Badass Black Women History Month: Celebrating 28 Black Women Who Said, “Fuck it, I’ll Do It!”
Day 28: Bree Newsome The Woman Who Brought Down The Confederacy
On June 17th, 2015, a white man walked into a historically black church in Charleston, SC and murdered nine people. A state senator, mothers, aunts, and choir members joined in prayer would lose their lives because of white pride and racism. White pride and racism that was emboldened by the Confederate flag. A flag that waved proudly above symbols of power and justice. The incident led to unending debates over the meaning of the flag. But, the flag remained as images of the perpetrator holding that same flag ran across TV screens. It was as though the history of the flag outweighed the loss of nine black lives. As though that flag was more important than respecting the black lives that did not want to look up at a symbol aligned with hate every day.
Until June 27, 2015. That’s when a woman named Bree Newsome went, fuck it, I’ll do it. That day, she climbed a flagpole and took that flag down. Bree went to high school in Columbia, Maryland. Bree is a 31-year-old filmmaker, musician, speaker, and activist from Charlotte, North Carolina. She studied film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts after winning a scholarship for a short animated film she created. She would go on to win several awards––the Outstanding Independent Short film award in the Black Reel Awards of 2012 and the Best Short Film at the BET Urban World Film Festival. Her film Wake would be screened at festivals like Cannes and the Montreal International Black Film Festival. Bree Newsome would even become the first black undergraduate to be nominated for the Wasserman Award, NYU Film School’s top honor in recognition for outstanding achievement in film.
Bree was not an activist. Bree was a filmmaker, but the conditions she faced as a black woman forced her into activism. The sci-fi and horror genres that Bree worked in didn’t offer many opportunities for women of color. "The space that exists for many of us, as a young black girl, is so extremely limited so that you really can’t go very far without being an activist, without being in defiance of something.“ She said an a panel at Spelman College in 2014. If Bree wanted more opportunities, she had to fight for them. If Bree wanted anything to change, she had to fight for it.
So, ten days after the Charleston Massacre, unable to sleep because of the horrors she saw, Bree climbed a flagpole and removed the flag a murderer had proudly waved. Bree took the flag down out of respect for those nine lives and all the lives before them that had been harmed because of that flag. When she came down, she was arrested and given a $3,000 bond. The flag was put back up 45 minutes later. The flag was taken down for good on July 10th, 2015––13 days after Bree’s action.
Bree is a black woman who was forced to action because of the conditions around her. In this country, there have always been black women forced to action. We’re still being forced to action and––with support or without it––we’re doing what we have to do to make the change we want to see happen.