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NYC reflects on Chokwe Lumumba’s legacy

AUTODIDACT 17 | 4/3/2014, 10:48 a.m.
Baba Adeyemi Bandele, Charles Barron, Rukia Lumumba, and Rev. Herbert Daughtry Photo by Bill Moore

The lifetime achievements of elected revolutionary Chokwe Lumumba, who became an ancestor on Feb. 25, were commemorated on Saturday, March 29 at Brooklyn’s House of the Lord Church (415 Atlantic Ave.) as a legion of activists, comrades and relatives paid homage to his legacy.

“I always admired Chokwe’s ability to maintain that revolutionary manner in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds,” expressed Jonathan Davis, representing the National Conference of Black Lawyers. “I admired his ability to go into the lions’ den with an implacable spirit and unregretful indignation to carry on a just and righteous struggle against oppression.”

N’COBRA’s Nkechi Taifa recalled meeting Lumumba in 1975 and how the Republic of New Afrika’s minister of justice consistently advocated for reparations. Said Taifa, “Chokwe had a choice as to what his position in life was going to be. … Was he going to work in the interest of his people … or was he going to work against those interests? That’s what his entire career was about.”

A letter from political prisoner of war Sundiata Acoli was also read. In the letter, Acoli said, “In his own way, he was filling the shoes of Malcolm X, who once wanted to be a lawyer. That caused many of us to wonder and visualize … what type of lawyer Malcolm X may have been.”

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Rukia Lumumba speaks at her father’s memorial

A message from Mutulu Shakur, who Lumumba once represented, was also recited. Shakur said of Lumumba, “He lived a life where every major decision was politically motivated in establishing his political ideology and action. … he was of the best of us. He will be missed dearly, but his footsteps will be seen all on the sands. Free the land!”

Colleague Safiyah Elijah recalled witnessing the defiant attorney try many cases and spoke about his unique court presence: “There’s nothing like seeing Chokwe walk into a courtroom wearing a dashiki and ask the jury to stand, then ask them all to raise their hand in a Black Power fist and say … ‘Are you going to follow the law as the judge, and I, will instruct you?’”

Dr. Makungu Akinyela from the New Afrikan People’s Organization explained: “Chokwe saw the strategic goals of the New Afrikan People’s Organization for self-determination, self-reliance and self-defense—the need for a people’s nation to be able to rise up. He took the best lessons of Malcolm X as Malcolm taught us in ‘The Ballot or the Bullet’ and understood that when you can build a people’s movement and win elections, you’re learning how to run a nation.”

A message from Mumia Abu-Jamal was read. Abu-Jamal said, “He [Lumumba] never stopped fighting for the freedom of Black people!”

Activist Charles Barron mentioned how Chokwe visited New York City this past January to be present for his wife Inez’s inauguration as a council member, then stated: “Chokwe understood that we had to keep everything in our arsenal … in our fight for liberation. The electoral arena was a tactic, a strategy … he knew that clearly. For him to get elected as an uncompromising revolutionary in Jackson, Miss., is one of the most revolutionary actions that was ever committed.”

Lumumba’s daughter, Rukia, shared some youthful moments with her parents, then closed by saying, “To see my father and mother stand strong, it instilled in us a long time ago something—that no one can stop us. It took that fear away from us a long time ago. So we weren’t scared to stand up for what we felt was right, because we knew we had to stand up and fear wasn’t going to hold us back.

What my father used to say is, ‘The task may be difficult, but you don’t stop ... you get down and you work harder!’ So that’s what we have to do. Instead of giving up and stepping back and saying it’s too much, it’s too hard … get up, stand up, be stronger and fight harder … because the victory will come … that is a must!”