Wed, 5 March 2014
n Rising conference takes that discussion public. It's time for something completely different. Jackson Mississippi Rising? An Alternative To Gentrification As Urban Economic Development?
Jackson Mississippi Rising? An Alternative To Gentrification As Urban Economic Development?
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Nothing, absolutely nothing underscores the political bankruptcy of our glittering black political class more starkly than its abject failure, from the time of the first black big city mayors in the 60s and 70s to the present, from the growth of the Congressional Black Caucus from a handful in 1965 to about 40 at the time of the Katrina disaster and displacement of half the black population of New Orleans, nothing marks their utter uselessness to black communities more than their failure thus far to come up with any model of urban economic development other than gentrification – moving poorer, usually black folks out of urban neighborhoods to bring richer, often whiter residents, upscale shopping, trendy business and tourism in.
We can't even come close to blaming this on evil, immoral Republicans. Everywhere we look, black Democrats and their appointees have been the prime movers and shakers in displacing the black communities which provided the very constituencies that voted black mayors and legislators into office. You can look at Brooklyn or Columbus, you can look at Atlanta or Chicago, you can look at Tampa or Philly or New Orleans. In each and every case black public officials took it upon themselves to sell the dismantling of public housing and the razing of entire communities as a process to which there was no alternative.
But in Jackson Mississippi last year, longtime radical black activists around Chokwe Lumumba succeeded in winning the mayor's seat. Lumumba died just 8 months into his 4 year term as mayor and will be laid to rest this Saturday. But even before his election, with the negative examples of places like Atlanta before them, the circle around Mayor Lumumba began thinking through not how to govern Jackson Mississippi, but to transform it. It's no secret that there were multiple factions inside the administration of Mayor Lumumba. Some of them wanted to make permanent peace and assimilate into the black contingent of Mississippi's Democratic party alongside Congressman Bernie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. But others around Mayor Lumumba wanted not to govern Jackson as it is, and as the black misleadership class does everywhere else –- they insisted and still insist on transforming it.
They want to do what the black misleadership class won't –- come up with a model of urban development that is NOT gentrification, a model that develops poor urban areas for the people who live there NOW, not some class of urban pioneers and tourists you might attract later.
This conflict will play out on several levels. A special mayoral election will take place within a few weeks to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Lumumba. Most of the candidates jockeying for office are undoubtedly intent on governing Jackson, not transforming it. There may be one exception, but this is not yet clear. What is clear is that the first weekend in May, Jackson will host “Jackson Rising” a conference on HOW to transform a working city for the benefit of those who live there NOW, a conference on what peoples economic development can and ought to look like.
These are important questions, absolutely vital questions which our glittering class of black politicians and place holders across this vast country have no answer, and so will never ask. Black Agenda Report will certainly be there, and the eyes of black America will be watching carefully.
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.