JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – October is “Racial Reconciliation Month” in Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant presented a declaration last week surrounded by black and white ministers in hopes of breaking barriers.
However, one group of leaders in Mississippi say there’s something holding back the healing, the Mississippi state flag; they also want an apology from the governor.
“We look at April the governor declared April as Confederate Heritage Month here in the state of Mississippi. Now October, he’s declaring “Racial Reconciliation Month,” Duvalier Malone said on the steps of the Capitol. He wants Bryant to take down the flag.
“Oh, we rise above that. Let me tell you the challenges that may exist because of the differences in the flag pales in comparison if you look at some of the struggles that go on; violence in neighborhoods and drug addictions things that I work on every day to try and do something about,” Bryant said on October 5th, the day of his proclamation.
“As the governor, being our leader of Mississippi should stand and tell the nation that ‘we apologize for our racial past.'”
Back in 2001, Mississippians voted to keep the flag as is, brandishing the Confederate battle flag emblem.
“We know that nine times out of 10, we’re not going to get an apology from the governor. That’s not our point here today. Our point here is to start a conversation to start a movement of unity,” explains Malone. Bryant wants to start a conversation too, using the flag. “It may be the thing that begins the conversation,” adds Bryant last week. “They can sit down and talk about that. A lot of people want to use it as a wedge. I think it might be an opportunity for people to sit down and talk about racial reconciliation.”
Bryant and Malone aren’t the only ones trying to start a dialogue. Last year, Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn was criticized by his supporters for wanting to change the flag. In February of 2016, he stood by his statement saying, “I will continue to stand by my view that changing the flag is the right thing to do. The flag is going to change.”
Back on the front lines of the flag fight, Malone says action is needed now. “It will start the healing process because talk is cheap, action. The flag will start the healing process.”
In the last legislative session, more than a dozen bills were introduced that would have changed the flag. Every one of them died in committee.