Given her background in communications, Bree Newsome focuses on using her skills as an artist and activist to promote social justice. The artist rose to national prominence when she scaled the flagpole at the South Carolina State House and brought down the Confederate flag.
This single act of bravery and defiance quickly turned into a symbol of women's empowerment and resistance, which has been immortalized in artwork and photographs.
Continue reading to find out more about Bree Newsome’s art and social justice activism efforts.
A Creative Artist at Heart
Before Bree was referred to as a Black “hero” or “badass” as a result of her defiance and social activism, she was an artist. As the daughter of Clarence G. Newsome, Bree grew up in Maryland. Her father has served as Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center president and dean of the Howard University Religious School of Divinity.
After graduating from New York University, she got to showcase her creative skills through music and film. She created her first short film, Wake – a horror flick set in the state of North Carolina. In 2012, she was thrust into fame thanks to her “Shake it Like an Etch-A-Sketch” music video – which mocked Mitt Romney.
While speaking at Atlanta’s Spelman College, Bree stated she has always known, “Simply being myself was an act of defiance,” – when explaining how being a black woman in the sci-fi and horror genre of entertainment helped her understand activism.
Bree’s Role In Activism Art
Over the years, Newsome has become a household name thanks to her art and social justice activism efforts. She has participated in several actions including:
Scaling the Confederate Flagpole
After the gruesome murder of nine churchgoers in Mother Emmanuel back in June 2015, Newsome decided that it was time to act and spur change through non-violent acts. During Newsome’s unique and highly publicized installment of actual practice socially engaged art, the activist climbed a 30-foot pole at the South Carolina state capitol site and took down the Confederate battle flag. The flag, which was put up back in 1961, was a symbol of opposition to the civil rights movement.
After taking down the flag, Bree was immediately arrested. However, even though the flag went back up – less than an hour after being removed – the act of defiance had already stoked the flames of resistance across the nation. In addition to encouraging other acts of resistance countrywide, this act also worked to reopen and speed up the debate on the removal of similar symbols. The flag, which many people thought would fly indefinitely, was permanently removed from the site in July of the same year.
Newsome’s first notable act of social activism was back in 2013 – when she participated in Moral Monday protests. The protests were primarily against a move by North Carolina Republicans to bar learners from using their student IDs to vote. Bree was arrested together with other protesters for staging a sit-in at the office of the then-Republican Representative for North Carolina, Thom Tillis.