October 16, 2015

​Hundreds March for Mississippi Flag Change

 ©2015 Religion News Service

Sharon Brown, who proposed an initiative that seeks to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, said she’s doing it for her mother. “Mother is the reason why this is taking place she told supporters gathered for One Flag for All rally near the Jackson State University campus.

But more than striking the Confederate emblem, Brown said, it’s about creating a flag that can unify Mississippians. “(The flag) doesn’t represent the unity that’s here in Mississippi,” she said. “We need one flag that represents all of the people here, not just a minority. It hurts the state economically and socially.”

The rally also drew some big names, including rapper David Banner, civil rights activist Myrlie Evers and S.C. Rep. Jenny Horne. Horne helped facilitate the removal of the flag at the South Carolina Capitol following a mass shooting at a church in Charleston this summer. Horne had been friends with Sen. Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of the shooting.

“There’s a lot Mississippi can learn from what we did in South Carolina, so they don’t have to have a tragedy to make them do the right thing,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it took such a senseless act of violence. You shouldn’t need that in Mississippi. It’s really sad that it’s 2015, and it took a tragedy to make us do this.”

Banner spoke to the crowd before the march to the Capitol started.

“My family lived and died on this land, so it means a little bit more to me than just a flag,” he said. “It’s time to move Mississippi forward.”

About 300 people walked from their meeting place at the corner of J.W. Lynch and Rose streets to the State Capitol.

Munisha Lott found out about the rally on Saturday night from friend Jeremy Lewis. The two marched together with their signs.

“We think it’s important to promote unity. We know there will be divisions, no doubt about that, but we can put effort and energy into the unification part,” Lewis said. “A flag represents the people, so we think it’s very important.”

Banner said a new flag is also about investing in Mississippi’s children.

“We’re going to have to draw a line. Are you Confederate, which stands for slavery, or are you Southern? I’m Southern until the day I die,” he said. “For me it’s more about these kids, every time those kids look up at that flag, it’s something that makes them duck their heads.”

Horne said healing has begun in South Carolina in the wake of the Charleston tragedy and the grounding of the flag.

“Since South Carolina removed the flag, we’re healing as a state,” she said. “We’re having discussions about what the flag meant to so many African-Americans in South Carolina, and having a reconciliation of our very different histories and being very honest about race relations in the new South.”

(Therese Apel writes for the (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.)