After Death of Radical Mayor, Mississippi's Capital Wrestles With His Economic Vision

On his way into work every morning, Chokwe Lumumba, the late mayor of Jackson, Miss., used to pass a historical marker:  “Jackson City Hall: built 1846-7 by slave labor.”

The building, like the city around it, came into being when African American lives didn’t count for much. Unpaid black workers created Mississippi’s plantation fortunes; as recently as the 1960s, their descendants were still earning $3 to $6 a day as sharecropper farmers. Today, black Jacksonians are almost 10 times as likely as white residents to live in poverty or surrounded by it. There’s no need for a historical marker to trace the roots of the city’s enormous wealth gap. The question is how to narrow it.

Mayor Lumumba had a plan. Believing that history of a new sort could be made here in Jackson, he sought to use public spending to boost local wealth through worker owned cooperatives, urban gardening, and a community-based approach to urban development. His vision, developed over years in social movements, not only prized black experience and drew on the survival strategies that black Americans had come up with over the decades, but also set out to prioritize in the city’s policies the very people who until now had been on the bottom of the state's list. The goal, he said, was “revolutionary transformation.”

Read the full article at Yes Magazine