The flag takedown:
As she took down the flag she quoted scripture, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?"
There are lessons we have learned about facing terrorism, both symbolic, like the flag, and real like the history of hate-based murders, lynchings, church burnings, bombings, and police repression. Sister Bree embodies those lessons.
No surprise that Rev. Barber, NC NAACP President and one of the leaders of the Moral Monday's movement issued this statement about her action. Along with that statement the NAACP sent links to a video of her previous participation in Moral Monday's civil disobedience in North Carolina.
NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II's Statement in Support of the Non-Violent Direct Action this Morning in Columbia
COLUMBIA, SC - Sister Bree Newsome, in an act of prayerful non-violent civil disobedience, scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina Capitol, disengaged the flag of the Confederate States of America, and then prayed as she descended the pole and was arrested. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the NC NAACP, said: "Our sister from North Carolina, Bree Newsome, is a committed, trained, non-violent messenger of the truth. She stands in a long tradition. The Hebrew midwives who stood up to Pharoah; Jeremiah who put on an iron yoke in defiance of a king and unfit practices; Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and more recently hundreds of protesters in Moral Monday who were all considered, at first, criminals for their acts of conscience. We stand in solidarity with her, and the deep commitment which she has to justice, love, and true inter-racial community. We stand with her as she is our family."
Ms. Newsome said from jail: "We removed the flag today because we can't wait any longer. It's time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality."
"She is clear and sober," Rev. Dr. Barber said. "The flag is vulgar. Its removal is not only a small step, but an important symbolic one. Its vulgarity and representation of the racist, immoral defense of all slavery and Jim Crow not only should come down but should have never been put up. Many around the country are so hurt and disturbed that the American flag and the state flag could be lowered to honor the Emanuel Nine, but not the Confederate war flag. Shameful. Instead of trying to criminalize her, hear what her action of conscience is saying as the old saints use to say "Waiting time is over. Let's get right now." I believe her action and that of many others is saying: If America is serious about this moment we cannot just cry ceremonial tears while at the same time refusing to support the martyred reverend and his parishioners’ stalwart fight against the racism that gave birth to the crime."
"The perpetrator has been caught, but the killers are still at large. Actions are challenging the schizophrenia of American morality that allows political leaders to condemn the crime but embrace the policies that are its genesis," Rev. Dr. Barber continued. "I believe her action is another nonviolent action of grace that should arrest and imprison our conscience. We must see that one urgently required step toward real healing is a new comprehensive Civil Rights Act for this time and a renewal of the Voting Rights Act. We cannot wait for further martyrs, more bloodshed, the continued weight of our national grief. Legislation will not heal all trauma, prevent all pains--it never has---but it is a necessity today to place our government on the right side of history--the side that refuses to perpetuate the legacy and vestiges of white supremacy and black subjugation that is our nation's inheritance."
Activism is a process. We need to learn from those people who make a decision to fight for change and justice and follow their examples. I'm tired of hearing, from some quarters, that young people of color today are all disaffected and uninvolved in struggle. We have only to look at groups like #blacklivesmatter, the Dreamers, and Dream Defenders to put an end to that lie.
Bree Newsome's website gives us a look at her journey to where she is today.
Newsome is a graduate of New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts where she received a BFA in Film & Television. While still in high school, Newsome created an animated short, THE THREE PRINCES OF IDEA which earned her a $40,000 scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Academy President Peter Price described Newsome's work as a"combination of intellectual horsepower and creative range." At NYU, she wrote and directed a humorous public service announcement called YOUR BALLOT, YOUR VOICE encouraging youth voter turnout. The PSA went on to win Grand Prize in a PSA competition sponsored by Tisch and MTV. Newsome's short film WAKE won a slew of awards on the film festival circuit and recently made its national television debut on the ASPIREtv network.
Based on her work as an undergraduate student at New York University, Newsome was invited in 2011 to serve as the first ever Artist-in-Residence at Saatchi & Saatchi, a global creative communications and advertising company headquartered in New York. In August 2012, Newsome wrote and recorded a rap song, "SHAKE IT LIKE AN ETCH-A-SKETCH!", skewering presidential candidate Mitt Romney and criticizing the Republican Party for policies that promote classism and bigotry. Newsome then directed and edited a music video for the song which she released on YouTube. The video immediately drew attention from political bloggers including The Huffington Post: "The video doesn't pull punches, and its subtext just might ring true to the ears of voting Americans."
Her bio speaks to her activism:
A staunch advocate for human rights and social justice, Newsome was arrested last year during a sit-in at the North Carolina State Capitol where she spoke out against the state’s recent attack on voting rights. She continues to work as an activist and youth organizer in North Carolina, serving in the capacity of Western Field Organizer for the youth-led organization Ignite NC.
Here is Ms. Newsome speaking about her work:
Bree Newsome speaks about being an artist & activist and the importance of black science fiction/horror at the Octavia E. Butler Celebration of Arts and Activism. Held at Spelman College in April 2014 by author and Spelman Cosby Chair Dr. Tananarive Due. Bree Newsome is a filmmaker whose horror short film "Wake" won numerous awards. She is also a civil rights activist who was arrested during a sit-in at the North Carolina Capitol in 2013
Newsome and Tyson are currently free on bond, and ColorofChange has a petition up asking that the charges be dropped.
Drop any charges against Bree Newsome, the courageous organizer arrested for taking down the Confederate flag at South Carolina capitol
UPDATE: Bree Newsome was released from jail yesterday and the state is throwing the book at her. She and Jimmy Tyson, the white ally supporting her from the ground, were both charged with "defacing monuments on state capitol grounds" and face up to 3 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. This follows a growing trend of prosecutors from Oakland to Baltimore and across the country overcharging people who take non-violent direct action in defense of Black lives. Sign up here to stay updated on ways to help the fight to drop the charges.
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