Suncoast Tiger Bay: Righting wrongs means shining a light [Video] [St. Pete Catalyst]

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Welcome Catalyst’s Community Voices. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details. Click play on the video below to see the full conversation at the June 27th Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon featuring Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, Gwendolyn Reese, Tim Dutton and Winnie Foster.

The late 19th and early 20th Century African-American investigative journalist Ida B. Wells, an early leader in the civil rights movement once said, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Over Tiger Bay’s 40 years of existence, our organization has attempted to host open-tent civic and political conversations of every stripe. We have done this with success at times, and at others, not so successfully. But Tiger Bay has never done a good job of critically analyzing our own community’s history – particularly when it comes to race.

A few months ago during a Tiger Bay luncheon, a question was asked about Green Benches that used to line Central Avenue. To a significant segment of our community’s population, those benches are at best benign artifacts of the past, and at worst, a symbol of an ugly segregationist era in our history and in our city.

The question triggered a conversation among Tiger Bay’s board that identified a larger, long-overdue conversation, that needed to happen at Tiger Bay. We scheduled this conversation to begin shining a light.

Our invitation to our June 27 event advertised a “bold” conversation on race and the legacy of racism in the ‘Burg. That is what we set out to do.

We made a commitment that this will not be a single conversation, but rather that we model what we hope will take
place throughout the rest of our city, state, and country – that courageous conversations can happen and will happen with frequency, reflecting the voices and experiences of all members of our community.

It was inspiring then that this luncheon was our largest luncheon crowd in 2019. It was clear that our community is hungry for conversation, for understanding. This serves to reaffirm the importance of this conversation and ensures it will not be the last.

On June 27 we welcomed a carefully selected panel of community members and experts. The panel included Gwendolyn
Reese, president of the African American Heritage Association; Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, community activist and faith leader; Winnie Foster, grassroots activist; and Tim Dutton, executive director of UNITE Pinellas. It was moderated by Pinellas County Commissioner and Tiger Bay member Ken Welch. If you missed the conversation, please enjoy the recap below. If you’d like to become a member of Tiger Bay, please visit our website here.