It’s a Specific Position That Stands Actively–Not Passively

Bree NFrom a recent Black Perspectives interview that Ajamu Amiri Dillahunt did with Bree Newsome Bass, an artist who drew national attention in 2015 when she climbed the flagpole in front of the South Carolina Capitol building and lowered the confederate battle flag.

I often get the question, “how do I become an activist.” The simple answer is that an activist is one who acts, who takes action in furtherance of a cause. I was an activist before I consciously identified as such. I never had ambitions of being an activist, only an ambition to change things for the better. The labels only serve to describe what it is I do. It’s become very hip to identify as an activist–not necessarily a bad thing–but it’s important to not let this word become devoid of meaning. Many of the struggles and movements of the past have been Disney-fied and watered down to focus merely on the tactic of nonviolent protest and to portray the tactic as being the goal itself. That is, the reason for the protests, racial and economic oppression, are erased and glossed over to make it seem like the extent of being an activist is participating in a nonviolent protest. The white power structure continues to find new ways to dilute or subvert the central issue of racism in America. One of its most recent tactics is introducing the notion of “bothsideism” to activism. Every cause qualifies as “activism” and everyone is an “activist” with little time or examination given to what cause folks are actually being an activist for. Continue reading

To Empower Disempowered People

breeFrom an Essence interview with Bree Newsome, who scaled the flagpole of injustice in Charleston. She is a member of the Tribe, a small group of protestors in Charlotte.

An activist named Heather flew down from New York to train me. We went to a park and practiced on lampposts, basketball hoops, and then I got to practice on one flagpole. The very first attempt I made…I was just completely winded, thinking, I don’t know how I can climb 30 feet. Once I got the rhythm of it, it was fine. It’s actually more leg strength than arm strength…

What we’re really hoping to do with Tribe and other local organizations is to develop a model for sustainable change and organization. We’re facing a lot of crisis. We don’t see action happening nationally for our lower-income communities here in Charlotte. We can come together as citizens to empower disempowered people who don’t have the agency to do this. It’s not going to be just one person changing the world.