Annie Platoff on the air

Flag scholar and NAVA vice president Annie Platoff was on the Pacifica radio network yesterday discussing vexillology, the Confederate flag, roots of people’s attachment to flags, the Apollo flags on the moon, and Russian and Ukrainian flags.  She was a guest on Brad Friedman’s “BradCast” at bradblog.com/?p=11241.  (Skip 8:40 into the broadcast to hear the flag segment.)

Annie Platoff
Annie Platoff

Flag Merchants React to Confederate Flag Tipping Point

As anyone remotely interested in flags knows, this week has seen a tremendous amount of public interest in Confederate flags and their changing meanings — scrutiny and re-evaluation that has resulted in prominent retailers like Walmart and major flag manufacturers like Annin announcing they will no longer carry these flags.  (For comprehensive coverage, see Richard Gideon’s American Vexillum postings.)

Here in Portland, this led to our largest flag maker and retailer Elmer’s Flag and Banner being featured in The Oregonian.  Headlined Flag store owner wrestles with decision to remove Confederate flags, in it journalist Anna Marum interviews at some length Dave Anchel, the owner of Elmer’s about the complex tensions between serving the market as a business, representing the world of flags as a kind of public archive, and following one’s conscience as a community member and individual.

The article is well worth reading; here is an excerpt:

When Anchel bought the store in 2011, he was appalled to see it sold the Confederate flag.

“We sell that?” he remembers thinking. “Why do we sell that? That flies in the face of everything I stand for. Get it out of here.”

But slowly, Anchel came to understand that the store, which carries flags of every country in the world – as well as those from the War of 1812 and the American Revolution – was a historical archive of sorts.

“When you have a flag store you’re going to carry things you don’t like,” he said. “Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be true to the completeness of the collection. If you go to any flag store anywhere in the country, it’s the same dilemma.”

(As a further indication of the current public interest in flags, the article has garnered 877 comments — a level of engagement usually reserved for complaining about city government.)

We look forward to hearing more from Dave at a future PFA meeting.  We are living in vexillologically interesting times!

Dave Anchel, owner of Elmer's Flag & Banner in Northeast Portland, decided to remove the Confederate flag from the shelves of his store on Northeast Broadway. He'll remove it from the company's Internet site, and keep it behind the counter of his store, where he will sell it upon request and in person. Elmer's Flag & Banner in Northeast Portland has flags from every nation in the world along with a wide variety of historical flags, including the Confederate flag. June 23, 2015 Nakamura/Staff Beth Nakamura | The Oregonian/OregonLive
From the Oregonian: “Dave Anchel, owner of Elmer’s Flag & Banner in Northeast Portland, decided to remove the Confederate flag from the shelves of his store on Northeast Broadway. He’ll remove it from the company’s Internet site, and keep it behind the counter of his store, where he will sell it upon request and in person. Elmer’s Flag & Banner in Northeast Portland has flags from every nation in the world along with a wide variety of historical flags, including the Confederate flag. June 23, 2015 ” Photo by Beth Nakamura | The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Flutterings (from VexTab #52)

from Vexilloid Tabloid #52

Note: “Flutterings” — notes from the editor on our last meeting — is a regular feature in The Vexilloid Tabloid.

May Flutterings You Need to Know

In our May meeting, hosted by John Schilke, 18 PFA members and guests enjoyed a lively 3-hour evening of flags and other wide-ranging topics.  As the host, John led the introductions and moderated the discussion.

Scott Mainwaring gave an update on the Oregon Flag Registry, especially thanking Elmer’s for sharing information on hundreds of flags.  He commended Michael Orelove on the complete entry for the city of Gresham.  He introduced a challenge of “people on state flags”, and shared David Dunnico’s A White Flag on the Moon.

Ken Dale reflected on the bicentennial of the end of the War of 1812 and on its causes.

David Anchel described how the equality flag (yellow equals sign on blue) was designed in Portland and how Elmer’s makes it in-house.

David Anchel leads an intriguing discussion of the high design quality of the flags of Caribbean states and the possible reasons for their success.
David Anchel leads an intriguing discussion of the high design quality of the flags of Caribbean states and the possible reasons for their success.

Dennis Stevens is pleased that his changed work schedule will  allow him to attend our meetings.

Dennis Stevens celebrates his native California with a gift from Patrick Genna.
Dennis Stevens celebrates his native California with a gift from Patrick Genna.

David Ferriday shared some of his recent flag-related acquisitions, including a beer stein, shot glass, and key ring.  He shared images of the Scandinavian flags at the Nordic Cultural Center on Oleson Road and some images from     design books.

Flags in Spokane's Cathedral of St. John, photo from www.inlander.com
Flags in Spokane’s Cathedral of St. John, photo from www.inlander.com

Larry Snyder showed an image of Spokane, Washington’s Cathedral of St. John, its interior festooned with the banners of every church in the diocese.

Larry Snyder shows off his Union Jack reading glasses.
Larry Snyder shows off his Union Jack reading glasses.

David Koski asked:  “How long does an outdoor flag usually last?”.  He got full answers from David Anchel (6 months to a year) and Mike Hale (who went on to explain his invention of “feather flags”).  They reported a rule of thumb common to flag dealers but new to us:  replace a U.S. flag when the stripes are shorter than the canton.

Mike Hale played “name that flag” with a souvenir bought during his May 2014 visit to Bruges, Belgium.

Mike Hale enjoyed the broad flag-flying he’d seen in Bruges.
Mike Hale enjoyed the broad flag-flying he’d seen in Bruges.

In response to his letters soliciting flags for educational purposes,  Michael Orelove continues to receive them from nations, cities, and government agencies.  The latest include Senegal; Springfield, Illinois; and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (which warned him to use the flag only for non-profit purposes!).

David Koski admires the Senegalese flag displayed by Michael Orelove.
David Koski admires the Senegalese flag displayed by Michael Orelove.

Max Liberman took careful notes; Jessie Spillers enjoyed the flags.

Patrick Genna reveled in giving out over a dozen flags of all sizes he’d gleaned at Goodwill. One inscribed “Cherokee Braves” at first seemed to him the flag of a sports team; he then learned of the Confederate troops raised from native tribes.

At first Patrick Genna thought this flag might represent a sports team!
At first Patrick Genna thought this flag might represent a sports team!

Visitor Casey Sims brought his Portland Ska Flag (see VT #51) and described the process of its creation by a bandmate as well as his own interest in flags.

sims-omsec-flag
Casey Sims shares the Portland-Jamaica fusion flag used by his band, the Original Middleage Ska Enjoy Club.

Keryn Anchel may commemorate the now-famous carpet from the Portland International Airport with a flag using its motif.

Karen Anchel wants to produce a flag based on the (old) PDX carpet.
Karen Anchel wants to produce a flag based on the (old) PDX carpet.

With Fiji’s new flag effort under way, Ted Kaye disclosed that in two days he would travel there to serve as technical advisor to the national flag committee.

Our special guest, Alexander Baretich, described how he’d designed the Cascadia flag in 1995 (see VT #36).  Robert Izatt, his student, helped him display a huge version.  He discussed his decision to put the design into “creative commons” for all to share.

baretich-cascadia
Alexander Baretich, designer of the Cascadia flag, describes its origin.

Our next meeting will be at the home of Ted Kaye on July 9th.   He took the Portland Flag Association flag with him—the customary task of the next host.

The US Flag in the 20th Century (2nd half)

19 September 1952

George Reeves as Superman, and the US flag as... itself.
George Reeves as Superman, and the US flag as… itself.

The Adventures of Superman begins airing on American television, following an undocumented alien immigrant as he fights “the never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way”.  The famous opening sequence ends with George Reeves standing before a US flag, somehow briskly flying in outer space.  In less than 20 years, fiction will become reality, insofar as the flag is concerned.


14 June 1954

Flag.  Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels.  By Jasper Johns, 1954-55.
Flag. Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels. By Jasper Johns, 1954-55.

To heed off “godless Communism” President Eisenhower adds the controversial words Under God to the Pledge of Allegiance (though no one knows what they mean exactly).  Senator Joe McCarthy ends his hearings on Communist infiltration of the US Army and State Department three days later. In this period of American cultural turbulence, 24 year-old Jasper Johns begins work on his dream-inspired, multi-layered encaustic masterpiece Flagthe first of his many variations on this theme.


4 July 1960

The Age of the 50-star US flag begins.  The star pattern cleverly embeds a 5 x 4 grid within a 6 x 5 grid: 20 + 30 = 50!
The Age of the 50-star US flag begins. The star pattern cleverly embeds a 5 x 4 grid within a 6 x 5 grid: 20 + 30 = 50!

Current 50-star flag adopted, recognizing Hawaiian statehood.  (It replaces a short-lived, and seldom manufactured, 49-star version from the year before.)


12 June 1963

Civil rights activists march from Selma to Montgomery, AL in 1965.
Civil rights activists march from Selma to Montgomery, AL in 1965.

On Flag Day, Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is assassinated in Jackson, MS.  As Woden Teachout explains in Capture the Flag: A Political History of American Patriotism, by the late 1950s segregationists had for the most part abandoned the US flag — a symbol of Federally-imposed desegregation — in favor of the Confederate, and young people in the civil rights movement had opportunistically reclaimed the Stars and Stripes as their own; Evers was instrumental in furthering the flag’s adoption both as a symbol and as a protest tactic (signs could be easily ripped out of hands, but images of police ripping away flags conveyed protesters’ message quite powerfully).


3 October 1968

Abby Hoffman arrested on the way to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Abby Hoffman arrested on his way to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Theatrical “Yippie” activist Abby Hoffman is arrested and charged that he “knowingly cast contempt upon the flag of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing and defiling it” for wearing a shirt with a flag motif with satirical political buttons pinned to it.  Three months earlier Congress had for the first time passed a Federal law against flag “desecration”, in response to popular outrage over several flag-burnings in political protests against the Vietnam war.  Hoffman v. United States is the first case to be tried against the new law.  Hoffman takes advantage of this historic moment by telling the judge, Your honor, I regret that I have but one shirt to give for my country.


20 July 1969

Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin salutes the Apollo 11 flag.
Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin salutes the Apollo 11 flag.  (Photo, presumably, by N. Armstrong.)

Neil Armstrong places the US flag on the Moon.  Lest this apparently imperialistic act be misunderstood, a plaque on the Eagle‘s ladder clarifies we came in peace for all mankind.  That the US had beaten the USSR in this Cold War race to the Moon needed no clarification beyond the flag.


2 April 1970

20th Century Fox releases Patton, starring George C. Scott as controversial World War 2 General George C. Patton.  The film, which won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, opens in an unforgettable fashion with the general, in front of a huge 48-star flag, addressing unseen troops in a monologue based on his speech to the Third Army.


5 April 1976

The Soiling of Old Glory.
The Soiling of Old Glory.

Photojournalist Stanley Forman captures lawyer and civil rights activist Ted Landsmark being attacked with the flag during an anti-desegregation protest outside Boston City Hall.  Louis Masur’s 2008 book The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America unpacks its many layers of meaning.


22 March 1980

The Great American Flag at its unveiling at the Evansville, IN airport.
The Great American Flag at its unveiling at the Evansville, IN airport.

Len Silverfine‘s 7-ton, 210-by-411 foot “Great American Flag” is unveiled before 10,000 onlookers at the Evansville, IN airport.  It’s never been hung from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, as originally engineered, but has made 12 appearances, including two Flag Days at the Washington Monument (1980 and 1991) and at the Flight 93 crash site on 24 September 2001.


1984 August 22

Gregory Lee Johnson (2nd from right) and his lawyer William Kunstler (on right) before the Supreme Court.
Gregory Lee Johnson (2nd from right) and his lawyer William Kunstler (on right) before the Supreme Court.

Gregory “Joey” Johnson, a member of the US Revolutionary Communist Party, burns the flag at a political demonstration at Dallas City Hall during the 1984 Republican National Convention.  He is arrested, charged with, and convicted of the crime of “desecration of a venerated object” under a Texas penal code.  He appeals the conviction all the way to the US Supreme Court, which in 1989 rules in his favor in Texas v. Johnson, finding his act to be symbolic speech protected the the First Amendment.


1988-1990

What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?  An
What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? An “installation for audience participation” by activist artist Dread Scott. Its display at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989 became a national controversy.

Obligatory patriotism becomes a highly politicized national issue. In the 1988 presidential election, George H. W. Bush attacked his opponent Gov. Michael Dukakis’ 1977 veto of a Massachusetts law that would have required teachers begin each school day by leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance. As President, in 1989 Bush calls Dread Scott’s installation in Chicago “disgraceful”.  The anti-flag protection decision Texas v. Johnson is announced in June. Less than a month later an outraged Congress passes a Flag Protection Act targeting, regardless of motive: whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States.  Outraged, in turn, by this law — one that was specifically worded to outlaw his art — Dread Scott and three others burn flags on the US Capitol steps, and are arrested and charged with violating it.  Their case, United States v. Eichman, is appealed to the Supreme Court which strikes down the 1989 Act, finding the government’s intent, despite claims to the contrary, to be to prohibit that same forms of symbolic speech the court had just ruled in Johnson were protected under the First Amendment.  Following the Eichman ruling, general public interest peters out, as a predicted wave of flag burnings and underfoot tramplings fails to happen.

Richard Gideon’s American Vexillum™

Richard R. Gideon is a flag maker and retailer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who since 2003 has been publishing American Vexillum™ Magazine (AVm). It started out as a monthly print publication, from 2003 to 2006, before moving online as a quarterly. Since 2012 it has been supplemented with daily updates of “topical news items of interest from across America, and international news items when they add value to the magazine’s topics”. Gideon batches up these daily updates and sends them out around twice a week to an email distribution list that is “exclusive, by request, and is not sold or distributed”.

avm
AVm’s online masthead.

While the magazine and distribution list certainly reflects its editor’s nationalist and libertarian point of view, much of the material that Gideon aggregates is of broad vexillological interest. Coverage of ongoing controversies in the US around flag display is particularly good.  (And for full disclosure:  Richard has been kind enough to feature the Portland Flag Association in his list of flag associations.)

To give a sense of the content, here are headlines from AVm’s “Flag News and Other Items of Interest from across America” update of 28 March 2015:

  • Bill requires universities to fly US, Arkansas flags
  • WWII souvenir returns home
  • Maryland allows Confederate license plates, but blocks other messages
  • Philly led the nation in adopting a city flag
  • (IOWA) Flag Day Celebrations to Commence in Knoxville Saturday
  • Confederate flag leads Windsor students and administrators to unexpected diversity week lesson
  • New at the Museum: Vietnam exhibit, historic flags, “Life of the Lenape”
  • Buy American: Florida bill requires US-made flags
  • Report: Army uses ISIS flag in training, scares public
  • Marine Reservist Spots Upside-Down American Flag, Has No Regrets for What He Did Next
  • Westminster unanimously passes American flag protection resolution
  • Japanese flags begin journey home [from The Daily Astorian here in Oregon]
  • Auction planned to benefit flag restoration
  • Liberals, Pro-Lifers Join Forces to Defend Confederate Tags Before Supreme Court
  • House OKs Bill Providing Sales Tax Exemption for US Flag
  • Students Ordered to Remove Flag Shirts Ask High Court to Hear Their Case
  • OPINION: Don’t ban the flag of inclusiveness
  • AMERICAN CULTURE: College Students: Stop Acting Like You’re Made of Sugar Candy [from Reason]
  • Flag waiving [from The Economist]
  • Let flag fly, Port Orchard tells museum operator
  • Trevor Burrus discusses Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans on KTRH Morning News
  • AMERICAN CULTURE: New Mexico’s Legislature Reforms Asset Forfeiture to Require Actual Guilt [from Reason]
  • Supreme Court struggles with free speech dispute over Confederate flag license plate in Texas
  • Celebrate 120th birthday of Philadelphia civic flag
  • Confederate Flag License Plate Case Reaches Supreme Court
  • Are Confederate flag license plates a First Amendment right?
  • Ball State choice for award winner criticized for Confederate Flag remark

American Vexillum™ is online at gideonflags.com/AVM, and you can ask to be added to the mailing list by following the instructions posted there.

Arboreal Flags

A popular flag in Portland is the “Doug Flag” of Cascadia, a favorite of the Timbers Army and secessionist Pacific Northwesterners.

The flag of the bioregion of Cascadia, designed by Alexander Baretich, 1994-1995. Also known as the Doug Flag, it depicts a Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Source: Wikipedia.
The flag of the bioregion of Cascadia, designed by Alexander Baretich, 1994-1995. Also known as the Doug Flag, it depicts a Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).
Source: Wikipedia.

Let’s look at some of its neighbors – tree flags of the world.

Lebanon Cedar

The Lebanese national flag, hand-drawn and signed by deputies of the Lebanese parliament. Source: www.clevelandpeople.com/groups/lebanese/lebanese.htm
The Lebanese national flag, hand-drawn and signed by deputies of the Lebanese parliament, 11 November 1943.  The tree is a Lebanon Cedar(Cedrus libani). Source: www.clevelandpeople.com/groups/lebanese/lebanese.htm

Norfolk Island Pine

The flag of the Australian territory of Norfolk Island, adopted in 1980. The tree is, appropriately enough, a Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), endemic to the island.
The flag of the Australian territory of Norfolk Island, adopted in 1980. The tree is a Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), endemic to the island. (Source: Wikipedia)

Fir

Town flag of Borjomi, Georgia. Source: Wikipedia.
Town flag of Borjomi, Georgia, adopted 2009.  The trees are firs. Source: Wikipedia and FOTW.

Oak

Flag of the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, adopted 1964. The trees are oaks, the big one on the right representing England, the three saplings on the left the three counties comprising PEI. Source: Wikipedia and FOTW.
Flag of the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, adopted 1964. The trees are oaks, the big one on the right representing England, the three saplings on the left the three counties comprising PEI. Source: Wikipedia and FOTW.
Town flag of Martvili, Georgia, adopted 2011. Source: FOTW and www.martvili-sakrebulo.ge.
Town flag of Martvili, Georgia, adopted 2011. The tree, an oak, refers to a large oak used for pagan celebrations that St. Andrew is said to have convinced the locals to cut down.  Source: FOTW and www.martvili-sakrebulo.ge.
Flag of the Nottinghamshire County Council, England. Source: British County Flags and Wikimedia Commons.
Flag of the Nottinghamshire County Council, England. Source: British County Flags and Wikimedia Commons.
City flag of Oakland, California, designed by George Laakso of San Leandro in 1952. Source: FOTW.
City flag of Oakland, California, designed by George Laakso of San Leandro in 1952. Source: FOTW and Wikimedia Commons.
Flag of Gernika-Lumo, Basque Country, Spain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Flag of Gernika-Lumo, Basque Country, Spain. The tree is an oak called the Gernikako Arbola, site and symbol of Basque self-government. Source: Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia.

Magnolia

Flag of the Confederate state of Mississippi, captured by the 2nd Iowa Cavalry on 30 May 1862, now at the State Historical Society of Iowa. The tree is a Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). Source: Historical Flags article
Flag of the Confederate state of Mississippi, captured by the 2nd Iowa Cavalry on 30 May 1862, now at the State Historical Society of Iowa. The tree is a Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). Source: Historical Flags article “Mississippi’s Magnolia Flags” by Clay Moss.

Palmetto

Flag of South Carolina. The tree is a Carolina Palmetto (Sabal palmetto). Source: Wikipedia.
Flag of South Carolina. The tree is a Carolina Palmetto (Sabal palmetto), and refers to the palmetto logs used to construct the fort on Sullivan’s Island that survived British bombardment on 28 June 1776. Source: Wikipedia and home.freeuk.net/gazkhan/blank_state.htm

White Pine

Flag of New England, ca 1775 (as it appears in Jonathan Trumbell's painting of 1785,
Flag of New England, 1775 (modern rendition). The tree is a White Pine (Pinus strobus). See “The New England Flag” by David B. Martucci. Image source: Wikipedia.  This flag has been adopted unofficially by fans of the MLS New England Revolution team, and officially as the flag of Lincoln County, Maine (1977).
The Pine Tree Flag of the American Revolution, 1775. Same tree as on the contemporaneous New England Flag. Source: Wikipedia.
The Pine Tree Flag of the American Revolution, 1775. Same tree as on the contemporaneous New England Flag. Source: Wikipedia.
The Lone Pine Flag of Dartmouth University. (Flag is flying at half-staff in memory of Dartmouth alum and US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.) Source: thenaturalistsnotebook.com/science-music-and-fun-at-dartmouth
The Lone Pine Flag of Dartmouth University, designed by John Scotford for Dartmouth’s 1969 bicentennial.  It depicts a particular White Pine that used to stand on campus.  (In this photo the flag is flying at half-staff in memory of Dartmouth alum and US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.) Source: thenaturalistsnotebook.com/science-music-and-fun-at-dartmouth

Mythological

Flag of the Kings of Gondor (from Tolkein's mythos). Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Flag of the Kings of Gondor (from Tolkein’s mythos). The tree is the White Tree of Gondor. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Unknown

Municipal flag of Pastvini, Czech Republic. Source: Wikimedia Commons and FOTW.
Municipal flag of Pastvini, Czech Republic. Source: Wikimedia Commons and FOTW.

What’s that Flag? (from VexTab #37)

By Patrick Genna

This quiz was popped on PFA members at the November [2012] meeting.

Answers in the next issue… [Vexilloid Tabloid #38]

Name the U.S. state flag which…

  1. has a constellation
  2. has a pelican
  3. has a walking bear
  4. has a Union Jack
  5. is similar to the Dutch flag but with a charge
  6. is similar to the French flag but with a charge
  7. is based on the Stars and Bars
  8. has a Confederate Battle flag
  9. looks like a dollar bill
  10. has a sun as its charge
  11. has a palmetto tree
  12. has the letters “NC” (this question is like the “free” space in BINGO)
  13. has a copper star
  14. has a saltire (two states)
  15. is pennant-shaped
  16. has a buff-colored field
  17. has an anchor
  18. has a torch
  19. has a tribal shield
  20. has a buffalo
  21. is sometimes confused with the flag of Chile
  22. has a “diamond” (two states)
  23. has the word “REPUBLIC” on it
  24. is truly heraldic
  25. is quartered

Hip Hop and the Confederate Flag

An oft-republished image of Kanye West wearing the Confederate flag on his sleeve.
An oft-republished image of Kanye West wearing the Confederate flag on his sleeve. Photo by X17.com on Saturday, November 2, 2013.

No survey of flags in hip hop would be complete without acknowledging the controversial use by rappers, from time to time, of the Confederate flag.  Two years ago this topic gained a great deal of attention when Kanye West put the flag on his clothing and merchandise while touring to promote his 2013 album Yeezus.  He was widely quoted saying:

“React how you want. Like I said, any energy you got is good energy. You know, the Confederate flag represented slavery, in a way — that’s my abstract take on what I know about it, right? So I made the song ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag now! Now what are you gonna do?”

Image on Yeezus 2013 merchandise.  From
Image on Yeezus 2013 merchandise. From “Kanye West Is Trying To Take The Confederate Flag Back” by Sharmin Kent on thinkprogress.com.

He was strongly criticized by some black leaders and entertainers, notably Al Sharpton, for using a hated symbol of oppression as part of a publicity stunt to promote himself and his album.  They urged consumers to boycott the album and merchandise — ineffectively, as over one million records were shipped by the end of the year.  Others supported the bold move.   In Uptown magazine Lincoln Anthony Blades wrote:

For Kanye, wearing the Confederate flag isn’t about mocking his ancestors, but appropriating something that white, conservative racists love, and letting them feel helpless as he denigrates everything it means to them.

This unimpeachable symbol of white power is now nothing more than a fashion statement that Kanye wants to OWN and minimize, just like Black culture and history is appropriated by whites everyday.

By now this tempest has mostly died away, but not entirely.  A 2014 video by Ethiopian Canadian performer Abel Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, raised some eyebrows for showing, briefly, a Confederate flag as room decor:

Produced by Toronto design and film studio “Kid.”  Uploaded to YouTube Aug 28, 2014, it has currently reached over 8.7 million views.

The lights are down, but a Confederate flag is on the wall.
The lights are down, but a Confederate flag can be seen in the background, behind dancing Canadians.

Ally Schweitzer, writing for American University Radio in Washington, DC, just last month published a thoughtful essay entitled Can Hip-Hop Help Change The Meaning Of The Confederate Flag? It features an interview with a little known rapper from Alabama named Lazarus Thicklen II, who performs as Black Native, about his song and video Black Confederate.

Uploaded Dec 22, 2014, it currently has 577 views on YouTube.

She writes:

…he says his Confederate flag isn’t the same one carried into battle under Robert E. Lee.  For starters, Thicklen’s flag isn’t red, white and blue; it’s black and white. He says he wanted to retain the flag’s Southern symbolism while stripping its colors to transform its meaning.  “I wanted to have something that said, ‘Yeah, I’m Southern, but I have a progressive mindframe,’” says Thicklen, 30.

Here is the design:

Black and white rebel flag.
Black and white “Confederate flag” (Technically, what’s popularly known as the Confederate or rebel flag is the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, or a rectangular version of the CSA battle flag, and was never a national flag of the Confederacy.)

The idea in hip hop of reclaiming and reappropriating Confederate symbolism predates Kanye West and his successors.  For example, here is a 2005 discussion entitled  Appropriation of the Confederate flag by black rap artists.  But none of these attempts, high or low profile, have managed to get significant cultural traction.  Instead, they are more like a recurrent theme within the larger musical, cultural, and political forces pushing Hip hop forward in the face of other, more major appropriation controversies (e.g., Iggy Azalea vs. Azealia Banks, Macklemore’s Grammys, etc.).

To wrap things up, let’s give Chris Rock the last word:

From The Chris Rock Show on HBO in 2012.

Mississippi’s Magnolia Flags

From Historical Flags of Our Ancestors

A possible flag for Mississippi with a design based on the military colors of a Confederate regiment knows as the Burt Rifles.
A possible future flag for Mississippi.  The design is based on the military colors of a Confederate regiment known as the Burt Rifles.

Vexillologist Clay Moss has published a new essay about once and possibly future flags of the state of Mississippi.  He writes:

As the current Mississippi flag has been burdened with controversy, particularly through the last quarter century, there has always been the idea that Mississippi’s Magnolia flag might again someday be adopted as the state’s flag. This document briefly examines the seven Magnolia flags that we are aware of today and provides a speculative look at what a possible new state flag might look like based on the original. More could possibly be rediscovered in the future, but for now, these are the ones we know about.

Read Moss’ essay here or here.

Vexilloid Tabloid #34

The future is here: It may only be May, but The Vexilloid Tabloid #34, June 2012,  is available now!  Featuring:

  • South Dakota Proposal (Patrick Genna)
  • Mystery Flag (Michael Orelove)
  • Portland Cheers

and as always the “What’s that Flag?” or, in this issue’s version, “What’s that Roundel?” quiz (from quizmaster Max Liberman), and notes from our last meeting.

Click here for this latest issue (PDF, 2.9MB), or see portlandflag.org/vexilloid-tabloid for access to this and all previous issues.

Proposed flag for South Dakota, by Patrick Genna and Michael Rudolf.
Astronomer Michael Orelove, seeking flags related to objects in the solar system, displays his latest prize.
When Michael Orelove had more hair and a moustache, he apparently once resembled Albert Einstein. Michael’s brother recently sent him this image of a cigar band, with two flags. Question: is the flag on the left a crudely-drawn Confederate Battle Flag (ensign), or is it something else?
David Anchel describes seeing the flag that cradled President Lincoln’s head on April 14, 1865.