Akilé Anai standing on the steps of City Hall holding a press conference demanding that Michael Drejka.be charged with the murder of Markeis McGlockton.
BY INDHIRA SUERO ACOSTA, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — With less than 25 years under her belt, Akilé Anai represents many young and politically “woke” millennials and Gen-Xers living in south St. Pete. She ran for City Council, District 6 in 2017 and is affiliated with the African People’s Socialist Party and the Uhuru movement.
Born Eritha “Akilé” Cainion, her path took a different route than expected after graduating with a degree in art from St. Petersburg College. She had planned to move to New York and become an artist but decided on staying in her hometown and becoming a community leader.
Her desire to fight against inequality and injustice started in middle school. When her uncle was sent to prison for 26 years, she decided to turn her attention to the marginalized.
Anai watched the pain her young cousins were enduring without their dad being in their lives. His eldest was only in elementary school.
“It pained me to see this man get locked up for 26 years. I saw my family flooding in tears. I couldn’t articulate it at the moment. I knew I needed to be sad,” Anai remembered.
She didn’t have far to look for an example of activism. Her father instilled in her the reasons why her community was in its current condition. He taught her how and why inequality persisted in the black community.
To fight against disparity, she decided to join the Uhuru Movement, a socialist organization uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.
With her activism, Akilé Anai demands reparations and economic development for St. Pete’s black community.
Anai believes that for the majority of the oppressed masses around the world, radicalism has to happen. For her, nothing is more extreme than the life of the colonized.
From her perspective, African-American neighborhoods in St. Pete face the same issues that she saw while growing up. She sees the same abandoned buildings that she saw as a little girl, while large condominiums are erected all over the city.
Anai has witnessed her community decrease while areas on the other side of Central Avenue flourished. Gentrification has forced a number of black people out of their community and into an uncertain future.
She realized that change needed to occur, and she wasn’t going to wait around for someone else to be the agent.
“There’s no economic development for this community. It’s a horrible reality for black people here in the city,” Anai said.
Although she is young, she believes she is ripe for a political career. Anai considers that her experience in activism speaks for itself. If fact, she said, her limited experience in corrupting the city and doing damage is a plus.
Anai said she will continue to fight against corrupt politicians in office and is looking to change the conditions in which the black community in St. Pete lives.
She demands economic development. She feels the 16th Street District should be teeming with black commerce, as it was before a neighborhood full of businesses, school, homes and churches were razed to build Tropicana Field.
Public safety and community control of the police also tops her list. She feels that the black community should have a say over who comes into their neighborhoods. Anai wants the community to have the power to hire, fire, train and discipline the police who function in black neighborhoods.
“They [white police] can’t go along doing business as usual,” she said, adding that the status quo of locking up of black people needs to stop now.
For her, the black community needs the work, money and attention, not just the downtown area. She feels it is owed to south St. Pete for all of the damage that has occurred in the past such as segregation and dividing and cutting off neighborhoods with the construction of the interstate.
Anai’s life after running for city council has had its ups and downs. Although she did not win the seat, she won a large following. Now a public figure, she is also on the radar of the powers that be.
On Dec. 20, 2017, she was “brutalized and arrested outside her home for defending a black woman who was being harassed by a corner store petty merchant.” She was “booked on petty charges such as disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.”
Despite the experience, she continues fighting for the economic freedom of her people. Arresting polarizing figures in an attempt to discredit is nothing new, and she will not let it stop her.
“We cannot live like this anymore.”
Anai is continuing her work with Communities United for Reparations and Economic Development, a permanent grassroots organization based on uniting the entire city through reparations to the black community, ending big-money domination and gentrification and building power to the neighborhoods.
With the current social system, she contends, many young black children have a feeling of hopelessness. The youth see their parents and other family member’s poor living conditions and feel that they are stuck in the same insurmountable situations. The psychology trauma stems generations.
For this activist, these conditions must change, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes.
This story is part of a 50-article series honoring black women in the Tampa Bay area.