ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Newly elected City Council member John Muhammad invited the community out to the District 7 Town Hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the vision of putting “neighbor” back in the ‘hood. Councilman Muhammad, who was seleted to fill a vacated council seat, represents District 7 which is 64 percent Black with the largest population and highest concentration of Black people in the city.
The objective of the town hall meeting, Councilman Muhammad said, “was to bring people together because the district has suffered from a lot of individualism and we’re working to see how we can create and build community.” He described the coming together as an introduction of shared values, and a way to establish the first step in the process.
Those in attendance at the town hall meeting participated in breakout sessions to discuss topics that impact the district, such as affordable housing, landscaping, the youth, entrepreneurship and food insecurity. The crowd was very engaged and shared what they learned, what they believed is possible in District 7 and the part they can play in 2023.
Antwaun Wells, 47, a construction worker and 35-year resident expressed that “one of the things we need to address is the bullying in school, the reading level of the youth, entrepreneurship, housing and mentorship.” Carla Bristol, community advocate, collaboration manager with Youth Farm and a 27-year resident of St. Petersburg, talked about the need for greater voting registration and participation.
She said, “at the end of the day, we have Brother John because he stood up and he was able to pass the litmus test to get the other council members to vote for him. But on the re-election, it’s going to be the people of the entire city that will have to vote for him in the 2024 race.”
Ms. Bristol also said one of the number one issues in the city is affordable housing. She explained that would put people in a better position because currently, people can’t find places that are. “Graduates can’t find places they can afford so the people are moving into the outskirts,” she said.
St. Petersburg resident Jay James, 39, also spoke of the need for funds for youth programs and hiring more social workers and therapists to respond to non-threatening 911 calls instead of sending cops.
When asked about the goals for the district, Councilman Muhammad responded, “our goals for the district is to help us to help ourselves and really understanding the principle that self-improvement is the basis for community development,” as taught by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
He shared that his role as a council member is to bring resources to generate the results residents want and need. There are also plans to mobilize the community who are excited about the progress to go out and talk with other community members to prepare for the next town hall meeting scheduled for March followed by a public meeting held by the city of St. Petersburg. A research team will take the results from the conversations from the public gatherings and put them into policy to move the ideas forward and establish priorities for the district to impact the community.
—Student Minister Chad Muhammad