Courtesy of Chokwe Antar Lumumba
Chokwe Antar Lumumba supporting Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi.
In 2013, radical attorney Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi on a platform of economic self-determination for the people of Jackson, a plan that as Kali Akuno explained aims at “transforming the economy, creating a democratic economy leading towards the creation and construction of a socialist economy, but through a democratic bottom-up process.”
Lumumba's untimely death less than a year into his term put some of those plans on hold, but the movement continued its work outside of political power, founding the organization Cooperation Jackson to create a network of worker cooperatives in the city.
Now, Lumumba's son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, is running for mayor of the city, to expand on the work that began years ago.
What we have been engaged in are initiatives to see a solidarity economy come into fruition for the people of Jackson, give people more control over their destinies and looking to do it in a comprehensive fashion through the engagement of electoral politics and a number of other community-based initiatives...
We have to create a better environment that helps aid in the retention of wealth within underserved communities...We are looking at the cooperative business model, where a cooperative business could essentially be anything you could imagine…
What we are seeing throughout the country is that there is communication between different oppressive institutions. We are seeing a lot of what took place in Detroit [with the emergency managers] Now there is an effort to implement that here in Jackson. What took place in Charlotte, North Carolina where they tried to take over the airport, is now underway here in Jackson. There is an effort to do so. Many people don’t know that in a place like Detroit, before Detroit went bankrupt, they lost control of their water.
When people ask, “How did you feel the Wednesday after the election?” I said, “Well, I woke up in Mississippi.” What that means to me is that no matter whether Trump is president or whether Obama was president, in Mississippi if you were poor before Obama, you were most likely poor after Obama…
If you can change the conditions in Mississippi, right here in the belly of the beast, then it speaks to what we can achieve across the globe. We no longer want Mississippi to be the refuge for companies that want to pay low wages and create conditions in which employees are treated in a devastating fashion. If we can change that dynamic here, then it makes it unsafe for them to go to any place to do that. We start creating an agenda and creating the model for what we can achieve as a people and what principled leadership can achieve, so there is no safe space for that type of oppression.
We want to change the way we look at electoral politics. No longer should we just buy someone’s agenda... We need to start creating the agenda for ourselves as a community and draft the leadership which represents the agenda in which we have created, draft the leadership we know is fully committed to that. Even if people hadn’t envisioned themselves being in electoral politics, such as myself. But, I understand that our leadership must come less out of political ambition and more out of necessity.