GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Residents in South Mississippi have mixed feelings after Sunday’s vote to retire the state flag.
While many residents believe this is a sign of progress for the state and the chance to move forward, others are upset they didn’t get to vote on the issue.
Within minutes of WLOX’s Facebook page going live on the decision made by Mississippi legislature, a flurry of comments lit up social media.
Lifelong Gulfport resident Shaheed Ali believes the gesture is a move toward unity.
“Once you remove that, you’re saying that everything is on an equal playing field now, that there’s no more advantages in society based on creed, color, etc. Everybody is equal,” Ali said.
One woman who wanted to go unnamed said the meaning behind the flag has been lost over time.
“That’s history. A lot of people don’t know the history behind the flag. If they would do research and know their history, them might would learn something about the flag,” she said.
Others said the reaction of big companies toward Mississippi shows it’s time for a change.
“From a financial, business, economic point of view, having the current Mississippi state flag is a negative sign to the rest of our country and the rest of our world for our state,” said Gulfport resident Billy Bova.
Community organizer Jeffery Hulum III said if the flag change will make room for the rest of the country to see Mississippi’s best qualities.
“The best thing that Mississippi has to offer is a diverse culture. It’s the heritage, people, hospitality state. It’s the food, it’s the weather. It’s just bringing everybody collectively,” Hulum said.
Pastor Allen Jenkins said changing the flag will not change some people’s hearts.
“So when they felt the economic impact of the Southeastern Conference removing championship games for the state of Mississippi and other national corporations beginning to boycott the state, then the pressure itself. So yes it’s a great day that the flag is coming down, but if the hearts of men does not change, then it’s still going to be the same corporate oppression.”
Jenkins added that it is important the African American community use their voices at the polls, as well.
Many are happy that the banner is going to be retired. However, some are concerned that one divisive emblem is being removed and another divisive phrase is taking its place.
“I feel like the words ‘In God We Trust’ doesn’t include all Mississippians,” said Ocean Springs resident Zach Britt. “People that are not religious are not included in the words ‘In God We Trust.’ We’re basically shifting from one symbol that dis-unifies the state to another motto that also does the same thing.”
Governor Tate Reeves is expected to sign the bill into law this week during a ceremony. That bills states that the new flag must meet two criteria: it cannot contain any confederate imagery and it must contain the words “In God We Trust.”
The bill signed calls for a flag committee of nine people to have a suitable replacement ready by Sept. 4, 2020, so it can appear on the ballot in November. If the new flag does not get a majority vote, it will not come up for vote again until 2020 and there would be no state flag in the interim.