A collection of tributes to the late great mayor of Jackson, Miss.
Honor Chokwe Lumumba, build a people’s assembly
by Larry Hales
Jackson, Miss. — On March 8, hundreds of people, especially from the South and particularly Jackson, Miss., came to mourn and reflect on the life of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who died suddenly on Feb. 25 at the age of 66. Starting with a March 5 tribute at the historically Black college, Jackson State University, Mayor Lumumba’s life was memorialized for several days, ending with the masses lining the streets for his burial motorcade.
People gathered for the “Home Going Ceremony” in the main room of the Jackson Convention Complex, with hundreds more in an overflow area. They were regaled for hours with stories of a young Chokwe, before he took the name honoring an African people who resisted slavery, the Chokwe of Central Africa, together with the name of the great anti-imperialist Patrice Lumumba, the first elected prime minister of Congo assassinated at the behest of the CIA in 1961. The ceremony was filled with music and dance from African traditional to contemporary.
Besides his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, and daughter, Rukia Lumumba, those on the program included Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain NAACP leader, Medgar Evers; civil rights leader Hollis Watkins; Congressperson Bennie Thompson; interim Jackson Mayor Charles Tillman; former Mississippi Gov. William Winter; and singer Cassandra Wilson. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan sent a condolences statement.
It was only eight months ago that Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, the state capital, winning with 87 percent of the votes. The Jackson-Kush Plan, the platform he ran on, is as much or more responsible for Mayor Lumumba’s victory than his demeanor and political history.
The model of participatory democracy and building people’s assemblies is central to the Jackson-Kush Plan. Viewed as part of the process to consolidate political power in the hands of the Black masses in the city, the plan is connected to the struggle for self-determination. Mayor Lumumba saw this plan as a long-term process, with the Jackson People’s Assembly instrumental to its success, which began with his election to the City Council and then as mayor.
Building people’s power is a long-term prospect with the goal to educate and empower the masses through action and struggle. This is integral, especially in a city and a region that is prone to reaction and where the level of impoverishment, education, infrastructure and repression resembles those of an oppressed developing nation.
Why Jackson needs people’s power
Jackson is in the poorest U.S. state, economically. There are more poor people, especially Black people, on Medicaid in Mississippi than in any other state. Jackson is an 80 percent Black city, with high poverty rates and unemployment and a crumbling infrastructure, evident from its sewage problems. It has been neglected and divested like other majority Black cities, such as Detroit.
The structural improvements needed to fix the infrastructure would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly billions. To make up for the years of neglect, Mayor Lumumba implemented a sales tax increase of 1 percent and levied higher rates on water and sewage. The increases were painful options taken amidst a climate where the city was threatened with further abandonment by businesses and people in higher tax brackets. Mayor Lumumba took the issue to the city, according to his mantra, “The people must decide.”
Another component of the plan is building a solidarity economy through cooperatives. The state of Mississippi only allows farming cooperatives. The needed bill, presented to the state legislature to allow other cooperatives, was sidelined by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
The refusal of Reeves to send the bill to committee was not the only signal that the Jackson-Kush Plan faced major opposition. Aside from the threats and intimidation by wealthy whites, business owners and politicians in Jackson, the state of Mississippi and the media, there was an attempt to introduce a bill that would have put Jackson under emergency financial management, very similar to what is happening in Detroit. This bill didn’t make it out of committee, but it could be reintroduced, depending on the continued development of the plan in Jackson.
A fulfilling political life
Lumumba’s political history, most importantly in the Black Liberation struggle, his solidarity with other national liberation and progressive movements, and the quiet, intimate moments with family and friends were all on display during the memorial. The political period of the Black struggle in the 1960s and the worldwide international struggle for liberation against colonialism and imperialism helped to rear him as a revolutionary.
Out of the struggle for Black studies in higher education, he became the second vice president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika and later founded the New Afrikan People’s Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
Following police and FBI assaults and arrests of RNA members, Lumumba returned to Detroit to get his law degree from Wayne State. He legally defended the currently exiled Black revolutionary Assata Shakur, helped to free Black Panther Geronimo Ji Jaga from prison, defended Tupac Shakur, and helped secure the release of Jamie and Gladys Scott.
The two Black sisters were framed up for and then convicted of armed robbery, where only $11 was taken. They were given double life sentences. Lumumba and a mass movement were able to win clemency for them, granted by former Gov. Haley Barbour in late 2010.
Throughout his long involvement in the political movement, Lumumba’s militancy and belief in liberation and the need for revolution did not waver. He remained committed, despite media attempts now to temper his resolve.
During the mayoral campaign, Lumumba was lambasted for his political activism. Not once did he apologize or attempt to play down his involvement. He maintained that he was “running on an agenda of compassion, justice and human rights.” He said further: “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Free the land!”
The legacy he has left for the movement is to work to build a better world. Therefore, the movement must defend Jackson and continue to make sure the Jackson-Kush Plan goes forward. It is what he gave his life doing.
Mayor Lumumba was the embodiment of the oft-quoted principle stated in the book “Socialism and Man in Cuba” by Che Guevara: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”
NAPO and MXGM salute the life of Baba Chokwe Lumumba
The New Afrikan Peoples Organization (NAPO) and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) salute the life of our comrade, brother, and co-founder Baba Chokwe Lumumba. On Feb. 25, 2014, Comrade Chokwe made his transition to the ancestral realm.
He was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Lucien and Priscilla Taliaferro, working class parents who gave him a sense of spirituality, morality and service. As a young man, Chokwe exhibited his destiny as a leader. The Black Power movement of the 1960s and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. propelled Chokwe to become a revolutionary.
He embraced the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PG-RNA) in 1969. He would eventually serve as minister of justice and midwest regional vice president of the PG-RNA. Along with other New Afrikan revolutionary nationalists from the PG-RNA, House of Umoja and Afrikan People’s Party, Baba Chokwe founded a revolutionary national liberation organization, NAPO, in 1984. He served as chairman and primary spokesperson of NAPO for 29 years. Subsequently, NAPO founded MXGM as its mass association in 1990.
Baba Chokwe Lumumba’s work as an attorney is well known. He has focused his legal practice on defending “the least of these” – poor and oppressed people. He was the legal advocate for political prisoners like Assata Shakur, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Sekou Odinga, the Pontiac Brothers, Hayward Brown and the son of the movement, Tupac Shakur.
Some of his finest legal work was winning the release of the Scott Sisters, two young Black women convicted and sentenced to double-life sentences for an $11 armed robbery. As an attorney, Chokwe also fought in the courts for Black workers versus avaricious firms, Black communities versus police misconduct and members of the indigenous Choctaw nation versus a corrupt tribal council.
As a student of New Afrikan political science, he also studied international law and applied it to his defense of political prisoners and prisoners of war. Baba Chokwe partnered with his political father, Imari Obadele, and comrades in the PG-RNA, the National Conference of Black Lawyers and NAPO to advance Queen Mother Moore’s call for reparations for the descendants of enslaved Afrikans in the United States. This effort led to the formation of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA).
Baba Chokwe also participated as a soldier in the defense forces of the New Afrikan Independence Movement. He believed all New Afrikans should be ready to defend their lives, families, community and our movement. Chokwe was a member of the New Afrikan Security Forces of the PG-RNA and achieved the rank of captain in the New Afrikan Security Union of NAPO in 1984.
Chokwe and his family relocated from Detroit in 1988 to establish NAPO in Mississippi. MXGM encouraged Baba Chokwe to run for Jackson City Council in 2009 as part of our Jackson-Kush Plan to win self-determination, participatory democracy and economic justice in Black majority counties in Mississippi.
A People’s Assembly was formed in his ward as part of the Jackson-Kush Plan and to promote and practice participatory democracy. Comrade Chokwe winning the runoff by 63 percent of the vote and the general election by 87 percent was a testament to his decades of activism and advocacy of the people of Jackson.
The same formula was employed to organize Chokwe’s campaign for Mayor. Chokwe’s charisma, history of activism, serving the people and the vision of the Jackson Kush Plan motivated the organization of grassroots communities throughout the city of Jackson.
Solidarity from progressive forces around the United States also provided the basis of Baba Chokwe’s mayoral victory. The Jackson chapter of MXGM and NAPO were the heart of his campaign staff in his campaigns for City Council and mayor.
Chokwe Lumumba was one of the finest sons of our people. Chokwe Lumumba was motivated by his vision of a liberated New Afrika and a new world. He loved our people and was loved by them.
He loved coaching and mentoring the youth of Mississippi and Louisiana on his Jackson Panther Amateur Athletic Union basketball program. Baba Chokwe was generous with his time and money to support the movement and support individuals.
Baba Chokwe was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and cousin. As chairman of NAPO, he began his addresses stating, “On behalf of the women, men and children of the New Afrikan People’s Organization.” Baba Chokwe’s household exemplified this salutation.
His late wife and soul mate Nubia and his children, Kambonmutope, Rukiya and Chokwe Antar were and are valued participants in our organization and liberation struggle. He also embraced his comrades and their households as family. One of his strengths as an organizer was the love his family showed for him and the movement. He will always be an exemplary New Afrikan.
Chokwe Lumumba’s name will always be mentioned as one of the finest revolutionaries and freedom fighters of our time and our history. He possessed a revolutionary character.
Baba Chokwe listened to and embraced criticism of his comrades and grassroots people. He studied and read, was a proud revolutionary New Afrikan nationalist, internationalist and socialist but was not dogmatic or doctrinaire. He was creative and willing to incorporate new ideas.
Baba Chokwe was principled and committed to the last second of his life to our liberation and will be an inspirational force for our liberation as an ancestor. Baba Chokwe Lumumba will forever live through our work to free the people and free the land!
Long live the spirit of Chokwe Lumumba! Free the land!
This tribute was first published by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
A eulogy for Chokwe Lumumba
by J. Heshima Denham
In the 1980s the Ku Klux Klan planned to march down West Street in Downtown Jackson, Miss., and Chokwe Lumumba and the New Afrikan People’s Organization – me and my homies were members of their Self-Defense Corps – had organized a counter-protest of hundreds and hundreds of New Afrikan people and some White brothers and sisters, and we all converged on West Street.
I was young, ultra-radical and full of fire and I really wanted a physical engagement, but it was not to be – and that was a good thing. The cops were out in full force with riot sticks, and the Klan were grouped around their three busses at the top of West Street with the cops – some Black – in a defensive line protecting them.
Chokwe was at the head of us all with a bullhorn telling us how we were not going to let the Klan march. As Chokwe inspired us all, he yelled out: “They have the po-lice to protect them and their hate, and we have our protectors of our right!” And when he said it, 30 NAPO-SDC soldiers – big, musclebound New Afrikan men in black muscle shirts, black tams and black combat boots – detached from the crowd in perfect unison and walked into the street in orderly rows, assuming parade rest opposite the police.
Those of us from the corps – most of us were former street thugs – converged in the street behind them, pumping our fists in the air and, as we did so, a miracle occurred: The Klan piled back onto their busses and pulled out! Chokwe yelled, as though he knew the course of events all along: “The Klan’s not going to march here today – we are!” – and began to lead us all in a historic march down West Street and throughout downtown Jackson, ending in a vacant lot on Farish Street, a historically and traditionally New Afrikan section of Downtown, and gave a rousing speech on the merits of anti-racism, human dignity and resistance to hate.
The feeling I felt this day, the elation, love and unity, has never left my mind, nor did this tall, wise, slim man who invoked it in me: Chokwe Lumumba. I loved him, I still love him – and I will always love him. I have always, by writ of my social experiences and development, been imbued with revolutionary potential, but it was Chokwe who inspired me to try and fulfill that potential – to translate these ideas into a social force.
Our world is diminished without him, but I will never stop seeking to live up to the example he set for me over 30 years ago.
Send our brother some love and light: J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, COR-SHU, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212. Heshima is a member of the NCCT-Cor-SHU. NCCT stands for NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nation) Collective Think Tank.
Chokwe Lumumba, presente!
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
As a young lawyer in Detroit, he worked to defend members of the nationalist group, the Republic of New Afrika, after their members were attacked by police and many were arrested, back in 1981.
When he signed on to defend RNA members Bilal Sunni Ali and Fulani Sunni Ali, the judge went out of his way to remove him from the case. But Lumumba fought to reverse this order and, sure enough, it was reversed.
That fierce determination fueled him through an exemplary career in law, and he developed a nationalist practice that attracted radicals and revolutionaries as clients.
When famed rapper Tupac Shakur was charged with aggravated assault on several cops, Lumumba represented him – and beat the case.
When the Scott sisters, Jamie and Gladys, were fighting an unjust conviction for robbery, Chokwe Lumumba convinced a Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, to free them in 2011, after over 16 years in prison.
When he entered electoral politics, Jackson, Mississippi, would become his city after his election as mayor. He was able, imaginative and determined.
© Copyright 2013 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America,” co-authored by Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill, available from Third World Press, TWPBooks.com. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.
In memory of our dear friend Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Lumumba
The Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela wishes to express its heartfelt condolences on the passing of our dear brother Mayor Chokwe Lumumba on Feb. 25, 2014. We remember him today as a dear friend and ally of Venezuela in the struggle for peace and justice in the world.
Simply put, Mayor Lumumba was a man of conviction who, as an activist, lawyer and elected official dedicated his life to serving the oppressed, in his own country and throughout the world. He defended well known human rights activist and Black Panther Assata Shakur, among others. He also helped found progressive activist organizations such as the National Black Human Rights Coalition and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Most recently, as mayor, he spearheaded innovative new programs in conjunction with the organized people of Jackson, Mississippi.
But his love for the poor didn’t stop at home; he defended people’s movements for social justice and deep economic and political change wherever they existed, from revolutions in Africa to Latin America and especially the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.
We Venezuelans especially remember him for his most recent show of support when, on Feb. 14, 2014, in defense of our people and sovereign nation he stated:
“My administration is deeply concerned with the political unrest and violence occurring in Venezuela. We strongly condemn the killings that occurred … [and] call on the United States and all other governments to respect the outcome of the national elections of December 2013. We firmly call on all foreign governments to respect the sovereignty and self-determination of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela and not interfere in its internal affairs.”
We will not forget Chokwe Lumumba’s solidarity and never-ending commitment to fight for a better world. He will be deeply missed. But, like so many of our most sacred heroes who have come before him, he will be remembered for being a man who not only talked the talk but walked the walk.
This tribute was first published by the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the U.S.