At Inaugural, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba Lifts Up Jackson

Mayor Chowke Lumumba and the new first lady, Ebony Lumumba, greet supporters at his inauguration on July 3, 2017. (Photo by Kelsee Ford)

By Kenyetta Brown

Early on this sunny Monday morning, I went with a team of Youth Media Project students to witness history inside the Jackson Convention Complex as our youngest mayor in the city’s history was inaugurated.

When I walked through those glass doors, I saw citizens looking their best. Women were wearing their colorful floral dresses, and men were in dashikis and business suits. They came from all over Jackson and beyond to see Chokwe Antar Lumumba, 34, be inaugurated as the capital city’s new leader.

I walked inside a large room full of positive energy and inspired citizens of Jackson awaiting the arrival of Lumumba and the new first lady, Ebony L. I sat listening to great jazz music by the Jessie Primer Quartet while people took their seats. I gazed at the red curtains on the stage with the City of Jackson’s crest front and center.

Soon, an a capella duo called SoulFruit took the stage to sing the first national anthem of the day, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Chokwe and Ebony Lumumba then took the stage, with the people of Jackson standing up and clapping their hands, with supporters chanting his name. “Lumumba! Yeah!!!”

The atmosphere of the room was ecstatic and pure. It was nothing but smiles and high spirits all around as 2016-2017 Miss Tougaloo Vershaune Stamps sang Lumumba’s favorite song, the classic “Summertime,” just after outgoing Mayor Tony Yarber was scheduled to introduce guests (but he didn’t show up).

After seven city council members took their oath of office, Lumumba officially became mayor. He put his left hand on the brown Bible his wife was holding, raised his right hand high and took the oath as Judge Latrice Westbrooks administered it.

Lumumba then gave an inspiring inaugural address. He talked about his father, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba Sr., who died less than a year into office four years ago. “A son only holds his father’s hand for a short while, but he holds his heart forever,” he said.

The son urged the people to get involved in lifting up the community. “Legacy is about the immortality of meaningful work,” Lumumba said. He added, “We have a city invested in the principle of human rights, justice and equity.”

The new mayor ended his speech with his father’s campaign slogan: “One city, one aim, one destiny!”

Gov. William Forrest Winter addressed the audience in taped remarks right after Lumumba finished his speech. The former governor, who is white and dedicated to better race relations, said he had lived in Mississippi for nearly 100 years and has seen much change. “I’ve never been more proud to be a citizen of Jackson than I am now,” the 94-year-old said.

The Mississippi Mass Choir then gave a glorious performance of “When I Rose This Morning.” Afterward, Vershaune Stamps returned to lead the room in singing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Seeing all those people, both black and white, dancing and clapping their hands was a phenomenal feeling. It was definitely the greatest day of Jackson history I’ve experienced.

Kenytta Brown, 17, is a rising senior at Lanier High School in Jackson and is in his second year at the Mississippi Youth Media Project. Watch a recent YMP interview with Mayor Lumumba here.

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