“When Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, passed away in February, he left behind a blueprint for combating poverty and promoting sustainability in America’s post-industrial cities.
In his brief tenure as the mayor of a red state capital, Lumumba projected a vision that drew on green futurism, urban resilience
planning, the co-op rich Mondragon region of Spain and the tradition of participatory democracy. Lumumba rooted his plan for Jackson in the same radical democratic analysis that guided his decades of activism. He was determined to build a city with clean water, community-owned renewable energy, racial justice, a transparent budgeting process and a wealth of green jobs.
Lumumba’s vision, summarized in a document called Jackson Rising: Building the City of the Future Today , elevated unglamorous sectors with huge potential to impact the economic realities of the urban poor and working classes, like sewer infrastructure, energy efficiency and food. For Lumumba, economic growth was a process of creative experimentation in which rare corporate forms like worker cooperatives were combined with staid sectors like public works to create a political-economic reality that departed from the norm.
In Jackson Rising, Lumumba stated his commitments unequivocally, promising that his administration “would govern in accordance with human rights principles and standards… to create equity for all.” He cited a litany of ills underlying the urban condition, including, “decades of economic divestment, deindustrialization, suburban flight, a declining tax base, chronic under and unemployment, poorly performing schools, and an antiquated and decaying infrastructure.”