Magazine article The Crisis

Bree Newsome: Taking Down the Flag and Picking Up the Mantle of Social Justice

Magazine article The Crisis

Bree Newsome: Taking Down the Flag and Picking Up the Mantle of Social Justice

Article excerpt

On June 27, 2015, Brittany "Bree" Newsome scaled the flagpole at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., grabbed the Confederate flag and took it down. Her actions came a day after President Obama gave the eulogy for state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine gunned down by Dylan Roof at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., June 17. Eleven days after Newsome took down the flag, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds.

Newsome grew up in Columbia, Md., and attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where she won several awards as a filmmaker and musician. In 2013, Newsome was arrested during a sit-in at the North Carolina State Capitol in protest of the state's voting legislation. She received the 2015 NAACP Chairman's Award for her social justice work.

Newsome talked to The Crisis about her historic act of civil disobedience.

CRISIS: Why did you feel the flag needed to be taken down?

NEWSÜME: There were a number of reasons. Obviously, the massacre in Charleston brought a refocus on the flag. It resonated for me in a personal way. I grew up with my grandmother who herself was raised in Greenville, S.C., who told me about her experiences seeing the Ku Klux Klan beat her neighbor and things like that.

I read that you recited the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 27 when you were taking the flag down.

I mean, it took a great deal of faith. My faith is a large part of my activism. Faith is something that we practice, so even in that moment just praying and staying focused and calling out to God was very important.

What do you remember most about that day?

I would have to say probably just the unique view that I had of being up on the pole and looking down at the police officers and just that moment. …

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