Chokwe Antar Lumumba was sworn in as mayor of Jackson, Miss., July 3, 2017. He ran as a Democrat and won by a landslide. The day before, my friend Azusa Nishimoto, a visiting professor of African-American Literature from Japan, and I had the pleasure of talking with him and his wife Ebony in Jackson. We were there touring the many historical sites associated with the Civil Rights Movement, including Medgar Evers House and Mount Helm Baptist Church, the oldest Black church in Jackson (1835). We also visited the former site of the headquarters of the Republic of New Afrika. In 1971, the new mayor’s father, Chokwe Lumumba, was second vice president of the RNA, an African-American nationalist organization. Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson in 2013. He died in office the following year.
We talked with the new mayor at a picnic in Westside Park, arranged by his staff to meet and greet those who voted for him and those who didn’t. Celebrating unity was one of his major themes. The mayor talked about his priorities, including reducing Jackson’s high poverty and crime rate. Foremost on his agenda is to create a “progressive police force that will be a model for the country.”
Lumumba and his wife invited us to his swearing-in and the inaugural ball being held the next day. Unfortunately, we had to decline as our plane to New York was leaving the next morning.