Debate surrounding the Confederate flag has raged throughout the South since June 17, when nine African American churchgoers were killed by a white shooter in Charleston, South Carolina. In the wake of the racist massacre, many, including the governor of South Carolina, have called for the flag's removal from public places.
But activist Bree Newsome was not willing to wait for the state's legislature to weigh the issue, and took matters into her own hands. In a now widely viewed video, Newsome is seen scaling a pole on the state's capitol grounds Saturday morning and removing the flag in a powerful act of resistance.
"You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence," she called from the top of the flagpole. "I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!"
Newsome, whose father formerly served as the dean of the School of Divinity at Howard University, went on to recite a passage from the Bible.
"'The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid?'" she quoted from Psalm 27.
In quoting the Bible during her act of defiance, Newsome "follows in the footsteps" of powerful women in the black community who forever altered history, said Rev. Jennifer Bailey, a minister in the AME Church.
"Women like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hammer, and the unsung saints whose names history will never know. For centuries, black women have called upon the divine to 'make a way out of no way' and we have always known that faith without embodied action is dead and results in dead black bodies lying the streets," Bailey told The Huffington Post.
Karen Attiah of the Washington Post wrote:
Importantly, she stands for us all as an example of the Bible as blueprint for nonviolent resistance in the face of blatant social injustice around the world.
As the darkness of racism and fear hangs heavily in our national atmosphere right now, Newsome calls upon the Lord as divine light as she boldly takes down the Confederate battle flag that was raised in South Carolina as resistance against civil rights progress. Bree Newsome should inspire us all. She is a modern figure of quiet dignity, courageous resistance and true grace under pressure of biblical proportions.
In an exclusive essay sent to Blue Nation Review, Newsome discussed the reasoning behind her act of civil disobedience and the religious values underpinning it.
"I see no greater moral cause than liberation, equality and justice for all God’s people," she wrote. "What better reason to risk your own freedom than to fight for the freedom of others?"
Newsome and fellow activist James Tyson were arrested on misdemeanor charges and were released on $3,000 bond each. The flag was placed back on the pole 45 minutes after the action.