We are deeply saddened by the sudden and untimely death of Chokwe Lumumba, who lived a genuinely revolutionary life providing guidance to, and taking direction from, the poor, oppressed and disenfranchised. Chokwe proved that one does not have to abandon principles to be successful in politics, that it is possible to rally people alienated from the two major political parties and rouse them to action. Speaking to the needs and aspirations of poor African-Americans instead of taking money from the city’s power brokers, Chokwe was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.
He held office for only a few months, and we now inherit the obligation to fulfill the deep promise embodied by his election: the responsibility to advance the interests of what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the masses and not the classes,” to strive toward a government that expands human rights and democracy – prevailing even in a country where elections are suffocating with money.
Chokwe persuaded Jackson voters to pass a sales tax by referendum relying on the wisdom of his constituents and the democratic process. The people did so, no doubt, because they knew the money raised would rightfully benefit the city’s residents rather than line the pockets of its bankers. We will take a moment today to mourn, but the best way to honor Chokwe’s memory is for us all to heed Joe Hill’s admonition to organize. No individual can replace him. But collectively, we can advance all he stood for. Indeed, if he stood for anything, it was that we make progress not on the backs of individuals, but through the kind of organized, collective effort represented by his iconic election.
(Photo: Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger/AP)