Bree Newsome Biography
Bree Newsome is an artist and activist who seeks to finish structural racism and violence in opposition to Black our bodies. On June 27, 2015, ten days after a white supremacist shot and killed 9 Black parishioners in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, Newsome climbed a flagpole on the South Carolina Capitol grounds to take away a Confederate battle flag; she was arrested for this and have become the main target of media consideration. A Christian, Newsome finds her religion supplies her with each steering and the energy to do her work.
Born Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome in Durham, North Carolina in 1985, Newsome grew up in a various neighborhood in Columbia, Maryland. Her father was dean of the School of Divinity at Howard University (he later turned president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center), and her mom was an educator.
Her dad and mom instilled of their daughter the assumption that if she needed to be a accountable citizen, she ought to develop political consciousness. Newsome additionally realized, as she mentioned whereas on a panel in 2014, “The space that exists for many of us, as a young Black girl, is so extremely limited that you really can’t go very far without being an activist, without being in defiance of something.”
Growing up within the Nineteen Nineties, Newsome beloved Disney film musicals and studied them to get a way of storytelling, which she demonstrated when she started writing her personal performs. She additionally expressed an early curiosity in music and was composing by the age of seven, a expertise that continued to develop as she progressed in class. (Musical capability appears to run in her household, as she’s associated to jazz musician McCoy Tyner.)
When her faculty system instituted a “Gifted and Talented” program for superior college students, Newsome witnessed bigotry in motion as she was one among only a few Black college students on this group — and her educator mom needed to push for entry.
Then going by Brittany, Newsome excelled at Oakland Mills High School, the place her pursuits ranged from faculty musicals and choir to scholar politics (she was class president and have become scholar physique president her senior yr). While in class she additionally made an animated brief referred to as The Three Princes of Idea (this resulted in a scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences). Newsome graduated in 2003.
Newsome subsequent turned a movie scholar at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. There, she helmed an award-winning 20-minute brief, Wake. While at Tisch she additionally created a PSA referred to as “Your Ballot, Your Voice” to encourage younger voters; it gained the grand prize in a contest arrange by her faculty and MTV.
Artist and Activist
Newsome considers herself to be each an artist and an activist, and has mentioned that artists telling the reality in regards to the world is itself a type of activism. After school, she turned an artist-in-residence at Saatchi & Saatchi, a New York promoting company. She additionally visitor taught excessive schoolers for a movie program within the Bronx.
Newsome performed in a funk band referred to as Powerhouse and writes songs, together with ones that incorporate her pursuits in politics and activism. She created a well-liked rap video referred to as “Shake It Like an Etch-a-Sketch” about Mitt Romney and his change from a hard-right stance within the Republican presidential major to a extra average mien meant to woo voters within the 2012 election.
Though Newsome marched with Occupy Wall Street, the loss of life of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager killed in 2012 whereas strolling in his father’s neighborhood, and the next acquittal of George Zimmerman — with a declare of self-defense — in his 2013 trial spurred her to do extra. Among different efforts, she went to Florida to demand justice for Trayvon, took half in marches and have become lively within the Black Lives Matter motion.
Moral Monday Arrest
Newsome was shocked when North Carolina’s legislature sought to limit entry to voting (equivalent to ID necessities that did not settle for scholar IDs and chopping again on early voting). In 2015, she mentioned, “It was the attack on voting rights in North Carolina that ‘activated’ me and I moved from being a sideline supporter to an activist.”
In 2013 she joined with the Moral Monday motion in North Carolina, by which members of varied teams got here collectively to protest. In an try and confront Thom Tillis, then North Carolina’s speaker of the home, in regards to the voter suppression measures being put into place, Newsome participated in a sit-in at his workplace. It ended with the group’s arrest, which was Newsome’s first.
Takes Down Flag in South Carolina
Early within the morning on June 27, 2015, Newsome obtained into climbing gear on the South Carolina Capitol. Given phrase the coast was clear, she obtained a lift from a fellow activist and commenced ascending the 30-foot flagpole displaying the Confederate flag. Though police arrived on the scene, she efficiently took the flag down, saying, “You come against me with hatred, oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today.”
Supporters usually declare the Confederate flag honors Southern heritage and troopers. However, for a lot of the truth that it’s a image of the Confederacy makes it a strong emblem of racism, because the Confederate aim within the Civil War was to forestall the elimination of slavery (the 4 million Black individuals who had been enslaved when the warfare began had an financial worth of about $3 billion to their white “owners”). The Confederate perception within the justness of slavery was clearly acknowledged on the time; when South Carolina outlined its causes of secession, the doc bemoaned “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery.” (Some of Newsome’s ancestors had been held in bondage in South Carolina on the time this declaration was made.)
Pictures of racist Charleston assassin Dylann Roof posing with a Confederate flag had been publicly out there, and after the capturing, lawmakers had begun debating whether or not to take the flag down. At the service for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a capturing sufferer and South Carolina state senator, President Barack Obama referred to as for this to occur, saying the battle flag served to remind individuals “of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.” Newsome acted the day after Obama spoke, though plans for what she did had already been in movement.
Though she was the one on the flagpole, there have been about ten individuals who labored collectively to render Newsome’s feat attainable. This group agreed that, as Newsome was a kind of bodily able to climbing the flagpole, having a Black girl take down the Confederate image would make a strong assertion. She then was tutored by a Greenpeace activist on scale the pole. Knowing she could be arrested, Newsome ready for that — and steeled herself for the danger that somebody may shoot at her whereas she was uncovered within the air.
After her descent, the police arrested Newsome (and James Ian Tyson, a white male ally who’d assisted her, and whose presence demonstrated that individuals of various races opposed the flag’s presence). They had been launched on bail, however she and Tyson initially confronted misdemeanor prices of defacing a monument on Capitol grounds, which might have resulted in a high-quality of as much as $5,000 and/or a jail time period of as much as three years. These prices had been later dropped.
Another Confederate flag was up lower than an hour after Newsome got here down, in time for a rally of supporters. However, legislators ended up voting to take away the flag and then-Governor Nikki Haley signed the invoice authorizing this. The flag was taken down on July 10, 2015, and despatched to a museum.
The Confederate flag had been on show there since 1961 (the official motive it went up was to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of the Civil War, however the flag remained aloft because the civil rights motion grew in energy). After objections, in 2000 it was moved away from the dome of South Carolina’s State House and positioned subsequent to a troopers‘ monument. Newsome feels that what she and her group did helped push the federal government to lastly take away the flag.
Newsome’s aim was to make a stand for racial justice and equality, however her climb additionally resulted in her turning into a public icon. Inspired by the picture of her on the flagpole, artists portrayed her as a superhero, individuals donated to her protection and she or he gained quite a few Twitter followers. Celebrities additionally voiced their help; director Ava DuVernay tweeted, “Yes. I hope I get the call to direct the motion picture about a Black superhero I admire. Her name is @BreeNewsome.”
Newsome obtained the NAACP’s Chairman’s Award in 2016, which the group affords “to individuals and organizations who have used their distinct platforms to be agents of change.”
With her elevated profile, she’s in a position to tackle totally different teams, together with with a chat referred to as “Tearing Hatred from the Sky.”
For Newsome, elevated consciousness of racial injustice is of the utmost significance, as she needs extra individuals to attempt to impact optimistic change. In 2017, she wrote within the Washington Post, “Our nation faces a fork in the road and a decision to either continue down the same path of systemic racism or to confront our past honestly. It will increasingly fall upon everyday people to do the right thing.”
Newsome married Marcus Bass in October 2018.