“We Are All Leaders”: What We Can Learn From Bree Newsome About Being Unapologetically Bold
“We took down the flag precisely because we weren’t waiting for someone to arise as the next Martin Luther King, Jr. We are all leaders.”
This quote from Bree Newsome sums up the reason the 30-year-old activist, who through civil disobedience, scaled a 30-foot pole to take down a controversial piece of American history: the Confederate flag. For most, Newsome will be remembered as the rebel who defied the law by taking down the symbolic piece of red, white and blue cloth; but for some, specifically Black women, she is the one who has reminded us of our legacy of being fearless leaders. But has this brand of boldness, displayed by Newsome, become a thing of the past for many of us? Are we as Black women losing our edge when it comes to standing up for the things that matter to us?
From Harriet Tubman freeing hundreds of slaves in the 1800s to Angela Davis sternly speaking out in the forefront for what she believed in (afro and all) while also fighting for her freedom, Black women have proven to be natural leaders, strong and courageous, time and time again. But somewhere along our journey, quite a few of us everyday Black women stopped making audacious statements against social injustices. Some might argue that it’s because circumstances are different, better even. And while that may be true, depending on who you ask and on what day, there is still a lot of work to do within our communities and within ourselves.
This isn’t Newsome’s first time being arrested for peaceful protest. She was one of six people detained during a demonstration against voter ID laws in North Carolina. She’s participated in sit-ins and has used the Internet as a platform to vocalize her disdain for social inequality. Instead of posting a plethora of self-serving selfies, Newsome uses social media to voice her opinion through thought-provoking, often controversial posts. Still, the NYU graduate will probably be known most for the day, June 27, 2015, when in the wee hours of the morning she climbed the pole in front of South Carolina’s State House and took down the Confederate flag.
I am not suggesting that women should kick up dust every time we believe someone is doing something wrong. Nor am I suggesting that you become a bonafide radical who defies every law you think should never have been put into legislation. The goal isn’t necessarily to end up behind bars like Newsome, Assata Shakur, or even Rosa Parks. The objective is simple: take a lesson from their boldness and be reminded of your own.
Maybe you don’t feel so inclined to fight against social injustice. That’s fine. But boldness doesn’t always have to be displayed on a large scale. It could consist of making a significant decision in your life that requires you to step out of your comfort zone. ‘Bossing up’ in that meeting where you are always the only minority, or tackling a new business venture, despite everyone around you saying that it can’t be done.
Although the Confederate flag was replaced less than two hours after Newsome snatched it down, the act of her removing it will linger on in our minds and hopefully motivate positive change. Hell, South Carolina’s Senate went on to vote for the flag to be taken down. Who knows what role Newsome could have played in that decision?
It’s now a better time to be a Black woman (at least in comparison to the past). Think about it. Women before us fought in more dire circumstances than most of the ones we face, but they weren’t afraid to do it. That alone should be enough to inspire you to unleash your own boldness on the world.
Now more than ever, large numbers of Black women are owning businesses, graduating with advanced degrees, and obtaining leadership positions, but this doesn’t mean ‘we’re good.’ Perhaps, many of us feel we have more to lose and aren’t being our authentic selves for fear of losing our seat at the table. But Bree Newsome’s controversial stance should challenge you to stand for something and not be afraid to fight for it. It should encourage you to stand for causes that are bigger than yourself. More importantly, it should inspire you to be unapologetic for being who you were meant to be: a bold, beautiful Black woman with an opinion.