Florida A&M University hosted their eighth Annual Spring Literary Forum in Lee Hall Auditorium on Feb. 24-25. The University welcomed generations of black women activists, themed “Afra-Retroism: African-American Women and the American South.”
Amongst the women was Bree Newsome, who is praised for removing the Confederate flag by climbing the flagpole on Statehouse grounds in Columbia, South Carolina. She was introduced by FAMU’s College of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities Dean, Dr. Valencia Matthews.
Matthews held back tears as she handed Newsome the microphone. She shared the pain she witnessed in South Carolina growing up and applauded Newsome for taking a stance. “From a South Carolina black girl to a North Carolina black girl, thank you,” Matthews said.
Newsome spoke vividly about historic systematic torture against African-Americans. Within one minute of speaking, she paused and said, “Let’s take three deep breaths as a unit.”
“This is so we can learn how to operate together,” she said.
Newsome said, “I was not born conscious.” She revealed that her conscious self-started to awaken in 2013 after her visit to The Old Slave Mart Museum in South Carolina. “The museum stirred my soul, and I felt the deeper connection to the struggle of my ancestors,” she said.
Nicholas Craddieth, a senior Public Relations student, considered the event special. “I found the event to be pretty special,” he said. Craddieth said the part that stood out most was when Newsome said, “The process of going from unconscious to conscious is a choice that an individual must make.”
Newsome defined consciousness as awareness of our unconscious behaviors. Her consciousness led her to become an organizer for the community and connecting to other activists. “Consciousness is a process of inquiry in which one must be willing to engage, to consider the reality that exists outside of one’s experience,” she said.
Although the world may know Newsome as an activist, her passion is not limited. She is also a writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, consultant, and a speaker according to her website www.breenewsome.com.
Nikky Finney, an award-winning author, described Newsome as the type of woman who comes with a team of people. “You talk differently when 8,000 people are supporting you versus standing alone, “Finney said. She also said she was grateful for Newsome because she bridges the generation gaps. “When Bree talks, young people listen.”