By Imam Khalid Fattah Griggs
ICNA Vice President Civic Engagement
During the first quarter of the 21st century, the American political landscape has witnessed seismic shifts during its electoral cycles. A virtual stealth ultra-conservative political movement, that later identified itself as the Tea Party, captured state legislatures and governor’s mansions in 2010 in response to the election of the nation’s first African American President in its then 232-year history. The thunderous, deafening roar of conservative, racist, anti-immigrant citizens ushered in the election of arguably the most unqualified, misogynistic Commander-in-Chief this nation has ever experienced. While the 45th President campaigned, disparaging almost every immigrant, Muslim, female, and non-white person in America, a Democratic Socialist, non-Protestant galvanized and energized large segments of the electorate that had been dormant for decades. The attention of the nation has been fixated on these tsunami-like political happenings in the United States over the last decade.
But, far from the national, state, and local spotlights, Chokwe Antar Lumumba was inaugurated on July 3 as the youngest mayor ever, 34, of the state capitol of Mississippi, Jackson. Chokwe Antar Lumumba is by no means your prototypical politician nor does he come from a political dynastic family. His father, Chokwe Lumumba, was a defense attorney and second vice president of the Republic of New Africa during the socially- turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s. Among its many goals, the Republic of New Africa set out to establish an independent African American majority country situated in the southeastern United States somewhere in the heart of an area with a black-majority population. The RNA also sought billions of dollars of reparations for African American descendants of enslaved African people. Its leadership and much of its membership fell victim to the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program to destroy, disrupt, and eliminate perceived threats to national security, particularly African Americans.
The Lumumba family moved from Detroit to Jackson, MS in 1988, a prescience relocation that likely facilitated a future course correction for the city of Jackson. True to his political activist roots, the elder Lumumba was elected, first to the Jackson City Council in 2009 and then as mayor in 2013 by putting together a non-conventional political alliance with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Jackson People’s Assembly, the Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition, and other area activists. He died suddenly on February 25, 2014, a highly-respected mayor and public servant.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s primary and general election victories were no less astonishing than his father’s. Drawing from many of the same grassroots alliances that propelled his father to electoral victory, the younger Lumumba surprisingly so-soundly defeated nine other candidates in the Democratic primary, that he proceeded to the general election without facing a runoff. In the general election, Chokwe Antar Lumumba received 93 percent of the vote. His unifying campaign slogan was, “When I Am Mayor, You Are Mayor.” Jackson is a typical Southern city in many ways, a decaying infrastructure, whites working in the city while living outside the municipality’s boundaries, businesses relocating outside the city limits, depriving Jackson of a viable tax base. Pot holes are ever-present in the city’s streets, roadsides are lined with uncut grass, and in many areas of the city, water, like in Flint, Michigan, is undrinkable. Yet, a realistic hope pervades the citizens of Jackson because of its newly-inaugurated young mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba. Hitting the proverbial ground running, he is surrounding himself with advisors and consultants who are not limiting their ideas to traditionally-tried, often failed, solutions This mayor is spreading the gospel of Peoples Assemblies, Cooperative Economics, Self-Determination. After taking the Oath of Office for Mayor of Jackson, Judge Denise S. Owens administered an Oath of Office to the Citizens of Jackson, a unique pledge by the citizenry to support the Mayor and City Council in making Jackson, Mississippi a model for the rest of the nation. The Mayor concluded his dynamic Inaugural Address by leading the audience in the chant, “Free the Land, Free the Land, Free the Land, By Any Means Necessary.” Jackson may have already gifted the nation with an electoral model that should be studied and replicated.