When it became obvious that the 25,000-square-foot room was not going to have enough seats to accommodate an overflow crowd at Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and the Jackson City Council's inauguration ceremony Monday afternoon, the staff at the Jackson Convention Center scrambled to set up an extra 300 or so chairs.
When those seats ran out, people stood along the walls.
At least 2,000 Jacksonians from all walks of life came to take part in an inauguration ceremony that included performances by the Mississippi Mass Choir and opera singer DeAnna Tisdale, as well as speeches from Lumumba and Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of late civil rights icon Medgar Evers.
Lumumba was fiery in his delivery and long on the breakdown of his policies.
"With me, what you see is what you get," Lumumba said to wild applause. "People have said a lot about me being too radical or too militant, all that stuff. If you get to know me, I'm a pretty nice guy. But I'm passionate. I'm passionate as a lawyer, and I'm passionate as a human being."
Lumumba announced he will nominate Deputy Police Chief Lindsey Horton to head the Jackson Police Department, and Willie Owens to serve as Fire Chief for the Jackson Fire Department. Lumumba said afterward both were chosen because of their experience and credentials, but also because they commanded respect among their fellow colleagues.
Evers-Williams, who followed Lumumba, spoke about Jackson and the state of Mississippi.
"We're moving towards a time when people will say, 'Jackson, Mississippi, I've heard of that place,'" Evers-Williams said. "'But now I know about it, and I love it.'"
Lumumba was stoic as he took to the podium after being sworn in, but slipped easily into comfort when talking about the familiar subject of race.
"I'm overwhelmed to see all the folks that came out here today," Lumumba said. "I am reminded that this is the 50th year plus some weeks now, after the death of our wonderful brother Medgar Evers. As we know, our brother Medgar gave his life for our right to equality. … It's really not so much how he died… it's his life that gives his death great significance.
"It's precisely that story that brings us here today. At a wonderful moment where we are prepared to recount where we've been and where we've come and what we've done and where we must go. He who does not know his history is bound to repeat it. It is also so important that we are now joined by all the men and women who are here of good will and good mind, in order to forge this unified city as we move forward into the future."
Lumumba addressed his biggest perceived weakness, his relationship with Jackson's white business community, by saying Jackson will be business-friendly, but not for gentrification. Lumumba called gentrification "nothing more than a war on the people who already live in the community."
"(Jackson) needs to be a global city, and we want that to be our image to the rest of the world," Lumumba said. "We're open for business, y'all, but we're going to do it right. If you want to come to Jackson and set up a business, then you better be ready to hire the people of Jackson. If you're going to work in Jackson and develop in Jackson, you better be ready to hire contractors in Jackson. We don't want to use our tax dollars to send them to some other communities."
The newly inaugurated mayor left the crowd with a call to action to become ambassadors for Jackson.
The mayor's swearing in was preceded by the inauguration of Jackson's seven city council members. Five council members – Quentin Whitwell (Ward 1), LaRita Cooper-Stokes (Ward 3), Charles Tillman (Ward 5), Tony Yarber (Ward 6) and Margaret Barrett-Simon – re-upped their pledges, while Melvin Priester Jr. and DeKeither Stamps took their first oath of office to represent Ward 2 and Ward 4, respectively.