Documents Shed More Light on Lumumba Mural Removal | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Documents Shed More Light on Lumumba Mural Removal

Documents the city provided to the JFP also show that the city spent $323.92 on paint and supplies to remove the mural. In addition, the city's 311 call center received six anonymous complaints on April 3 and April 4 protesting the mural's removal, records show.

Documents the city provided to the JFP also show that the city spent $323.92 on paint and supplies to remove the mural. In addition, the city's 311 call center received six anonymous complaints on April 3 and April 4 protesting the mural's removal, records show. Photo by Trip Burns.

The city received "numerous, relevant telephone calls," related to a painted tribute to late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba before its removal a week ago. But because the complaints were not made through the city's 311 hotline, it is not possible to determine who made the complaints, according to the city's response today to an open-records request the Jackson Free Press filed April 7.

The documents include one City Parks and Recreation Department vandalism report for the park in the 100 block of High Street, sometimes also referred to as Monument Street Park, that lists the approximate date of the incident as Feb. 27, two days after Lumumba's death, and being reported to the police department more than one month later on Wednesday, April 2. The documents also include one accident/loss report filled out by a parks department maintenance employee that states the brick walls at the park were "damaged by graffiti."

The issue came to the fore prior to the Tuesday special election for mayor, when supporters of Chokwe A. Lumumba and his late father began to ask whether there were political motivations behind the painting's removal. Some believed the mural was tantamount to a campaign billboard for Lumumba on city property.

City officials, including all three of the city council members who ran for mayor, dispelled rumors that taking the painting down was a political hit job. Each of the council members who ran for mayor denied having anything to do with the tribute's removal.

Rukia Lumumba, the late mayor's daughter, said afterward that the dismantling of the painting saddened her.

"The mural was painted prior to my brother's decision to run for Mayor and absent my family's request or knowledge. That is why it was especially hurtful and came as a shock to learn that the mural was painted over due to complaints," she wrote in an open letter to Jackson citizens.

But defacement of city property with graffiti of any kind is prohibited by the city's code of ordinances, which officials say forced them to act.

In a statement, interim Mayor Charles Tillman explained: "It came to our attention that one of our city-owned parks had been painted with certain words, slogans, and designs that had not been authorized or permitted by the City. Consistent with our policies and City ordinances, the painting was removed."

Tillman added: "In continuing our quest to honor the memory and legacy of our late Mayor, our actions, in this instance, were in keeping with Mayor Lumumba's high moral and ethical standards that we were fortunate to experience."

Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps told the JFP last week he does not know who complained about the mural to get it brought down, but that Tillman likely felt the city should remove it as a precaution ahead of what could be an tight and potentially testy special election.

"We shouldn't have been in this place. I don't think this (the mural) was a big enough issue to be contested," but someone could have used it to demand another election, he added.

After the ballots were counted, Lumumba finished in first place among 13 candidates just nine votes ahead of Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber to force an April 22 runoff.

Documents the city provided to the JFP also show that the city spent $323.92 on paint and supplies to remove the mural. In addition, the city's 311 call center received six anonymous complaints on April 3 and April 4 protesting the mural's removal, records show.

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msu_scrappy 6 years, 5 months ago

Personally, I work in the Woolfolk Building next to the capitol as a state employee and was happy to see the mural there, as I thought it added to the park, and was a nice tribute to the late Mayor. It was also a well done mural and looked nice. Who doesn't support the words "peace and unity in the streets".

However, the city does have a right to clean up the parks, even if you are opposed to painting over the mural. The article might could point out the city probably could have better spent the $320 elsewhere on park cleanup, given the number of parks in the city.

However, it is not a story worthy of the JFP's two-story (at least) investigative reporting, especially when there are more important issues in the city of Jackson, and in this election.

As Ms. Mott recommended in another article, please focus on the bigger stories of importance and not trying to make a story out of nothing.


donnaladd 6 years, 5 months ago

msu-scrappy, you are entitled to your opinion, of course. But R.L. and I exercise the news judgment in this building (which is 13 floors up now, thank you very much!), and we put only so much credence into posts such as yours that you don't believe in enough to sign your name to them.

The issue in our reporting on this has never really been over the question of whether the mural was (a) art, (b) permitted or (c) should come down, even though we're having to report on that, too, including the letter by Mayor Lumumba's daughter, Rukia, who was upset by it. That is news, whether you want it to be or not.

It is even more important when sitting city council people warn, as Mr. Stamps did, that candidates could be threatening to challenge the election due to a mural dedicated to our mayor who just died painted in a park. Whether it was permitted correctly was/is irrelevant to that conversation.

Whether you like it or not, our readers have the right to know if such strong-arming is occurring, and it is our responsibility to investigate it, which has not exactly pulled us away from the various other reporting we're doing at the same time. To borrow from your post, I sit in a corner office on the 13th floor of Capital Towers looking down on City Hall, and I don't want someone who engages in trivial trickery and strong-arming to run it (should that turn out to be the case).

So complain all you want, but it will not keep us from doing our jobs and seeking as much information and context as needed to report the story well -- which is exactly what Ronni's story that you hated so much called for.


js1976 6 years, 5 months ago

As of now it's only speculation that someone was threatening to challenge the election, so please tell me where the strong arming is because I have yet to see it.


Turtleread 6 years, 5 months ago

I am reminded of the following: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” — attributed to Mark Twain.


sarahmina 6 years, 5 months ago

I think the complaints about the mural were petty, ignorant, and politically motivated (if not by one of the other candidates themselves, then by their supporters). This was a memorial to a beloved MAYOR of the City of Jackson - not his son, not some innocutous image, and not to promote the political aspirations of a candidate, and not to disrespect ANYONE else.. It was a tribute to a man who died and was loved by so many in this city. EVEN IF there is an ordinace against graffiti on city property, I would challenge the use of the word "graffit" to describe a memorial/tribute. It was tasteful and expressed the soul of who this mayor was. If someone worried that a tribute to the Mayor would have encouraged people to vote for someone other than them, too bad. It just shows how shallow and insecure they are.

At the VERY LEAST, members of the city Council could have called the family and indicated their delimma and the possible removal of the memorial instead of hiding behind some obscure ordinace. It would have been the "RIGHT" thing to do. It would have shown character, integrity and decency. We need to demand more of our elected officials. .


AllisonReid 6 years, 5 months ago

I think its sad they took it down for multiple reasons. One being that it is actually a peace of art. There was nothing derogatory or hateful about it. Two, that I believe Mayor Lumumba was heading this the right direction with our city and it could have been a good reminder to the next Mayor. Lastly, and this one hit close to home for me, because there are so many more worse things spray painted (not art) all over the play equipment at city parks. Communities work very hard to raise money and build playgrounds for their children. It’s sad to see that the City didn’t put money into fixing the problems that make the parks look worse and instead used it to cover up a very nice tribute to a former leader of our City.


jwslyde 6 years, 5 months ago

I personally thought the wall looked better with the mural. However, if it was considered to be graffiti by the law, why no arrest? Who painted it? Shouldn't they at least pay back the costs of repair? Why don't y'all investigate that?


justjess 6 years, 5 months ago

It is a great possibility that Antar Lumumba could become Mayor of the City of Jackson. To justify this "ART" painted on City property, inadvertently, sets the stage for others to do the same. Every citizen in Jackson did not have warm fuzzy feeling about Mayor Lumumba.

My point about the possibility of Lumumba's son becomming mayor is only to say that this could be the beginning of playing by the rules. The legal issue here can not be based on emotionalism. Think about it: What will be said or done when John or Jane Doe paints a picture of their love one because he/she was "loved by so many". This is at best a can of worms and removing it , in my opinion, was the right thing to do. Wrong was painting it without permission.


seanbolton 6 years, 5 months ago

Sean Bolton here. I commented last week in favor of the mural and was disappointed that someone had complained. However, when I learn better I have to say better. I started researching to build ammunition against the city or who ever complained and learned that the painters did not receive city approval to paint the park. Therefore it violated city ordinance, city policy, and state law. I was lead to believe by some of my friends that this mural had been there for some time and was "approved" by somebody. It was not!

JFP stated that rukia didn't know about the mural. If that's the case then how did it end up on lumumbas commercial. Did he not tell his sister? Who told him? When did they ask/tell the city? The more JFK reports the more questions I have.

The proper thing to have done was for the creators to present their ideas to the city council and the city then they would bring up the matter for a public hearing. Once the community decides that they agree to the change of the parks decor, then the council would bring it up for a vote. Once the council gives the mayor the authority to change the park, the commissioned artist then and only then can be given permission to paint the agreed upon mural in the agreed upon manner within the park. Even then the mural has to be painted in compliance with city policy. After figuring all this stuff out, I wish they had made it a public painting because then I could have been involved with my youth group.

Im starting to see the posturing. DL, let's not give people the chance to exploit this by saying that Lumumba doesn't Stand firm on city policy/ordinance as it relates to this park. Laying emotions aside the question is, was painting over a publicly funded city park that all tax payers have claim to proper or not?


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