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"The Wednesday after the election I woke up in Jackson, Mississippi, and what that means is, no matter whether our country has experienced great boons or busts, in Mississippi, we've always been at the bottom," Mayor-elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. "We have to decide that we're going to rescue ourselves. That in places like Jackson, we won't allow it to be havens of oppression which endangers all of us."
Chowke Antar Lumumba on March 11, 2014. Photo byTrip Burns.
Mayor-elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba talked about making Jackson "the most radical city on the planet" Friday at the People's Summit in Chicago.
The word "radical" is not unfamiliar to the 34-year-old attorney and son of late-Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, whose agenda, which he has adopted, is built on economic democracy.
The mayor-elect talked about that very term - the misconceptions and truths tied to it - with The Clarion-Ledger editorial board in April before the primary.
"Chokwe Lumumba is a pretty tough name. And people don't know what that means," he said lightly. "I'm confronted with people, 'He's Muslim! He's this!' Not to disparage anyone's faith, but I'm Christian. Lumumba is a Christian African name. There are things that people are concerned about based on the history of when my father was here in the 70s. Guess who was not here in the 70s? I wasn't thought of at that time. And it was a different time. We can all agree that people on both sides of some of the friction can admit that things should have been taken care of in a different fashion. That has no reflection on who Chokwe Antar Lumumba is."
A young Lumumba Sr. came to Jackson in the 1970s alongside the Republic of New Afrika with goals of creating a separate nation through black liberation and self-determination. The history evokes a particular scene in which Jackson police officers, tear gas and a tank in tow, attempted to raid a house where RNA members lived, prompting a shootout. Lt. William Louis Skinner was killed. Lumumba Sr. was not at the house. He eventually helped found the New Afrika People's Organization, from which grew the Malcolm X Grassroots movement. The mayor-elect is a "proud member" of MXGM.
"I'm not trying to push people away from anything. I'm passionate because I'm passionate about people's lives. I believe in human rights for human beings," Lumumba told The Clarion-Ledger board. "l'm critiqued for things just because of my background that if you think about it really intently, you would find that it's nothing that pushes anybody away. When I say 'People's Assemblies,' or I say 'we want to put people before politics,' I've had people ask me, 'Well, who are the people?' Well, if you're living, breathing, need water and food like I do, then I'm talking about you."
"I believe that's what people should understand about me, that I'm an inclusive person," Lumumba continued. "Beyond that, I'm not afraid of the term 'radical.' I'll embrace the term radical. Because when I look in history and I see all the people who have been called radicals - Martin Luther King was called a radical. Jesus Christ was called a radical. I believe that a radical is someone who cares enough about circumstances that they want to see a change, and if you look outside of these walls, and you see a need for a change in this community, in this city, then we all need to be prepared to be as radical as the circumstances dictate we should be."
The People's Summit is a conference focused on social, racial and economic justice and supported by National Nurses United and other progressive groups.
Lumumba was met with loud cheers from the People's Summit audience when he announced his victory in Jackson in a field of 16 candidates and with 94 percent of the vote in the general election.
"More important than that, we did so on a people's platform," Lumumba said. "From the moment we announced, we did so saying that we were running on an agenda of social justice, of economic democracy and working with people, making sure people had a voice. And that's our story, and we're sticking to it."
Lumumba also talked about living in "Trump times" in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, where "we have all kinds of questions about what that means."
"The Wednesday after the election I woke up in Jackson, Mississippi, and what that means is, no matter whether our country has experienced great boons or busts, in Mississippi, we've always been at the bottom," Lumumba said. "We have to decide that we're going to rescue ourselves. That in places like Jackson, we won't allow it to be havens of oppression which endangers all of us."
"So we've made the decision that we're going to be the most radical city on the planet," he said. "We're going to make certain that we change the whole scope of electoral politics."