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Business, educational and religious groups throw support behind new state flag

By BECKY GILLETTE

The state flag of Mississippi that incorporates an image of the Confederate battle flag has long been controversial. A voter referendum in 2001 to change the flag to something without racial overtones failed by a margin of two-to-one in a state where 37 percent of the population is black.

Today, after the worldwide protests over the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police, the legislature is once again considering putting the flag issue before voters. But a chorus of voices from the business, industry, educational and religious groups is calling for the flag to be changed to something without racist ties to the Civil War that was fought to preserve slavery.

  The Mississippi Bankers Association (MBA) supported changing the flag in 2001 and still does today.

“We believe that the state flag should be a symbol that represents the whole state, and the current flag is offensive to many Mississippi citizens,” said a statement from MBA. “It not only serves as a painful reminder of our state’s past but it also perpetuates negative stereotypes about our state. We believe it is time to make a deliberate choice as a state to move forward.”

MBA said not only is the flag divisive, but it continues to have a negative impact on the state’s economy.

“The MBA, its leadership, and its membership feel strongly that the adoption of a new flag is timely and a crucial step to improving Mississippi’s image,” MBA said. “Adopting a new flag that represents all of Mississippi could lead to improved economic opportunities and quality of life for all of its citizens. We support choosing a new flag that represents everyone and gives us a new symbol to help us move forward together toward new successes as a state.”

One of the state’s most successful businessmen, Joe Frank Sanderson, board chairman Laurel-based Sanderson Farms, said lawmakers putting the issue on the ballot is the wrong step.

“There are going to be dire consequences if we take this turn,” Sanderson was quoted as saying in Mississippi Today. “There are going to be all kinds of demonstrations. There are going to be boycotts, just like the SEC and NCAA. Conventions are not going to come here, people are not going to come to the casinos, people will boycott Mississippi products, jobs are going to be affected. Those are the economic realities.”

Lawmakers have also discussed adopting a second state flag. But even conservative-leaning groups like the Mississippi Baptist Convention (MBC) are calling for the flag to be changed now.

Shawn Parker, executive director and treasurer of the MBC, has said while some may see the current flag as a celebration of heritage, a significant portion of the state sees it as a relic of racism and a symbol of hatred.

Another voice for change is the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges, which is made up of the state’s 15 community college presidents. The association has voted unanimously to support changing the current state flag.

“We believe the flag of Mississippi should be one that unites all of us towards a prosperous future,” the association said in a press release.

  The Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA), which represents thousands of companies across the state, has taken the position that it is abundantly clear that the current state flag does not represent all Mississippians.

“Mississippi manufacturers rely on the skills and talents of people regardless of race, sex, religion, or ethnicity,” MMA said in a statement. “No hardworking Mississippian should feel marginalized by or ashamed of a symbol that is supposed to represent all of us. It is past time we change the state glad and move forward under a banner that will unify everyone in our state.”

However, some doubt the legislature will either vote to change the flag or put it on the ballot as the 2020 legislative session ends on Friday.

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Below is a list of many that have either removed the flag or asked lawmakers to change the flag.

Cities

  • Bay St. Louis
  • Biloxi
  • Clarksdale
  • Cleveland
  • Clinton
  • Columbus
  • Gautier
  • Greenwood
  • Greenville
  • Grenada
  • Gulfport
  • Hattiesburg
  • Jackson
  • Laurel
  • Leland
  • Macon
  • Magnolia
  • Marks
  • McComb
  • Moss Point
  • Oxford
  • Pascagoula
  • Pass Christian
  • Starkville
  • Vicksburg
  • Waveland
  • West Point
  • Yazoo City

Colleges/Universities

  • Alcorn State University
  • Belhaven University
  • Coahoma Community College
  • Copiah–Lincoln Community College
  • Delta State University
  • East Central Community College
  • East Mississippi Community College
  • Hinds Community College
  • Holmes Community College
  • Itawamba Community College
  • Jackson State University
  • Jones County Junior College
  • Meridian Community College
  • Millsaps College
  • Mississippi College
  • Mississippi Delta Community College
  • Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
  • Mississippi State University
  • Mississippi University for Women
  • Mississippi Valley State University
  • Northeast Mississippi Community College
  • Northwest Mississippi Community College
  • Pearl River Community College
  • Rust College
  • Southwest Mississippi Community College
  • Tougaloo College
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • University of Southern Mississippi
  • William Carey University

Counties

  • Adams
  • Hinds
  • Leflore
  • Oktibbeha
  • Tunica
  • Washington

Businesses

  • 4th Avenue Lounge
  • ACE Cheer Company of Jackson
  • Arco Avenue / Row 10
  • Barnard Equipment Company
  • BancorpSouth Bank
  • Beard + Riser Architects PLLC
  • BeautyCounter with Ashley Dukes
  • Beckham Custom Jewelry Co.
  • Bragg Specialty Contractors
  • Carbon Office
  • Carson Law Group, PLLC
  • Clapton Realty Company
  • Clarke Veneers and Plywood
  • Claude Julian’s Clothing Company
  • Coastal Tile, LLC
  • Coastal Waters, LLC
  • Conscious Healing Therapies, LLC
  • Core Cycle + Outdoor
  • Cotton District Cookies
  • Creative Distillery
  • Crooked Letter Picture Company
  • CSpire
  • Custom Travel Professionals, LLC
  • d + p Design Build, LLC
  • Davis Purdy Architects, PLLC / Threefoot Brewing Company, LLC
  • Doc’s Doggie Daycare
  • Donahoo Law Firm, PLLC
  • Elite Detail Services, LLC
  • Elle James Bridal
  • Emmett Till Interpretive Center
  • erica, inc.
  • Evergreen Garden Center
  • Fenian’s Pub
  • Ferriss and Company
  • Fondren Fitness
  • Franklin Eyewear
  • Hallie D. Brand Consulting DBA
  • Hancock Whitney
  • Hardy Reed, LLC
  • Historical Replications, Inc
  • Hollis Farms
  • Hotel and Restaurant Supply
  • Hometown Collective
  • IPrint
  • Iron Sharp, LLC
  • Irvin Law, PLLC
  • J. Ford Agency, Alfa Insurance
  • Jones Companies
  • Khafre, Inc / da House of Khafre
  • Law Office of Sean A. Courtney
  • Legacy Reel LLC
  • Louisville Pizza Company
  • Marguerite Melton Interiors
  • Mangia Bene Restaurant Management Group
  • Material Girls / Highland Park by Material Girls
  • McLaughlin Garner Group, LLC
  • Merle Norman / Luna Bella, LLC
  • Miller Transporters, Inc.
  • Mindful Therapy
  • Mississippi Blitz
  • Molly Gee and Company
  • Moore Media
  • Mosaic Media, Inc.
  • MPS Grants
  • Nicole Boutique
  • Our Mississippi, LLC
  • Paduda, Inc.
  • Parc Branding
  • Patty Peck Honda
  • Paul Moak Honda Volvo Subaru
  • Pleasant Smiles
  • R.W. Reed Company, Inc.
  • Renasant Bank
  • Revere Photography
  • Ryda Medical Solutions
  • Scarborough Film, Inc.
  • Sellers & Associates, PLLC
  • Soulflower Counseling, LLC
  • Strongbox Strategies
  • SummerHouse
  • The Hive Blog
  • The Onyx Method
  • Thimblepress
  • Thrive Health
  • Tommy Kirkpatrick Wedding Films
  • Walmart
  • Weaver Architecture
  • Wells & Co. LLC
  • Wilder Counseling, PLLC
  • Wilson & Hiatt Law Office
  • Wurmworks
  • Wyolah Films
  • Yelverton Consulting, LLC

Associations/Organizations

  • Area Development Partnership (ADP) Board of Directors
  • Conference USA
  • Delta Council
  • Empower Mississippi
  • Gulf Coast Business Council
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Jackson County Chamber of Commerce
  • Mississippi Association of Educators
  • Mississippi Bankers Association
  • Mississippi Baptist Convention Board
  • Mississippi Economic Council
  • Mississippi Economic Development Council
  • Mississippi Democratic Party
  • Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce
  • Mississippi Manufacturers Association
  • Mississippi Professional Educators
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
  • Southeastern Conference (SEC)
  • Southern Poverty Law Center

— Mississippi Today provided the list for this story

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