Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s ‘Evolved Man of the Week’ profiles. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved man, famous and non-famous men alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to the attorney, political activist, and the man dubbed “America’s Most Radical Mayor, ” Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
Jackson, Mississippi, has deeply steeped in that history. The city was all but burned to the ground by Union troops during the Civil War, and during reconstruction, the backlash from local whites was swift. Jackson was the home of the first Mississippi “red shirts,” a postbellum white supremacist organization served as the militarized wing of a broader “Mississippi Plan” to effectively purge black Mississippians from civic life through intimidation, violence and discriminatory “black code” and Jim Crow legislation.
This was part of why the state, and in particular the city of Jackson, became something of a flashpoint in the 1960s civil rights movement. Freedom rides destined for Jackson saw participants beaten and bloodied by mobs of angry whites. In 1963 Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers was shot and killed here. Its reputation as a bastion of white racism is part of what made the city attractive to a whole generation of black activists, like Lumumba’s father, who migrated from Detroit when Chokwe Jr was just five to try and create radical change.
But Lumumba also seems to embody some of the pragmatism and ideological flexibility of a second-generation radical. “Jackson is going to be a business-friendly city. We want business to come here and want you to make a lot of money. We want you to be rich,” Lumumba said convincingly. “However, we want you to invest back in our city. We’re looking for a reciprocal relationship where those businesses see the value in our city and see the value in the people in the city.”
Lumumba said that this flexibility was something he learned from his late father. Lumumba Sr is ever-present in his son’s administration. His photograph hangs in city hall just above where he spoke to the Guardian, and his former chief of staff, Dr. Safiya Omari, has reprised her role for Lumumba Jr.
Lumumba Sr was all his life, a committed Black nationalist and activist. He was an early disciple and leader in the Republic of New Afrika, a nationalist group founded in the 1970s that sought to build an autonomous black republic in the region where the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina sit, and to collect billions of dollars in reparations from the U.S. government for the wealth generated by U.S. slavery on the labor of enslaved black Americans. Interestingly, the group’s ambitious political aspirations were recently fictionalized for a forthcoming Amazon Studios series called Black America.
Lumumba is the current Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. While running for mayor, Lumumba soundly won the Democratic nomination, defeating incumbent mayor Tony Yarber and John Horhn, a state senator. As Jackson is a heavily Democratic-leaning city, Lumumba’s primary victory was likely to make him the next mayor of Jackson. Lumumba was endorsed by Our Revolution and the Working Families Party, and ran on a progressive platform promising to make Jackson “the most radical city on the planet.” He is the son of former mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who served briefly before his death in 2014. Lumumba has two children with his wife, Ebony. Lumumba received his bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Tuskegee University and his J.D. degree from the Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Lumumba was a featured speaker at the 2017 People’s Summit. Here is Mayor Lumumba in his own words:
“My vision is that the city uses its bully pulpit to encourage the development of cooperative businesses,” … “So it would be more than just a movie theater. The city wouldn’t own it—it wouldn’t be socialism in that sense. But we can write a check that will go into a nonprofit organization…”
Today we honor Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba as our Evolved Man of the Week.