New Yorkers shocked by passing of great activist Mayor Chokwe Lumumba
Nayaba Arinde | 2/27/2014, 10:13 a.m.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the grassroots movement was stunned by the news of the sudden and unexpected loss of warrior attorney and Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Lumumba at the age of 66.
The nationally known activist died at St. Dominic’s Hospital, reportedly due to heart failure.
Known and beloved throughout the Black nationalist community as an attorney, Lumumba was also a member of the provisional government of the Republic of New Afrika. As a lawyer, he represented the likes of Tupac Shakur many times, and he secured the release of sisters Jamie Scott and Gladys Scott from a controversial Mississippi prison sentence.
City officials were visibly moved as they addressed the press and spoke of the great loss of a man who was elected in July last year.
“It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that our beloved brother, human rights activist and mayor of this great city, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, passed away this afternoon,” said Safiya Omari, Lumumba’s chief of staff.
Bishop Ronnie Crudup prayed at City Hall and declared, “Lord, he was a good man, a man who had vision, vision for the city.”
Lumumba was determined to turn Jackson around. As he fought to address rebuilding the infrastructure of the city, he stressed, “[The] role of solidarity is central … for the economic transition of what is to what must be. We open for business.
“We are the right people in the right place at the right time to make a revolutionary change … that’s where we are,” Lumumba once told Laura Flanders of GRITtv in Jackson City Hall.
While in New York for Councilwoman Inez Barron’s inauguration in January, noting the phenomenal migration of people down South, particularly Atlanta, he encouraged New Yorkers to come down to Jackson help build it and be a part of a new movement. He said, “Jackson is rising.”
“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of my comrade in struggle, the people’s mayor of Jackson, Miss., brother Chokwe Lumumba,” said community activist and former New York City Councilman Charles Barron. “He was a true revolutionary who had an undying passionate love for his people. Brother Chokwe had a humble spirit and a deep uncompromising commitment to our liberation. He was a hard worker.
On behalf of my wife, Councilwoman Inez Barron; my sons, Jawanza and Jalani; and all the brothers and sisters in our movement, we thank you, brother Mayor Chokwe, for coming to New York to be the keynote speaker for Inez’s inauguration. It warmed our hearts to hear you say how much you loved us and how proud you were to be the first mayor of Jackson, Miss., [and] to be the recipient of a New York City proclamation. It is comforting to know as you make your transition, you will be joining your beloved wife, Nubia A. Lumumba; Tupac Shakur, whom you represented; and your hero Malcolm X. Job well done, my brother! Rest in eternal peace! Aluta continua!” [ED: Is “aluta” one word or two? I’ve seen it both ways]
On Jan. 3, new Brooklyn City Councilwoman Inez Barron held her inauguration at City Hall, and Lumumba was her keynote speaker.
In a terrible storm that pretty much shut down much of the nation, during which New Yorkers were told to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary, Lumumba flew in all the way from Jackson. When asked why he braved the elements to make the journey, Lumumba told the Amsterdam News, “Anytime that we can get a strong warrior who has proved herself throughout the years fighting for the interests of our people, it is important that we recognize that, that we support that and encourage other people to follow in her footsteps.”
When asked how she managed to get Lumumba to leave his city hall in deep Mississippi to keynote her inauguration, Barron told the Amsterdam News,“Well, he and Charles [Barron, husband] have a long-standing relationship through the struggle over the 30-40 years that they have been working on different issues together, and when we started planning this program, I said ‘Charles, I want Mayor Chokwe Lumumba to come.’ He said, ‘He is busy running the city.’ I said, ‘Let’s call him and ask him.’ And he said that he would adjust his schedule and be here.
“We have been blessed by what he has said and shared with us. He educated the people, he elevated the people and he showed them that you can be consistent and faithful to your mission and still advance the cause in politics.”
It was a packed event, and it was the last time Lumumba was in New York City, but he was greeted with love and affection. All kinds of everyday people were there—activists and officials from the December 12th Movement’s Viola Plummer and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
When news of Lumumba’s death broke, Facebook and Twitter lit up with instant commentary.
Writer Basir Mchawi declared, “With brother Chokwe Lumumba joining the ancestors, it is clear that we are in a full-fledged health crisis. Brother Obalewa [ED: Full name?] left us a few days ago, and someone dear to us all has entered the last chapter. When 2013 ended, I thought we might get a break, but the cycle that seemed to begin last year continues. I spoke with Baba Amiri a week before he entered the hospital. Obalewa called me from the Brooklyn VA hospital less than two weeks before he joined the ancestors. Where are all of our healers? It is time for us to come together. When will we be prepared to treat our own sick and wounded?”
“I learned about Chokwe’s death through an email from the National Conference of Black Lawyers. I was devastated. I have known him since 1981; we have worked together, he has stayed at my house many times, our children grew up knowing each other,” said fellow activist attorney Michael Tarif Warren. “Here was a man who had a background in the nationalist movement and was a member of the provisional government of [the Republic of the] New Afrika, and when he got into politics and even became mayor, he never forgot his roots. He understood that you can become a part of the traditional political structure and not stray from your original perspective and philosophy. He was determined to build up Mississippi in such a way that the people benefited. It is a great loss which I feel personally.”
Activist Rosa Clemente said, “‘Grief, grieve’—a word we tend not to use as we try to remain strong in a time where strength alone won’t see us through this horrible moment. It’s OK for us to grieve the loss; that is all we are required to do at this moment, nothing more.”