The battle over the confederate flag continues to unravel across the nation as protesters supporting and opposing the symbol take matters into their own hands. State Sen. John Horhn filed a bill asking state lawmakers to make a decision to either keep or change the state flag once and for all. The requested bill introduced to the Mississippi legislature includes establishing a commission to redesign and revamp a replacement flag, excluding the Confederate emblem.
The South Carolina church massacre helped spark the national movement and call of action among southern states, such as Mississippi, that prominently incorporate the “Stars and Bars” in its flag.
Enraged by past events, protesters from all walks of life have reached out to voice their beliefs on this controversial topic.
“That symbol demonstrates nothing but violence and remembrance of such a disheartening time,” said junior media production major Tobias Griffen. “It is imperative that we take advantage of this opportunity and set an example for the younger generation, portraying that we can unite together to fight for a greater cause.” In October, USM president Rodney Bennett ordered the state and universities flags be removed and replaced with American flags half an hour before a demonstration in opposition to the state flag was scheduled to take place on campus.
Donald Holmes, Southern Miss alumnus and Ph.D. student at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, expressed that the removal of any monument from a location does little towards the advancement of this nation if laws still uphold structural racism.
“This issue is deeper than a flag, but it is a good place to start,” Holmes said.
After the flag was removed, the Student Government Association passed a resolution stating that no state flag would be raised on campus as long as the confederate emblem was in it.
“As Mississippians, it is our responsibility and duty to remain loyal to our culture,” said junior nursing major Chandler Hardin. “I believe in keeping our traditional flag because it is (a part) of our nation’s history,”.
Enthusiasts of changing the flag expressed that this is not an attempt to erase history, but an effort to create a symbol that represents all Mississippians.
Supporters of the Flag for All Mississippians Act — Initiative 55, have scheduled a rally in February at the state capital to demonstrate their significance for voting the initiative into action.
Sharon Brown of Jackson is the sponsor of the initiative that would create a new flag with no Confederate emblem or reference to the Confederacy. She and other supporters are still gathering the 107,000 signatures needed to get the proposed amendment on the ballot.
“Our motto is ‘the hospitality state,’” Brown said. “But, unfortunately, the flag does not represent that.”
Recollecting to Mississippi’s last public vote in 2001 on the status of the state flag, voters chose by a 65 percent margin to preserve it. 15 years later, questions are beginning to surface on whether or not the symbol represents either heritage or hatred.
Rafeal Sanchez, sponsor of Initiative 58 and of keeping the traditional flag of 1894, has expressed that media and individuals from outside the state have made it their agenda to attack the state and the beliefs that Mississippians holds dear.
“The legislators know that if the people vote on this again, the outcome will be the same as it was in 2001,” Sanchezsaid.
Gov. Phil Bryant said he respects the 2001 vote, but thinks if a redesign is to be considered, it should be done by another statewide vote rather than by the legislature.
“I feel that the state flag of Mississippi is a symbol of who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going,” Sanchez said. “You can’t build a future by erasing the past.”
While state officials continue to debate on the status of the state flag, a proposed design can be completed by the end of the year and unveiled for the state’s bicentennial celebration on Dec. 10, 2017.