A sense of community

Integration often brought African-Americans new opportunities in education, employment, housing and such routines of life as shopping, eating out and going to the movies. But it also tended to dissolve a sense of community nurtured during decades of forced separation from the city's majority. Most cheer the demise of Jim Crow restrictions, but the price for some has been the loss of a school, a tightly knit neighborhood or simply a sense of place and belonging.

"Our young people now have to find their pride in other things and they can't always do it," said Peggy Peterman, who retired after 31 years as a St. Petersburg Times staff writer. "They're the generation that never saw the connectiveness of the black community."

Askia Aquil is a former president of the 22nd Street Redevelopment Corp. who is now director of Neighborhood Housing Services. He recalls the Melrose YMCA branch a few blocks from 22nd Street, where many of the activities were tied to schools.

"The interaction among you and them and your parents was close and regular," Aquil said.

Twenty-Second Street S, though written large in nostalgia, has come to symbolize an African-American cultural experience. Some of that experience may be preserved in the city's purchase and planned redevelopment of the Manhattan Casino. A museum has been mentioned among possible new uses.

"Losing something like 22nd, the effects are damaging in terms of overcoming vestiges of racism," Aquil said. "Without it, there's no sense of community or sense of history. Artifacts, plaques, whatever, they help you maintain a connection to your community, to your history."