Screenshot from WPTV video

Archived: 'Go Back to Africa,' Mayoral Candidate Tells Uhuru Movement Members

A mayoral debate in St. Petersburg, Fla., took a turn for the worse whenPaul Congemi, aRepublican candidate and supporter of President Donald Trump,told his opponent’s African American supporters to take a plane from Tampa airport and “Go back to Africa.”

Congemi, 60, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009 and 2013, is certainly hindering his chances of winning this time. When an assertion was made on Tuesday that he was a “non-factor” in the race, Congemi went on a tirade against Black members of theUhuru Solidarity Movement and their candidate, Jesse Nevel, who is white.

According to Nevel’s website, the movement is “a national organization that mobilizes support from the white community for the Black (African) community-led struggle for self-reliance, political and economic power, and reparations under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party.”

Congemi began with commenting on Nevel’s campaign slogan, “Unity through Reparations,” and former President Barack Obama, the first Black U.S. president:

“Mr. Nevel, you and your people talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations. Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama.”

He didn’t stop there. Addressing Nevel’s Black supporters, he said:

“My advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport. Go back to Africa. Go back to Africa. Go back!”

There are reports that the St. Petersburg community doesn’t necessarily embrace Congemi, especially KFC. In 2009, while running for mayor, he was banned from a KFC “after they said he got belligerent over an eight-piece chicken meal,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Congemi told The Washington Post that he was a Democrat who became a Republican when Obama showed his support for same-sex marriage.

His opponent Nevel grew up “in a family of Jewish activists for social justice who influenced him to take action to change the world,” according to his website.

While living in Miami, he witnessed the disparities experienced in the predominantly Black communities of Overtown and Liberty City, which ultimately led to him becoming politically active.

Nevel attended the University of South Florida, where he was first introduced to the Uhuru Solidarity Movement. He joined in 2010 and became national chair in 2013.


The Uhuru movement seeks reparations for Black communities in St. Peterburg.

“It’s the idea that the city should invest more resources in leveling the playing field for the city’s African American population,” Nevel saidin an interview in March.

“Some 20,000 or so people on the south side live below the poverty level and many are plagued with disproportionate rates of addiction and homelessness. And the few opportunities available to many residents are low-wage retail and service jobs that keep the city’s tourism economy going.”

In 2014, journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote the highly discussed and debated essay “The Case for Reparations.”

The population of St. Peterburg is just over 260,000, of which residents are 68.7 percent white, 23.9 percent Black, 6.6 percent Latino, 3.2 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian.

Nevel said that lynching was commonplace in the city during the Jim Crow era, which “restricted Black residents from sitting on green benches or leaving their communities after a certain time of night, the Gas Plant was a place where the Black residents of St. Pete created their own prosperous community, with libraries, schools, movie theaters, gas stations, nightclubs, restaurants and more.

He continued, “The city wiped out the Gas Plant community to build the Dome, the Tropicana field, as economic development for white business interests.”

Nevel is challenging current Mayor Rick Kriseman, a Democrat, in the mayoral race. Kriseman shared the video of Congemi’s comments on his Facebook page Wednesday, along with the following statement:

“I was reluctant to engage this candidate last night and draw even more attention to his disturbing message. I regret not doing so, though.

“It is simply unacceptable to spew this kind of bigoted rhetoric. Free speech should not compromise the dignity and respect of any person or community.

“This candidate spoke hateful words about African-Americans and our LGBT community. He has the right to do so, but nothing about what he said is right. His comments just aren’t who we are.”

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