Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Bree Newsome: As SC Lawmakers Debate Removing Confederate Flag, Meet the Activist Who Took It Down

Our struggle will continue, and we shall win. There are courageous people among every generation who are willing to speak truth to power, and take an active stand against the historical and present-day racial injustices in this nation and throughout the world. Bree Newsome is one in that long tradition. This is what courage looks and sounds like.

As South Carolina state lawmakers begin debate on whether to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol in Columbia, we are joined by Bree Newsome, the 30-year-old African-American woman who took down the flag herself. On June 27, 10 days after the Charleston massacre and one day after the funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Newsome scaled the 30-foot flagpole at the state Capitol and took the flag in her hand. "I come against you in the name of God!" Newsome said. "This flag comes down today!" As soon as she reached the ground, she and fellow activist James Tyson were arrested. The protest went viral and was seen around the world. Newsome and Tyson join us to discuss their action in an extended interview.

From Monday, July 6, on Democracy Now


Charleston AME Church Massacre: Additional Perspectives on Terror and White Supremacy

From today's edition of Democracy Now...

Segment 1:  Dylann Roof’s White Supremacist Views, Links to Hate Group Revealed After Charleston Church Massacre

Church bells tolled Sunday and hundreds filled the church’s pews of the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, for the first service since Dylann Roof’s attack on a Bible session in its basement last Wednesday. An estimated 20,000 people formed a Bridge to Peace unity chain on the Ravenel Bridge to show solidarity with his victims. A website discovered Saturday called "The Last Rhodesian" shows photographs of Roof at Confederate heritage sites and hosts a 2,500-word manifesto he is believed to have written that explains why he chose to carry out his mass murder spree. "Roof might have been a high school dropout, but he was an excellent student, it seems, of the white supremacist world," says Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He is co-author of an editorial published today in The New York Times titled "White Supremacists Without Borders."


Segment 2:  "That Flag Represents White Supremacy": Confederate Flag Still Flies at South Carolina State Capitol

Wednesday’s massacre of nine African-American churchgoers by white supremacist suspect Dylann Roof have reignited protests over the Confederate flag, which still flies on the grounds of South Carolina’s Capitol. In photos posted online, Roof is seen posing with the flag and in front of a car with a front license plate that reads, "Confederate States of America." "People’s tax dollars ought not go into supporting the idea of the Confederate States of America," says Kevin Alexander Gray, a South Carolina civil rights activist and community organizer who edited the book "Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence." As former president of the state ACLU, he argued, "the flag flying on the statehouse dome was compelled speech. You were compelling people to support an ideology of white supremacy."


Segment 3:  "A Classic Case of Terrorism": Is FBI Ignoring White Violence by Refusing to Call Roof a Terrorist?

 Civil rights activist Kevin Alexander Gray and Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, discuss whether the shooting in Charleston was an act of domestic terrorism. "Dylann Roof was a human drone, and every Tuesday morning the Obama administration uses drones to kill people whose names we don’t even know and can’t pronounce," Kevin Alexander Gray says. "So I don’t know if I feel comfortable with the idea of expanding this word 'terror.'" But Richard Cohen calls the shooting "a classic case of terrorism." "It’s politically motivated violence by a non-state actor and carried out with the intention of intimidating more persons than those who were the immediate victims," Cohen says. "I think in some ways it’s important to talk about terrorism in that way, not so we can send out drones, not so we can deny people their due process rights, but so we can understand the true dimensions of what we’re facing."


Roots and Branches: We Are the Bridge Between the Elders and the Children

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I was very fortunate to have spent many of my childhood years growing up around, and to some extent getting to know, my grandparents.  There were many lessons they tried to teach us, rules for living really, that I've always remembered and still reflect on in my adult years.  The most consistent messages were to always listen to my parents, and to always seek out as much education as we could possibly get.

As for listening to our parents, our grandparents were absolutely clear that our parents had a responsibility to be hard on us, but that they knew far better than we did what it would take for us to grow up and be successful in this country and in this world.  They also made it clear to us that our parents knew what was at stake if we didn't listen, and if we didn't grow up to be responsible and hard-working.  They helped to translate the rhyme and reason for the strict childhood we were experiencing.  The stakes have always been high for our children growing up in such a racist society.  And as much as our grandparents may have spoiled us, they also didn't play games.  We did chores around their house, we ran errands for them and we did anything and everything they asked of us.  And when necessary, they disciplined us just as 'intensely' as our parents did.  Our grandparents didn't play.

In terms of education, they made sure we knew that formal schooling (as in going to school to learn and get diplomas, degrees, etc.) wasn't always allowed for our people, and that anything we wanted to be and do in life would require a strong educational foundation.  They also made it clear that there were some things we needed to learn that wouldn't be taught in textbooks... like respect for elders, how to conduct ourselves in public (we represent our parents and extended family at all times), how to treat other people and our lifelong responsibility to our family and community.  It was clear that getting an education wasn't just about our own individual success, but those were all tools and processes we needed to exploit in order to make our mark - in support of our community - in this world.

While there was so much that I did get, the one thing that I wish I got more of directly from my grandparents was greater insight about what their childhoods were like - what it was like to have grown up so close to the years during which our people were enslaved.  I appreciate now how hard and traumatic some of those memories were, and also how their insistence on being forward-looking accounted for a lot of that.  The good thing is that my parents, as well as my aunts and uncles, have over the years helped me and some cousins understand what those earlier years were like.

Now, in my adult years and as a parent of two growing children, I watch with great appreciation as my children interact with their grandparents, as well as with their great aunts and uncles.  It's such a blessing that they get to soak up some of the same stories that I'm hearing for the first time, as young children.  It's also powerful to watch them listen to some of the reflections from our elders about the long history of racism that we continue to fight.  One of the most pronounced messages they're hearing is that this isn't new, and that there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the experiences - successes and no so successful strategies - of our long fight for freedom and justice so that they can be better prepared as the face and tactics of racism and white supremacy continue to evolve during their lifetime.

I share some of these reflections as a reminder that we have so much to learn from our elders about life and about our history in this world.  We can't blow them off, and we also can't afford to let their stories, experiences and wisdom leave us when they transition from this physical life.

For years now, I have kept a small statue of an elder on my desk, and it reminds me of the many years of life that have been lived by others before me, and that have made it possible for me to be here.  I, and we all, have to tap into that wisdom if we really want to turn this pathology of racism and white supremacy on its head.

There's little new under the sun.  And that's certainly true when it comes to our effort to heal and develop our families in the face of white supremacy.  If more of us better understood the look, feel and ever-changing landscape of this racist pathology, we would be able to focus our energies and strategies so much more effectively.  Studying our history is our best starting point, including both our ancient ways of living in the world and our collective response to racism and white supremacy during the lifetimes of our elders and ancestors.

We have many elders in our midst right now.  We should start today by asking questions, making sense of that experience and gaining any insight about how to apply it to today's circumstances.

The only generational gap that can ever exist is the one that we deliberately refuse to bridge.



Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates Talks White Supremacy and Reparations

Reviewing the historical record, Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the case that our nation must acknowledge its history of white supremacy, and make deliberate efforts to heal the hurt caused by the explainable "injury gap".