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Detroit native makes burning Confederate flags a Memorial Day tradition

May 26, 2017

It’s Memorial Day on Monday. Some Michiganders will be visiting cemeteries, others will attend parades, and many will be lighting up the grill.

One person will be burning flags.

Not the United States flag. The flag that’s often a symbol of the Confederacy, the Stars and Bars Confederate battle flag.

I'm not doing this to change pro-Confederate folks' minds. I'm doing this for people who have felt and are connected to the trauma and pain of the Confederate Flag and all that it represents.

John Sims, a multimedia artist and a Detroit native, who currently lives in the South, joined Stateside to explain why he burns Confederate flags every Memorial Day. 

"I'm not doing this to change pro-Confederate folks' minds," Sims said. "I'm doing this for people who have felt and are connected to the trauma and pain of the Confederate Flag and all that it represents. I'm doing this for me. I'm doing this for people who are looking for ways and rituals and processes and art performances as a vehicle to heal and to reflect and to gain energy and to stay in reflection about this historical legacy of American racism and segregation and division."

Sims has burned and buried the Confederate Flag all over the country, but he's bringing what he calls his "multimedia memorial" of the Confederate Flag to his hometown of Detroit. The event will have eulogies, remembrances, and a symbolic cremation where attendees will have a chance to pause and reflect.

Events like his have stirred up quite a bit of controversy wherever he has gone, and he is likely to do the same for the "Burn and Bury Memorial: Detroit 2017".   

The irony, of course, is that roughly 90,000 men from Michigan served in the Union Forces during the Civil War, including 1,600 black soldiers. Nearly 15,000 Michigan men died fighting the Confederacy. Yet, if you drive around the state today, Confederate battle flags can be seen flying at homes, and as decal stickers on vehicles. Waving the flag in Michigan at the time of the Civil War would have been seen as traitorous by people in this state.

Listen to the full interview to hear details about the event in Detroit on Memorial Day and why Sims thinks the Confederate Flag is still popular in his home state of Michigan.

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