In Mississippi, America’s most revolutionary mayor
by Siddhartha Mitter
September 19, 2013 5:00AM ET
Mayor Chokwe Lumumba is ‘applying a philosophy against imperialism to the practice of repairing streets’
Chokwe Lumumba, a former vice president for the Republic of New Afrika, was elected mayor of Jackson, Miss. in June
Chokwe Lumumba, a former vice president of the Republic of New Afrika, was elected mayor of Jackson, Miss. in JuneJoe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger/AP
JACKSON, Miss. — On July 1, Chokwe Lumumba, an attorney with a long record of black radical activism, took office as mayor of Jackson. His inauguration took place in the gleaming convention center that sprang up four years ago in the state capital’s mostly deserted downtown.
A crowd of 2,500 packed the hall. The city councilors and other dignitaries, most of them African-American — Jackson, a city of 177,000, is 80 percent black — sat on the dais. The local congressman, Bennie Thompson, officiated. The outgoing mayor, Harvey Johnson, the city’s first black mayor, wished his successor well. The Mississippi Mass Choir gave a jubilant performance of “When I Rose This Morning.”
Finally, Lumumba, 66, approached the podium, pulling the microphone up to suit his tall, lean frame. “Well,” he said, “I want to say, God is good, all the time.”
The crowd replied. “God is good, all the time!”
“I want to say hey! And hello!”
The crowd called back, “Hey! Hello!”
Then Lumumba smiled and raised his right hand halfway, just a little above the podium, briefly showing the clenched fist of a Black Power salute.