In the 1980s the Ku Klux Klan planned to march down West St. in Downtown Jackson, MS, and Chokwe and the New Afrikan People’s Organization (of which me and my homies were members of their ‘self-defense forces corps’) had organized a counter-protest of hundreds and hundreds of New Afrikan people, and some White brothers and sisters, and we all converged on West St.
I was young, ultra-radical, and full of fire – and I really wanted a physical engagement, but it was not to be – and that was a good thing. The cops were out in full force with riot sticks, and the Klan were grouped around their 3 busses ant the top of West St. with the cops – some Black – in a defensive line protecting them.
Chokwe was at the head of us all, with a bullhorn telling us all how we were not going to let the Klan march. As Chokwe inspired us all, he yelled out: “They have the ‘po-lice’ to protect them and their hate, and we have our protectors of our right!”And when he said it, 30 NAPO-S.D.C. soldiers – big, musclebound New Afrikan men in black muscle shirts, black tame, and black combat boots, detached from the crowd in perfect unison, and walked into the street in orderly rows, assuming parade rest opposite the police – those of us from the corps (most of us were former street thugs) converged in the street behind them, pumping our fists in the air, and as we did so, a miracle occurred: the Klan piled back onto their busses and pulled out! Chokwe yelled, as though he knew the course of events all along: “The Klan’s not going to march here today – we are!” – and began to lead us all in a historic march down West St. and throughout downtown Jackson, ending in a vacant lot on Farish St. (a historically and traditionally New Afrikan section of Downtown) and gave a rousing speech on the merits of anti-racism, human dignity, and resistance to hate.
The feeling I felt this day, the elation, love, and unity has never left my mind, nor did this tall, wise, slim man who invoked it in me: Chokwe Lumumba. I loved him, I still love him – and I will always love him. I have always, by writ of my social experiences and development, been imbued with revolutionary potential – but it was Chokwe who inspired me to try and fulfill that potential – to translate these ideas into a social force.
Our world is diminished without him, but I will never stop seeking to live up to the example he set for me over 30 years ago.
Published as part of the article: Chokwe Lumumba: Dare to struggle, dare to win! in the SF Bay View