a short history of black cooperatives

posted May 14, 2016

On February 21, 2014, 49 years to the day after Malcolm X’s earthly form fell to assassins’ bullets in Harlem, Chokwe Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, came home to find the power out. The outage affected only his house, not any others on the block. He phoned friends for help, including an electrician, an electrical engineer, and his longtime bodyguard—each in some way associated with his administration. They couldn’t figure out the problem at first. They called the power company, and waited, and as they did, they talked about the strange notions that had been circulating. At the grand opening of Jackson’s first Whole Foods Market a few weeks earlier, a white woman said she’d been told at her neighborhood-association meeting that the mayor was dead. He’d been coughing more than he should’ve maybe, and his blood pressure was running high, but he was very much alive. He gave a speech at the grocery store that day.

In a time of outcry for black lives across the United States, Lumumba had come to office in a Southern capital on a platform of black power and human rights. He built a nationwide network of supporters and a local political base after decades as one of the most radical, outspoken lawyers in the black nationalist movement.

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