Republic of New Afrika (RNA) is a government for the New Africa nation [link], and has around a million or more adherents, with thousands of Citizens.
Provisional Government - Republic of New Afrika website (2014) [www.PG-RNA.org] [archive.org], [facebook.com/PG.RepublicOfNewAfrika] [archive.today] (archived 2014-11-04).
Flag for the Republic of New Afrika (left), flag of the New Africa Nation (right)
Ministry of Defense Seal
Map published during 1972, showing the Kush District of the Republic of New Afrika, in preperation for the official RNA plebiscite for the People of the New Africa nation, which is an election for the declaration of sovereignty.
"The Black Declaration of Independence"
the Black People in America, in consequence of arriving at a knowledge
of Ourselves as a people with dignity, long deprived of that knowledge;
as a consequence of revolting with every decimal of Our collective and
individual beings against the oppression that for 300 years has
destroyed and broken and warped the bodies and minds and spirits of Our
people in America, in consequence of Our raging desire to be free of
this oppression, to destroy this oppression wherever it assaults mankind
in the world, and in consequence of Our indistinguishable determination
to go a different way, to build a new and better world, do hereby
declare Ourselves forever free and independent of the jurisdiction of
the United States of America and the obligations which that country's
unilateral decision to make Our ancestors and Ourselves paper-citizens
placed on Us.
We claim no rights from the United States of America
other than those rights belonging to human beings anywhere in the
world, and these include the right to damages, reparations due Us for
the grievous injuries sustained by Our ancestors and Ourselves by reason
of United States lawlessness.
Ours is a revolution against - Our
oppression and that of all people in the world. And it is a revolution
for a better life, a better station for mankind, a surer harmony with
the forces of life in the universe. We therefore, see these as the aims
of Our revolution:
----To free Black People in America from oppression;
----To support and wage the world revolution until all people everywhere are so free;
----To build a new Society that is better than what we now know and as perfect as man can make it;
----To assure all people in the New Society maximum opportunity and equal access to that maximum;
----To promote industriousness, responsibility, scholarship and service;
create conditions in which freedom of religion abounds and man's
pursuit of god and/or the destiny, place and purpose of man in the
Universe will be without hindrance;
----To build a Black
independent nation where no sect or religious creed subverts or impedes
the building of the New Society, the New State Government, or the
achievement of the Aims of the Revolution as set forth in this
----To end exploitation of man by man or his environment;
----To assure equality of rights for the sexes;
end color and class discrimination, while not abolishing salubrious
diversity, and to promote self-respect and mutual respect among all
people in the Society;
----To protect and promote the personal dignity and integrity of the individual, and his natural rights;
----To assure justice for all;
place the major means of production and trade in the trust of the state
to assure the benefits of this earth and man's genius and labor to
society and all its members; and
----To encourage and reward the individual for hard work and initiative and insight and devotion to the Revolution.
mutual trust and great expectation, We the undersigned, for ourselves
and for those who look to us but who are unable personally to fix their
signatures hereto, do join in this solemn Declaration of Independence,
and to support this Declaration and to assure the success of Our
Revolution, We pledge, without reservation, ourselves, our talents, and
all our worldly goods.
"Philosophy of the Republic of New Afrika"
Republic of New Afrika believes that Black People in Amerikkka make up a
nation of people, a people separate and apart from the Amerikkkan
people. The RNA also believes that as a nation of people, We are
entitled to all of the rights of a nation, including the right to land
and self-determination. The RNA further believes that all the land in
Amerikkka, upon which Black People have lived for a long time, worked
and made rich as slaves, and fought to survive on is land that belongs
to Us as a People. We must gain control of that land because land is the
basis of independence, freedom, justice and equality. We cannot talk
about self-determination without talking about land. Therefore, the RNA
identified the five states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia
and South Carolina as Black People's land. Gaining control of that land
is the fundamental struggle facing Black People who presently live in
the United States of America. Without land, Black Power, rights and
freedom have no substance.
The RNA asserts that Black People in
Amerikkka are not legally U.S. citizens. History is quite clear on this
point. In 1865, the 13th Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] recognized
the freedom of the New Afrikan (Black People) and left Us as an
unattached political entity rightfully settled on land that was claimed
by the U.S. Along with freedom, according to international law, came
four choices as to what Our political destiny would be. Number one, if
We wanted to, We could seek admission to citizenship in the Amerikkkan
community. Number two, if We so desired and if We could afford to, We
could return home to Afrika. Number three, if We so desired, We could
emigrate to (re-locate in) another country where We preferred to live if
that country did not object. And, number four, if We so desired, We
could and had a right to set up an independent state [Nation] of Our
own, and could legally do so on land claimed by the United States. We
had the right to do so because We had lived here long enough, worked
here long enough and fought here long enough to satisfy the requirements
laid out by international law. Additionally, establishing an
independent nation where We were was Our most logical choice because (1)
We had experienced self-government in this land before, (2) We could
not trust Our welfare and government to the people who had enslaved Us
and dreadfully exploited Us, and (3) most New Afrikans [Black People]
were unwilling and/or unable as a practical matter to emigrate to
another land or return to Afrika. Land in this country where the
ex-slave had already contributed his labor and blood, all as a result of
wrongful kidnapping, wrongful transport and wrongful exploitation was
the only logical and practical option left.
The RNA teaches that
the passage of the 14th Amendment was, in fact, a declaration of war by
whites and their government against Black People and the governments We
had established during the Civil War. White military expeditions against
and invasions of all the Black governments were begun, meetings and
conventions of New Afrikans [Black People] were attacked and banned, and
widespread white violence against Black People was approved and
supported by white governments. In spite of this, Black People continued
to seek self-government and land because they preferred government by
Blacks rather than government by whites.
Thus, independent land
for Black People is one of three cornerstones of the Republic of New
Afrika. The other two are (1) We, Black People, must internationalize
Our struggle, and (2) We must defend Ourselves.
"FREE THE LAND!!" Basic Policy-Provisional Government Republic of New Afrika
archived at [http://feedthepeopletumaini.blogspot.com/2013/09/basic-policy-provisional-government.html]
The Code of Umoja / Black Constitution (RNA) [http://feedthepeopletumaini.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-code-of-umoja-black-constitution-rna.html]:
and foremost, the Basic Policy of the Government has not changed. Our
policy as stated in the platform papers of December 1969 state:
basic policy of the government is to establish national strength
through sovereignty, effective international relations, and inherent
viability. Our position is that all the land where Black people live, in
what has been called "the continental U.S.," is our land, where we have
lived on it traditionally, worked and developed it, and fought for it.
This is the subjugated territory of the Republic of New Africa. Our
basic national objective is to free this land from subjugation: to win
The New Africans’ claim, by rights of heritage and
reparations, five states of the Deep South: Mississippi, Louisiana,
Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. In this area in many counties New
Afrikans/ /Blacks already constitute a numerical majority. One set of
these counties lies along the Mississippi River from Memphis to the
Louisiana border and constitutes a contiguous territory containing more
than 15,000 square miles – a territory which We call the Kush District ,
almost twice as large as the state of Israel. It
is here that the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa has opened its struggle for land and independence.
Guidance from Imari Obadele...
2004 Imari Abubakari Obadele wrote an Exploration: " The Struggle for
Independence And Reparations From The United States"; One important
reason that many New Afrikans still work for an independent Black state
is economic: it has to do with jobs for our people and meaningful
careers, the economic power to develop industry, science and world trade
- to stand on our feet as a nation-state with the respect of the world –
a respect now lacking."
He went on to state The Key things which We must do are these:
1. We must go into the streets and back roads, and make the following facts known to all our people.
New Afrikan nation grew up in North America during 200 years between
1660 and 1865, and We have continued to grow as a nation. The Black
nation, the New Afrikan nation, is now 300 years old.
Some of our
people, like Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, and Osborne Perry Anderson,
took up arms during slavery to help create a free New Afrikan
nation-state here in North America. Men Like Malcolm X and women like
Queen Mother Moore and Dara Abubakari, have kept alive this work. Today
the international law supports us. In 1968 500 Black people met in
Detroit and formed a Provisional Government for the nation. This "PG"
has the job of leading the struggle to Free the Land", the five states
of the deep south, and to build a powerful independent nation-state for
those who want it. This work is led today by President Alvin Brown and
P.C.C. Chairperson, Bro. Fahiym Ali. Provisional" is
2. Second, We must win
support of all Black people for the Provisional Government. The more
people use PG courts and support the independent Black foreign policy
the stronger will the Provisional Government and the work for
3. Third, We must organize people to
participate in a people’s vote (a plebiscite) for independence. We must
run this vote ourselves, in accordance with the international law, and
We must select polling places, create ballots, arrange for exact and
verifiable counting of the votes and, or course, organize people to
participate in all of this.
4. Finally, We must be ready to defend
ourselves politically and military against those who would try to keep
us from controlling the land after the vote. We must keep the will of
our people strong. At the same time We must keep up pressure for support
from the U.S. congress, from the United Nations and from countries all
over the world. In the end, provided that We persist, the United States
will have to make an honorable peace treaty with the Provisional
Government. The United States will be forced to recognize the
independence of our land, people, and government, the Republic of New
Afrika. We will then establish peaceful and prosperous relations between
our two nation-states, assuming that the United States does continue to
exist. With all this, We must begin to build schools, health centers,
media centers- and industry owned by the people, before independence .
THE NEW AFRIKAN CREED
Dated: 1969, With changes approved 5 May 1993
1. i believe in the spirituality, humanity and genius of Black people and in Our renewed pursuit of these values.
2. i believe in the family and the community and in the community as a family and i will work to make this concept live.
3. i believe in the community as more important than the individual.
i believe in constant struggle for freedom to end oppression and build a
better world. i believe in collective struggle in fashioning victory in
concert with my Brothers and Sisters.
5. i believe that the fundamental reason Our oppression continues is that We as a people lack the power to control Our lives.
6. i believe that the fundamental way to gain that power and end oppression is to build a sovereign Black nation.
i believe that all the land in America upon which We have lived for a
long time, which We have worked and built upon and which We have fought
to stay on, is land for Us to use as a people.
believe in the Malcolm X doctrine, that We must organize upon this land
and hold a plebiscite, to tell the world by vote that We are free and
our land independent, and that, after the vote, We must stand ready to
defend ourselves, establishing the nation beyond contradiction.
Therefore, i pledge to struggle without cease until We have won
sovereignty. i pledge to struggle without fail until We have built a
better condition than the world has yet known.
10. i will give my life if that is necessary. i will give my time, my mind, my strength and my wealth because this IS necessary.
11. i will follow my chosen leaders and help them.
12. i will love my brothers and sisters as myself.
i will steal nothing from a brother or sister, cheat no brother or
sister, misuse no brother or sister, inform on no brother or sister and
spread no gossip.
14. i will keep myself clean in body,
dress and speech, knowing that i am a light set on a hill, a true
representative of what We are building.
15. i will be
patient and uplifting with the deaf, dumb and blind, and i will seek by
word and deed to heal the Black family. To bring into the movement and
into the community, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters left by
Now freely and of my own will i will pledge this creed for the sake of freedom for my people and a better world.
On pain of disgrace and banishment if i prove false.
For i am no longer deaf, dumb or blind.
i am by the inspiration of Our Ancestors and the Grace of Our Creator, a New Afrikan.
"Chokwe Lumumba: New mayor, new era for Jackson, Mississippi?"
2013-08-19 by Askia Muhammad from "Final Call" newspaper [http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_100676.shtml]:
Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Lumumba delivers his inaugural address just after being sworn-in on July 1, at the Jackson Convention Complex. (A/P Wide World photos)
WASHINGTON - The seeds of an all new, progressive Black agenda committed to self-determination, self-governance, self-economic development were planted firmly in the fertile heartland of Mississippi July 1 when Jackson City Councilmember Chokwe Lumumba was inaugurated as mayor of the capital of the Magnolia state.
Mr. Lumumba’s electoral victory with 87 percent of the vote, ranks among the most important progressive political victories on a long list of important political leaders: Henry Wallace, the 33rd vice president of the U.S., from 1941-1945 who was the unsuccessful Progressive Party candidate for President in 1948; anti-war Congressional Black Caucus leaders Ron Dellums (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), as well as Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); along with anti-war activist turned California State Senator Tom Hayden; and of course Georgia State Senator Julian Bond.
When the mayor took office, he hit the ground running. He promised he would “get started toward our course of building Jackson and doing the things that we need to do to assure that the population of Jackson is entitled to economic and political prosperity and self–determination; and that we do things to ignite changes in Mississippi period.”
If successful, Mr. Lumumba’s ambitious plans may catapult this political veteran to legendary status like Chicago Mayor Harold Washington; Gary, Indiana Mayor Richard Hatcher who convened the historic National Black Political Convention in 1972; and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry who facilitated the historic Million Man March in 1995.
In 2014, Mayor Lumumba hopes to convene a 50th anniversary commemoration of the pivotal 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer when Civil Rights activists descended on Mississippi to help the historic voter registration battle being waged by Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, Lawrence Guyot, and others involved in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which broke the strangle-hold of segregationist “Dixiecrats” on the levers of power in Washington and among Democrats. He hopes that any victories achieved in that observance can be turned into permanent gains for Black folks in that state and throughout the country.
“What we want to do is be an inspiration to draw a bigger population from our relatives and other people who come from other parts of the country,” Mayor Lumumba told The Final Call. “And so, that gives us some opportunity. You change the numbers by changing the quality of life. If you take Atlanta, for an example, over a 10-year-period of time, from 1985 to 1995, 500,000 Black people moved to Atlanta. If we had that kind immigration into Mississippi, Mississippi would be well on its way to becoming what you and I talked about,” that is a “shining city on the hill,” a virtual “New Jerusalem.”
During his career as an attorney and as a participant, Mayor Lumumba has been steadfast and he has been successful, representing some of the most radical clients in the civil rights era, from members of the Black Liberation Army, including fugitive Assata Shakur, godmother of musician Tupac Shakur (who was also one of his clients); to Jamaican musician Buju Banton; among others.
Mr. Lumumba served as a vice president of the Republic of New Africa, which claimed the five contiguous Southern states—Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina—where a majority of the Black population resided in 1968 (and still resides today) as the home of what was to be the new “Black nation” in North America.
He is a cum laude graduate of the Wayne State Law School in Detroit, and is a founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Now, he is mayor of the capital of the state which gave the world Jefferson Finis Davis, a “stiff-necked, unbending, doctrinaire, and overbearing” former U.S. senator and secretary of war, who became president of the treasonous Confederate States of America.
The turnaround in the 150 years since the antebellum days is remarkable. Even before Mr. Lumumba was elected, Mississippi already had the largest number of Black elected officials—sheriffs, council members, mayors—of any state in the U.S.
From a political perspective, the new mayor is prepared to not simply govern the city effectively, but to also figure out “how do you bring African people and other oppressed people from a sense of powerlessness, to a sense of electoral power, and beyond that economic and social power.” His goal: transforming Mississippi from “the worst to the first,” in terms of demographic ratings of states in the U.S., statistics which put Mississippi below some Third World countries like Cuba, The Bahamas, the Philippines, and even Libya.
“I believe that we have to change, not just Jackson, but the state of Mississippi,” the mayor said. “That’s a question of quality—quality of performance—but it’s also a case of numbers. We here in Mississippi are 40 percent of the population according to the U.S. Census. That’s what they say.” It’s as though the seeds of a “Black Nation” have already taken root in the state where Mr. Lumumba is mayor of the capital city.
“We have 18 counties on the Western part of Mississippi, starting from Tunica in the North, not far from Memphis, going all the way down the Western side of the state to the Southwest, to Wilkinson County which is the last county in the Southwest—18 contiguous counties, 17 of them are majority Black,” Mayor Lumumba said.
He refers to that area as the “Kush District.”
“Some of (the counties) are as much as 80 percent Black. So, demographically we have a solid, a non-self-governing territory. What we need to do in that area—and actually what our people have begun to do, Mississippi has more Black elected officials than any state in the United States—and if we can now give that some political content, some direction in terms of what we want to do in terms of taking these electoral victories, these economic victories and teach the message that we know from long ago, of self-determination, of self-governance, self-economic development.”
His political strategy is to work from the bottom up, rather than from the top down, engaging citizens, young and old in their own advancement. In order to stem crime and troublesome behavior among young people he said: “One of the strategies is to just take the more affirmative approach.
“Rather than going to church, and yelling and screaming about it, complaining about it, rather than bad-mouthing the youth, my plan is to engage the youth, engage the youth in programs which will bring out what to do, rather than just emphasize what not to do. In the course of talking about what to do, you can always talk about some things that you shouldn’t do. We’re going to have summer youth programs here, and in those summer youth programs they’re going to have a chance to do some manual labor, help pick up paper on the streets, but another three hours of their day is going to be spent learning skills.” Skills, he said in law offices, medical offices, even in drama and literature programs, including what he calls “African Scouts.”
“This is going to do a great deal to help change the culture. We cannot dictate culture. Culture moves on. It is not a treasure that’s buried that you just go dig up from time to time,” he said. “Culture is a live organic thing that changes. But at the same time, the direction it changes has got to be guided by us who’ve been around a while and know the direction it should go in.
“So what I’m looking for is for them to come up with positive songs, for them to come up with positive expressions and ways to dress. We had our Afros and our dashikis, and all that kind of thing, and that would be nice, but if they have some other expression of African-self-hood, that would be fine too. I think that will help address the sagging pants and things of that nature.
“I’m finally also talking about adults taking some responsibility. The young people around here are a little more respectful than they are in other parts of the country. There are still problems. You go to a basketball game you come out and people are cursing like sailors, and those are the girls.
“As adults, we listen to it sometimes and don’t say anything, but we’ve got to say something. Most people are not going to shoot you because you say something to them about cursing. You just walk up to them and say, ‘Well look. I’m an older person here. Will you give me some of your respect? Will you show me some respect?’ And the times I’ve done that, they usually comply.
“If people don’t know there is some kind of ostracism in their community against behaving that way, then they’re going to behave that way, because that’s what they call fun. But we’ve got to try to reclassify what fun really is, and then we’ve got to become involved with our young people.
“Breaking into someone’s home, those are crimes against the people. You rape somebody, you shoot somebody in the head, that’s a crime against the people and there’s no kinship between those kinds of activities, and any kind of progressive activity, or any kind of freedom struggle.”
Mayor Lumumba employed this same strategy in winning a resounding political victory despite staunch opposition from ultra-conservatives with vast amounts of money—double what the Lumumba campaign had. “What they did was to try to infiltrate the Black community with political mercenaries who were trying to sell the candidate of the White Republicans. They were unable to successfully do it,” he said.
“We did direct action, door-to-door canvassing, talking to people. We started a year in advance. Even though we didn’t have the money, we did have the enthusiasm and the human power, because we had been organizing coalitions against things which were oppressive, and organizing coalitions in favor of progressive things like youth development programs, for years. That kind of coalition that we had, served us well. People on the street knew who we were, knew what we had done. What we represented was a movement, not just an individual running for office.
“We are impressed with the need to protecting everyone’s human rights. It’s not a question of us flipping the script. Our revolution is for a better idea, not just for a different set of faces. Our predominantly Black administrations can actually do better—to provide security to everybody, prosperity to everybody on a fair basis, and, of course, we’re going to be vigilant against the cheaters—but we think we can do a better job. We’re talking about the new society, the new way, and that’s a lot of what New Africa was about.
“Those were good ideas. We’re going to do it by lifting the bottom up.” Mayor Lumumba intends to do it, paraphrasing his governing theme from a mantra popularized by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey 100 years ago: the “new Jackson” will be, “One City. One Aim. One Destiny.”
"New mayor of Jackson, Miss., wants to create independent black nation in South"
2013-09-30 by Howard Portnoy [http://libertyunyielding.com/2013/09/30/new-mayor-of-jackson-miss-wants-to-create-independent-black-nation-in-south/]:
might call it racial progress. Jackson, Miss., has elected its second
black mayor (which is perhaps not that progressive considering that the
city is 80% black). Nevertheless, the inauguration was attended by a
crowd of 2,500 people and presided over by Bennie Thompson, a black
representative to the U.S. Congress. The Mississippi Mass Choir was on
hand to give a soul-thumping performance of the spiritual “When I Rose
But unlike outgoing black mayor Harvey Johnson, the
new mayor has big plans for the city. They are so big that they extend
to the entire state and to its neighbors to the west and east. Gateway
Pundit explains [thegatewaypundit.com/2013/09/new-radical-black-mayor-of-jackson-ms-lumumba-is-a-former-leader-of-republic-of-new-afrika-dedicated-to-transforming-south-into-an-independent-socialist-black-nation/]:
[begin excerpt] Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, born in Detroit as Edwin
Finley Taliaferro, is a radical activist…. He’s, also, being praised by
the Nation of Islam, who wrote in their publication, Final Call, that
‘the seeds of a black nation are already taking root in Mississippi.’
Lumuba — who raised his fist in a black power salute
during his swearing in ceremony while calling out, “Free the land!” —
is a former vice president of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA). The main
goal of this black supremacy group, founded in 1968, is to transform
five southern states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and
South Carolina) into an independent socialist black nation.
is also a co-founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a national
group that seeks self-determination for African-Americans — whom it
calls New Afrikans — “by any means necessary.”
as a revolutionary whose most immediate plans are to create a local
“solidarity economy,” Lumumba has some Jackson business owners worried.
Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, which is part of the
city’s “small but powerful white business community,” told Al Jazeera
[begin excerpt] I was absolutely scared to death of him [when he
announced his candidacy for the mayoralty]. Just about everyone I know
was. Because if you Google ‘Chokwe Lumumba,’ he has taken some very
controversial stances on some very controversial people that he’s
represented. And a zebra can’t change its stripes. [end excerpt]
"In Mississippi, America's most revolutionary mayor; Mayor Chokwe Lumumba is 'applying a philosophy against imperialism to the practice of repairing streets'"
2013-09-19 by Siddhartha Mitter from "Al Jazeera America" [http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/9/19/in-mississippi-americaasmostrevolutionarymayor.html]:
JACKSON, Miss. — On July 1, Chokwe Lumumba, an attorney with a long record of black radical activism, took office as mayor of Jackson. His inauguration took place in the gleaming convention center that sprang up four years ago in the state capital’s mostly deserted downtown.
A crowd of 2,500 packed the hall. The city councilors and other dignitaries, most of them African-American — Jackson, a city of 177,000, is 80 percent black — sat on the dais. The local congressman, Bennie Thompson, officiated. The outgoing mayor, Harvey Johnson, the city's first black mayor, wished his successor well. The Mississippi Mass Choir gave a jubilant performance of “When I Rose This Morning.”
Finally, Lumumba, 66, approached the podium, pulling the microphone up to suit his tall, lean frame. “Well,” he said, “I want to say, God is good, all the time.”
The crowd replied. “God is good, all the time!”
“I want to say hey! And hello!”
The crowd called back, “Hey! Hello!”
Then Lumumba smiled and raised his right hand halfway, just a little above the podium, briefly showing the clenched fist of a Black Power salute.
“And I want to say, free the land!”
Applause rang out, bells chimed, wooden staffs rose up and people shouted back, “Free the land!” That’s the motto of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), the movement formed in 1968 that sought to turn the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina into an independent black nation.
Jackson’s new mayor is a former vice president of the RNA and a co-founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), a national group born in 1993 that seeks self-determination for African-Americans — whom it calls New Afrikans — “by any means necessary.” Like many shaped by the Black Power era, Lumumba long shunned formal politics, until a successful run for City Council in 2009. Now, as mayor, he is seeking to apply the tenets of the black radical tradition to the duties of running a city.
“Nowadays you’ve got to call yourself a ‘change agent’ or something, or else you’ll make people scared,” Lumumba told me when I visited Jackson in August. “But I am a revolutionary.”
We met in City Hall, a handsome 1846 structure that was built by slave labor and spared destruction in the Civil War because it served as a hospital for both sides. The mayor had just come from a budget hearing before the City Council.
Lumumba was dressed in a dark suit, and his short white hair was discreetly combed over. He is a compelling speaker, prone to long answers, but with the orator’s gift for making complex ideas sound colloquial. He sprinkles his sentences with “all right, OK” and has a sharp sense of humor, which he used to biting effect on his opponents in the mayoral debates.
Raised in Detroit, he was radicalized by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1969 he began law school at Wayne State University, gave up his given name, Edwin Taliaferro, for the “free name” Chokwe Lumumba — honoring the Chokwe ethnic group of Central Africa and the Congolese revolutionary Patrice Lumumba — and joined the RNA in Jackson, leaving law school for two years to dedicate himself to the cause. After graduating, he set up a practice in Detroit and represented the former Black Panther leaders Geronimo Pratt and Assata Shakur.
Lumumba moved back to Jackson in the late 1980s, settling in middle-class Ward 2 with his wife, Nubia, a flight attendant, and their three children. (Nubia died in 2003.) He took on racially charged criminal defense cases in Mississippi, as well as out-of-town clients like the rapper Tupac Shakur. He tangled with the state bar, earning reprimands for, among other things, calling one judge a racist and saying another had the “judicial temperament of a barbarian.” He led the team that secured the 2011 release of the Scott sisters, two African-American women who had gotten life sentences in 1996 for an armed robbery that netted $11.
This background was a deterrent to some Jackson voters, particularly in the city’s small but powerful white business community when Lumumba announced his candidacy. “I was absolutely scared to death of him,” Ben Allen, the president of Downtown Jackson Partners, which represents real estate interests, told me. “Just about everyone I know was. Because if you Google ‘Chokwe Lumumba,’ he has taken some very controversial stances on some very controversial people that he’s represented. And a zebra can’t change its stripes.”
Lumumba’s volunteers got a cold welcome in the city’s mostly white, well-to-do northeast. “They slammed their door on us,” said MXGM activist Mike Walker, who helped run the door-to-door effort.
It was the Democratic runoff in May that decided the race (in overwhelmingly Democratic Jackson, the general election is a formality). Lumumba’s rival was frontrunner Jonathan Lee, a young businessman who had served as president of the Chamber of Commerce. Both had come ahead of Johnson, the incumbent who had held the office for 12 of the last 16 years, in the Democratic primary. Lee sought to portray Lumumba as out-of-touch and extreme, while Lumumba insinuated that Lee was beholden to white Republican interests. Exchanges between their supporters were equally unpleasant.
“Things got really, really ugly,” said C.J. Rhodes, the young pastor of Mount Helm Baptist Church, Jackson’s oldest black congregation. “Those last weeks of the campaign really tested friendships and loyalties.”
“There was the whole ‘Uncle Tom’ stuff, and the ‘You’re too radical’ stuff,” said Nsombi Lambright, a leader of the state NAACP who served on Lumumba’s transition team. “It surfaced some really deep-rooted issues in our community.”
Regina Quinn, an attorney who placed fourth in the primary, said she faced hostility from some of her backers after she endorsed Lumumba in the runoff. One of her campaign-event hosts vowed never to support her again.
“There are some wounds that need to be healed,” Quinn said. “It’s a small town.”
But Jackson’s small size also made it hard to successfully demonize Lumumba, who alongside his radical involvements and controversial cases was also known as a family man, youth basketball coach (he named his team the Panthers), member of the Word and Worship Church and neighbor.
“During the campaign, they raised all this hay about how he’s a radical,” said Melvin Priester Jr., a lawyer who won the election for Lumumba’s seat on the City Council and a childhood friend of the mayor’s daughter, Rukia. “Aside from wearing dashikis in the neighborhood, he was just a loving father,” Priester said. “I saw him as Mr. Lumumba from up the block.”
Besides, depicting a black activist as a radical doesn’t make sense in a place like Mississippi, said Priester. “From outside it’s easy to draw lines between the Republic of New Afrika and mainline civil rights organizations like the NAACP. But for black people in the South, there’s not so much a division, because even the most mainline, suit-and-tie-wearing activists were getting shot at.”
"People were looking at Lumumba as the radical, but they missed the fact that as an attorney and advocate, he made so many deep relationships over the years,” said Rhodes, who voted for Lee but spoke highly of both men. “He was able to speak to the mood of a number of disenchanted black working-class folk, who saw in him the one who finally comes and revolutionizes this chocolate city.”
The engine of Lumumba’s campaign was his grassroots operation, led by the same cadre of activists who ran his City Council race in 2009. For four years, these supporters have convened a quarterly People’s Assembly, a sort of town hall meeting, held in church halls and community centers around Ward 2. As councilman, Lumumba used this forum to hear constituents’ concerns and host meetings with various city department heads. Assembly regulars became natural volunteers for his mayoral race. They now intend to take the People’s Assembly citywide.
“The People’s Assembly is an independent body,” said Mattie Wilson Stoddard, its vice chair. “It was developed by the people, for the people, to enable the people.” Lumumba was the people’s candidate, Stoddard said. “But the time will come when there will be some small differences. We will hold him accountable.”
Lumumba’s core supporters espouse a program called the Jackson Plan, which the MXGM posted on its website in 2012. The plan’s aim is to “build a base of autonomous power in Jackson that can serve as a catalyst for the attainment of Black self-determination and the democratic transformation of the economy.” Many of the specifics are practical, even business-friendly — improving Jackson’s paltry recycling program; bringing hothouses and pesticide-free techniques to community gardens; building cheap, energy-efficient housing.
When I asked Lumumba how he planned to build a solidarity economy now that he is mayor, he gave a measured answer.
“You have more affluent folks who have businesses; we want to challenge them to invest in the less fortunate, to try to get people homes they can live in, to give them jobs,” he said. “Show them that they’re likely to get more city contracts, for instance, if they bring more subcontractors who they are developing and helping to expand our economic base, as opposed to the regular old suspects. We think we can do some solidarity with that too.”
Lumumba’s top challenge is Jackson’s infrastructure crisis. The roads are rutted and buckled. The water and sewer systems are beset by capacity issues, decaying pipes, and obsolete metering and billing systems. Water-main breaks and flooded streets are chronic. Poorly treated sewage spews into the Pearl River; last year the city signed a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency that binds it to a $400 million investment program to restore compliance. In January 2010, a cold snap caused 70 water breaks and the whole city had to boil water. Even in normal times, tap water often runs brown. Addressing these problems has been difficult in part because Jackson’s tax base is anemic. The population has shrunk by 12 percent since 1980, due to both white and black middle-class flight to suburban Rankin and Madison counties. Over 27 percent of city residents live in poverty.
By August, Lumumba was defending his proposed budget before the City Council. At $502 million, it represented an increase of 43 percent over the previous year, mostly due to capital expenses on infrastructure. One proposed source of funding was a large increase in water rates, by 29 percent, and sewer rates, which would more than double. “We can no longer kick the can down the road,” he told the council.
To raise funds, Lumumba has also set aside a campaign pledge. Under Johnson, the city asked the state Legislature to approve a one-cent sales-tax surcharge to go toward public works, but the plan stalled when the Republican-led Legislature demanded that a joint city-state commission control the funds. During the campaign, Lumumba opposed the commission, but as mayor he has agreed to the arrangement.
He had also objected to a $90 million contract that the outgoing administration had awarded to Siemens for water-system improvements, arguing that its costs were inflated. But it appears that he’ll likely let the contract stand.
“We’re not only worrying about Siemens; we’re worrying about the people that are going to be hired because of Siemens,” he now says.
Lumumba’s pragmatism has pleasantly surprised some skeptics. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve been impressed by this guy,” said Allen, the downtown development advocate. “He’s appointed some of his biggest rivals to his economic-development advisory team. I’m one of them. He’s a good listener. We’re hopeful.”
Lumumba’s focus on infrastructure investment is consistent with the core goal that has run through his political life, beginning with the RNA: self-determination. His emphasis on local empowerment and suspicion of outside authority are representative of his leftist politics, but when applied at the level of a city government, they’re compatible with some varieties of conservative thought as well.
“Dealing with infrastructure is a protection against being robbed of one’s self-determination,” Lumumba said. “We’ve seen what’s happening in Detroit, where the whole city has been taken over by the state. We don’t want that to happen here, so we want to conquer those problems. And we’re trying to expand the base of the population and the alliance which is trying to fight for this avenue for self-determination. We aren’t trying to create more enemies.”
Lumumba appears to be making more friends than enemies. In mid-September, the City Council passed his budget, including the rate increases, by a vote of 5-2. His election has also drawn enthusiastic offers from progressive advocacy groups eager to implement their vision in Jackson. “People are sending in all this stuff,” said Lambright, from the transition team. “A human rights charter, legalization of drugs ... It’s like, slow down!”
When it comes to outside interests, Lumumba is cautious. “Our philosophy is that the people must decide,” he said. “I’m not going to turn away from that to give people who may be revolutionary in some other context an inordinate amount of authority here.” Succeed or fail, the Jackson experiment, as Lumumba sees it, will occur on Jackson’s terms.
“I think I’m going through an experience which can help the movement,” he said. “Testing our ideas, working our ideas in real situations. Applying a philosophy against imperialism to the practice of repairing streets.”
"Mayor looking for radical change in the Deep South"
2013-07-01 by Jim Dee from "Belfast Telegaph" [http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/news-analysis/mayor-looking-for-radical-change-in-the-deep-south-29384680.html]:
The US Supreme Court last week struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, raising concerns that decades of advancements in battling discrimination and racism in America's deep South might be undermined.
Meanwhile, deep in the heart of Dixie, one of the most radical black politicians ever to hold office in America was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi in early June – a victory achieved 50 years on from the of slaying of a black civil rights activist who'd championed black voting rights in the same city.
On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson home. The killing sparked national outrage and helped spur many across America into involvement in the struggle for black civil rights. The passage of the Voting Rights Act two years after his assassination was one of the crowning achievement of the civil rights era.
The Supreme Court's decision to invalidate a provision of the law that required states with past histories of discriminatory voting practices to seek the permission of the federal government before altering their voting laws is seen as a huge blow by minority voting rights advocates.
In Jackson, Chokwe Lumumba's election wasn't a shocker, because of the fact that he was black. It's had a black mayor since 1997.
Jackson is 80% African-American.
Lumumba's election is stunning, because he is openly and avowedly radical on social and economic issues in a way seldom seen in American politics.
During the 1970s and early-1980s, he joined others in espousing the creation of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), an independent and predominantly black country in the southeastern US.
The RNA movement also called for the US government to pay several billions of dollars in reparations for slavery.
In his campaign literature and in news media interviews, Mayor Lumumba stressed that his economic program will incorporate principles of the "solidarity economy". Solidarity economy is a umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of alternative economic activities, including worker-owned co-operatives, co-operative banks, peer lending, community land trusts, participatory budgeting and fair trade.
Chokwe Lumumba defeated his opponent Jonathan Lee, an African-American and fellow Democrat, by winning a whopping 87% of the votes and he'll get a chance to start implementing some of his economic plans this month.
In these uncertain times, there are no guarantees that Lumumba's tapping of "solidarity economy" ideas will work. But, in these days when Washington seems bereft of any new ideas about how to revive the country from its economic doldrums, at least Chokwe Lumumba is willing to think and act creatively.
And, judging by the margin of his victory, it seems clear that he's not the only one hoping for radical change in Jackson, Mississippi.