When a conference keynote speaker says “Our mission is to be the most radical city on the planet”, it gets some attention. Activist and attorney Chokwe Antar Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi last year and was the much anticipated highlight of the Labor Research & Action Network (LRAN) conference, held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He talked about the importance of labor organizing and the development of a cooperative economy in his city. One potential initiative is to fund cooperative business development and use the recently passed 1% sales tax to fund infrastructure improvements performed by a cooperative construction company.
By highlighting the work of the Jackson People’s Assembly, he stressed the importance of local social movement organizing. And recognizing the limitations of electoral politics for radical change, he quotes Andre Lorde’s “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”, and says he wants to use his time in office as a means to an end of helping to organize people for long term empowerment and self-determination.
This was LRAN’s 8th annual conference, which drew 145 participants. Founded in 2011 by Jobs with Justice, LRAN has over 1,000 members and is a collaboration connecting labor academics and members of labor unions, workers’ centers and community organizations to help worker organizing to build workplace and economic power. Mayor Lumumba’s address reminded the conference that labor and community organizing comes in various forms, and we should think boldly about building power.
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