Bree Newsome, the woman who became renowned after scaling the flag pole on the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse to remove the Confederate flag, has released her first full statement since the ordeal when she was arrested and later released on bail.
Titled with the rallying cry "Now Is the Time for Courage," the detailed statement tells of Newsome's journey as an activist up to the very moment that prompted her to don climbing gear and take down the flag on her own.
Newsome opens with the massacre in Charleston, S.C., where accused murderer Dylann Storm Roof is charged with opening fire at an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church prayer meeting, killing nine people, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was also the church's pastor.
"I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn't sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising. Not long ago, I had watched the beginning of Selma, the re-enactment of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and had shuddered at the horrors of history," Newsome wrote, reflecting. "But this was neither a scene from a movie nor was it the past. A white man had just entered a black church and massacred people as they prayed. He had assassinated a civil rights leader. This was not a page in a textbook I was reading nor an inscription on a monument I was visiting. This was now. This was real."
Newsome details how she began her activism by participating in Moral Mondays, advocating for voting rights in North Carolina after the Supreme Court struck down key parts of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act. She spoke of going to Florida and protesting on behalf of Trayvon Martin. Her journey ultimately took her all the way to Baltimore in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray protests.
"For far too long, white supremacy has dominated the politics of America, resulting in the creation of racist laws and cultural practices designed to subjugate nonwhites. And the emblem of the Confederacy, the stars and bars, in all its manifestations, has long been the most recognizable banner of this political ideology. 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," Newsome wrote.
"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," she added. "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."
Newsome extended her thanks to her supporters, saying that she was "deeply touched" by the responses to her act, and also encouraged "those of us who are conscious" to do what is right: "This is a multileader movement. I believe that. I stand by that. I am because we are. I am one of many."
"It is important to remember that our struggle doesn't end when the flag comes down. The Confederacy is a Southern thing, but white supremacy is not. Our generation has taken up the banner to fight battles many thought were won long ago," Newsome added. "We must fight with all vigor now so that our grandchildren aren't still fighting these battles in another 50 years. Black Lives Matter. This is non-negotiable."
Read the full statement at Blue Nation Review.