Chokwe Lumumba: ‘The people must decide’

Chokwe Lumumba

Chokwe Lumumba

Workers World was saddened to learn that Mayor Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, Miss., died at the age of 66 on Feb. 24, before he finished the first year of his term. His death is a great loss to the progressive movement in the U.S. and worldwide — as could be seen a week earlier when he took a public position in support of the Bolivarian government of Venezuela against U.S. intervention — and an especially great loss to the Black population of Jackson. We publish, below, excerpts from an article written by Monica Moorehead last June after Lumumba’s victory in the election.

In a historic election, long-time Black political activist and civil rights attorney Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Miss., on June 5, winning a whopping 87 percent of the vote. For decades, Lumumba fought for the right to self-determination for Black people. He was vice president of the Republic of New Afrika, which demanded that the southeastern region of the U.S. be ruled under the auspices of an independent Black government as part of reparations for the unpaid labor of enslaved Africans and the continuing legacy of white supremacy.

The RNA became a target of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), resulting in spying on, physical assaults and jailings of RNA leaders, similar to what happened to the Black Panthers. Lumumba was also the attorney for Black freedom fighter Assata Shakur, who was forced into exile in Cuba after she escaped from a New Jersey prison, and the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, whose mother, Afeni Shakur, was one of the imprisoned Panther 21.

Lumumba legally defended the Scott sisters, Jamie and Gladys, who were falsely accused of robbery and sentenced to double life sentences in a Mississippi prison before they were pardoned due to national mass pressure.

Lumumba was elected to the Jackson City Council in 2009. When he decided in 2012 to run for mayor, he described himself as a “Fannie Lou Hamer Democrat.” Hamer was the dynamic Black civil rights activist who founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged an entrenched, racist, all-white local delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The MFDP demanded the right to political representation for Black people, including the right to vote.

What led to Lumumba’s mayoral victory was a political program called “The Jackson Plan: A Struggle for Self-Determination, Participatory Democracy, and Economic Justice.”

In describing this platform, which comes from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Jackson People’s Assembly, Lumumba stated on “Democracy Now!”: “We have formed like a people’s assembly, that’s key to what we’ve done here, where we have — every three months, the population can come out and participate in an open forum to say what’s on their mind. They can come out and learn some of the problems that the city is facing and some of the solutions that some of the problem solvers are supposed to be offering.

“And this will bring about more public education and political education to the population of the city, make our population more prepared to be motivated and organized in order to participate in the changes which must occur in the city of Jackson in order to move it forward. We say the people must decide. ‘Educate, motivate, organize.’” (June 6)