DETROIT — “One message I want to send to the nation is that the Civil War is supposed to be over,” said artist John Sims during the opening address of his “Burn and Bury” event, staged on Memorial Day at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. “But as we know, it’s not over. … All of us as Americans must confront the symbols and culture of white supremacy.”
The symbol in question on Monday was a Confederate flag, which went up in flames in the midst of an hours-long performance that commemorated the enduring legacy of racial oppression in the post–Civil War United States, as well as the ongoing efforts of those who fight for justice.
“Flags are very powerful symbols, as markers for direct and indirect collections of shared values, histories, and futures,” Sims told Hyperallergic by email before the ceremony. “We see flags as a rally call, a brand, a focus point and reminder. Nations, military, schools, and even retails stores use flags. And so, there can be the perfect candidate to further intimidation and fear. And the Confederate flag, along with burning crosses, have come to instill fear in folks, especially African Americans.”
Image by Taku Nishimae, courtesy of John Sims