Controversy arises following reveal St. Pete Black Lives Matter mural

Pinellas County

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Friday morning was the official reveal of a Black Lives Matter mural in St. Petersburg in front of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum.

While many turned up to sing and celebrate the big reveal, others were upset about its location and said it should be somewhere more visible.

Music, dancing, and art were surrounded by impactful words Friday morning. “To loudly and proudly declare in bold letters what really matters,” said St.Pete Mayor Rick Krisman speaking about the mural.

The Friday morning ceremony was held by St. Petersburg city officials and museum officials to honor Juneteenth, the day slaves were set free.

“Public art shouldn’t just be downtown, it should be everywhere in the city. Having it here in front of the museum is a powerful message,” said Mayor Kriseman.

While the mayor thinks the mural is well placed, some volunteer artists who made it disagree.

“We need to let this have a bigger impact. Don’t just have us on a backstreet. This is a dead-end street…that’s the highway [just above it] there. Who is going to see this?” said mural & tattoo artist Plum Howlett. “But we’re thankful that we’re able to send our message at all,” he said.

Maria Scruggs who recently stepped down as the St. Pete NAACP president said the issues of racism can’t be brushed over.

“[The mural] does absolutely nothing to deal with the discussion of systemic racism in St. Petersburg,” said Scruggs.

Scruggs and Howlett are calling for policy changes like implementing police body cameras and ways to stop litter from infiltrating black neighborhoods.

Howlett compared this mural to Martin Luther King streets being put in black neighborhoods.

“No matter where I go, Martin Luther King [street names], they always give it to the hood. It’s almost like ‘give it to them and they’ll hush’. It’s like giving us the crumbs. [this mural is] almost like crumbs to us…But we’re still thankful [to have anything at all],” said Howlett.

Scruggs and Howlett raising there voices in unison saying St. Pete has come far, but still has far to go.

Mayor Kriseman said the mural is a symbol that they stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. He said conversations about bettering our community will continue moving forward.

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