Chokwe Lumumba, An Intro For Those Who Didn’t Know

How the recently deceased Jackson mayor convinced one Southerner that he was the real deal

By Carla Murphy Feb 28, 2014

Over on The South Lawn, the excellent group blog about all things Southern and progressive, black labor organizer Doug Williams begins: "suffice it to say that when a city councilman named Chokwe Lumumba announced that he was running to be the mayor of Mississippi’s capital city, I was skeptical."

Williams, a third generation organizer recounts not only how Lumumba won him over during the 2013 mayoral race but also the change he portended for communities of color throughout the South:

Jackson was a majority-white city as late as the 1980s. But when the last vestiges of Mississippi’s particularly virulent strain of Jim Crow were dismantled in education, housing, and employment, white residents began fleeing to [the surrounding] suburbs. … As the city emptied out…the economic and political power shifted along with it [and the] new suburbanites managed to maintain a measure of control over their former neighbors through their ownership of local businesses. … But while Jackson had seen sixteen years of unbroken Black leadership, there was little to show for it in the way of concrete policy change for its Black citizens. Nearly 50 years after we first gained free access to the franchise, it is no longer enough that we simply seek descriptive representation; we must seek substantive representation of our interests and aspirations.

Enter Chokwe Lumumba. Williams drum rolls Lumumba’s early and game-changing policy initiatives, saying:

Seeing Chokwe’s initial successes in Jackson gave me hope that I would live to see a day that Southern progressives would not be faced with the same meaningless choices that we are constantly confronted with when we close that drape behind us and participate in our democracy. …

I will never understand why God chose to take Chokwe at a time when his voice is so crucial to everything that I hold dear as a Southerner, a leftist, and as a Black man; none of us will. But it is at times like this where my faith is a crucial component for my ability to move on. And not my faith in God; but rather my faith in movements and communities. 

Be sure to read Williams’s excellent remembrance of Chokwe Lumumba, 1947-2014.

(h/t The South Lawn)