* Anti-capitalist writer, producer, activist, artist, and consultant
* Supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement
* Views America as a nation infested with white racism
* Claims that police departments are likewise systemically racist
* Climbed a 30-foot-high flagpole in 2015 to take down a Confederate flag in South Carolina
* “Capitalism has to collapse…. I think I would define capitalism as the catastrophe.”
Brittany Ann Byuarm “Bree” Newsome was born on May 13, 1985 in Durham, North Carolina. She was raised in Columbia, Maryland, which is located within Howard County, one of the wealthiest areas in the United States. Her father has served variously as the Dean of the Howard University School of Divinity, and the President of both Shaw University and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Ms. Newsome received a scholarship to attend the prestigious New York University Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated with a B.F.A. in Film and Television.
According to her personal website, Newsome works as a “writer, [film and video] producer, activist, artist, [and] consultant.” Her career has been predominantly dedicated to leftwing activism. For example:
- She participated in the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City in 2011.
- Ahead of the 2012 presidential election, she created and directed a music video intended to satirize Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his party. Replete with obscenities, the video berated Romney for “representing the Mormons and the one percent” and portrayed him as a racist, misogynistic, money-grabbing “vulture” who cared about no one other than “the white and rich.”
- In 2013, Newsome was arrested for taking part in a sit-in at the office of then-North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. She and her allies were protesting a proposed piece of legislation that would have required voters to show a photo I.D. at their polling places — a measure she claimed would make it “more difficult for North Carolinians to vote.”
Noting that Newsome’s political activism “has focused upon incidents of young black people being unjustly killed and issues related to structural racism,” Biography.com reports that in 2012 Newsome traveled from North Carolina to Florida with the radical Dream Defenders to protest the widely publicized death of black teenager Trayvon Martin. The same website says that in 2014 Newsome took part in an “11-mile march from the Beavercreek, OH Wal-Mart where [a 22-year-old black man named] John Crawford was killed by police, to the courthouse in Xenia, OH, demanding release of the footage showing the killing.”
From 2013-2015, Newsome served as the Western Field Organizer for Ignite NC, an organization which believes that “current conditions [in the U.S.] are rooted in the legacies of colonialism, slavery, white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalist exploitation.” She also was one of the founders of The Tribe, a grassroots organizing collective created in 2014 to address the structural racism and police violence allegedly confronting the black community of Charlotte, North Carolina.
On the morning of June 27, 2015, Newsome generated national attention when she climbed a 30-foot-high flagpole in order to pull down the Confederate flag which was displayed in front of the South Carolina State House building in Columbia. Defying the orders of police who demanded that she come down from the pole, Newsome exclaimed to officers at the scene: “You come against me with hatred, and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!” At around the time of her arrest, Newsome emailed media outlets to elaborate on her motivation for having climbed the flagpole: “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day…. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward racial justice and equality.”
Prominent left-wing figures and activists quickly rallied to Newsome’s defense:
- The NAACP praised her for her “courage and moral impulse,” while likening her to Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau.
- Jesse Jackson posted a tweet stating: “We thank God that @BreeNewsome had the courage to take the flag down!”
- Radical filmmaker Michael Moore and the leftwing activist group Color of Change both offered to pay Newsome’s legal fees following her arrest.
- During a 2016 presidential campaign rally on Martin Luther King Day at the South Carolina State House, then-candidate Hillary Clinton hailed Newsome for “shimmying up that flagpole” to remove “that symbol of division and racism.”
Within weeks of Newsome’s flagpole protest, the South Carolina legislature voted overwhelmingly to remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds.
The 2015 flagpole climb brought Newsome, who had previously been a largely obscure activist, a measure of publicity she had never before experienced. Shortly after the incident, she made numerous media appearances that included, among others, interviews with the Democracy Now! newscast and Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
In February 2016, Ebony magazine published a piece authored by Newsome in which she wrote: “My activism is indeed informed by my faith in Jesus Christ who was ‘sent to set the oppressed free.’”
In the fall of that same year, Newsome delivered a speech at the Monticello Summit — “a summit on race, memory and slavery.” In a discussion with other panelists, she lamented that “All you have to do … is criminalize blackness and you’re able to maintain a free labor force.” Newsome also took the opportunity to argue that the 13th Amendment had not, in fact, abolished slavery, insisting that “slavery … has not ended.” Moreover, she questioned the U.S. Constitution’s relevance and legitimacy vis-a-vis African Americans: “If I have a paper that says I’m entitled to certain rights when I interact with the police, but then when the police violate those rights, and there’s no accountability, do we actually have those rights? That’s the fundamental question of the United States that has existed from its beginning.”
In 2016 as well, Newsome received the NAACP’s Chairman’s Award, which honors “individuals and organizations who have used their distinct platforms to be agents of change.” Other notable winners of that same award in 2016 included Justice League NYC, Jussie Smollett, and Otis Moss III.
Reflecting on her 2015 flagpole climb during a 2017 interview, Newsome said: “We really thought through the symbolism of this and the power of the image of a black woman scaling the pole and really symbolizing the struggle of the people over systematic racism that is represented by the Confederate flag.”
In October 2018, Newsome married a young man named Marcus Bass.
Under the temporary username DEFUND & ABOLISH POLICE,” Newsome took to Twitter in April 2021 to express her support for the recent rioting and looting that Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists had been leading in response to the infamous May 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some of her more noteworthy tweets included the following:
- “I’m definitely in the camp of defending rioting & looting as a legitimate, politically-informed response to state violence. I’ve tweeted on this topic many times & I’m always willing to engage people in good faith discussion of why I hold that position.”
- “I refuse any effort to deflect from the central issue of racism by pretending property damage warrants police firing teargas on communities that are justifiably outraged by how police keep murdering people.”
- “Far from making the argument people think it does, the hand-wringing over property damage & looting in situations like this only highlights how this society treats Black people as less than human.”
- “No one has difficulty understanding targeted property damage as a political act when it’s white ppl. Depicting Blk &/or poor ppl as mindlessly looting just to ‘take advantage’ of social unrest [fostered by actions of the police] serves a racist fantasy of Black ppl being lawless.”
- “The whole function of the focus on looting is to say, ‘look— this is why we need police even if they frequently murder people. Black ppl are just waiting for any opportunity to steal & the police are the only ones protecting the property’…”
- “They will never turn the camera to the Dollar Tree & then engage in an analysis of the economic relationship between the corporation & the community surrounding it & its connection to the daily experience of racist policing.”
- “[P]eople are so fully indoctrinated into white supremacy that they’ve never interrogated who is allowed to damage property & why. The police are simultaneously damaging property during a riot they incited but that is deemed acceptable.”
- “Half of the political establishment continues to defend the actions of the 1/6 riot [the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol], arguing that the people who damaged property that day were justifiably outraged. The Boston Tea Party is also framed as a justified political act. It’s only Black ppl who must protest quietly.”
- “Folks love to distinguish between ‘peaceful protesters’ and the protesters throwing rocks at police while ignoring how the police side of the conflict is nothing but violence & military grade weaponry. Why can’t police also be obligated to respond by marching in circles w/ signs?”
- “There are many arguments to be made in favor of nonviolent resistance. ‘Violent resistance never leads to desired results’ is not one of them & it hurts the credibility of the argument to make a statement that is demonstrably untrue.”
- “It’s also problematic that many only speak of nonviolence to say how people should ‘respond to’ violent systems but don’t call for the abolition & dismantling of the violent systems themselves.”
In June 2020, Newsome had an interview with Democracy Now! regarding the then-growing movement to remove, destroy, or topple allegedly “racist” symbols and monuments from public spaces in cities across the United States – e.g., Confederate flags or statues of historical figures like Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. At various points in the interview, Newsome said:
- “I think the taking down of monuments and symbology, specifically, is also about challenging this idea that white property and state property is more valuable than our lives. I mean, that was really the ideology that informed colonialism, that it’s OK to exploit people and lands for profit because profit and property is worth more than lives and natural resources. And so, this groundswell that we’re seeing now around the world is really about rejecting that and about calling for a greater sense of humanity, a greater sense of human citizenship, a call for dignity and for a better future, and a rejection of that kind of ideology of the past.”
- “[I]t’s important to recognize and name the ideology of white supremacy, which is … this idea that the, quote-unquote, ‘white race’ is the superior race and that all other people have been elevated into civilization, you know, as a byproduct of colonialism and slavery.”
- “I think there also needs to be an acknowledgment of how mainstream white supremacist ideology is. So, if we’re going to really have this process of removing symbols, of renaming things, I want us to also be careful that we don’t just engage in a surface-level way of going about it — right? — where we just simply change the names, but we don’t address the ideology.”
- “Military bases … are a major part of United States imperialism. United States imperialism is very much informed by white supremacist ideology. So, when [President] Trump is making this claim that he will never change … the names of the bases that are named after Confederates, and people are saying, ‘Oh, that’s so outrageous,’ I think, yes, of course, it is outrageous, but we also need to examine why was it named after a Confederate to begin with. I mean, that clearly indicates how mainstream the ideology of the Confederacy continued to be and continues to be in the United States of America, that we’re still having this debate in 2020.”
- “[W]e need to make sure that we are also examining what exactly is white supremacist ideology, because the Confederacy was half of the United States. And I think there tends to be this narrative around the South being uniquely racist, it is only the South that benefited and profited from slavery, it is only the South that continues to uphold white supremacist ideology. This most recent spate of police killings and a lot of the uprisings, these are happening all over the nation…. So we have to dig deeper in really understanding what it means to uproot and root out white supremacist ideology as we go through this process of renaming things and changing symbols.”
- “We had the election of the nation’s first Black president [Barack Obama], followed by the election of an overt white supremacist [Donald Trump], who pretty much ran on a platform of trying to undo the Black presidency and ran on a platform of catering to everyone who felt anxiety around the idea of the changing demographics of America, the idea that America could really be a multiracial democracy.”
- “[W]hat we see in terms of what Trump represents as a movement, is very much white supremacy, white nationalism, this belief that America was made for white people, should only be for white people … So we really need to recognize what is at stake in this moment in terms of facing off both authoritarianism, fascism and white nationalism.”
Newsome was outraged by an April 20, 2021 incident where a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio had shot and killed a 16-year-old black female named Makiyah Bryant. Despite the fact that a frenzied Bryant, at the very moment she was shot, was forcefully thrusting a knife toward the head and neck of another black teenage girl in an attempt to stab her, Newsome condemned the officer for having intervened. “Teenagers have been having fights including fights involving knives for eons,” she tweeted. “We do not need police to address these situations by showing up to the scene & using a weapon against one of the teenagers. Y’all need help. I mean that sincerely.”
Newsome has condemned the United States as a bastion of systemic racism in a number of published online articles for, and interviews with, various leftwing outlets. Some examples include the following:
1) “Charlottesville Reinforced That Self-Care Is an Essential Part of My Activism” (2017)
- Excerpt: “We’re living in a society that was built upon the enslavement and dehumanization of black people, a society that targets black women in specific and heinous ways.”
2) “Who is Martin Luther King Jr. to Us, 50 Years Later?” (2018)
- Excerpt: “Too often in our modern day we see an ahistorical narrative being applied to the civil rights movement that imagines it as having ended in triumph, its primary objectives accomplished with the end of forced segregation and the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. But … the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has not survived intact. It was gutted by the US Supreme Court in 2013, leading to ongoing legal battles in Southern states such as North Carolina, where Republican-controlled legislatures have sought new methods to suppress black voter participation.”
3) “Black Cops Don’t Make Policing Less Anti-Black” (2021)
- Excerpt: “Police forces represent some of the oldest white fraternal organizations in the United States. The rules of who is empowered to police and who is subject to policing are fundamental to the organization of the racial caste system. Even in the earliest days of integrating police forces, Black officers were often told they couldn’t arrest white people. The [racial] integration of police forces [today] does nothing to alter their basic function as the primary enforcers of structural racism on a daily basis, and the presence of Black officers only serves as an attempt to mask this fact.”
- Excerpt: “Police forces in America began as slave patrols, and their primary function has always been to act in service of the white ownership class and its capitalist production. In one century, that meant policing and controlling enslaved Black people, with the purview to use violence against free Black people as well; in another, it involved cracking down on organized labor, for the benefit of white capitalists.”
4) “Capitalism Has to Collapse” (2022)
- Excerpt: “Capitalism has to collapse. It has to collapse. I think I would define capitalism as the catastrophe. Capitalism is the unfolding catastrophe. It’s this thing that has grabbed us all in its arms and it is just plummeting down. And it’s a question of are we able to get off before it takes us all down with it? So I think capitalism is the catastrophe.”
As of 2022, Newsome has an estimated net worth of approximately $5 million.