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Book Review

Grassroots progressives rise up in Mississippi


In 2013 Chokwe Lumumba was overwhelmingly elected mayor of Jackson, Miss., the largest city in the state and its capital.

Lumumba was a member of Republic of New Afrika, which fought to establish a new African American cooperative agricultural community in Mississippi in the 1970s. New Afrika faced police suppression.

Lumumba was a radical lawyer and a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

As Jackson’s mayor, Lumumba pushed for government contracts encouraging green worker and consumer cooperative development.

He won passage of a 1 percent sales tax to fund badly needed water, waste recycling and energy development infrastructure during his short tenure.

Lumumba’s sudden death in February 2014 after only seven months in office shocked his constituency. His death gave his opponents an opportunity to elect their choice for mayor in an election to fulfill his Lumumba’s term in office.

Then his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, took up the baton, ran for mayor and was overwhelmingly elected last year to implement his father’s programs.

After being sworn into office on July 3, 2017, Lumumba pledged to make Jackson “the most radical city on the planet.”

“Jackson Rising: the Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi” is an anthology of articles and speeches edited by Kali Akumo and Ajama Nangwayer, leaders of Cooperation Jackson, a non-profit organization founded to facilitate cooperative development.

In their articles they discuss the theory and strategy of cooperative environmentally-friendly infrastructure, urban and rural farming, and restaurants in Jackson and the surrounding African American majority areas of Mississippi and the South.

The collection also includes an essay on the massive Jackson Rising Conference, which brought together Jackson residents and union and other supporters from the around the world.

An essay by Jessica Gordon Nemhard traces the history of African American cooperative development, supported by luminaries, such as W.E.B. DuBois, Fannie Lou Hamer, and A. Philip Randolph.

Southern unions and political organizing have been a key focus of attention.

A look at the fight against Trumpism highlights victories in North Carolina, Virginia and Alabama.

To bolster the resistance, many have called for an anti-Trump agenda that includes Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a Medicare for All program.

Now the Rev. William Barber, a leader of the North Carolina NAACP and the newly formed Repairers of the Breach is reviving Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign on its 50th anniversary. The effort includes an aggressive campaign of rallies and civil disobedience to push for an updated anti-poverty agenda.

At the same time, DC 37’s national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is leading a campaign by public-sector labor unions in protests against Trump’s anti-union agenda.

The campaign highlights the connection between civil and labor rights by invoking the contributions of King 50 years ago to the fight of Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers on strike for a union. It was the last battle of his life.

Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba’s contribution to this renewal adds another dimension with a progressive re-awakening that has led to the building of our first municipal  cooperative commonwealth dedicated to the principles of democracy, human rights, workers’ power, environmental sustainability, and socialism.

Ken Nash is the former librarian of the DC 37 Education Fund Library, Room 211 at union headquarters, and co-host of WBAI Radio’s Building Bridges.