I just spotted that Shaun King posted some inside baseball on Bree Newsome and the removal of the Confederate flag.
This coming week, South Carolina will host a debate on the removal of the Confederate Flag. It’s a disgrace that it even requires such a thing. My deepest desire is that it will be removed soon not just from South Carolina but from each and every government sponsored flag in our country. Yes, it’s a symbol, but symbols have meaning. It meant something real to the man who murdered nine members of Emanuel AME and, for decades, it has meant something to racists hell bent on terrorizing African Americans across this country.
We have a lot of work to do, but this much I know, our nation is better because of the boldness of Bree Newsome and I look forward to her leadership in the days and months ahead.
I don’t share it just to celebrate Bree’s action, though. It also reveals something I experienced during my quite limited exposure to social justice activism: these actions are heavily planned and discussed, with quite a bit of thought put into how the message will be interpreted. This isn’t new, either, here’s Wikipedia on the Montgomery Bus Boycott that Rosa Parks triggered.
The next morning there was a meeting led by the new MIA head, King, where a group of 16 to 18 people gathered at the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church to discuss boycott strategies. At that time Rosa Parks was introduced but not asked to speak, despite a standing ovation and calls from the crowd for her to speak; when she asked if she should say something, the reply was, “Why, you’ve said enough.” A citywide boycott of public transit was proposed to demand a fixed dividing line for the segregated sections of the buses. Such a line would have meant that if the white section of the bus was oversubscribed, whites would have to stand; blacks would not be forced to give up their seats to whites.
This demand was a compromise for the leaders of the boycott, who believed that the city of Montgomery would be more likely to accept it rather than a demand for a full integration of the buses. In this respect, the MIA leaders followed the pattern of 1950s boycott campaigns in the Deep South, including the successful boycott a few years earlier of service stations in Mississippi for refusing to provide restrooms for blacks. The organizer of that campaign, T. R. M. Howard of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, had spoken on the brutal slaying of Emmett Till as King’s guest at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church only four days before Parks’s arrest. Parks was in the audience and later said that Emmett Till was on her mind when she refused to give up her seat.
The MIA’s demand for a fixed dividing line was to be supplemented by a requirement that all bus passengers receive courteous treatment by bus operators, be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, and that blacks be employed as bus drivers. The proposal was passed, and the boycott was to commence the following Monday. To publicize the impending boycott it was advertised at black churches throughout Montgomery the following Sunday.
Good activism takes hard work and long hours of planning. But when it works, the results can be oh-so-satisfying.