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MUHAMMAD: Huge Progressive Victory in Mississippi

Askia Muhammad | 8/7/2013, 3 p.m.
Askia Muhammad

Against the tsunami of all-things-conservative (including the governance by President Barack Obama) which has been dominating the political spectrum lately, a most refreshing political victory has occurred in the most unlikely of places.

I’m going to make a bold declaration here. As I analyze the electoral history in this country over the last 100 years, the election in June of Jackson City Councilmember Chokwe Lumumba as mayor of the capital of the Magnolia State is one of the most important progressive political victories in U.S. history!

From Henry Wallace (33rd vice president, from 1941-1945 and Progressive Party candidate for president in 1948); to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio); to Gary, Indiana Mayor Richard Hatcher; to anti-war activist turned California State Sen. Tom Hayden; to Chicago Mayor Harold Washington; to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry; to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); the election of Lumumba with 87 percent of the votes cast, ranks among the most important progressive victories ever.

It’s not hard to see that I hold Lumumba in very high esteem. Just saying his name and title out loud gives me a rush: “The Honorable Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.” This was not a fluke victory, by the way. Lumumba won with a commanding 87 percent of the votes cast!

The reason I’m all choked up over Chokwe is because during his career as an attorney and as a participant, he has been steadfast, representing some of the most radical clients in the civil rights era, from members of the Black Liberation Army, including fugitive Assata Shakur, godmother of musician Tupac Shakur (who was also one of his clients); to Jamaican musician Buju Banton; among others.

Lumumba served as a vice president of the Republic of New Africa, which claimed the five contiguous southern states – Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina – where a majority of the Black population resided in 1968 (and still resides today) as the home of the “Black nation” in North America.

Lumumba is a cum laude graduate of the Wayne State Law School in Detroit, and is a founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Now, he is mayor of the capital of the state which gave the world Jefferson Finis Davis, a “stiff-necked, unbending, doctrinaire, and overbearing” former U.S. Senator and Secretary of War, who became president of the treasonous Confederate States of America.

That is what you call a real turnaround, and it just goes to validate the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who constantly advised us: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Lumumba’s election in June is a sign that what was once a smoldering ember is now a flickering flame, soon to be a torchlight of justice in Mississippi, the most recalcitrant slave-holding state in this country.

Now, this Brother in the Struggle is intent on helping to change Mississippi’s demographic status: “from worst to first.” The state’s Black population is “officially” 40 percent of the total (which means more like 50-50 considering all the Black folks who are intentionally not counted in the official census), and in practically every economic, social, and educational category measured, Mississippi is in 50th place among the United States. That means Black folks (who are automatically at the bottom of the state’s local demographics) therefore are worse off in Mississippi than in some Third World countries like Cuba, The Bahamas, the Philippines, and even Libya.

His inauguration was on July 1, at which time he told this writer, he would “get started toward our course of building Jackson and doing the things that we need to do to assure that the population of Jackson is entitled to economic and political prosperity and self determination; and that we do things to ignite changes in Mississippi period.”

His White conservative adversaries, who had no hope of fielding a candidate of their own because of Jackson’s 80 percent Black population, nonetheless outspent the Lumumba campaign by a margin of at least 2-1, pouring more than $500,000 (and possibly as much as $1 million) into the campaign of their surrogate candidate, compared to $250,000 spent by the victor.

But in the end, this progressive lion – Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Lumumba – was able to prevail, and in so doing move the city and Black people in the state of Mississippi and everywhere else closer to a progressive ideal, adopting as their motto, an adaptation of a coda popularized 100 years ago by the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Jackson’s new theme: “One City. One Aim. One Destiny.”