Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BHM: Chokwe Lumumba


"There are some people historically who have always tried to separate the populations and to have a certain portion of the population oppress the rest of the population."

Lumumba was born Edwin Finley Taliaferro on Aug. 2, 1947. He attended Catholic schools, followed by Kalamazoo College and law school at Wayne State University. His political consciousness awakened early. An early memory, he said, was his mother showing him a photo of the mangled body of Emmett Till, the black boy who was murdered in Mississippi at age 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. But he became radicalized in the wake of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., while he was in college. Discarding his “slave name,” he took the name Chokwe Lumumba, honoring a Central African ethnic group and the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba.

A longtime black nationalist organizer and attorney, Lumumba had been described as "America’s most revolutionary mayor." Working with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Lumumba advocated for participatory democracy and the creation of new worker-run cooperatives in Jackson. Over the past four decades, Lumumba was deeply involved in numerous political and legal campaigns. As an attorney, his clients have included former Black Panther Assata Shakur and the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur. As a political organizer, Lumumba served for years as vice president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization which advocated for "an independent predominantly black government" in the southeastern United States and reparations for slavery. He also helped found the National Black Human Rights Coalition and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

Lumumba believed that dealing with infrastructure was a radical act that would secure the city’s autonomy and protect it from the kind of takeover that befell Detroit, his birth city. But his vision extended further. It encompassed cooperatives, recycling, alternative energy and other tools to create a “people’s economy” with local investment and employment.

Lumumba was the most prominent leader of a major city to come from the black revolutionary movement. Tragically less then a year after being voted in as mayor of Jackson, MI he passed away on February 25, 2014.


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