In Memory of Chokwe Lumumba: Social Justice Warrior
By Jim Van Sweden, Director, College Communications, Kalamazoo College
Reposted from Kalamazoo College News and Events
Chokwe Lumumba ’69, mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, died on February 25, 2014. He was 66. He came to K from Detroit, Michigan, as Edwin Taliaferro. He majored in political science, played football and basketball, and was instrumental in the creation and growth of the College’s Black Student Organization. He was profoundly affected by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which partly inspired his lifelong dedication to human rights and social justice.
Lumumba changed his name in 1969. He took his new first name from an African tribe that resisted slavery centuries ago and his last name from the African independence leader Patrice Lumumba. His loss is widely mourned, and a news obituary appeared in the February 26 New York Times.
Lumumba moved to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1971 to work in the civil rights movement there, then returned to Michigan where he earned his law degree (Wayne State University) and continued the fight for political and economic liberation of all people. He returned to Jackson in 1988 and spent the next two decades as a tireless defense attorney and human rights advocate, representing mostly African-American defendants. Continue reading →
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Standing Our Ground
By Regina Stevens-Truss, Contributing Editor, Science and Social Justice
When did we lose our humanity and accept circumstances in which we are allowed to say, “I have a right to be here and to prove that I’m going to shoot you”? As I ponder on the multitude of “stand your ground” laws that have been enacted in states across the country, I agree, in one sense, that we all have a right to be wherever we want to be. In fact, the Declaration of Independence gives all Americans the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” After all, this is the United States of America, the welcoming land, is it not? What I disagree with is this:
“The law removes a person’s duty to retreat before using deadly force against another in any place he has the legal right to be – so long as he reasonably believed he or someone else faced imminent death or great bodily harm.”
But if we all step back and think about this law, it suggests that retreating is equivalent to cowardice, which is ridiculous. When one is faced with a life or death situation, retreating can be the wise and brave thing to do.
Okay, so I can imagine what you might be thinking right about now: “not another piece on Florida’s stand your ground cases.” But rest assured, what I actually want to suggest is that there are other important issues we should stand our ground on: education, health, and climate change. With so many pressing issues of life and death in the world today, perhaps if laws existed that prevented us from ignoring people’s needs, we would be better off.
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Black Farming, Self Determination and Resilience: An Interview with activist and researcher Monica White, PhD
By Dara Cooper, Contributing Editor, Environment, Food, and Sustainability
As an activist working on food justice, I have a very personal experience with systemic poverty, disenfranchisement, violence and Black land loss. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents owned land in the south, grew food, and experienced relative material success; then had their land either stolen or burned down by the state and racist vigilantes. Unfortunately, narratives like this are far too common among Black communities in America leaving many of us with memories of sharecropping, wage theft, violence, and lynchings. As I work to reconnect people of color with food production, I have come to realize how important it is to also remember the resistance and agency of Black farmers historically and present day.
Dr. Monica White – through her work on Black farmers and liberation movements – taught me (or reminded me, because it was in my ancestral memory) that there is a very powerful relationship between African Americans and the land that must be remembered. The land is, was, and has always been our healing space and our means of liberation and resistance. Dr. White reminds us that many organizations such as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives have fought— and continue to fight— to protect that memory and legacy of self- determination.
As millions of low-income communities and communities of color struggle to access quality food, organizations like the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) are working to build food security while simultaneously reclaiming a sense of agency and self-determination in the food system among African descendants. Here, we talk with Dr. White, board president of DBCFSN and professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison as she describes her research and upcoming new work “Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, 1880-2010,” which contextualizes contemporary urban agriculture within the historical legacies of African American farmers who fought to acquire and stay on the land.
Considering the significant legacy of Black farming and community responses to massive historical inequities, in this time of deepening disparities we can turn to Black farming and cooperative organizations for insight. Continue reading →
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