Take a Breath, Jackson | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Take a Breath, Jackson

It's been a tough week for Jackson. Right after we sent our last issue to the printer, we got the news that Mayor Chokwe Lumumba had passed away. This was devastating for our city and all of us who respected him immensely. He had defied many predictions and united the city in a way we'd never seen. He will be missed.

Meantime, as we approach Lumumba's wake and memorial service, which should be a reverent and peaceful reprieve from Jackson-style dirty politics, many people are jostling both to speak for the Lumumba family and to tell us all who we should and should not vote for on April 8 to replace him.

Then there is the downright sensationalism stoked by Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes and various Facebook sages pushing the notion that the mayor was murdered (even though no one yet has revealed a lick of proof). Meantime, the family has made it clear to us (because, unlike many media outlets, we asked them) that they have no evidence to support that notion.

It has been an open secret for a long time that Lumumba's health was precarious at best—and perhaps even "infirm" as one JFP staffer speculated during the mayoral campaign.

Lumumba deflected questions about his health when we've asked; thus, we could not report as fact that he was gravely ill, without private medical records proving otherwise. We still await a clarification of his exact cause of death, and what he suffered from and how long, which his family and medical practitioners owe the people who voted for him.

Still, it is completely irresponsible for both elected officials and supposedly "real" media outlets to spread the rumor that Lumumba was murdered. This will only instill fear and distrust in a traumatized electorate—which could be the purpose. Newspapers and television stations should know better: Our job is to investigate evidence of such an accusation, not throw it out there hoping it helps with shrinking ratings and readers. (It is "sweeps month," after all.)

Let's be clear: To date, we are not aware of any evidence that Mr. Lumumba died of anything but natural causes, and his family has not indicated otherwise. We also support the idea of an autopsy with results fully and promptly revealed to the public he served.

We also admit dreading another brutal city election after the mess the last one became. We urge candidates to honor the late mayor by, finally, engaging in the kind of campaign that lifts our city up—and that doesn't involve nasty flyers thrown in yards or left under windshield wipers. It also needs to include a commitment to full and timely disclosure of campaign donations by all candidates and PACs.

Put simply: The Jackson public has been through enough. It's time to stop trying to scaring us into voting against someone and instead run clean, adult campaigns so we can choose the next best leader with solid information. Mayor Lumumba helped us all grow up a bit as a city; let's do him the honor of continuing that path to maturity during this special election.

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