Days after 30-year-old community organizer Brittany “Bree” Newsome scaled a 30-foot pole to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, the nation is still invigorated by her fearless and powerful action.
Now, the North Carolina native, musician, and activist is speaking out about why she decided to take actions into her own hands, how the act of civil disobedience materialized, and what the act itself means for what is arguably the largest Black liberation movement in recent history.
Newsome’s concise but profound reasoning behind the removal of the historic symbol of racial oppression in America?
“I did it because I am free,” she wrote.
In a statement exclusively released to Goldie Taylor and posted to Blue Nation Review, Newsome said that the act of defiance — which came to be against a backdrop of violence and disenfranchisement of Black communities — was not only done for her enslaved ancestors, but also “in defiance of the oppression that continues against Black people globally in 2015.” Citing numerous examples of the terror Black people have endured in the past three years (spanning from the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Trayvon Martin’s death, Ferguson protests, and the Charleston AME massacre), Newsome wrote that she refused to be ruled by fear and a system of “white supremacy [that] has dominated the politics of America resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate non-whites.”
And on the hurtful past the Confederate flag dredges up?
“…the emblem of the confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology,” she wrote. “It’s the banner of racial intimidation and fear whose popularity experiences an uptick whenever black Americans appear to be making gains economically and politically in this country.”
It had to come down.
Here’s an excerpt from Newsome’s statement that describes both how a group of activists and community organizers came together to execute the action and how the decision for her, a Black woman, to climb the pole was a conscious one to inspire Black girls and women everywhere.
So, earlier this week I gathered with a small group of concerned citizens, both black and white, who represented various walks of life, spiritual beliefs, gender identities and sexual orientations. Like millions of others in America and around the world, including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and President Barack Obama, we felt (and still feel) that the confederate battle flag in South Carolina, hung in 1962 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, must come down. (Of course, we are not the first to demand the flag’s removal. Civil rights groups in South Carolina and nationwide have been calling for the flag’s removal since the moment it was raised, and I acknowledge their efforts in working to remove the flag over the years via the legislative process.)
We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together. Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.
I removed the flag not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015, including the ongoing ethnic cleansing in the Dominican Republic. I did it in solidarity with the South African students who toppled a statue of the white supremacist, colonialist Cecil Rhodes. I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.
To all those who might label me an “outside agitator,” I say to you that humanitarianism has no borders. I am a global citizen. My prayers are with the poor, the afflicted and the oppressed everywhere in the world, as Christ instructs. If this act of disobedience can also serve as a symbol to other peoples’ struggles against oppression or as a symbol of victory over fear and hate, then I know all the more that I did the right thing.
Newsome, who was arrested along with ally James Ian Tyson, faces criminal charges for the act of civil disobedience. According to Blue Nation Review, South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford has agreed to represent Newsome and Tyson.
A petition to drop the charges can be found here.
To read Newsome’s powerful statement in its entirety, see here.
SOURCE: Blue Nation Review | VIDEO SOURCE: YouTube