The Challenge in Jackson Mississippi: to Govern or to Transform?

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

The political organization of Jackson's first Mayor Lumumba was divided. Some wanted to embed themselves in Mississippi's black political class, while others aimed for a far reaching transformation of the local economy, relying on collective uplift and cooperative enterprises. It's been three years. The eyes of black and working class America are on Jackson Mississippi once again. Will the city be merely governed, or will it be transformed?

The Challenge in Jackson Mississippi: to Govern or to Transform?

Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Chokwe Antar Lumumba, son of Chokwe Lumumba, the late mayor of Jackson Mississippi won that city’s Democratic mayoral primary yesterday. The 34 year old lawyer who failed to win election for his father’s unexpired term in 2014 is is expected to win the June election and be sworn in on July 1.

Some time ago, Cooperation Jackson’s Kali Akuno described the challenge of the first Lumumba administration, which lasted only 8 months, as whether to merely govern the city, or to attempt to transform it. That challenge divided the first Lumumba administration, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Organization to which Mayor Lumumba belonged as well. The examples of Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore and many other places certainly provided roadmaps for black governance in which African American politicians, their contributors, contractors and cronies could embed themselves in the Democratic party to secure their fortunes and careers putting black faces on the policies of austerity, privatization and class war against the majority of their constituents.

But in Jackson Mississippi, quite a few of Mayor Lumumba’s partisans were committed to another path. They wanted a road of mass uplift by collective struggle, popular education, and cooperative ownership. At the time of his death, the struggle between these factions was far from resolved.

In a way, I recall Akuno saying back in 2014, the initial defeat of Chokwe Antar Lumumba might have been a good thing, as it caused many who wanted merely to govern, to embed themselves into Mississippi’s existing black political class to fall away. We can only hope that the forces of transformation utilized the intervening three years to study, to experiment and to develop new cadre and institutions which will better enable them to show us a new road to urban economic development, a road that uses more than just the votes of the masses, a road that relies on solidarity and collective uplift instead of the hypocritical meritocracy embraced by the black political class.

The eyes and the hopes of black and working class America are on Jackson again. Will Jackson begin to show us how cities and economies are transformed, or merely governed. It’s a lot of pressure, but I bet they’re up to it.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Ga Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.