ERICTOUREM -Contributing Writer-
JACKSON, Miss. – In the wake of losing Mayor Chokwe Lumumba after only seven months of leadership, a mourning city now sees a growing field of candidates for an April 8 special election for mayor. One of the candidates is his son.
In an exclusive interview with The Final Call, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, 30, announced his intention to become Jackson’s next top political leader.
“Chokwe means hunter it’s the name of a tribe that comes out of the Angola region, which resisted the slave trade. Antar means warrior and poet. I was named after a friend of my father’s, who died while trying to save a sister from drowning. And Lumumba means gifted–it comes from Patrice Lumumba (former President of the Congo). Powerful names; a lot to live up to,” said the youngest son of Chokwe and Nubia Lumumba, who passed away in 2002.
“I believe that even though my father was a great man, this journey was never about an individual. It is, was about the people–so the people’s platform and the people’s will still need to be heard. We are running on a platform of compassion, justice and human rights,” said Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
“More importantly he is equipped,” commented his sister and attorney Rukia Kai Lumumba. “There is no person here that I can think of at this point and time that could really carry on my father’s vision for this city, for Mississippi and hopefully for this United States,” she told The Final Call.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba was a managing partner of Lumumba and Lumumba for six years until the ascension of his father to mayor in May. He is a graduate of Calloway High School in Jackson. His undergrad work was completed at Tuskegee University, in Tuskegee, Ala., and he obtained his law degree from Thurgood Marshall Law School in Houston, Texas. The main focus of the practice is criminal law. Atty. Rukia Lumumba works with the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services in Jackson.
The younger Lumumba’s bid, according to The Jackson Free Press, is expected to receive strong endorsement from city council members. Over two days of memorial services and a March 7 funeral there were many calls for the son to take on the mantle and cause of his father.
At Final Call presstime, speculation grew as to who else might seek to convince the city’s Blacks and business sector of their ability to move Jackson forward. Harvey Johnson Jr., first Black mayor of Jackson, announced March 10 his plans to retake the office as Ward 2 City Councilman Melvin V. Priester, Jr. was on the verge of sharing his mayoral aspirations.
Mr. Johnson served two terms and lost in the Democratic primary last May to Mr. Lumumba, who won the general election.
Mr. Priester is a first-term councilman who was appointed president of the city council in March.
“What you got to worry about now is that some Uncle Tom doesn’t get in, who will take us back to the days where you have all of this money that should help Black businesses and young Black people with jobs–but instead it trickles out to people that don’t look like us and who have no love for the city of Jackson,” said Jackson County Supervisor Kenny Stokes. “All they are going to do is come here and rape the city of Jackson and take that money out to other areas,” he cautioned.
Jackson City Clerk Brenda Pree, according to published reports, said about 10 people picked up papers needed to run for mayor. All filing qualifications must be met by March 19.
“I understand that there is a learning curve. There was a learning curve for my father. I believe proper leadership is understanding, what you know, what you can’t do and understanding what you don’t know and not be too proud to seek the answers,” said Atty. Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
“I think now it’s necessary that we continue the vision and the work of the people. It’s too critical. We cannot leave that in idle hands or with people who do not understand the principles which must guide our leadership and guide our people.”
Just one week before the late mayor’s burial, the city of Jackson’s capital funding project coffers was filled. Hundreds of millions of dollars are on the books. Officials estimate over the next two years dollars available to the fund will grow to $1.7 billion due to a city mandated one percent sales tax.
The funding, which Mayor Lumumba fought for, allocates money to a true peoples coalition, according to those close to the late mayor. The intent is to improve the city’s infrastructure, support businesses and, in a first, rehab some Black neighborhoods.
“Chokwe told me, ‘Kenny, I’m getting ready to put about $1.7 billion on the street’,” recalled Mr. Stokes, who has fervently called for the late mayor’s son to run for the seat. “His thing was to bring Black people from all over the country to this city. He wanted to create an environment like that of Atlanta under (former mayor) Maynard Jackson. We were going to make it where people had jobs.”
Mr. Stokes said one of the first things Chokwe Lumumba did entering office was give young people jobs cleaning streets in a city that is close to 80 percent Black. “He wanted to take Jackson, Mississippi from last to first. And he was slowly doing it,” said Mr. Stokes.
“Everybody was in favor of getting the money. Everybody has a difference of opinion as to how it is to be spent. And that’s what politics is. Politics is the study of who gets what, when, where and why. That’s when you really get to the true heart of being principled in what must take place. The enemies of that are many,” Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “Greed. We live in a world that so many have so little and so few have so much, right? So those are the enemies to any economic issue. … We want to make certain that we distribute the resources appropriately to everyone. And we want to make certain the contracts we get here are in the interests of building Jackson.”
“It can’t just be about bringing businesses here and it can’t be just about bringing companies here. It has to be about companies that want to come here. We want them to grow and make money here, but we want them to also give something back to Jackson. That way Jackson can sustain itself down the line.
“We have to be dedicated to that which really creates a better circumstance than our people yet know,” added Chokwe Antar Lumumba.