Some people were introduced to Mayor Chokwe Lumumba as this combative, aggressive man of militant values. Some knew him as the father to two children who raised them alone after the death of his wife. Many knew him as Tupac's attorney. The rest knew him as the short-lived mayor of Jackson.
Jackson is starving for improvement. We know this because we continue to see groups forming all over the city to save us from crime, lack of leadership, complacency, etc. There's always something to fight for and someone willing to point out the imperfections. Often, communities end up fighting against each other all for a common reason—to make Jackson better. It's a great cause, no one will argue that, but our means to the end has caused us to make little to no traction. I credit our dear mayor for working hard to bridge these communities and bring the effort to unification.
When I heard the news of his departure from this earthly life, like many, I prayed instantly that it wasn't true. I prayed for his children. No matter how old you are, losing a parent is costly to your soul. Then, most persistently, I prayed for Jackson and the children of Jackson—all of us. We lost a soldier in Brother Chokwe. Our city lost an ally that decided that even if he wasn't in the best of health, he'd fight until he couldn't any more for us; for Jackson.
It's no secret that I didn't vote for him, but once he took office, he was just as much my mayor as he was of those who campaigned for him. The night he won, I accepted him as our city's leader, and I rooted for his success as I would have for anyone who took office. I committed to supporting his vision for this city, just as any dedicated Jacksonian would. I believed in "One city, one aim, one destiny."
I remembered hearing his name ring through my household as a child when my father and his friends talked about the movement and the struggles of Jackson. His legacy was formed before he decided to take Jackson into his hands and lead us to a better course.
It didn't take long for him to show what his leadership would bring to the city.
Not too long ago, maybe one or two generations back, leaders understood the definition of the word a little better than we do today. Leaders gave of themselves and their livelihood to help coming generations. You see, leaders didn't lead for popularity sake; to win elections; to have their picture in the paper. They recognized that the attention being placed on them alone could cost them their lives and thus, the revolution itself.
I believe Mayor Lumumba to be from that school of thought. True leaders do not seek fame before improvement. Leaders do not put their agendas before the people. Leaders do not thrive on controversy. Leaders do not make spectacles of themselves for a press headline. Leaders create and put into action plans that will improve the lives of all people and generations to come.
Leaders don't stop leading when the election is over. Leaders don't pop up only during election year. Leaders lead even when there is nothing to win except the people's prize. Leaders are willing to be unpopular for the betterment of their people. They are willing to make decisions that may not be comfortable for all, but prove better in time. They are willing to put themselves to the side, so that the people may unite and rise together. Leaders are ready to give up their lives and their level of comfort for the future of those led by them.
I'm honored to have been able to see true leadership, even if just briefly.
Now I pray that we are careful and remain dedicated to the city. While we are mourning, we also must think of what's to come for our city. You may not have liked where Lumumba came from or the message he brought, but he demanded respect for his experience and expertise in leadership. He demanded respect for his willingness to listen and to encourage the next generation to become leaders and to utilize their gifts to build this city. He was a leader, and he earned our respect.
As we prepare to send Brother Chokwe Lumumba off to that revolutionary celebration beyond, I graciously take from his time here on earth that being a leader means being selfless. May our next mayor be as determined and selfless as Chokwe Lumumba.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood.