The Confederate Flag sways in the wind while hanging from a noose during the performance of artist John Sims’ “Confederate Flag: a Public Hanging.” (Nickolas Oatley/WOUB)

Confederate Flag Hanging Brings Powerful Message to Athens

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“It is time for us in this very belated moment to condemn this troubled flag to death,” John Simms, a Detroit multimedia artist who hosted the hanging of confederate flag at Ohio University Thursday said to several hundred people.

The installation depicted a Confederate flag hanging from a 13-foot gallows. According to Sims, this symbolic hanging was an act of justice for the many crimes of white supremacy, Jim crow segregation, and the contemporary terrorism associated with this flag and the Confederacy.

“The confederate flag shall hang as an affirmation that the south will never ever rise again among us in body and soul,” Simms said.

The event depicted a common 17th century public hanging, with a potluck lunch to follow.

It was sponsored by Athens community organization including Black Life Action Coalition, Appalachia Resist!, Showing Up For Racial Justice, Racial Action for Mountains’ and People’s survival, Athens Girls Rock Camp, United Campus Ministry, Appalachian Peace and Justice Network and Shagbark Seed and Mill.

Sims initially created the performance piece in 2004 in Gettysburg, PA, but due to a backlash from Sons of the Confederate Veterans, and threats of violence, the piece was compromised and only shown inside, minus the performance. Some 13 years later, the artist presented for the first time this Confederate flag hanging as it was originally intended, in Athens.

Residents said they hope the community will continue to fight against oppression. ShaVaughn Peterson, who performed at the ceremony with a number of other students and community members, said the peaceful event is a powerful message to residents that resist oppression they are not alone.

“That base is already in Athens, the people that are against oppression that are against what the confederate flag stands for.” ShaVaughn Peterson, an Athens resident said. “But the problem is a lot of these people think they’re alone. Events like today prove these people aren’t alone. There are enough people here to start a rally…there were enough people here to start a movement.”

Even so, there were some residents that said were afraid to talk on camera with WOUB for fear of potential backlash from supporters of the confederate flag.

“We need to organize now.” Peterson said. “That’s the next step. There’s power in numbers.”

Some residents said the sight of the confederate flag hanging by a noose was a testament to the ability to transform old symbols of hate into new symbols rooted in hope and love.

“Search within our creative essence for new life, new symbols, new stories that shall rise from a deeply scarred past of oppression,” Simms said.

“If you’re not strong enough to fight today, be strong enough to love. Be strong enough to support,” Peterson said.

The flag is on display at the Kennedy Museum of Art.