Whitney Curtis / New York Times

Bree Newsome, left, will speak at Cornell on Feb. 11.

January 28, 2019

Activist Bree Newsome to Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. at Cornell

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Activist, artist and community organizer Bree Newsome — best known for removing the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Statehouse —  will come to Cornell on Feb. 11 to discuss her efforts. Newsome’s talk is part of a larger annual commemorative event that focuses on “the service, activism and legacy of Dr. King,” according to the event page.

Newsome first rose to national attention in 2015 when she shimmied up the flagpole of the South Carolina Capitol building and removed the Confederate flag that had hung there for more than half a century.

Newsome’s website condemns that flag as a “statement of opposition to the Civil Rights Movement and lunch counter sit-ins occurring at the time.” Tensions over the controversial flag peaked after the shooting of nine black churchgoers by self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina.

A prolific black activist, Newsome’s work primarily deals with “incidents of young black people being unjustly killed and issues related to structural racism,” according to her website. In recent years, Newsome has marched with Occupy Wall Street, volunteered to be arrested in a sit-in protesting legislation at the North Carolina statehouse and organized protests after the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Keith Lamont Scott, Newsome’s website said.

Her activism has earned her many awards and honors, including the 2016 NAACP Image Award “in recognition of her work on behalf of civil rights,” her website reads.

In addition to her work in activism, Newsome is also an accomplished filmmaker. According to her website, Newsome won a $40,000 scholarship at the age of 18 from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences as part of a short film competition. She later went on to study film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where her senior year short film was a finalist for the Wasserman Award, the university’s top honor for filmmaking.

The talk is sponsored by Office of Spirituality and Meaning-Making, Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, Student and Campus Life and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center. It will focus on Newsome’s take on the relationship between activism and art.

Newsome’s past experience weaving the two disciplines includes the 2016 film she produced and directed, Rise Up and Go.

The event will take place Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in Sage Chapel; it is open to the public.