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TitleCasting Shadows: Chokwe Lumumba and the Struggle for Racial Justice and Economic Democracy in Jackson, MS
TagsMississippi Jackson Reconstruction Era Capitalism Political Theories
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Page 1

CASTING SHADOWS

By Kali Akuno

ROSA
LUXEMBURG
STIFTUNG
NEW YORK OFFICE

Chokwe Lumumba and the Struggle for Racial Justice
and Economic Democracy in Jackson, Mississippi

Page 2

Table of Contents

“As the South Goes…So Goes the Nation.” By the Editors.............................................................1

Casting Shadows

Chokwe Lumumba and the Struggle for Racial Justice and Economic Democracy
in Jackson, Mississippi.....................................................................................................................2

By Kali Akuno

Contextualizing the Initiative.......................................................................................................3

A Short History of Black Resistance in Mississippi...................................................................4

Developing the Jackson Plan.......................................................................................................7

Building and Sustaining the People’s Assembly.........................................................8

Engaging Power: the Administration of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.....................................10

Policies Pursued and Lessons Learned.....................................................................13

The Chokwe Antar Lumumba Mayoral Campaign..................................................15

Cooperation Jackson and the Struggle to Create Economic Democracy.............................16

Cooperation Jackson’s Sustainable Communities Initiative...................................18

A Just Transition in Service of Sustainable Communities.......................................21

By Way of Conclusion................................................................................................................23

Published by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, New York Office, February 2015

Editors: Stefanie Ehmsen and Albert Scharenberg
Address: 275 Madison Avenue, Suite 2114, New York, NY 10016
Email: [email protected]; Phone: +1 (917) 409-1040

With support from the German Foreign Office

The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation is an internationally operating, progressive non-profit institution
for civic education. In cooperation with many organizations around the globe, it works on democratic
and social participation, empowerment of disadvantaged groups, alternatives for economic and social
development, and peaceful conflict resolution.

The New York Office serves two major tasks: to work around issues concerning the United Nations and
to engage in dialogue with North American progressives in universities, unions, social movements,
and politics.

www.rosalux-nyc.org

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KALI AKUNO
CASTING SHADOWS

12

ba served as a city councilman. The first issue
was fighting to save Jackson’s public transpor-
tation system and to expand its services and
increase the wages of its workers. This was not
only a fight against neoliberal austerity but a
battle to address an ongoing structural weak-
ness in Jackson that served a broader public
good. Jackson, like a lot of midsized Southern
cities, has an inadequate public transporta-
tion system. Most people have to own their
own vehicles to get around, and in a city with
high concentrations of poverty, transportation
costs can be exorbitant for an average worker
making minimum or barely above minimum
wage. This struggle also aided the elderly, who
constitute a high percentage of the population,
and the disabled. This approach, of fighting a
proposed cut of a public good with a proposed
expansion of it, resonated with broad sectors
of the working class and highlighted key mate-
rial differences in our approach and concerns.

The second issue was the passage of an ordi-
nance against racial profiling. This ordinance
was intentionally designed to address two re-
lated issues: the proposed adoption of policing
strategies that would further criminalize and
imprison Black people; and other xenophobic
measures that were being proposed on a mu-
nicipal and state level to detain and deport un-
documented immigrants. The measure forced
a conversation about the repressive nature
of the state, the need for “Black and Brown
Unity,” and common unity of various commu-
nities in fighting the forces of white suprema-
cy in the surrounding counties and the state.
The measure passed because of how it was
framed, galvanized working and professional
sectors in the Black, white, Latino, and immi-
grant communities, and demonstrated that
they had common interests and common en-
emies. From our vantage point, these prepara-
tory battles must not only help bring together
and build broad sectors of the community, but
must also have the ability to educate, as well
as instruct and/or prepare the masses for fu-

ture struggles. By educate we mean raise the
awareness and consciousness of the people.
By instruct/prepare we mean that the battles
to advance these measures must build the
capacity and organizational strength of the
people to engage in further fights and become
transformative agents.

3. Operational Fronts

Since the early 1990s, with the emergence of
the first formulation of the Jackson People’s
Assembly, the New Afrikan People’s Organiza-
tion has been keen on building alliances and
coalitions that are as operational as they are
political. Operational here means that each or-
ganization in the front plays a designated role,
and not just in the coalition but in the broader
arena of social struggle against white suprem-
acy, economic exploitation, and state violence.
Building an alliance or front in this manner
helps to avoid unproductive competition with-
in the movement and advance a division of
labor that builds interdependent and vested
relationships. It has also enabled us to devel-
op long-term and deep political commitments
to move beyond “least common denominator”
platforms that are typical of alliances. The Peo-
ple’s Platform, which was developed in 2009
under the leadership of the People’s Assembly
and adopted by all of the strategic allies in our
various operational fronts, is the clearest ex-
pression of the depth of these relationships.

A key to our Operational Fronts approach,
which has further enabled us to pursue the
mass-question approach of making transition-
al demands, has been the construction of three
different but fundamentally inter-related bod-
ies: the Popular Front, the United Front, and the
National Liberation Front. We conceive of the
Popular Front as a big tent in the fight against
white supremacy, fascist aggression, and oth-
er forms of economic and social reaction. It is
intentionally constructed as a multi-class and
multi-national (or racial) front that seeks to

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KALI AKUNO
CASTING SHADOWS

13

address all of the aforementioned issues on
the basis of the highest level of unity possible.
Meanwhile, the purpose of the United Front
is to build and maintain strategic fields of en-
gagement with various social forces with bas-
es in the working class and involved in explicit
working-class struggles for jobs, higher wages,
better working conditions, and to counter the
policies and strategies of mass repression and
incarceration employed to subjugate the work-
ing class. It is critical to note that in Mississippi
most of these social forces are not unions or
worker centers, although both are represented
in the front, but rather churches and commu-
nity organizations. Finally, the National Liber-
ation Front is a multi-class front of New Afri-
kan or Black forces focusing on the broad and
multi-facetted struggle for self-determination
for people of African descent.

Policies Pursued and Lessons Learned

In terms of policy, in assuming that we would
occupy the mayoral office for one term at the
very least, we prioritized the pursuit of insti-
tuting transformative policies, as we deemed
their impact would be the most enduring and
enabling legacy of our administrative term.
During this term, we aimed to accomplish
the passage and institutionalization of the
following:

1. Make Jackson a sustainable city centered
on the production and use of renewable
energy sources and “zero waste” produc-
tion and consumption methods.

2. Support cooperatives and cooperative
development in the city, including but not
limited to the creation of a cooperative in-
cubator in the city’s department of plan-
ning and development and the creation of
a cooperative start-up loan fund.

3. Mandate strict local hiring policies for city
contract awards to insure greater equity.

4. Enforce strong community benefit agree-

ments and reinvestment requirements
for corporations, commercial retailers,
and developers wanting to do business in
Jackson.

5. Expand and modernize public transporta-
tion systems in the city, including the sup-
port for rail projects and renewable ener-
gy fleets.

6. Expand public health services, particularly
guaranteeing access for residents to join
the programs of the Affordable Care Act
(which has largely been rejected by the
state government since its inception).

7. Expand the democratic scope of public
education, particularly changing policy to
make school board positions elected rath-
er than appointed by the mayor.

8. Create strong community oversight of the
police through a control board with the
power to subpoena, indict and fire officers
for misconduct or human rights violations.
Directly related to this, we also sought to
implement policies that de-criminalized
marijuana possession and use to end one
aspect of the “war on drugs,” which has
largely served as a war on the Black work-
ing class and produced the largest carceral
state on earth.

9. Create policies to institutionalize participa-
tory budgeting, so as to be fully transpar-
ent, better allocate resources, and deepen
democracy on a significant scale.

10. Institutionalize a Human Rights Charter
and Human Rights Commission to require
the city to abide by international norms
and standards of conduct and policy out-
comes.

All of these policies sought to institutionalize
certain aspects of the People’s Platform. The
aim of pursuing them was to create a more
sustainable city and more democratic space
in the municipality, to strengthen the organi-
zation of the working class, to transform rela-
tions of production, and to stop gentrification

Page 27

KALI AKUNO
CASTING SHADOWS

25

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Page 28

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