For those of us living far from the South, discussions of Mississippi may make us recall the Civil Rights Movement, some period in time we now think more likely relevant in a history book. But believing that couldn't be more wrong. On April 8, there will be a special mayoral election in Jackson, Mississippi and it has implications for all of us.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the son of the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba who was an attorney revered nationally by human rights advocates the world over and who died suddenly in office on February 25, is running. Like his father before him, Chokwe Antar believes in and has the support of his father's closest allies and citizens across the city. Together they are seeking to continue the former mayor's legacy, which was to demonstrate before the world what a people-led, democratically governed city looks like. A Lumumba-led Jackson will serve as a model to municipalities across the country.
The late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who was propelled into office in June of 2013 by some 87 percent of the voters in Jackson, was lauded at the time of his death as having done more in eight months than many had done in eight years. In covering the late mayor's funeral, the New York Times captured his impact when they quoted former Mississippi governor William Winter, who memorialized the mayor by saying "'Based on the stereotypes this old White man had formed about (Lumumba), I thought that he would divide our city. I was wrong. The strong leadership of Chokwe Lumumba has opened the door to a bright future for us.'"
I, as well as democracy-loving people across the nation do, support Chokwe Antar's candidacy because his work with his father as an attorney, on the campaign trail and as an foot-soldier for that which is just and compassionate, assures us that he will carry on the Lumumba legacy.
He does not do so alone.
Chokwe Antar takes up the mantle of leadership after deep council with family and the late mayor's closest political advisors in government and life. A senior partner in the successful law firm that his father built, Antar was instrumental in defending the people of Jackson, most notably in his work to free the Scott Sisters, who had been incarcerated for some 16 years of a life sentence for their widely disputed role in a robbery in which no one was hurt and 11 dollars were reportedly stolen.
There is ground to lose if Chokwe Antar is not elected. I think of the racial profiling ordinance his father worked to pass in his role as councilman. Its application must be defended and assured. I think of the funding for improvements too long neglected roads and other areas of infrastructure that Mayor Lumumba was able to achieve through a one percent tax increase agreed to by elected officials from both sides. And I worry, having heard the news that a mural of the late mayor created out of love after his death, was painted over, reportedly because it would remind voters too much of him and unfairly elevate Chokwe Antar's campaign. We already see that without right-minded leadership, already there are those seeking to redact the voice and expression of the people — indeed the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of speech.
Because I believe in justice, because I believe in compassion, because I believe in freedom of speech and because I believe in the demonstration of all these things, not the for-camera proclamation; and because I stand with the hundreds who gathered in the rain when he announced his run with his sister, Rukia Lumumba who declared, "My father was the guide. My brother is the light," I support the candidacy of Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
And so should you.