'Superwoman’ Bree Newsome Talks about Bringing Down the Flag

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.

'Superwoman’ Bree Newsome Talks about Bringing Down the Flag

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.
Newsome and fellow activist James Tyson discuss their bold act of removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State Capitol.

Even as Brittany “Bree” Newsome climbed a 30-foot flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol to remove the Confederate battle flag, she knew it was a dangerous act. Not because the climbing gear she wore could have failed, but because of the retaliation she might have faced later from groups opposed to what she did.

“But it was something I felt I had to do,” Newsome, an activist and filmmaker from Charlotte, North Carolina, said Wednesday night at the St. Bede Episcopal Chapel on the University of Miami campus, where she and fellow activist James Tyson spoke to a standing room-only audience about their bold act.

Newsome, who was arrested with Tyson upon returning to the ground with flag in hand on June 27, said had she not decided to shimmy up the pole to remove what many regard as a symbol of racial subjugation, she would have regretted it. “We had to show that we couldn’t afford to be afraid and allow terror to rule the day,” she explained.

Her comments were part of the forum “Courage to Be: Bringing Down the Flag,” organized by the United Wesley Foundation of Miami and pastor Peter E. Matthews.

During the nearly two-hour talk and Q&A, Newsome and Tyson, who waited at the flagpole’s base and helped Newsome out of her climbing gear, discussed some of the past incidents that inspired them to become activists.

For Newsome, the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown shootings “shook my consciousness,” but it was the recent mass murder of nine worshipers at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, that was the tipping point. “I thought that kind of violence was in the past, that the country was further along and had turned the corner,” she said.

Newsome and Tyson’s actions, which helped spur the permanent removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol, came in the wake of the murder of those nine worshipers. Dylann Roof, the man charged in the killings, had posed with a Confederate flag in pictures and expressed white supremacist views.

Newsome, who noted she and Tyson are still facing a misdemeanor charge of defacing a monument, said she loves the fact that people have hailed her as a “hero” and a “superwoman,” but she reminded the audience that she’s just a human being and that many other activists “are doing equally great work” that goes unnoticed.

Said Tyson: “The courage to be exists in every one of us.”