This month’s Unity Rally in Brandon, MS was exhilarating, stressful, enraging, and inspiring.
By the time I pulled up to the Rankin County Courthouse around 5:15pm on Friday, August 21, about 20 counter-protestors (“CP” from now on) were already set up with their flags, signs, megaphones, bullhorns, and other equipment. The forecast called for rain, so I helped set up canopy tents with a few other attendees. Thankfully, we didn’t have to deal with any rain through the entire event.
I spent most of the time leading up to the rally chatting with a sweet young woman. She told me she was a senior at a local high school, and this was her first rally/protest ever. I could tell that she was understandably nervous, but she had such a positive demeanor. We talked about why I was there, why she was there, her plans after school, and more.
A large Confederate flag (as part of the 1894 MS flag) was hanging up behind her as we spoke, and a small group of heavily armed white men were visible beyond that. My chest tightened as I thought of my own daughter, just a few years younger than this smiling teenager. This may not be the 60’s, but the contrast between her smiling face and their stares almost brought tears to my eyes.
I support everybody’s 2nd amendment rights, and we had armed men as well (more on that in a separate post), but it felt wrong nonetheless.
At 6pm sharp, the rally started off with a prayer from Ricky Proctor.
“Dear Lord, we just thank you so much for this opportunity. We praise you for Jesus, how He paid the price that nobody else could pay simply because He loved us.
Help us to do the same for each other, that it’s not about bitterness, it’s not about being angry, it’s not about being prideful. It’s about being loving and kind. Dear God, we are here for peace, we’re not here to start up a lot of confusion.
We are here about your Word, about having justice and bringing justice. Dear God, we just thank you so much for all that you have done. We pray for your protection over everybody that’s here, that you may be glorified. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.”
Jackie Walker led the group in a beautiful song afterward, and then Ms. Vickie Jones got up. Whew. The counter-protestors burst into mayhem just a few minutes into her speech. They lost all their chill, let’s just put it that way.
I’ve transcribed the speeches from the rally as best I could from the videos available. Sometimes I included the phrases yelled by CP, not always. If there are ellipses (…), that means I couldn’t quite make something out, so I skipped it. You can watch the video of the beginning of the rally, to the end of Sham Tremaine’s speech, here. More videos and photos are included below!
Speech from Vickie Jones
“Praise the Lord, everybody! We come this far by faith. I just want to read a few Scriptures for you. I know you don’t have your Bibles, but most of you probably have it on your devices. If not, just remember Mark the 7th chapter, and you can read it when you get home. It says:
“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
I just want to talk a little bit about having clean hands. But your heart is dirty. See, your hands can be clean. But your heart can be filthy. Jesus is here and He is reprimanding the Pharisees because they had an issue with the disciples eating with dirty hands. They, on the other hand, wanted to educate Jesus on what the elders did.
See, the Pharisees were concerned with tradition that held no substance, nor representation of God. The God they said they were serving. Nothing in it represented Him, the true Living God. They were concerned about that, but Jesus was concerned about what was in their hearts. His commandment, “thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” The first and the greatest commandment. The one that encapsulates ALL of the commandments. The one which moves from heart to heart. See, that’s what Jesus is concerned about.
Your hands can be clean, but your heart can also be filthy. I’m not staying with you long, because they said we had 15 minutes, and I’ve about took up mine. So just let me cut to the chase and get to the point.
Today, RCUC and the community, the Black community especially, we come to rally against a tradition that has no part of loving God with all your heart. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to say that this statue must come down! (applause) It has to come down! We’re not asking! We’re not begging! We’re demanding, because it has nothing of God in it!
(CP: shouting and yelling, “WHEN YOU DEMAND, YOU’RE A TERRORIST!”)
This statue is a representation of hate! We still have white people that hate us just because of the color of our skin! That’s what that statue represents. Y’all know what Grandmama used to tell us, ‘A hit dog gon’ bark!” This statue represents theft! The stealing of our pride, the stealing of our dignity, the stealing of our women, the stealing of our men!
It’s GOT to come down! That statue is a representation of murder!”
I didn’t catch enough of the rest of this to put together a full sentence, other than the angry counter-protestors. So this is what I was able to get, in pieces:
CP: “ALL LIVES MATTER!!!”
Vickie Jones: “Why do I have to explain to my 5 year old granddaughter now what strange fruit is?”
CP: “HOW DO I EXPLAIN TO MY 5 YEAR OLD SON HOW A LITTLE BOY WAS KILLED! TELL ME THAT! WHAT ABOUT LITTLE CANNON THAT GOT SHOT IN THE HEAD FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN BEING WHITE!”
Vickie Jones: “That’s a representation of inequality. God don’t have no part in that! But you said you love the Lord! Matter of fact, I heard you praying to a God!”
CP cranks up the music, and a country song drowns her out for a minute.
Vickie Jones: “…your hands may be clean, but your heart is dirty. Underpaid! Under-promoted! Under-representation for the Black community!”
CP continue yelling, shouting, “AMERICA!”
Vickie Jones: “…Try Jesus. Try Jesus. Upon your hearts, He’ll write His commands. And you’ll be able to see what stands for hate and injustice. And systematic racism. Your hands are clean, but your heart is dirty.”
Conversation with counter-protestors after her speech:
Speech from Sham Tremaine Williams
“I want to talk to you guys a couple minutes about voting. And the importance of voting. And this is vital to everyone, so I think we can simmer down for a minute to talk about voting.
So, we are all aware there is battles that is has taken to un-enslave African-Americans. We are all privy to the 14th amendment, which on paper gave us the right to citizenship. We’re all aware of the 15th amendment, which on paper, gave Black men the right to vote. But even still, our oppressors found ways to block, intimidate, and deny them that right to vote.
Poll taxes, literacy tests, threats, fraud, by any means necessary, they made sure that we didn’t make it to the polls. Seven Southern states, Mississippi included, enacted what they called the Grandfather Clause, which meant that you were only eligible to vote if your grandfather voted.
Now when you put that up against the fact that African-Americans were transferring from property to citizens, none of us were eligible.
It took 96 years before somebody stepped in and attempted to legally stop these intimidations with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. …Election Day is November the 3rd. While Mississippi does not allow mail-in voting, they will allow you to vote by absentee ballot, and that date is October 31st. If you are not registered to vote, the deadline is October the 5th.
If you need additional resources, I’m Sham Tremaine on social media. If you need me to take you to the poll, I will take you. No problem doing that.
Now my next topic is this monument. You guys have got to educate yourselves. So many things come down to a vote. Do your research. That statue is registered historically on a local level. What that means is that it is owned by the City of Brandon. In 2004, MS passed a law that says if the owner wants to move it, it can be moved. Which means that if it comes down to a vote, we need to be ready, because they will be ready.
If we can take the flag down, we can take this monument down. It may be history to you (addressing counter-protestors), but it’s a (?) to us. It may be legacy to you, but it’s provisional to us. That may pride for you, but it is mortification to us. And the funny thing is, the South didn’t even win the war! What history are you trying to preserve? … That makes no sense!
…It is history for a reason, because it is in the past and everything that is in the past needs to stay former. So to you (addressing supporters) I say, get ready, so we can be ready whenever we need to go to the polls.
Register to vote, let your voice be heard, and do not be intimidated!”
Speech by Pastor Lamont Adams:
“Hallelujah! Glory be to God. We come for one reason and one reason only, to lift up the name of Jesus, amen? He’s worthy to be praised, amen? Let me get directly to the point. One Scripture in Ecc. 3, verse 1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….
….Now is the time! Now is the time for us as people of God to be treated equally….now is the time for us to stand together! Now is the time for us to stand together! Now is the time for us to walk together! Now is the time for us to pray together! Now is the time for racial division to come down, amen. Now is the time for black and white, amen.
…This is the generation, amen. This is the generation that’s rising up for peace. This is the generation that’s rising up for justice….We are citizens of Rankin County. We are not just alienated from this county, we are citizens just like everybody else!…
Too long we sat by the wayside. Too long we looked the other way…But we come to make a stand today.
That same statue that has been ridiculed over us for over a hundred years… We want change to happen! We want it to happen right now. Tomorrow is too late, amen….because now IS the time! Now is the time that we can stop being judged by the color of our skin…
…Now is the time for us to take a stand against racism across the land.”
He said so much more, but I wasn’t able to decipher enough to confidently transcribe it.
Speech by Pastor Ricky Georgetown:
(I did not catch his entire speech thanks to the disruptions, but here is most of it)
“At age 4 is when I was first introduced to systemic racism. I’m 50 years old, but I grew up on [name of a plantation, did not catch] in Louisiana. My parents had 10 children.
I remember this like it was yesterday, because I remember when my father got paid, he would give me and my brothers a quarter. A quarter to go and buy treats. Even at 4, 6, and 8 (my brothers), I remember Ms. Marie, the woman at the corner store, she would not allow the 3 of us to come in the store together. Three little small boys couldn’t come in the store together because, I guess at that age we could really do something to her.
It was interesting to me that it didn’t stop there. At age 8, the third grade in Plaquemine, Louisiana. One of my best friends at school was a boy named Michael. Michael and I, we shot marbles together. Every day at recess we played together, we ate lunch together, we were in the same class. But one day I saw Michael in Winn-Dixie in Plaquemine, with his mother. I ran up to him as I would at school, and immediately we embraced. But his mother was on the other aisle. The moment his mother saw him hug me, she yelled at him, “Get away from my son! What in the hell are you doing?”
I cried. I did not understand why his mother was talking to me the way she was. Then my mom and my dad, when we got in the car, they began to explain to me that everybody didn’t feel the same way. And everybody wasn’t teaching their children the same way, and the same things.
At 50 years of age now, I understand why Mike’s mother didn’t approve of my friendship with her son. She did not approve because she was racist, and she had been baptized in upholding systems and symbols of hate of Black people, just like that monument. This story is important because we can’t move forward, and we can’t run together unless we’re willing to take off some stuff.
The Scripture said that we are to lay aside all the things that entangle us. This is an entanglement! I know most of y’all just heard a girl on TV talking about entanglement, but THIS is an entanglement! This is something that when we see it, it causes pain!
And to my white brothers and sisters, how can you say you love God, whom you have not seen, and hate your brothers and sisters whom you see every day? How can you go on trying to preserve something in the name of history, when your brothers are telling you, your brothers and sisters are telling you that when they see that, they don’t feel love?
We must replace hate with love. We must take off disrespect, and put on respect. We will rise together when we start valuing all lives. We must lay aside all symbols and systems of hate. That monument for us is a symbol, and it is a system of hate. And Brandon, Mississippi, we must not only be united on Friday night for football, but we must be unified Friday morning in the classrooms. No longer can you respect Black athleticism, and disrespect Black intellectualism. Let me say that again.
No longer can you respect Black athleticism, and disrespect Black intellectualism.
We will rise together! This ship is ready to sail! But we gotta take off some sinful symbols and systems that entangles us.
I said this last time, and I think I need to say this again, because the music is playing and I think the music is supposed to be drowning us out. But you can’t stop something that God has already freed. You can play music all day, but when God has a plan, it shall go through. And I came today to say, let it be so! Our God is in this space and He has ordained this moment.
And I said this last time and I just need to say it again, to the folks who want this monument to stand, I just need to know, if I as a Black man in Mississippi, in Rankin County, if I stole your children, raped ’em, beat ’em, whipped ’em, killed ’em, when will it be that you would erect a statue of me? If I did all of that to your children, when would be the statue that you would be proud to celebrate? I don’t think you would! It doesn’t make sense.
Thank you. We will rise together, but we got to lay aside some things.”
Speech by Pastor Ava Harvey
“It’s really kind of funny how they can’t have their own rally, they have to come to ours. I wonder why. Why do they have to come to our rally instead of having their own? But we welcome them in Jesus’ name, we just pray that they turn the music up a little bit louder, and please find 95.5 FM, that would be a good channel to find because we love to hear some good gospel music.
I think we oughta give God praise for our fine Christian brothers and sisters over there. Thank you all for comin’ today, we really appreciate it! You have made this day special for us. You just don’t know how much we love you! You just don’t know how much we thank God for you. You don’t know how much we have put up with yo’ shit for too long! Enough is enough!
And so, I just want you to know from the bottom of my heart to the depths of my soul, you can’t run me out of Brandon. No matter how much music you try to play, 95.5, that’s the one, no matter how loud you get, I can get louder! Cause I’ve been saved and sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost.
Now, since we do have a moment here. Let’s take a moment of silence and remember all of the people who have given their lives so we can stand here today and voice our opinion. Many many people, more than we can count, have died in wars, so that we can have our freedom. Let’s take a moment of silence and remember all those who died on the battlefield for the freedom we enjoy here in America.
CP: “And let’s take a moment to remember Cannon! The little boy, the 5 year old.” “WHITE LIVES MATTER! ALL LIVES MATTER! CANNON’S LIFE MATTERS!” “The reason the statue is there is because of these Confederates who fought and died for something they believed in! Every race, black and white! We will have a moment of silence for them!”
Pastor Harvey: “Alright, we’re done now! (laughter)
Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity. The first law that he discovered said this, that an object will remain at rest until it is acted upon by another object.
….And we will not rest until that monument comes down. Sir Isaac Newton also said that there are laws of gravity. That what goes up, must come down. I’m saying what goes up, must come down. We were not here in 1907 when the board of supervisors decided to give out $3000 to the United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect this monument. But we can stand here and say today 113 years later that what goes up must come down.
We were not there to see them sing Dixie and they stood holding hands with little children around the monument. We were not there when the mayor gave a speech, recognizing the daughters of the confederacy and giving them time to give their speeches. We were not there, but we’re here now to declare to America, to Rankin County, to Brandon Mississippi, to the red, to the black, to the white, what goes up, must come down.
The eagle flies high, goes high in the sky. He mates in the sky. He eats in the sky. He loves to be high! But the eagle must come down. Even the bald eagle, the one with whom we love and cherish as our emblem in America, he too must come down. As we see how gravity works, you can release a balloon today, that balloon will travel high in the sky, but only time will tell before that precious balloon that went up must come down.
We have sent men to the moon! We have sent stuff into outer space. Satellites are circling in the air even as we stand with this freedom today. But the truth is, no matter what you send up, it must come down. And I decree and declare that that statue, in the name of Jesus Christ, it must come down!
Why do you say it, Pastor Harvey?
I say it, because the truth is, every knee shall bow, every tongue must confess, and there is only man who deserves to be lifted up, and that is not a Confederate soldier, that man is Jesus Christ. If I had time, I would tell you that Jesus said, “if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me.” The Confederacy couldn’t do that. Abraham Lincoln couldn’t do that. Those great men that gave their lives could not do that. Only one man, who sits high and looks low, has the power to bring all things down. Hitler went up, but guess what? Hitler came down. Adolf Eichmann went up, and Adolf Eichmann came down. Saddam Hussein went up, but Saddam came down.
And if God gives us strength, we will not rest until that monument comes down, at the name of Jesus.
What goes up, must come down! It’s got to come down.
The reason I tell you it has to come down is because Jesus said it must come down. God said it must come down, and the Word said it must come down. The Book does not lie, and the Scripture said that the heavens will roll up like a scroll, and all of the elements of this world will be burned, and be dissolved. What kind of matter shall we be knowing that these things will be dissolved
If we cannot love those that hate us, if we cannot stand and speak our voice in unison. If we cannot unite together while here on earth, how can we get together in heaven? And the truth is, we have to love those who are are ignorant. We have to love those who are blind. We have to love those who do not care, or have empathy or sympathy…Jesus stood on the side of those who were oppressed, who were downtrodden, who were defeated. They tried to keep us in bondage. They tried to keep chains on our arms. They tried to pput chains on our mind. But who the Son has set free, is free indeed. And I still beleive that there isosme good in the worst in the worst of us. And I still believe that there is enough power in prayer to bring that statue down.
I still believe that the law of gravity, that says what goes up must come down. Tell somebody, what goes up must come down! We are standing here today as history is being made again on this monumental square, where they hung a lady by the name of Rachel. Right here on these grounds. These courthouse grounds, they have hanged people who stood up for what’s right. That’s the real history. And Rachel said it before she died, that Brandon must take this monument down. And I’m here to tell you that our ancestors who have died for freedom, who have given their lives for us to be treated with equality and justice, in the 2020 year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, what goes up, must come down. And we are not afraid. Enough is enough!
Say it louder, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
You and I together, holding hands, standing in unison. You and I together, praying together, working together, fasting together, believing together. You and I together, standing together with one accord, can bring about the necessary change that needs to happen in this county. We will not change the heart of those whose minds have ensconced in racism and white supremacy. You are not our targets! So you can hate all you want to, but there are a few people that are saying alongside us that we don’t want Mississippi and Brandon to be represented with racists anymore…
(Music too loud to hear)
..And that race is the human race! And that race is the race that Jesus died for. He died for us all, and if you love Jesus, like you say you love Jesus. You would respect everyone who has a different opinion. If you love your brother, like you say you love your brother, when you have your rally, you would invite me to come and speak!
Guess what? This ain’t our last rally! Tell somebody, we’ll do it again! Again, and again, again, until that monument comes down! In Jesus’ name, what goes up, must come down!
If you would gather closely…
…and the God who is with us, is for us… so it must come down. Gravity says it must come down. God says it must come down. Jesus says it must come down. And the Bible says it must come down. And let me tell you another thing, deep in my spirit, I know it must be come down. Because I have heard the thunder in heaven…we are in a spiritual battle. We are in a spiritual warfare. And the heavens are saying, enough is enough.
..and just like the rain starts with the gathering of people, the gathering of water on earth, then it evaporated into heaven, then it falls into condensation, then it falls in precipitation. We are the gathering of the rain. Our prayer has gone up in evaporation, and there is a condensation in heaven right now. Get ready, Brandon Mississippi! Get ready Rankin County! Get ready, all white(?) folk, all black folk, all green folk, all blue folk, all orange folk, guess what? It’s gonna rain! What goes up, must come down!
Father, we pray here today, we thank you for this gathering. We thank you for the power of God that is present even now, that even as we come to you, our nation, we lift up America to you, we pray that you would bless our troops that are fighting overseas. We pray that you would keep us all safe and their families. We pray even now for Mississippi. We pray that a revival would sweep through our country, sweep through our state, sweep through our county. We pray that a real revival would touch the hearts and minds of all your people. That we would love in spite of, that we would give in spite of, that we would forgive one another. Lord, we ask now that you would touch everyone at this rally. You know what we all need. We pray that you would meet the needs of your people.
And we lift up the mayor of this town. The board supervisors, the aldermen. The people in place, the judges. Those who sit in the seat of power. God, we know that you are able to touch the heart of everyone. Touch every pastor, every leader in this community. We are asking that you would forgive us of our sin. That you would wash us in your blood. That you would sanctify us and give us a united heart. One heart, one mind, one voice, and one County that says God, we believe that although we have a checkered past, a past that is full of difficulty, our future can be better if we hold hands with one another and connect together in brotherly love. Laying aside our idiosyncrasies, laying aside our ignorance, and be willing to come together at the table of brotherly love, to say together that you are our God, and there is none like you.
Buddha is not our God, Confucius is not God, the world is not our God, our God is a consuming fire, and His name is Jesus. So we pray Jesus, take over our town. Jesus, take over our county. Jesus, take over our city. In Jesus’ name, protect our schools, protect our children, protect our teachers and our principals. Bring us closer together. We shop together at Walmart. We shop together at Ramey’s. We all buy gas together at the same stores. Now Lord, bring us together in unity that we can come to the table and go forward in Jesus’ name.”
Love somebody today before you go, love on somebody. In the name of Jesus, stay safe. And remember, what goes up, must come down.”
Local media coverage:
See all photos from The Southern Photog: