ABOVE: John Sims, Denise Fowler, Dr. Jordan Simpson, John Guess, Pastor Freddy Haynes, Melvin Richardson and Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton at “Burn and Bury” event
HMAAC hosts event to explain why the Spirit of the Confederacy must be killed
On Memorial Day, the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) held an extremely powerful and unique ceremony that addressed White supremacy, racism and killing the Spirit of the Confederacy.
Ironically, the event was held at HMAAC’s location in front of a smoldering fire pit and The Spirit of the Confederacy monument that HMAAC received in June of last year.
The event took place to commemorate HMAAC Monument Artist in Residence John Sims’ sixth annual Memorial Day “Burn and Bury” ceremony.
“I want you to reaffirm your commitment to fighting for social justice,” said Sims, as he led attendees during a Confederate flag burning ceremony. “We must continue to fight for the space, the minds and the culture of Black people.”
Reverend Dr. Freddy Haynes, the prophetic Senior Pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas, who also serves as a passionate leader, social activist and eloquent orator, delivered a soul-stirring eulogy that addressed the burying of the Spirit of the Confederacy in this country.
“White Supremacy is entrenched in the body politic of the United States and so every now and then we’ve got to agitate, and we agitate that’s when justice and freedom come about,” said Pastor Freddy Haynes, Senior Pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas, who delivered a stirring Eulogy to kill the Spirit of the Confederacy. “You can’t kill what you ain’t real about, and the lingering Spirit of the Confederacy is real in these Dis-United States and must be killed. We must rebuild and replace it with the true Spirit of Democracy in this country and make America live up to its promise.”
Haynes applauded the efforts of the Texas Democratic legislators who walked out to prevent a quorum before the end of the Texas Legislative Session and said racism must be dealt with.
“Racism isn’t just someone being mean to you or calling you the n-word,” Haynes continued. “Racism is a structure and a system that produces outcomes repeatedly in this nation. We must stand up to it.”
The small, but engaged audience, came up when prompted to burn their makeshift Confederate flags, but felt the message and symbolism was what was most important.
“We always have to dispel the ideology of the Confederate flag and Confederate spirit that is in this nation,” said John Williams, one of the event attendees. “We must uplift our people and fight against this systemic racism and these unjust systems around social justice, criminal justice, food disparities, voter suppression, health disparities and other issues in our community.”
“We wanted to give the Confederate flag a proper burial,” said HMAAC CEO John Guess, Jr. “As the only African American cultural asset to own a Confederate monument, The Spirit of the Confederacy, how we engage it to broaden and reconstitute the narrative around it to take power from its symbolism is important. Our job at HMAAC as custodians is to ensure, especially during current times, that the true narrative about hatred and its symbols is never forgotten.”
Gospel singer Denise Fowler gave a stirring rendition of a revised Amazing Grace song, calling it “A-blazing Grace” which was a unique touch to an event that also included powerful poetry pieces by Houston Poet Laureate and VIP Arts Houston Director Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton and Dr. Jordan Simpson.
Sims, a Detroit native, is also a writer and social justice activist, who creates art and curatorial projects spanning the areas of installation, performance, text, music, film and large-scale activism, informed by mathematics, design, the politics of white supremacy, sacred symbols/anniversaries, and poetic/political text. For 20 years, he has been working on the forefront of contemporary mathematical art and leading the national pushback on Confederate iconography, and in this past year the social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sims has given lectures and presented his exhibitions not only nationally but internationally in countries such as Hungary, Spain, Slovenia, Israel and Argentina. His work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, The Guardian, The Root, ThinkProgress, Al Jazeera, Guernica, Art in America, Transition, Sculpture, FiberArts, Science News and the science journal Nature. He has written for major publications such as CNN, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, Guernica Magazine, The Rumpus and The Grio.
This annual “Burn and Bury” event is part of Sims’ Recoloration Proclamation, a 20-year multi-media project which explores the complexity of identity, cultural appropriation and visual terrorism in the context of Confederate iconography and African American culture. This project has featured recolored Confederate flags, installations, public performances, protest work, film, and the AfroDixieRemixes. Elements of the project have been performed in Soho, Harlem, Gettysburg, at the State Capitol in Columbia, SC, and on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco.
Sims’ residency was sponsored by the Houston Endowment, HEB and the Board of Directors of HMAAC.