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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The nation is looking to learn from this pivotal moment in the Black Lives Matter movement and the African American History Museum in St. Petersburg is helping provide some context through its programming, but the museum faces an ongoing funding disparity at a time when Bay Area residents need it most.
As the spotlight shines on black lives, one place that preserves the stories of those lives is the Dr. Carter Woodson African American History Museum in St. Pete.
“When we reflect upon COVID-19, when we reflect upon the life and death of George Floyd … this, the African American museum would be the only appropriate place to preserve, present and interpret such stories,” said executive director Terri Lipsey Scott.
Despite being temporarily closed due to the pandemic, Scott said the museum is working to provide perspective for anyone who wants to become a better ally to the Black Lives Matter movement by hosting a series of virtual forums. Some upcoming forums are titled “Brothers Begging to Breathe” and “Can We Talk?”
“’Can we talk?’ will create an opportunity for men and women, boys and girls, black and white and every ethnicity imaginable to have a safe space to have conversations around race, respect, culture,” said Scott.
Having space to display art and feature literature is one thing Scott says the museum lacks.
“It is currently housed in what was once a community center for public housing,” she said.
Museum leaders said that puts them several steps behind the other world-class cultural and historical centers in the Tampa Bay area, and Scott says that parallels the systemic problems currently being discussed.
“The Woodson's location and lack of investment by a greater community certainly represents the inequity that we're currently facing,” said Scott who said the museum needs millions of dollars to build a large building. “In the sense of our current climate, a proper African American museum is extremely important.”
The Woodson museum was gifted about 5 acres and $1 million from the city of St. Petersburg and will need to fundraise much more.
Scott said the museum will have more virtual forums discussing race, culture and injustice the last Saturday of every month throughout the summer.