St. Pete rally will call for Tropicana Field area to be returned to the Black community

Before it was gentrified, the area was home to hundreds of Black families and Black-owned businesses.

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click to enlarge An aerial photo of Tropicana Field and the surrounding area. - City Of St. Pete Flickr
City Of St. Pete Flickr
An aerial photo of Tropicana Field and the surrounding area.

On Saturday, the Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) and the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) will hold a rally at St. Petersburg City Hall where they’ll call on the city to make reparations to the Black community.

A major demand presented during the event will be for the City of St. Petersburg to return the land now inhabited by the Tropicana Field and the surrounding neighborhood to the Black community. The area used to be a thriving Black neighborhood called “Gas Plant” before it was gentrified in the early ’90s. 

In August, three graves were found beneath the Tropicana property. Members of the APSP say graves would be no surprise to them, because they know the reality of what happened there.

“Hundreds of families lived there, around 800, and at one point, there were around 100 Black-owned businesses,” says Akile Anai, Director of the APSP Department of Agitation and Propaganda, “But what they did in this city was forcibly take away our right to self-determination."

The APSP has pushed for the land to be returned for more than three decades now, with the most recent pushes during Anai’s 2017 and 2019 city council runs. The group has held multiple marches and protests at city hall, and tied into all of its electoral campaigns (including USM National Chair Jesse Nevel’s run for mayor in 2017) is the demand for reparations.

Anai and the group have presented a detailed plan to the city that outlines how to return the land through a community land trust, and return rightful residents to the area. They want the area transformed into a prosperous Black community, flush with economic development, culture, education and affordable housing. Anai says this would attract tourists, contribute to the tax base and employ local contractors and other skilled laborers to develop the land. However, she says they haven’t had much of a response from the city.

“But what we do have are communities that are getting organized,” Anai told CL. “People are more exposed to the colonial reality of this city."

Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reached out to St. Pete’s Communication Director Benjamin Kirby for a response to Anai’s claims. “This administration has been engaged with the community regarding the future of the Trop site for many years,” Kirby wrote in an email, declining further comment.

This year, Kriseman has been in talks with two developers about ideas for a proposed redevelopment of the Tropicana site, to the chagrin of St. Pete City Council, which wanted him to slow down on the plans. So far, it seems like the talks with developers don’t include any of APSP’s demands.

The rally on Saturday is mainly organized by the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, which works under the leadership of the APSP.  As part of its solidarity with APSP efforts around the country, the event will also be a fundraiser to help fund a community operated basketball court in St. Louis, Missouri. So far, the GoFundMe page has raised nearly $75,000 for the cause.

“It’s not just building a basketball court; it’s about rebuilding community,” the fundraising page reads. 

UPDATEDPost updated at 6:14 p.m. to clarify the APSP's proposed vision for the Tropicana Field area.

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About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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