Noting that southern St. Petersburg has suffered long-term poverty and disenfranchisement, Mayor Rick Kriseman earlier this year pledged he would bring full opportunity to the area’s residents.
He will take the first step to reach that goal with the Thursday launch of a grassroots campaign to take back neighborhoods against violence. The “Not My Son” campaign is directed at African-American youths and young adults, aged 12 to 24, and their families. The idea is to make both aware of ways to fight crime before it begins and have families take pledges to help keep their children crime free.
Not My Son is the first step in a larger campaign that, in itself, is part of a nationwide effort called “My Brother’s Keeper,” launched by President Barack Obama in 2014. Obama explained the MBK campaign is about “helping more of our young people stay on track. Providing the support they need to think more broadly about their future. Building on what works – when it works, in those critical life-changing moments.”
St. Petersburg is one of almost 250 communities across the U.S. that has accepted the MBK challenge. But St. Pete put a slightly different spin on it by including young women and calling it “My Brother’s and Sister’s Keepers.”
In announcing the MBSK initiative last January, Kriseman noted that a goal of his administration is to create a city of opportunity for all.
“What you should know is that this is the issue I care the most about; not a pier or a baseball team,” Kriseman said. “I care about people’s lives, their quality of life, their safety, and whether opportunities exist for them. That’s also what our city council cares the most about. It’s our top job.”
The mayor referred to gun violence that had claimed the lives of young black men in the weeks before his announcement. The violence must end, he said. He pledged $1 million to “to chart a course toward solutions that will make a difference for our community’s young black men.”
He asked community members to help him find ways to reach those goals. Kriseman added that he intended to make resources available to do so.
“I come to this work deeply invested in the belief that fair does not always mean equal,” Kriseman said. “Where there is disproportionate need we must invest disproportionately in order to move ahead equitably. Decades of disenfranchisement means there is more need in our city south of Central. And, we are answering that need with more focused resources that are designed to finally shift the trajectory of poverty and disenfranchisement in a way that transcends mayors, and administrations, city councils and commissions.”
Kriseman added, “We are working to change the story in a way that can never be undone.”
The kickoff for Not My Son is 7 p.m. Thursday – Live on the Deuces: Soulful Thursday – on the corner of 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue S.