Chokwe Lumumba, the radical Black activist who rose to become mayor of Jackson, Miss., is dead at age 66. Lumumba was just the second Black mayor of the southern city, and one of the most visible members of the Black revolutionary movement to hold political office of a major city. Mayor Lumumba died on Tuesday (February 25).
Lumumba, born Edwin Finley Taliaferro on August 2, 1947 in Detroit, Mich., graduated with his undergraduate degree from Kalamazoo College in 1969. During his time there, Lumumba involved himself in Black radicalism. Like many other young people at the time, he changed his name to Chokwe Lumumba to honor Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba and a Central African ethnic group. While at Wayne University Law School, Lumumba joined the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) and served as its legal counsel before becoming the vice president.
After a raid on the RNA headquarters in 1971, a shootout ensued leaving one officer dead. Lumumba and president Imari Obadele were not on the scene, although Obadele found himself charged with conspiracy later. After returning to Wayne University, Lumumba graduated with honors and began to take on high profile cases of fellow Black radicals. One of his most prominent cases was working with late revolutionary Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt.
Lumumba later moved to Jackson, all while promoting a non-violent approach to Black radicalism and an elimination of gang violence. Because of his political past, the Jackson Bar Association took three years to allow him to practice law in the city. Working as a public defender, Lumumba took on cases for those who could afford and became known for championing on behalf of people of color.
In 2009, Lumumba would win his first elected position as a city councilman. Lumumba was beloved by many in the city which was largely populated by Blacks. There was tension, however, regarding some of his outside involvements. Lumumba never severed his ties with the Black revolutionary movement, often speaking at various engagements and helping to form coalitions in major cities in the South.
Lumumba was sworn in as Jackson's mayor on July 1, 2013, facing little in the way of opposition. However, despite his ties, Lumumba reached across various channels to bring the city together. Many of his supporters say the mayor was helping bring Jackson forward as a city and was seen largely as a unifier.
Jackson Council president Charles Tillman was sworn in as acting mayor the evening of Lumumba's passing.
Photo: Natalie Maynor/http://maynor.net