The face of a movement reflects on years of work to get Mississippi flag changed

The face of a movement reflects on years of work to get Mississippi flag changed

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - It took a simple stroke of a pen to retire the old state flag. A simple pull on a rope to take it down, and a simple check on a box to vote in a new design. But it took a complex effort to make those easy gestures happen.

And, it took a loud message, told over and over again.

Nearly five years ago, Lea Campbell and the Mississippi Rising Coalition took the challenge to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag. In the process, she reluctantly became the face and the voice behind the movement.

Flag-change proponent, Lea Campbell, reflects on five years of work prior to the ratification of the new stage flag on Monday.
Flag-change proponent, Lea Campbell, reflects on five years of work prior to the ratification of the new stage flag on Monday. (Source: Lea Campbell)

“I didn’t do this because I wanted to be the face of the flag-change movement,” Campbell said. “And I prefer to not be remembered that way. I prefer that it be remembered as a coalition effort - a multi-racial coalition effort.”

At 2:30 p.m. Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves will sign the bill ratifying the newly adopted state flag. The signing will be at 2:30 p.m. Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, followed by a flag-raising ceremony on the grounds of the state capitol.

“It’s the anticlimactic - at this point - finish to a long road.” said Campbell.

While significant, it’s not the most important step in the process for her.

Flag-change proponent, Lea Campbell, reflects on five years of work prior to the ratification of the new stage flag on Monday.
Flag-change proponent, Lea Campbell, reflects on five years of work prior to the ratification of the new stage flag on Monday. (Source: Lea Campbell)

“Our goal was to see that Confederate emblem removed from the flag,” Campbell said. “We never advocated for a specific replacement design.”

The big moment was when Reeves signed the new law removing the old flag.

“That was the moment that I really kind of just let everything go,” said Campbell. “And I actually cried.”

But Campbell acknowledges this week’s historical moment and said it has given her a chance to look at that long road in the rearview mirror.

“I really have been spending time reflecting and thinking about what it must mean, what it does mean to all the people that worked literally for decades on this issue.” said Campbell.

Flag-change proponent, Lea Campbell, reflects on five years of work prior to the ratification of the new stage flag on Monday.
Flag-change proponent, Lea Campbell, reflects on five years of work prior to the ratification of the new stage flag on Monday. (Source: wlox)

Of all the civil rights work she’s been involved with - the Poor People’s Campaign and prison reform among them - the flag change remains the most rewarding and successful for her.

“It rates, for me, at the top because this is a big win,” Campbell said. “This is a policy change that we worked on for five years.”

Despite still another effort to re-instate the old flag, Campbell said this fight is over. But another is still ahead.

“Now the fight, the struggle, has to move to dismantling those systems and forming new systems that value the dignity and quality of life of every person in our country, regardless of skin color or country of origin or other factors that divide us.” said Campbell.

Copyright 2021 WLOX. All rights reserved.