ST PETERSBURG, Fla. – A crowd of enthusiastic supporters broke out into cheers when Eritha “Akile” Cainion and Jesse Nevel walked out of St Petersburg City Hall having just filed filed their paperwork to officially qualify to be on the ballot in the upcoming municipal elections as candidates for District 6 and Mayor, respectively.
Joined by over fifty people from the growing social movement backing Akile and Jesse’s campaigns “Radical Times Radical Solutions” and “Unity Through Reparations,” Akile and Jesse announced this historic leap forward on the steps of City Hall at a press conference today.
Seventeen year old activist and president of the local InPDUM branch Liu Montsho Kwayera introduced the District 6 candidate Akile Cainion. Cainion held her fist in the air and approached the podium as booming applause and cheering filled the air with a spirit of revolutionary zeal.
“Reparations is on the ballot,” declared Akile, a respected 20-year-old organizer known for her work as the chair of the committee fighting for justice for the three teenaged black girls drowned and murdered by Pinellas County Sherrif’s department in 2016.
Both Akile and Jesse are committed to prioritizing reparations and economic development for the black community as the center of a progressive policy that will unite and uplift the entire city. They spoke of their plans to turn the 85 acre site of the Tropicana Field baseball stadium back to the black community to rebuild the economic development and affordable housing that once existed there prior to its erasure by city policies, to which the crowd responded with applause.
Akile continued: “The people of this city don’t want to live in a divided city. The people of this city are uniting with reparations to the black community because unity can only be accomplished by recognizing the social and economic injustices faced historically and today by the black community.”
Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel, known for his work as the national chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement building white reparations to the black community, celebrated the people’s movement for months of hard work to put these revolutionary candidates on the ballot. He referred to the rigorous petitioning drive where volunteers gathered nearly 2000 signatures needed for him to get on the ballot.
“In the past three months of knocking on doors we have met thousands of people who want real change and unity. Unity begins with justice. And justice begins with reparations to the black community,” stated Nevel. “This is not a campaign. This is a movement.”
Nevel outlined the goals of his mayoral platform to establish a reparations-centered budget policy for the city that unites with the self-determination and political and economic empowerment of the black community. He also stated that he intends to impose a five-year moratorium on high-rise construction in downtown St. Petersburg and focus on fixing the city’s sewage infrastructure, a major problem passed along from one administration to the next that led to 256 million gallons of sewage leaked by the current administration into the black community and Tampa Bay last summer.
The candidates were joined by several endorsers who gave impassioned statements in support of the growing people’s movement.
Reverend Mark Green of the Travelers Rest Baptist Church said that it is time to try something different that speaks to the interests of the people. “And that means voting for Akile and Jesse,” said Reverend Green.
Rose Roby, the Co-Chair of the Pinellas County Green Party, announced the Green Party’s endorsement of the two candidates. Roby explained that by uniting with this campaign the Green Party is stepping forward not simply as an environmentalist party but as a “party ”
One of the highlights of the press conference was a presentation given by two young African students, Iniko and Hekima, who have been working on the campaigns and expressed their support to see a positive future represented by the platforms of Akile and Jesse. “These candidates are necessary,” said Hekima.
Giacomo Liberado, a 17 year old student from St Pete College, talked about the difference in conditions that he experiences as a white student compared to the disparities inflicted on his black counterparts.
Sheridan Murphy, a noted Indigenous activist, announced his endorsement, and urged white voters not to fear the word “reparations” because, said Murphy, “it’s another word for justice!”
Muteba Tshinabu wa Munda, an Uhuru movement organizer, spoke on why she as a black LGBT person is endorsing Akile and Jesse. Contrasting Akile and Jesse’s platforms to the “toothless initiatives” of Kriseman, Muteba said that the success of their campaigns “requires the acquisition of actual political power in the hands of the most underserved people of St. Petersburg. Not some mythical sanctuary city or simply State controlled social services. But actual power in the hands of the people ourselves.”
As the press conference ended, there was a sense of celebration in the crowd, as well as determination to continue fighting and building on the ground so that the people can win control of City Hall in this historic election.