Robin D. G. Kelley: Coates and West in Jackson

Professor Robin D.G. Kelly considers the substance within the spectacle of the West-Coates debate, reviewing Coates We Were Eight Years in Power and placing it in conversation with West’s “insistence on the transformative power of social movements. ” Kelly places Coates’ and Wests’ concepts in context in Jackson, Mississippi, which he claims is the “most radical city” in America.

The movement in Jackson embodies the best of West’s prophetic vision and Coates’s concern with building power amidst white supremacy. Although the struggle to make Mississippi a safe, livable, and sustainable place for black people has deep roots in Reconstruction, the promise of Jackson didn’t come on the radar of most progressives until 2013, when the late Chokwe Lumumba, a radical lawyer and leader in the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO) and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), was elected mayor. Lumumba had come to Mississippi from Detroit in 1971 with the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika… In addition to the transfer of land, the PGRNA called for reparations from the U.S. government in the amount of $400 billion in order to sustain the new nation during its first few years. Although the demand for reparations never disappeared, the group eventually purchased land, set up cooperative farms, built institutions, and, despite relentless state repression, took root in the city of Jackson.

Read more of Kelly’s commentary at The Boston Review. 

Photo Credits: Aaron Salcido/Zocalo Public Square

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