Lumumba uses words of Dr. King to inspire, challenge community

Published 5:32 pm Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Blacks in America need to look beyond the politics of race and work to have a greater voice in determining their future, people attending Monday’s Martin Luther King Memorial Celebration at the Vicksburg City Auditorium learned Monday.

The 31st annual event was sponsored by the First Mississippi Chapter of Blacks in Government, the Vicksburg Branch of the NAACP and the city of Vicksburg.

“We have to be honest as we assess this nation,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told the more than 100 people attending the observance. “We have to be honest in our critique and love this nation enough that we move from simply being the governed to the governor.

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“The role of black leadership in 2020 is to emphasize the issue of self-determination. The role of our leadership is to understand where we have to take this mission,” he said. “At one time our mission was to get leadership that looked like us. Now our mission must be to have leadership that thinks like us.”

Lumumba said people need to consider the issues as they discuss problems, adding, “I keep hearing that the economy is prosperous. The economy is prosperous; the pie is getting larger, but your slice is not.

“We have to reinvent how we consider what a prosperous economy looks like, what does that mean to our community and how do we strive to make what we see as a dignity economy — an economy that moves from cycles of humiliation to a cycle that identifies the apparent dignity in everyone’s life,” he said.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Lumumba said, was a prophet who understood there was more to the struggle for equality than race.

“Dr. Martin Luther King moved from a leader who more than merely made people uncomfortable about issues of race to identifying the economic pressures that leave us all shackled,” he said. “He threatened people’s way of building wealth and because he challenged it, and that is what ultimately made him dangerous.

“Most of us only know ‘I Have a Dream,’” he said, adding it is important that people understand King’s evolution that led him to look at the economic issues affecting blacks.

“We need to understand how people profit from the division of race, how people profit from exploitation,” Lumumba said, recalling the issues of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow laws meant to hold blacks back.

He also issued a challenge for the community and its leaders to do better for the next generation.

“If we truly want to leave something better than we received it and better for our children to enjoy, our goal has to be each and every day that we leave things better than we received it,” Lumumba said.

“And if we truly want to honor this prophet of God and build on what he taught us, then it’s important that we disrupt this American narrative that makes color synonymous with capital and move toward a more economically diverse unit of economics by and for the people as opposed to economics by a few people.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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