Former Lawyer For Tupac, Assata Shakur Wins Miss. Mayoral Primary Race

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Chokwe Lumumba

Most Mississippi cities are electing mayors this year, and some party primaries have incumbents in tough re-election races. In Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. is seeking a fourth term and faces nine other Democrats, including Council member and attorney Chokwe Lumumba, shown in this Sept. 14, 2010 photograph The Democratic primary is likely to be decided in a runoff. No Republican is in the race, but the Democratic nominee will face three independents in the general election. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

It’s been a long time coming, but change is coming to Mississippi.

Former Ward 2 Councilman and Chokwe Lumumba, 65, (pronounced SHOW-kway Lu-MOOM-bah) is the winner of the mayoral primary runoff election in Jackson, Miss., reports WAPT.com.

Lumumba defeated business Jonathan Lee, 35, 54 percent to 46 percent with 100 percent of the vote reporting.

“I think we just had a very difficult fight in order to win this office and we came out successful,” Lumumba said from his victory party at the Clarion Hotel. “I’m very proud of all of the people in my campaign who worked so diligently and I’m very proud of the people of Jackson because I think the people of Jackson have spoken and spoken very clearly.”

Lumumba served four years on the Jackson City Council before running for mayor. He spent part of the ’70s and ’80s as vice-president of  the Republic of New Afrika, an organization which advocated for “an independent predominantly black government” in the southeastern United States and reparations for slavery.

“The provisional government of Republic of New Afrika was always a group that believed in human rights for human beings,” Lumumba told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “I think it has been miscast in many ways. It has never been any kind of racist group or ‘hate white’ group in any way…. It was a group which was fighting for human rights for black people in this country and at the same time supporting the human rights around the globe.”

Read more from the Associated Press:

Lumumba was born in Detroit as Edwin Taliaferro, and changed his name in 1969, when he was in his early 20s. He said he took his new first name from an African tribe that resisted slavery centuries ago and his last name from African independence leader Patrice Lumumba. He moved to Jackson in 1971 as a human rights activist. He went to law school in Michigan in the mid-1970s and returned to Jackson in 1988.

During an April 30 debate, Lumumba carefully pronounced his name for the audience and said: “That’s an African name. Like Barack Obama. It’s not a Muslim name. … I’ve been a Christian all my life.”

As an attorney, Lumumba has represented Tupac Shakur in several cases, including one in which the rapper was cleared of aggravated assault charges in the shootings of two off-duty police officers who were in Atlanta but from another city. Shakur died in 1996.

Lumumba persuaded then-Gov. Haley Barbour to release Jamie and Gladys Scott from prison in Mississippi in early 2011. The sisters served nearly 16 years for an armed robbery they said they didn’t commit. Barbour, a Republican, was considering a run for the presidency at the time.

Lumumba also said on the City Council website that he helped defend “former Black Panther heroine Assata Shakur,” an aunt of Tupac Shakur. He represented her in 1977 in a murder case that was dismissed in New York, according to Lumumba’s biography for a 2012 human rights conference. Also in 1977, Assata Shakur was sentenced to life in prison for the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper. Lumumba said he was not involved in that case.

Lumumba will  face 3 independent candidates in the June 4 general election.

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