Ntale #7: Riots on the South SidePosted on Feb 18, 2011 by Jason Minnis |
My home town St. Petersburg Florida (or “St.Pete” as the locals call it) holds a very special place in my heart. I grew up on the south side of town in a diverse neighborhood called Lakewood. By all accounts I had a great childhood. With that being said, I was always aware of St.Pete’s dark side. St. Petersburg has always been a segregated city rife with racial tension. This can easily be seen when traveling between the predominantly African-American south side and the mostly white north side. St. Pete’s long and complicated history of racial tension can be traced back to the pre-civil rights era. In the 1950’s many African Americans migrated from rural towns to various neighborhoods in South St.Pete. These newcomers were met fierce resistance from the white majority. Over the years many of those same South Side neighborhoods were isolated from economic development. By the mid 1990′s certain areas of south St. Petersburg like Midtown, Jordan Park, and Campbell Park were severely underdeveloped and plagued with violence, crime and police brutality. This was the back drop for the race riots that broke out in the 1996.
On October 17th 1996 an 18 year old African American named Tryron Lewis was pulled over for a traffic violation. What happened next is heavily debated by the police and the local community. When the police officer walked around the front of the car to give Tyron a ticket, the car moved forward. The officer ordered Tryron to stop and then shot him 3 times. Tryron died in the hospital later that day. The officer claims that Tyron refused to stop. But locals insisted this was part of a police cover up. Within hours news of the shooting had spread and crowds began to gather in front of the police station. What started as a peaceful demonstration turned in a full fledged riot. For two days the south side was in chaos. Neighborhoods like as Midtown (where my grandmother lived) were hit especially hard. Businesses and homes were looted and burned as frustrated mobs roamed the streets. It took the National Guard and 300 additional police officers to restore order.
Today the scars from the 1996 riots can still be seen. There are still areas on the south side plagued with violence and crime. Some things have changed for the better though. Neighborhoods on like Jordan park and Midtown have seen heavy economic investment from the city. Other neighborhoods have not been as lucky. Personally, I think the underlying problem of economic and racial inequality still exists . I just hope that history does not repeat itself.
This week’s Ntale song, “South St.Pete Blues” was inspired by the aftermath of the Riots.
Ntale’s story #7: The End by Bayo Awesu
Full album on classicbeatz.bandcamp.com
“I did for her what I could. If I was guilty of anything it was naivety, trust. I was born with a will to protect not to scavenge. I had no defense against those who came from outside my kingdom.”
They spoke in tongues I did not understand – their skin empty. They had chased me across my territory. I called out to her but she did not hear me. Maybe she did, but did not want to listen. I had offended her perhaps with my wandering thoughts of exploration outside of her. I had betrayed her, if only in my head. But even so, this could not be what I deserve.
I didn’t understand the words of this man with empty skin. He spoke to me as I spoke to the beasts of the jungle. He struck me again and ushered me to the ground. I screamed in rage as they subdued by father. They struck me again, and again. I should just be still, but I could not -if not ever before, then least of all now. I struggled as they placed me in chains.
“Taata!” I screamed for my father. I could not see him behind the blood that clouded my vision. This is not what I had wanted of her. Why did she not protect me? I had done everything she had asked. I had not taken what I did not need nor used what I did not want. I screamed in rage as I watched my wife dragged across the same surface she had danced upon since our youth. I would break my own bones trying to escape these chains. They would have to kill me – these men of empty skin. They would have to murder us all. I had always been a reluctant hunter, I lacked the savage instincts to fight those who captivated me. I did not know how to kill a man. But I would learn. I fought. The chain constricting my every movements. I still fought, without the control I displayed while hunting. That could be my only advantage. I would not be still. My rage fueled my groove as I moved sporadically from their grasps. I would fight but I did not want to die. I was numb to the pain, but I could not escape from Nabulungi’s screams as they struck me again and again….and once again. I was still. Her screams too much. I look up at the skies above as they dragged me from my landlocked home to their vessels not of this world. What kind of foolish man was I? So much of my time with her had been wasted, so much time flirting with exploration, searching for inspiration that was already inside of me.
My children would never know her nor their children after that. I ate scraps from the plate of the men with empty skin as I crawled on all fours in their cold empty kingdom. Perhaps this was my punishment for causing that Kob so much anguish as a child – to suffer as a beast. I began to think as such. I scavenged, envious of other beasts such as myself that my master held in better regard. I would do anything now to win his affection. I would sing for him, the sound of my drum no longer used to enslave a woman I love….but to pacify. To rock his children to sleep. I sang with wishful idealism. To beg for the mercy of these men with empty skin. I came to love my master, and I was mindful not to anger him with my unsophisticated ways. I was no great warrior, no hunter, there was no her. I had no reason to be restless anymore. I was still, always. There was nothing I need explore….nowhere I need be, but at my masters side. Nigger. The only word of my master I had come to understand. Nigger. I would be a great, nigger….but my children, my children would be of this new cold kingdom. This was their home.