The Mississippi state flag flies above the Lowndes County Courthouse, as shown on June 10. State legislators voted Saturday to suspend legislative deadlines to allow debate on a bill that would remove the Confederate emblem from the flag. Photo by: Claire Hassler/Dispatch Staff
June 27, 2020 9:00:51 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Golden Triangle legislators overwhelmingly supported the resolution passed in the state Capitol Saturday to suspend legislative deadlines and allow for a bill to change the state flag.
"To me it's an opportunity for the state to choose a flag that represents everyone instead of a flag that only represents a few, so I think that's a positive thing," said Rep. Rob Roberson (R-Starkville) after the vote Saturday.
Representatives Kabir Karriem (D-Columbus) and Cheikh Taylor (D-Starkville) both called the vote a "historic" day for Mississippi, whose flag has featured the Confederate emblem since 1894. The flag has come under increasing criticism in the wake of nationwide demonstrations protesting the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans by police.
"It's a proud day for Mississippi, but particularly for the Black community in the state and across the country really," Karriem said after the House vote. "A lot of people have tried to get that flag taken down, ever since it was commissioned in 1894, and today it's coming down.
"Time brings about a change. My mother says that all the time," he added. "With the climate that's going on in the country, with the pressure from the business and the athletic community, it's just a perfect storm. Everything lined up. And it's just time. It's been time to get rid of that flag with that Confederate emblem. It is an historical day, and I was proud to cast my vote representing ... the people of the 41st District."
Taylor said he believed legislators and lobbyists' "compelling speeches about history and economics" -- multiple business leaders throughout the state had said the flag was hurting attempts to bring industry to the state -- had swayed some of the flag's staunchest supporters.
"Today is just a wonderful day," he said. "It's an occasion where we know history is being celebrated, and our ancestors, as far as being an African American in the state Legislature, standing on the shoulders of John R. Lynch, who was the first (Black) state representative after Reconstruction, and also former chairman of ways and means Percy Watson. ... I guarantee you today that all our constituents back home are shouting, are praising this moment and saying Hosanna because of this monumental occasion. I'm floored, I'm a little out of my comfort zone right now with my emotions, but today is definitely a historical moment."
Sen. Chuck Younger (R-Columbus), who voted "yea" for the resolution, declined to comment on the record after the vote, but Sen. Angela Turner-Ford (D-West Point) said she was "exceptionally happy."
"I'm glad that today we were able to accomplish something that was prevalent on the hearts of a lot of Mississippians, and we're just looking forward to the next step," she said. "...We're well on the way. For some it was a tough vote. For me it wasn't as difficult."
The only representative from Columbus or Starkville who voted against the resolution was Dana McLean (R-Columbus), who said she would rather voters have decided the matter, not legislators. She said that has been her position since she ran for office last year.
"I actually felt that a referendum would be the fairest way, the most just way for it to be decided," she said. "I also feel that once it would be on the ballot, and say the flag changed, I think it would be easier for those who were opposed to that to accept that. So I felt like it was a better way to quell any ... discontent when or if the flag changed."
However, she said she still felt positive about the vote and that she will vote to change the flag when it comes to the floor.
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