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Why I am running for mayor: Unity through reparations
I am the reparations candidate for mayor on the Aug. 29 ballot. Or if you’ve been following the corporate media’s coverage, you might know me as the so-called “Uhuru candidate.”
I am a 27-year-old activist and member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, an organization I have been a part of for over seven years, working under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party to organize for reparations to the black community.
Now, I am running for mayor of St. Petersburg along with Eritha “Akile” Cainion, the 20-year-old candidate who is the front-runner in the race for District 6 City Council.
Akile and I are committed to moving our city forward with a progressive, optimistic vision of a city united through reparations and economic development for the black community.
We are the people’s candidates. We are not funded by big real estate developers and millionaires like our opponents. We are not typical politicians steeped in the art of corruption and double talk.
We are activists whose experience is fighting on the streets of this city for social, economic and racial justice. That’s what motivates us to jump into this election so that City Hall can be given back to the people.
Unlike real independent media like The Weekly Challenger, the local corporate news has refused to give any decent coverage to our candidacies. I entered this race in March of 2017, months before the Bill Edwards-backed candidate Rick Baker decided to run, but they have framed this as the “battle of the Ricks” from day one.
This election is the “PEOPLE versus the Ricks.” Both Baker and Kriseman represent the same agenda, big money and the status quo. They represent politics as usual, business as usual. I represent the people who want change, and that is most of us in this city.
I represent the vast majority of St Pete residents who normally don’t vote in local elections because there are never any candidates who represent the interests of the people. That’s why I’m running.
I represent the only progressive alternative to the Two Ricks’ shared legacy of enacting economic plans that gentrify and displace black families. Both Baker and Kriseman brag about intensifying heavy-handed police tactics against south side residents, and they are both equally guilty of abject failure to promote any meaningful economic development for the black working class.
Baker boasts about building a grocery store (now closed) and a post office, but as one south side resident said at the Mt. Zion debate last week, Baker’s legacy did nothing to uplift the conditions of poverty faced by St Pete’s black community.
It will take a more radical approach. That brings us to the question of reparations.
We believe that it is in the interests of the entire city to put reparations to the black community in the center of our progressive agenda. Righting the historic wrongs and continued oppression and injustice faced by the black community is necessary to move the entire city forward.
People often ask, “What will reparations look like in in St Petersburg?” It’s a great question. The minute we start answering that question, we are on the road to genuine progress.
Myself and Eritha Akile Cainion are the only candidates dealing with this question and that is why the corporate media wants to keep me out of the July 25 televised debate, which is in violation of FCC guidelines and the basic principle of democracy.
As mayor, I would support the formation of a Reparations Commission, with democratically chosen leadership representing the black working class who would oversee the process of reparations. That takes the process out of the hands of any single politician. This is a people’s movement.
It would also ensure that the concept of reparations would not be hijacked by gentrification con artists like Karl Nurse or other opportunists attempting to make a profit off the misery of the black community as has been the trend of our current and previous administrations.
When we talk about reparations, we’re talking about a guiding principle for the city’s values and priorities, by putting the needs and interests of the people first, but we’re also talking ultimately about the city’s budget.
The priorities set by the government for how our city’s budget, comprised of taxpayers money, is utilized, is one of the most critical vehicles through which a public policy of reparations can be pursued.
We need a radical restructuring of the city’s budgetary priorities.
Let’s look at the way the budget is organized right now. The top priority of the city’s $500 million budget is spent on policing the black community.
The largest chunk of money in the budget goes towards police, nearly 100 million dollars. By comparison, a handful of pennies go toward economic development.
As a white resident of St. Pete who has lived here since I turned 18, I am offended by the assumption that a public policy of police containment of the south side is meant to create “public safety” for me.
I believe that we can only feel safe when nobody is starving. “Crime” is an economic problem. The solution to so-called “crime” is not police violence. When people are hungry, they do what is necessary to survive. The real criminals are the ones in City Hall who have created these divisions, these disparities, this immense suffering.
Economic development of the black community must be the number one priority of the city’s budget, not police containment. That will benefit and uplift all people who live here so that we have shared prosperity and nobody living at the expense of others.
If I am elected mayor, reparations will begin on day one. I will begin plans to turn the Tropicana Field baseball stadium back over to the black community to build affordable housing and economic development. This is an act of reparations for the fact that the city government built that stadium there in the late 1980s after evicting nearly 800 black families and destroying over 100 black owned businesses in the oldest black neighborhood in the city.
Building affordable housing there would relieve pressure from the housing market for the entire city.
Reparations is a win for everyone. Justice is a win for everyone. That’s why we say: Unit through reparations.
The most meaningful, lasting solutions will come from the people themselves. My goal as mayor would be the political empowerment of the people to solve the problems that these crooked politicians have created.