Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, 1947-2014
Nearly thirty years ago, a young brother and I were discussing the importance of the American Civil Rights Movement in the cause for African independence on the hill next to the Cafeteria Building at Jackson State. Near the end the brother invited me to come to a rally that weekend on Martin Luther King Dr, in a building named the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination. There were many speakers that day but the headliner was a tall, handsome, smooth baritone-voiced attorney that invoked the audience to "Free the Land!" before and after he spoke.
The brother that invited me to the rally introduced me to the speaker. We engaged into a good discussion about politics and my future in it. His final advice to me was that I, and several other young men that were in attendance, were too intelligent to waste our intellect and talent on politics. How ironic it is that the same articulate, wise man that gave us that advice turned out to be one of the best political organizers the city of Jackson has ever seen.
Chokwe Lumumba was a mentor to me and a supporter of mine politically. When I had stepped away from politics in 1992, it was Chokwe and Ali Shamsideen that pulled me back in to help organize the People's Convention. It was Chokwe that led us to stand against the KKK and run them off in 1990. Chokwe was one the voices that kept us focused on the bigger picture, reminding us that our obligation as public servants was to literally serve the public and demanded that we do it in a dignified, structured manner.
However, in all honesty, one the biggest regrets I will have in my life is that politics eventually dimmed our relationship. I watched Chokwe from afar as he set forth his agenda while maintaining his commitment to remain one with the people. It was good that we still communicated occasionally and though we were not as close as we once were, I was devastated at 5:30 pm, February 25, 2014 when I heard the stunning and sad news.
Chokwe Lumumba was a good man. He was also a great champion for the people of this city and beyond. His reach will continue long after his passing through all the lives he touched. His legacy will be one to admire and emulate. Most importantly, to all of us, his presence will be missed.
Kwaheri brother Chokwe.