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“Electoral Pursuits Have Veered Us Away”: Kali Akuno on Movement Lessons from Jackson

Pledging to make Jackson become “the most radical city on the planet,” the July 2017 election of Chokwe Antar Lumumba as Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi is by many accounts an inspiration as to the ability of the left to critically engage in social change through elected office. By no means an isolated effort, Lumumba’s election is the result of decades of base building and social movement growth, most notably highlighted in their use of community assemblies and the work of Cooperation Jackson, which promotes the creation of worker cooperatives.

The origins of the campaign are rooted in the politics of Black self-determination and is spelled out in the Jackson-Kush Plan (referred to as the J-K Plan) formulated from 2004 through 2010 by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and New Afrikan People’s Organization. The Plan laid out an analysis and a collective model which was based on three pillars: building people’s assemblies for grassroots decision making, building an independent Black political party; and building a solidarity economy. Most important though is that the plan was very explicit that electoral efforts would be “on a limited scale” and that the focus on popular assemblies, building autonomous and dual power institutions “is primary.”

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