Jackson Rising Redux: Lessons on building the future in Mississippi, ed Kali Akuno and Matt Meyer (PM Press)
Cooperation Jackson, a radical campaign to set up a Black-led, solidarity-based new municipalism, was born out of desperate crisis and centuries of oppression in the Mississippi city. But since a previous book documenting these endeavours – Jackson Rising (2018), the situation has grown more urgent: starved of funds by the state government, the city’s water supply has collapsed.
The underlying strains in the world economy have also increased, worsened by the pandemic and sparking a wave of reactionary populism around the world. In his foreword to this book, Richard D Wolf presents this as the beginning of the end for capitalism. If that’s the case, it’s important to attend to what comes next: the co-op model, and efforts towards a new municipalism in cities like Cleveland, Ohio and Preston, Lancashire have long been touted as an option.
Jackson Rising Redux is latest in a series of books published in the last year or so which make the case for this co-operative new economy. But with the poorest state in the USA as its base, and with the racial injustices that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement continuing unabated, it states that case with a singular urgency.
The book gathers academics and activists from around the world to discuss Cooperation Jackson in a range of contexts – local, international, historical, political, etc.
It begins with a history of the project by its co-founder Kali Akuno, who sets out the movement’s four goals: to place the ownership and control of the primary means of production in the hands of the Black working class in Jackson; to build and advance the development of the ecologically regenerative forces of production in the city; to democratically transform the political economy in the city and the wider south-eastern region; and to advance the Jackson-Kush Plan.
This was a radical movement formulated in the 2000s, with the goal of attaining self-determination for people of African descent and the radical, democratic transformation of the state of Mississippi.
It’s a wide-ranging project, taking in the push for net zero, food sovereignty, green worker co-ops, mutual aid and sustainable communities. A tall order. Founder member, activist Sacajawea ‘Saki’ Hall, says the work is “filled with complexities, successes, failures, and everything in between”, as the fledgling movement struggled to mobilise support in the city’s population and clashed with the city government – led by Baba Chokwe Lumumba, son of the founder of the Jackson-Kush plan.
But she also points to achievements, such as an autonomous People’s Assembly which led to housing justice work, rent relief, an eviction hotline and rental assistance fairs. “We see in our everyday work that everyday working-class Black people in Jackson are ready to engage with and be introduced to radical ideas,“ she adds.
Hall also contributes a moving personal piece – setting out her ‘Beautiful Struggle’ in blend of verse and memories; this varied collection also includes a history of US Black co-operativism by Jessica Gordon Nembhardt, a look at a radical movement by marginalised people in Atlanta, Georgia by Yolanda M.S. Tomlinson, and a short discussion of the Preston model, Brexit and the British left by Daniel Brown.
This is a fascinating book, an inspiring set of perspectives on a community fighting to organise itself after being pushed beyond the limit.
There are already accomplishments – the Lawn Care Cooperative is becoming self-sustaining, and the Freedom Farms Cooperative has weathered a bad winter to supply food to co-ops, markets and restaurants in the city; the Community Production Cooperative is carrying out training; and the Fannie Lou Hamer Community Land Trust has more than 40 parcels of land. Hopefully the next book on Jackson Rising will present further stories of progress.