As three more victims of the South Carolina church massacre were being laid to rest this Saturday, Bree Newsome, a 30-year-old Charlotte-based activist, took a stand. Newsome climbed the 30-foot flagpole in front of South Carolina's State House to remove the Confederate flag.
As the Capitol police ordered her down, Newsome continued her act of civil disobedience and took down this symbol of oppression. She paused in her descent to declare, “I come to get you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!”
As she came down from the flagpole, she recited prayers and told awaiting police that she was “prepared to be arrested.” Police took the flag out of her hands, helped her over the enclosure, and she was taken away as a gathered crowd applauded her actions and chanted, “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
This video of her brave act of protest is sure to give you chills:
Newsome and her spotter, activist James Tyson, were arrested and charged with defacing a monument. The charge is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to three years, or both.
Newsome and Tyson were part of a group of protestors who organized the flag removal, planning to keep the flag in a box while the funerals for the victims of the mass murder were held this week. Youth educator and organizer Tamika Lewis told the New York Daily News, “We didn‘t see it fit to have the flag stand erect while the people who were massacred were laid to rest under it.”
The hashtags #keepitdown and #freebree started to trend on social media on Saturday, following Newsome’s DIY disobedience. A crowd funding campaign for Newsome had raised more than $65,000 by late Saturday afternoon.
Here at BUST, we were incredibly moved and inspired by Newsome’s actions, and we wanted to find out everything we could about this badass lady. So, here's some background info on the weekend's most inspiring activist:
- Bree Newsome is a Charlotte, NC-based artist and filmmaker who is active in the Black Lives Matter Movement.
- Newsome is a graduate of New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, where she received a BFA in Film and Television. While at NYU, she wrote and directed a humorous public service announcement called Your Ballot, Your Voice encouraging young voter turnout. The PSA won the grand prize in a competition sponsored by Tisch and MTV. Her short film, Wake, won several awards on the film festival circuit and recently made its national television debut on the ASPIREtv network.
- As a high school student at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, MD, she was known as Brittany and graduated in 2003. While there, she created an animated short, The Three Princes of Idea, which earned her a $40,000 scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
- According to her high school yearbook, she was active in student government, serving as president of her class for her first three years and president of the student body as a senior. “It stood out how smart she was,” Ryan Fox, 33, of Columbia, who graduated ahead of Newsome, told The Baltimore Sun.
- None of her former classmates interviewed by local media seemed to be surprised by Newsome’s heroic actions. “She was an absolutely lovely person, so sweet, but at the same time you could tell she wasn't a pushover, and she would stand up for things that were right,” Ebony Hypolite, 30, who graduated a year ahead of Newsome, told The Sun. “That's why her doing this is not surprising at all.” “This is what she was destined to do,” said Amy Adler, who sang in the school choir with Newsome. “She literally took [the flag] into her own hands, which is very much what she does. She has a very on-the-ground, hands-on approach to change. I wish more people had her energy.”
- Newsome's father, Clarence G. Newsome, is a former dean of Howard University, trustee of Duke University, and now is president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
- A staunch advocate for human rights and social justice, Newsome was also 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.
The NAACP praised Newsome's most recent actions and called on authorities to treat her with leniency. In an emailed statement, NAACP President Cornell William Brooks said, “Prosecutors should treat Ms. Newsome with the same large-hearted measure of justice that inspired her actions. The NAACP stands with our youth and behind the multigenerational band of activists fighting the substance and symbols of bigotry, hatred and intolerance.”
Newsome’s heroic stand was likened by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, to those of Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and other civil rights icons. “[Newsome] stands in a long tradition ... Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and more recently hundreds of protesters in Moral Monday...were all considered, at first, criminals for their acts of conscience,” he said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “We stand in solidarity with her, and the deep commitment which she has to justice, love, and true interracial community. We stand with her as she is our family.”
We agree. Newsome will surely go down in history for her fearlessness and commitment to change. We are in awe of this badass woman.
To learn more about Bree Newsome and to check out her creative work, visit her website.
Via The Baltimore Sun, CNN, The Root, breenewsome.com
Images and Video via Hinterland Gazette, RawStory, Youtube, breenewsome.com
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Olivia’s first sentence was “No talk, just laugh” and since then, she’s made it her business to find the humorous side of life and share her absurd observations with others. She’s a writer, a lover of all things pop culture, and she can’t fall asleep without having 30 Rock on in the background. If you like looking at pictures of food and random dogs, you should check out Olivia’s Instagram.