Mayor Chokwe Lumumba joins the ancestors
“Free the Land”
Detroit native son Chokwe Lumumba, mayor of Jackson, Mississippi joined the ancestors Feb. 25, 2014. He was 66.
“It is with a heavy heart, that we inform you our beloved brother, civil rights activist, human rights activist and mayor, Chokwe Lumumba has passed away,” said Lumumba’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Safiya Omari in a press statement.
The mayor died of heart failure, according to hospital representatives.
Lumumba was a prominent human rights attorney rooted in Black radical and militant philosophy. He became a lawyer because Malcolm X believed we were oppressed not because of civil rights but human rights, according to former Detroit city council member Kwame Kenyatta, who left Detroit to work in the Mayor Lumumba’s administration.
Lumumba was born August 2, 1947 in Detroit, Michigan as Edwin Taliaferro, and changed his name in 1969. He took his name from an African tribe that resisted slavery and his last name from African independence leader Patrice Lumumba.
“In African tradition, we must lift up his name,” said attorney Jeff Edison longtime friend of Lumumba. “We must continue to call his name and call his work and he will be with us always and an inspiration to us all.”
Lumumba was mentored by Rev. Milton Henry founder of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) which sought reparations for Black people and creation of a separate government in slave states. As vice president of the organization, he relocated the geographic base of the organization to Mississippi.
“We have lost a fighter, a leader and his legacy will live on forever. Not just the community of Jackson but the community of the world because Chokwe took on causes that were worldwide,” said Detroit Attorney Adam Shakur.
“He was a Malcolm (X) man,” said former city councilwoman and community leader Joann Watson on Mildred Gaddis’ Inside Detroit. “He was a revolutionary to the highest extent, he was a lawyer. He didn’t just talk it he walked it.”
Watson also recalled that Lumumba represented General Laney, the owner of the only Black-owned gun shop in Detroit, when now Mayor Mike Duggan, who was Wayne County Prosecutor at the time, tried to close the shop. Lumumba won the case that went before the Michigan Supreme Court.
Lumumba graduated from Wayne State University Law School and founded the Malcolm X center at the school. He also founded the Malcolm X Community Center on Dexter in Detroit.
The Mayor most recently persuaded Jackson voters to approve a 1-cent local sales tax to help pay for infrastructure improvements including crumbling roads and an aging water and sewer system. Kenyatta said the tax would also go to creating jobs and improving pubic safety. He noted the tax would go in effect March 1, 2014.
After his election, he was asked how he was elected mayor, with radical politics. He responded: “(The victory) is a tribute to our consistency. Refusal to say we would bow to the oppression that is around us. …With that persistency people are now ready to move to a different level of development.”
Kenyatta said he believed Lumumba would ask people to continue his work by asking, “Aren’t you a revolutionary?”