I felt like I was kicked in the stomach when Todd stuck his head in my office after the paper went to the printer today to tell me we were hearing reports that Mayor Chokwe Lumumba had died. Our photographer and news editor ran off to City Hall, which I can see from my office, and I took over mission control to try to confirm and get the news out.
But my hands were shaking. What happens to the city now?
What's remarkable is how much such a divisive figure was bringing our city together. Even though his ideas were rather, let's admit it, socialist, I've been hearing from conservatives every day about how much they like him. And over and over again, people would talk about how he was a "good" person and how he got along with so many different people.
We already knew that about him, even though our jury was out on whether his vision for Jackson was possible or workable. I've long liked him—ever since his attorney kicked me out of a rally for him in 2002 because I was white, and then Lumumba invited me back after I wrote a fair story about the attempt to disbar him. He was always respectful to me after that.
There is much to be said in the days ahead, but my overwhelming thought right now is whether we can maintain the detente that Lumumba—the tall brother with the little hat, you might call him—managed to bring to a city that was so terribly divided during his campaign, when it was believed by many that Jackson's future relied on making sure he didn't get elected.
The truth is, Jackson's future relies on all of us working together despite differences—something our city and state haven't been good at. I pray that we don't return to our old ways after his death. We need to learn lessons that he taught us.
Time will tell. For now, the Jackson Free Press sends prayers out to his family at this very difficult time. May peace be with them.