Burning Spear News
From March to victory: The Story of the St. Pete local elections 2017
Akilé and Jesse left St. Petersburg forever changed
The African People’s Socialist Party’s campaign for Akilé Anai (formerly Eritha Cainion) for District 6 city council and Jesse Nevel for mayor of St. Petersburg, FL this year was a six-month decorum-shattering, cadre-building, history-making mobilization of the masses of the people.
Between our announcements to run in March and election day on August 29, our daily work included work on the streets among the masses of the people, disruption of status-quo debates, fisticuffs, laughs, exuberant demonstrations, battles with the bourgeois media, social media wars and recruitment of amazing new Comrades in the process of breaking up the status quo and forcing the interests of the African working class onto St. Petersburg’s electoral agenda.
On March 6, Akilé launched her historic campaign, holding a press conference announcing her candidacy in front of the closed Walmart on 18th Avenue, South, and introducing her ten point platform under the slogan: “Radical Times, Radical Solutions!”
Jesse announced his candidacy for mayor on March 13 in front of Tropicana Field, a baseball stadium built through the destruction of St. Petersburg’s oldest African neighborhood. Jesse put forward the platform of “Unity through Reparations!” including the call for the land of Tropicana Field to be returned to the black community as a form of reparations.
From the first weeks of the campaign, our candidates spoke and crafted their message under the tutelage of Chairman Omali Yeshitela. The candidates spoke every Sunday at the rallies sponsored by the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) at Akwaaba Hall.
During April we secured our first local endorsement from the Pinellas County Green Party. Greens local co-chair Rose Roby, along with Jeff Roby, Jeremy Writt and Maggie Gauldin turned out to be dedicated volunteers for the campaign.
During April, the campaign’s tireless field team began engaging volunteers to knock on doors in key precincts in District 6 and started the work of getting a thousand signatures on petitions necessary to put Jesse Nevel on the ballot. The voter contact team was also formed to coordinate the phone banking to win voters and to mobilize our growing base of contacts met during the street work.
A stressful timetable
May 3rd saw our first town hall meeting on the sewage crisis which was a key issue of the campaign following the dumping of 2 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Tampa Bay and onto the yards of an African neighborhood.
The campaign committee handed in 1400 signed petitions to the Supervisor of Elections on Friday, May 5th, prior to the deadline the next Tuesday. A thousand signatures were needed to qualify for the ballot.
The city clerk threw out all but 800 of the signatures, claiming they were invalid. Over the next four days, we mobilized our forces onto the streets to get petitions signed. Before the Tuesday deadline, we handed in more than 2000 additional signatures.
We held a press conference on May 15th on the steps of city hall, surrounded by more than a hundred enthusiastic, cheering supporters announcing that the names of both Akilé and Jesse would appear on the August 29 ballot.
An important milestone was reached when Jim and Brooke Anderson, the treasurer and secretary of the local Pinellas County Democratic party committee, abandoned ship, agreeing to become the organizer for District 5 for our reparations campaign.
On June 14, Akilé dominated "The People's Forum,” the first District 6 city council debate as she fearlessly went up against all the gentrifiers and sell-outs who called themselves candidates to the delight of the enthusiastic audience.
InPDUM held a debate on Sunday, July 9th called “What about the Black Community?” when neocolonial candidates Maria Scruggs and Theresa Lassiter attacked African People’s Socialist Party member Kunde Mwamvita, the fierce fighter for justice for three teenage girls who were murdered by the Pinellas County sheriff’s department last year.
The InPDUM event was a prelude to the next day’s first citywide debate that featured both the city council and mayoral candidates held at the Hilton Hotel. See the “Hilton Story” in this issue of The Spear for more details, or catch it on theburningspear.com on November 28th!
Bourgeois candidates quake in face of the people’s power
During this historic campaign, U.S., world and local media, including Ebony magazine, Press TV, BBC and all the local newspapers did stories on the campaign.
The call for "Unity Through Reparations" threw the bourgeois candidates into a crisis.
In the face of the success of our campaigns, the status quo levied heavy restrictions to silence the voice of the African working class that packed every debate audience and made their support for our platform known.
The status quo went as far as to block Jesse Nevel from the only televised mayoral debate. The real reason for the exclusion was the platform representing the interests of the African working class and the demand for reparations-issues that are banned from the bourgeois elections.
On the day of the debate, the reparations campaign held a rally at William's Park, located not far from the Palladium Theater where the televised debate was being held. Over 100 people came out to the park, while a mere smattering of supporters of both Ricks combined, sat in a near-empty theater that seats 800.
On Sunday, August 6th, the news broke that the Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputies had murdered three more African teenagers.
This time, it was three boys the youngest only 14 years old, after chasing them into a fiery crash. The murder was eerily similar to that of the case of the three girls. This latest murder reinforced the need for the victory of Akilé and Jesse, whose platforms based on reparations and black community control of the police were the only ones that provided a solution.
In response to this murder, Jesse and Akilé held a press conference in front of the Holocaust Museum, to speak to the ongoing genocide of African people in this city and in this country. There, Jesse asked a simple yet profound question: "If the Jews could get reparations, why not African people? Is it because they're black?"
White people marching in support of “Reparations Now!”
Charlottesville, VA made headlines in August as mobs of white nationalists took to the streets, killing a counter-protester. In response, in a little under two days, our voter contact and social media teams consolidated a march of over 200 mostly white people, who marched through downtown St. Petersburg chanting "REPARATIONS NOW!"
A few days later, mayoral candidate Rick Baker dared to wave his campaign signs on a corner of the south side African community joined by many sell-out retired cops.
Akilé and InPDUM local president Liu Montsho Kwayera, along with many other campaign workers, engaged in a serious struggle with Baker for the corner until Baker was forced to slink away. The Comrades went toe to toe with Baker, resembling the women soldiers in Vietnam fighting the U.S. imperialist army.
Just days before the end of the campaign, current mayor and incumbent candidate Rick Kriseman gave his last shot by announcing his endorsement from U.S. neocolonialist Barack Obama. This reparations campaign in St. Petersburg, FL was so significant that it got the intervention of Obama.
Closing in on the last days of door-to-door campaigning, phone banking, press conferences, demonstrations and rallies, our movement spent the day before the election at the Pinellas County courthouse standing alongside Kunde Mwamvita, the mother of Dominique Battle and her brother 16 year old Isaiah Battle, whom the colonial media took to attacking a week before the elections. We were there at a sentencing where a ruling class judge determined the fate of a colonized African child.
On the evening of the election day, the campaign committee held a magnificent victory party at Akwaaba Hall to thank all of our supporters and donors for their amazing participation.
While we did not win at the polls this time, the platform of “Unity through Reparations” won the hearts and minds of thousands of African workers and many white people as well.
Out of this profound electoral process, we built Communities United for Reparations and Economic Development (CURED), a precinct-based organization that will serve as the foundation for future victories of the reparations platform.
We Will Continue to Throw Blows to the Status Quo!
We Are Winning!