Typically in bourgeois elections when people hear the word “forum” or “debate,” it’s safe to assume that it will be a snooze fest.
The audience is full of the usual suspects: gentrifiers, police, big money developers, and they’re all eagerly awaiting to hear which candidate will be most effective for their wallets.
It’s an event that doesn’t anticipate the presence of the African community, despite being the ones who are always negatively impacted by the policies and plans of corrupt politicians.
That’s exactly what would’ve been the case had the Uhuru Movement not entered these local elections in the form of Jesse Nevel for mayor and Akilé Anai for District Six city councilwoman.
Fortunately, the people did not have to be put to sleep by the sounds of political pandering. Radical platforms based on “Unity Through Reparations,” enthusiasm, African youth, the people, and the issues centering the oppression of the black community were present at every debate.
On July 10, in downtown St. Petersburg at the Hilton Hotel, the Uhuru candidates brought the whole damn arsenal.
It was the first combined mayoral and district six forum of the campaign season. The event was hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV), whose membership is made up of mostly reactionary white women, and hosted in part by the Downtown St. Pete Neighborhood Association.
Before the event hall was opened up for seating, small pockets of people engaged in small talk. The room stirred and heads turned as a parade of people entered the building, sporting teal and maroon t-shirts, following a beret-clad Chairman Omali Yeshitela.
It was a sight to behold: a massive group of people in support of reparations following the leader of the African Nation into what was surely to be a debate of the decade.
District Six panel lined with all eight candidates vying for the seat
The LWV structured the event to maintain “decorum” (code for total dominance over the program and the people present).
It eliminated a period for candidates without much name recognition to introduce themselves. It didn’t allow audience members to raise their concerns. They even put a silence warning on the audience, restricting them from cheering for their candidate of choice.
However, the people refused to allow these regulations to confine them. As every question came and Akilé delivered fiery responses, the audience erupted with applause.
The LWV then penalized Akilé, taking half of her time to answer questions. It was then that the quick witted masses began to applaud other candidates to ensure that if this undemocratic attack was to happen at all, it had to apply to everyone.
Frustrated, the LWV ended the first portion and brought out the mayoral candidates. With every answer Jesse Nevel gave, he received the same enthusiasm.
Things took a turn however, when a question around the case of the three drowned black girls Dominique Battle, Laniya Miller, and Ashaunti Butler was raised. One of the sell-out candidates proceeded to attack mother of Dominique, Kunde Mwamvita, who was in the audience.
This sparked a fierce struggle between the people and the candidates representing the genocide of African people, including Rick Baker and Rick Kriseman. The crowd, filled with unrest, stood and chanted along with Jesse, who had extended the mic to the audience while calling out the names of slain African teens.
Since the LWV couldn’t contain the discussion as it had planned, they decided to shut the forum down, an hour and 47 minutes into the originally scheduled 2 hours. The people rushed to exit, still chanting even as they were threatened with the mere presence of police.
Outside of the Hilton, 23 cop cars encircled the area.
No business as usual!
Needless to say, the air around the St. Petersburg local elections had shifted. In this election, there would be no business as usual.
For the first time in St. Petersburg in decades, the ruling class in its safe space of the electoral arena was confronted by the African community.
This was widely understood, which is why throughout the remainder of the elections they tried their best to control the following debates and went so far as excluding Jesse and Akilé.
However, none of those tactics could stop the growth of the people’s movement for “Unity Through Reparations.” The decorum was irreparably shattered, bits and pieces lying at the feet of the African working class.
And so it remains.
Forward the struggle!