.

Rouson and Newsome engaged in talks with city officials and developers towards a deal that would put public dollars in all their pockets. They hooked up with the Sembler Corporation, headed by Mel Sembler a major Republican Party donor who had been appointed Ambassador to Italy by current U.S. president George Bush.

“How did a “former” crack addict with no money get in favor with the government and big business interests that arranged the deal for him? He sold us out. ”

This is the same Sembler Corporation that received about $12 million tax dollars to build the downtown BayWalk shopping center that caters to white tourists and discriminates against the African community.

The Uhuru Movement led weekly protests for eight months to force them to change their anti-black dress code that had provided an excuse for the permanent banning of a great number of young Africans and led to the arrest of Uhuru Movement member Keith “Mtundu” Stewart who was charged with “inciting a riot” after he spoke out against police brutally beating a young African at the complex.

As the State usually does when it plans to disperse an African community for white development, the city began to refer to the corner of 18th Avenue and 22nd Street South as the Tangerine Avenue Community Redevelopment Area, and plans were laid to build a new strip mall, the Tangerine Plaza Shopping Center, to house a Sweetbay supermarket, a police mini-station, a liquor store and a few small businesses.

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Darryl Rouson (r) tried to protect Sheriff James Coats from members of the African community who broke up their private meeting with demands for justice.

Judas’ payment

Here’s how the dirty deal went down. Rouson and Newsome sold the lots they had acquired on that corner to the City of St. Petersburg. The City paid $1.13 million for the block, with a nice profit going to Rouson and Newsome. Then the City Council agreed to lease the property back to Urban Development Solutions for $5 per year for 99 years to build and manage the strip mall.

Additionally, the cost of constructing the shopping center will be financed primarily by the people’s tax dollars. The project is expected to cost over $5 million dollars. The City agreed to loan UDC $1,350,000, interest free, with no payments at all required for the first 10 years.

The other bank loans for construction are guaranteed by the City, in case Urban Development Solutions defaults on the loans. This means that if they decide not to pay the loans, our taxes will.

Without such guarantees by the City, no bank would loan that kind of money to a bankrupt junkie. In a similar deal, the Sembler Company defaulted on the loan they took to build Centro Ybor in Tampa, leaving the tax-payers of Tampa on the hook to cover the $16 million dollar HUD loan that Sembler and his partners spent.

This deal made between the white rulers in St. Petersburg and the African petty bourgeoisie exemplifies the treachery of this traitorous class.

The African petty bourgeoisie has consistently betrayed the interests of the African masses whether in St. Petersburg, Florida, Johannesburg, South Africa or anywhere else in the African world.

Neocolonialism, the use of the African petty bourgeois class to protect and administer the system of our oppression, is imperialist white power’s last stage. Our ability to defeat imperialism and win power over our own lives depends on our ability to expose our class enemies to the African masses.


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