Today’s Dame of the Day is Sylvia Mendez (1936-). As a child in segregated California, Mendez’s parents tried to enroll her in a “whites-only” school and failed. Instead of accepting defeat, they sued the system and the case, Mendez v. Westminster, became a landmark benchmark for ending segregated education. In 2011, Mendez received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts.
After last week’s murder of nine Emanuel AME parishioners, the Confederate flag continued to fly high over Charleston, South Carolina. In spite of a petition signed by 568,000 people, persuasion from local government leaders, and even a plea from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the flag, viewed by critics as a symbol of white supremacy, continued to fly. But on Saturday morning, activist Bree Newsome decided that enough was enough. With the support of fellow activist James Ian Tyson, Newsome scaled the 30-foot pole and removed the flag herself.
Photo credit: danteberry Instagram
Newsome’s actions come at a personal cost; the punishment for a misdemeanor charge can be a fine of $5,000, three years in prison, or a combination of the two. Yet in a press release, she made it clear that she believed the sacrifice was worth it. Newsome explained, “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.” In two days, her supporters have raised over $100,000 to assist with her case.
Image courtesy of Ana Mardoll
In addition to her activism, Newsome is also a classically trained pianist with a BFA in Film and Televison from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2011, she became the first Artist-In-Residence at Saatchi & Saatchi, a prestigious NYC ad agency. Currently, she resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, and serves as Western Field Organizer for Ignite, an organization dedicated to helping teens improve their local communities. Check Newsome’s website and social media to keep up with her case.