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Another Tampa History Lesson

On this date, June 11th, forty-seven years ago, a young, unarmed, African-American man by the name of Martin Chambers was shot and killed by one white Tampa Police officer by the name of James Calvert. According to a Tampa Tribune article dated June 12, 1967: “The .38 caliber bullet struck Chambers square in the back and killed him almost instantly. Within the hour reports of the shooting spread throughout the Central Avenue Housing project as residents gathered in the streets and near the shooting location to seek immediate answers.” The African-American community reacted almost immediately following the shooting. Riots, violence, and the burning and looting of local businesses quickly ensued. Several buildings along Central Avenue were destroyed as tensions continued to mount.

As the State Attorney Began to investigate the incident, rumors spread surrounding the shooting and the violence and destruction continued. A mere two days later Officer Calvert was exonerated of all charges as the shooting was ruled “a justifiable homicide". Several days of civil disturbances continued and ultimately peace was restored by a community group which came to be known as “The White Hats”.

You may ask, what does the shooting of a teenager and civil unrest have to do with the Bro Bowl? It has a great deal of significance. After the White Hats restored order, the community was asked what they would like to see in order to provide for a positive outlet for the youth of Central Avenue. There were several suggestions, and amongst them was the desire for a municipal park within the urban corridor for African-Americans to enjoy. Tampa City Council passed resolution 3692-F on December 11, 1975, which provided for the construction of said park. The park, which was later named in honor of Perry Harvey Sr., contained several amenities for the youth. Among them were tennis and basketball courts, a splash fountain for children of all ages, and both skateboarding and roller skate rinks.

While some claim that the Bro Bowl and Perry Harvey Sr. Park share none of the history of Central Avenue, and would rather focus on figures such as Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and other famous entertainers, we invite you to discover a chapter of Tampa history that is seldom discussed. Central Avenue and the businesses there were erased forty years ago, only to be honored in the same park through the destruction of a piece of that same said history. How many encores of this dark chapter of our history can our city endure?

For further reading, please visit the following links:

Central Avenue Riots: The Real Story
Cigar City Magazine, February 10, 2011

Sample 3 - The 1967 Central Park Riots in Tampa
JAM1592, February 22, 2008

Myths & Facts: Central Avenue, Perry Harvey Sr. Park, and the Bro Bowl
18 Myths about Central Avenue, Perry Harvey Sr. Park, and the Bro Bowl Addressed, Debunked, and Explained