Chokwe Lumumba ¡Presente!
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, longtime friend & ally of MIRA, Passed Away February 25, 2014 at age 66. We are deeply saddened by this sudden, unexpected loss.Chokwe Lumumba has been an active part of MIRA since our founding in 2000. Up until he was elected Mayor he served as our Legal Counsel. Patricia Ice and Chokwe both graduated from Wayne State University School of Law (Chokwe was some years ahead of her). She first met him when he came to a picket line she was on, protesting discrimination against Black law students at that university.
Arriving in Jackson early in the 1970’s, following the police attack on a farmhouse purchased by the African American rights organization, Republic of New Africa, Chokwe recognized the need for committed African American legal representation for oppressed people. He returned to school and became an attorney.
The emerging RNA scared the Southern white supremacist oligarchy with their vision of a Black nation in regions of the Deep South. A principal reflected in their work, “the land belongs to the people who work it,” has been a centuries old principal in basic human rights battles world wide.
This has been embodied in many movements in Latino nations. Best known are the struggles early in the last century including a movement led by Emilio Zapata during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, but also following the US Civil war with the “40 acres and a mule” effort. Chokwe often ended his talks with the slogan “Free the Land,” which represents the universal struggle for human rights. He expressed this idea on the MIRA video “Breathe,” which is available on DVD in the MIRA office.
Bill and Chokwe met 25 years ago when they both moved to Jackson—Chokwe from Detroit and Bill from Texas. They worked together on many workers’ issues including the campaign to free the Scott Sisters. Chokwe and Patricia crafted the anti-racial profiling ordinance (which had a big impact on immigrants) for the City of Jackson, which Chokwe introduced and passed when he was a Jackson City Councilman. He was very proud of that and used it in his successful campaign to be Jackson’s Mayor.
Chokwe participated in almost all of MIRA’s actions—at the Capitol at every Civic Engagement Day, in the streets, in marches, and at every Unity Conference. The first Unity Conference included the late Dr. Imari Abedele, co-founder of the Republic of New Africa, the late Rev James Orange, and Dr. Joseph Lowery both of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, through to the last which featured Michelle Alexander and Javier Sicilia.
In their free time, MIRA members and allies including both Patricia Ice and Bill Chandler helped in each of his successful election campaigns.
We all felt that if the U.S. is to change you have to organize states—and those states that have to change are the Southern states. We came to Mississippi to organize. We hope to pursue Chokwe’s vision for Jackson, which included making Jackson a safe place for immigrants to call home.
He will be greatly missed.
On March 7 the body will lie in repose from 11:00AM to 3:30 PM at the Jackson City Hall. The hour of remembrance is 4 to 5 pm. Funeral arrangements have been made forSaturday, March 8th at 11:00AM at the Jackson Convention Center. Willis and Sons Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. Following the funeral service, internment will follow at Autumn Woods Memorial Gardens, 4000 West North Side Drive, Jackson. Please join us in support of the Lumumba family, and in remembering the life and work of this great champion for civil and human rights.
Breaking News: There has been an upsurge of support for the idea that Chokwe’s son, Chokwe Anton run to take his father’s place as mayor of the City of Jackson. This would continue make a seamless transition, keeping the newly recruited staff now in place, to continue the work of his vision “Let the people decide; educate, motivate, organize– one city, one aim, one destiny.” Chokwe Anton has agreed to run to keep his father’s vision alive!
It’s our hope that the current, very successful City Council, will continue working unchanged.
SEE MORE ABOUT CHOKWE…
There was an hour long segment of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman with interviews with several of his friends including Bill Chandler, Executive Director of MIRA. The show also included parts of previous interviews of Chokwe, and is currently the best representation in the media of his life and what he meant to so many of us.
You can see the video on the web at democracynow.org. There’s also an excellent piece, “Remembering Chokwe Lumumba,” at SouthernStudies.org by Chris Kromm. Also, Aljazeera America has several stories covering Chokwe.