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The Most Radical City on the Planet


The Deep South of the US is probably the last place anyone would expect to find a hotbed of political radicalism. But the city of Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, is just such a place. It has a decades-long history of black resistance, and in recent years it has been led by a mayor committed to progressive political reforms and experiments in direct democracy. In the Boston Review, Makani Themba, a political organizer and resident of Jackson, writes about the history behind this progressive wave, and unpacks the tensions between visionary movement-building and the practicalities of governance. Here’s an excerpt:

[Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s] aim of making Jackson the “most radical city on the planet” has garnered a great deal of attention, as has his picture-perfect First Family: he has two young daughters with his wife, Ebony, an accomplished professor and activist. Their combination of elegance, humility, and affection has led many to draw comparisons to the Obamas.

The realpolitik of governing in Mississippi is constricting in ways that progressives, especially radicals, can find difficult. What does it mean to seek justice and fair wages in a time of austerity? What does co-governance look like when folks don’t share key progressive values? To what extent do you work with the master’s institutions—such as public schools or the Democratic Party—because they reach the majority of our people? Operating in the belly of the beast tests us and our ideas. It also offers lessons for how to build power and use it to improve the lives of black citizens.

Image of Jackson, Mississippi via Mental Floss.