We are a city, a state and a nation in mourning right now. We grieve for the all-too-soon passing of our visionary leader in Jackson, MS, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.

Mayor Lumumba was painted with all kinds of “intended” expletives: a radical, too controversial, too divisive and more. We, at the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, ask: is it divisive to stand up for the rights of people? To be willing to die for what you believe in? To believe that systems that never served most people were going to change without the people changing the systems?

The only thing controversial in this arrangement is that we still live in a society where it can be considered controversial to fight for rights, to fight for human dignity, to stand up for our children and our communities, and to demand a better society for all of us as brothers and sisters. In essence, this is what Mayor Lumumba believed, but it is also what he did.

Mayor Lumumba had the capacity to not just be a visionary who speaks of great things, but a visionary who makes great things happen by re-enforcing the greatness that is in all of us. Mayor Lumumba treated everyone with the dignity that they deserved and our community, in Jackson, and in Mississippi, with the dignity it deserves. His clarion call "free the land", came out of an experience he had in his early days as a warrior for right when land was blocked off from the people with whom he was marching. Today, we must make a decision that we will answer his call and encourage each other and ourselves to continue the fight to free the land from those who would deny what is a "right", fair and just.

Jed Oppenheim, Advocacy Coordinator at the ACLU of MS commented this morning that he had a number of conversations with Mayor Lumumba, mostly on education. “I always got the sense that the most important person in the world was whomever was in front of him. For a leader to be humbled as such and yet be willing to go out and put himself on the line with tough decisions and big ideas says a lot about Mayor Lumumba.”

It is now up to all of us to continue fulfilling the mission of Mayor Lumumba’s life: a sustainably fair, just and equitable society that thrives on the power of the people.