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Bob Andelman Articles Archive

Peggy Peterman

Profile By Bob Andelman

(Originally published in the Maddux Report, 1989)

Peggy Peterman modestly says she's only been getting so much public praise and so many awards lately only because she's stuck around so long.

Not likely.

The St. Petersburg Times reporter who received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Black Journalists and the Florida A&M University Meritorious Achievement Award has worked to improve racial relations between black and white communities since she came to the newspaper's old "Negro News Page" in 1965. Back then she wrote about blacks for blacks the "Negro News Page" was only distributed in black neighborhoods. Peterman pressed the newspaper to abolish the page it was finally discontinued in 1967.

Today she writes about African-Americans for a wider audience in a weekly column for the newsfeatures section of the Times. Her subject matter ranges from racially-motivated attacks on youths in Bensonhurst, N.Y. and interviews with artists such as filmmaker Spike Lee to the struggle to re-name boulevards for Martin Luther King, Jr. and profiles of St. Petersburg blacks working to improve their neighborhoods and establish community spirit.

"I have so many ideas I'm falling over myself. I couldn't have had a column like this 10 years ago," says Peterman, suggesting that times and the Times have changed slowly. "I feel so appreciative and grateful to the Times for allowing me to have a voice. I want to explain how African-Americans feel, what they dream of, what they struggle around."

Peterman's father was a civil rights leader in their hometown of Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. She used to listen to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall speak in the family's home. "I don't know a time I wasn't watching my back for the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama or racist attitudes in Florida," says Peterman. "You don't know how to stop struggling when you've struggled all that time."

The difference between Peggy Peterman and another reporter covering black issues is their approach. Most reporters look at St. Petersburg's Laurel Park low-income apartments in the shadow of the Florida Suncoast Dome and see what they would call "projects" or "slums." Peterman looks at it and sees a place someone calls "home."

"The most colorful, alive community is the African-American community," says Peterman. "There is pain and suffering but there is also joy and love. It's not just criminals."

©2000, All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author.






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