The city of Jackson, once projected to become the most radical city on the planet by Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, is currently a city in turmoil and distress amidst a water crisis caused by recent flooding and a failure in operations at the city’s main water treatment facility, O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant. The capitol city of Mississippi has been on a boil water notice for a month that has advised residents to boil water before using it for drinking, cooking, and brushing their teeth.
Federal, State, and Municipal Governments Declare Emergency in Jackson
Due to Jackson’s water system’s failure, a state of emergency has been declared by both the municipal and state governments. Some estimate that Jacksonians could be without water for the foreseeable future. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has stated unequivocally that Jackson’s water was unsafe to consume because the water being pumped into Jacksonian’s homes was, in many instances, raw water from the reservoir.In contrast, Mayor Lumumba spreads misinformation and disinformation about the safety of Jackson’s water.
Many wish to see the crisis in terms of black and white. We must approach this matter in terms of popular self-directed government beyond black power rhetoric that legitimates only those who administer subservience.
To mitigate the crisis, the governor has requested assistance from the federal government, a request that was granted when the Biden administration announced a federal emergency declaration on August 30th that authorized the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to spearhead disaster relief efforts to ease the burden on those impacted by Jackson’s water catastrophe. We must understand that federal government intervention will help clean up from the flood but will not fund new public infrastructure in the name of public safety or ecology.
Mayor Lumumba Continues to Skirt Responsibility
In the middle of all that is happening with the water situation in Jackson, Mayor Lumumba continues to show either an inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for the failure of the city’s water system. In a recent press conference, he continued the running excuse that Jackson’s main water treatment facility failed due to deferred maintenance over the decades in an effort to absolve his administration of what is clearly a failure on its watch.
What is it that the mayor does not understand about the fact that with his ascendance to power in hierarchical government comes responsibility and an assumed ability to address the problems facing residents whose lives his government otherwise subordinates? Instead of being accountable the mayor continues to avoid responsibility as if it was COVID-19.
Black Activists Provide Cover to the Lumumba Administration and Ignore Its Failure
The mayor has admitted that he has known for at least two years that Jackson’s water system failure was inevitable. In February 2021 the city’s water system began to show warning signs of its coming failure when some residents went weeks without running water and experienced raw sewage coming into their homes.
Those chattering about “a new Jim Crow” did not discover the abuse of the Black elderly, like the Pittman family, in overwhelmingly Black and toiling communities in Jackson, overcome by the stench of raw sewage overflowing through their toilets and bathtubs. These junkyard dogs of racial thinking, flea-bitten and compensated to be chained to the fence going nowhere, only know how to bark at white outsiders. The Real People’s Assembly in the summer of 2020, that declared their independence from Lumumba’s government and their fake activists funded by the Rockefeller Brothers, the MacArthur Foundation, and Johnson & Johnson, agitated against this injustice.
Even after the immediate crisis of 2021 was averted, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), very little, if anything was done to address the inadequacy of staffing and what appears to be individuals with inadequate training working in the water treatment plant. While we don’t wish to accept EPA statements without further educating ourselves and reflection, the reality is that Mayor Lumumba and his political allies knew about the serious infrastructure and water problems facing the city of Jackson prior to his being elected to office.
Instead of doing the things that were in the power of the government to ameliorate the impending water crisis, the mayor has sat on his hands awaiting the inevitable while talking about Black self-determination out of one side of his mouth and begging the State (he thinks it’s a white racial state) to do something about the problem out of the other. The writing has been on the wall and the Lumumba regime had a duty to do more than beg and plead with the State to intervene in Jackson and solve the city’s problems for it. This approach has been paltry as a model for Black autonomy by any measure.
Lumumba Advocates for State Intervention While He Fully Funds Jackson’s Police State
Activists for the government in Jackson have claimed that the State has a duty to intervene in the capital city without addressing the gross ineptitude of the municipal government to operate and staff its water treatment facilities. The Jackson government has invested perennially in expanding the technological and infrastructure of its police state. His activists for the government have said nothing about his directing of economic resources to the murder of nine Black people and imprisoning Black multitudes.
Somehow, those who advocate for the Black city, identify with the Black toilers, unemployed, and street force last, accept when they trot out discourses of rehabilitation, oozing with their own internalized racism. Mayor Lumumba and Governor Reeves have not shared a bad word regarding this policing investment. Mayor Lumumba in fact “welcomes” the State.
We should not overstate that financial and industrial resources are needed to maintain such a plant, not simply competent workers. However, Mayor Lumumba decided he would invest in policing Black people, and so did his fake activists only against police murder administered by whites, not preserving what is left of the ecological infrastructure Black people need to live.
The Problem with State Funding and the Black-led Municipalities Argument
Now that the State government has intervened somewhat in the water crisis, some argue that it took the state so long to intervene because Jackson is a predominantly Black city and what is occurring with Jackson’s water crisis is a theme of the State government divesting from majority Black cities in an attempt to ensure that Black-led cities fail. While we must be alert to how conservative and racist politicians on the state level have harshly criticized Black politicians with racist insinuations that their failures have something to do with being Black, this fact cannot absolve Black rulers. They ascend to government posts on the premise that they can more effectively and efficiently manage the problems of which they are well aware upon taking office. They cannot and should not be allowed to use racism as a cover when their hierarchical regimes fail due to their own dereliction.
The water crisis in Jackson exposes that the answer to the problems facing the Black multitudes will not be solved by electing some other politician, regardless of race, who will govern more competently. The system that these Black mayors wish to revive and administer is what is bankrupt and rapidly decaying. This reality necessitates that Black toilers leave elite representative government behind and establish their own direct self-government where they organize their own political, economic, judicial, and ecological affairs.
Who Can Legitimately Criticize Jackson’s Black-led Governments?
The state’s previous refusals to provide resources to Jackson can be characterized in many ways. One is a refusal to provide resources to a municipality that has proven to be a poor steward of its own resources in capital and people for decades. Given the history of white racial degradation in the United States, and the Jim Crow South specifically, without affirming Governor Reeves in any way, would we accept critical evaluations from a black governor of black mayors instead of a white governor? Are we waiting to have more opportunities such as this, ignorant of state power in the African world in the last 40–70 years?
Jackson is led by apparently Africa-conscious people whose pride and awareness is so substantial that they cannot cultivate the popular will with a sustained balance sheet of where Black leaders have succeeded and failed. The fact is the activists for government run by Black Democrats would not even receive sincerely any substantial social criticism of those who administer subordinate Black lives. Further, they discourage it even from Black citizens of Jackson. What they call “Black love” is an expectation that the Black servile should live in the realm of Black royals.
“Black Power” and the History of Jackson’s Water System
Black mayors have been elected in Jackson since 1997. This means that for the past 25 years that Black people have led the municipal government in Jackson and have failed at ensuring that the water treatment plant facility has been properly maintained and staffed. The original O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant was constructed between the late 80s and early 90s. The facility was expanded in 1997. In contrast the well-known 2014 crisis of the water and sewage system in Flint Michigan, that happened when Flint switched its drinking water from the Detroit system, occurred in a notable context.
Flint’s system was built in 1954 and the Detroit system was built in 1836. This means Jackson’s Black political class is virtually the same age as the water and sewage system in Jackson. In Detroit the first Black mayor came along 137 years later. In Flint the first Black was elected 12 years after their system was built. Those who wish to racialize the politics of the administration of the water works in Jackson may think black is beautiful, but they don’t think very historically.
Making Way for a New Social Order in Jackson Where Ordinary People Govern
If those who work in the Jackson water works have inadequate training and knowledge, and we must have some comparative knowledge of other water and sewage systems to evaluate this, at the very least these toilers, many of them black, can be invited by popular assemblies to educate the citizens of Jackson as to the technological and infrastructural challenges they face as someone who has worked the gauges, hydraulics system, and walked in the underground tunnels that we have not.
The activists for Mayor Lumumba’s government would not invite genuine Black toilers to take part in a real popular assembly where they were convinced they would be informed how their regime has failed the city, and how they instinctively and empirically have more knowledge than Lumumba’s propagandists, who with their excessive formal education, do not have the courtesy to tell us to put on our galoshes when they are about to spread the other excrement they are also responsible.
What this debacle in Jackson’s water system should tell ordinary people in Jackson is that those in elite representative government have no special insight or skills that justify their ruling over them and managing their lives. If things are to change in Jackson and future crises in the water system or otherwise are to be averted, it is the ordinary people holding the reins of society through their own direct self-government who are most equipped for the job. Black toilers are best prepared to bring forth and guide the development of a new society where ordinary people have basic necessities such as clean running water.
The people of Jackson are the leaders that they have been waiting for. If ordinary people fail to establish their own self-government, by learning from and joining with the water and sewage workers, gathering information independently, and preparing their own perspectives and proposals to carry out, the bankruptcy of leadership in hierarchical government will only further the decay of society spawning more crises that can already be seen on the horizon in Jackson.