Haven’t heard of Eritha Akilé Cainion? Well, if she continues on her path of activism all will know her name. Right now, she’s running for a seat on Florida’s District 7 City Council. And she’s just 22.
Born and raised in Southside St. Petersburg, Florida, she is running on the bold campaign slogan of “Make the Southside Black Again.” Her platform is one of empowerment and restoring economic life to the Black community. The election is August 27th.
Here are 10 things you should know about Eritha Akilé Cainion.
Cainion was October 22, 1996, just two days before a major happening in St. Petersburg. October 24, 1996, was the date of the historic Black community rebellions that happened in defense of TyRon Lewis, an 18-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by the St. Petersburg police.
While Cainion was still in the hospital, “her father Bruce Cainion, traditionally known as Ntambwe Bhekizitha, was on the front lines of those rebellions, putting out fires that the city of St. Petersburg attempted to start in the Black community after dumping every ounce of tear gas they had in the city into this area,” according to Cainion’s campaign Facebook page.
Cainion was primarily raised by her father and he instilled in her a fighting spirit and desire for justice. She was introduced at an early age to the Uhuru Movement and was educated early on about the struggle for justice for the Black community.
Even in school she fought for change. At St. Petersburg Collegiate High School she was elected student government secretary during her junior year and president in her senior year.
Cainion was in the National Honor Society and was accepted into an International Relations program that allowed her to travel and study in Rome, Italy. At the same time she maintained a job on college campus.
She graduated in 2015, receiving both her high school diploma and an Associates in Arts degree at just 18 years old.
While she excelled in school, Cainion felt there was a bigger purpose for her.”She was on target to attend her dream college in New York, but felt greater purpose in serving her community right here in St. Petersburg, Florida. At 20 years old, Akilé took on the international campaign for justice for three Black teenage girls drowned by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, that traveled the country on a speaking tour and raised thousands of dollars towards legal fees,” according to her campaign Facebook page.
In 2017, she ran for city council alongside her running mate Jesse Nevel for mayor. They were the first candidates in the world to run on a platform of reparations to the Black community. Their campaign made national news, and was featured in Ebony Magazine, the Washington Post, and on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club.” During the campaign, Cainion led a march of over 200 people through the streets of downtown St. Petersburg demanding a city united through reparations.
Since her run, she was appointed as the Director of Agitation and Propaganda of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), making her the youngest member to sit on the APSP’s National Central Committee.
Cainion is currently the Editor-in-Chief of The Burning Spear newspaper and heads many other media institutions under this department.
Initially, Cainion 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,” according to her campaign Facebook page. “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.
Cainion believes African-American neighborhoods in St. Pete face the same issues that she saw while growing up. “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,” according to her campaign’s Facebook page.
“There’s no economic development for this community. It’s a horrible reality for Black people here in the city,” Cainion said.
Through her campaign, Cainion is demanding economic development. She wants to see the16th Street District filled with Black commerce.
“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,” according to her campaign Facebook page.
“They [white police] can’t go along doing business as usual,” she said.
On Dec. 20, 2017, Cainion was “brutalized and arrested outside her home for defending a Black woman who was being harassed by a corner store petty merchant,” The Weekly Challenger reported. Cainion was “booked on petty charges such as disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.”
“We cannot live like this anymore,” Cainion declared.