I'm referring to that huge Confederate flag - 30 by 60 feet, weighing 100 pounds - that had been flying flag near I-4 and I-75 in Tampa (it's official address is 10418 E. U.S. 92 in Tampa). The past tense is employed here because that particular flag has been taken down, and replaced by a smaller one - but just for now.
Marion Lambert, the most high profile member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that owns the property where the flag still flies high, told the Tampa Tribune that the larger flag is in need of repair, so its been replaced by the "third national flag of the Confederacy."
Regardless of its size, that flag is extremely upsetting to blacks, and in other communities has been the flashpoint of major rallies, who see is as a symbol of racism and the endorsement of black slavery.
Curtis Stokes was the head of the HIllsborough County NAACP in 2008 when Lambert and his crew put up the gigantic Confederate flag. "We certainly spoke out about it," he told CL on Thursday afternoon. "We felt, and the community felt that the flag didn't properly represent the values of the people of Hillsborough County."
But Stokes said his organization valued the right of property owners, and the flag is on private property. "You have the right to fly your flag , and we respect it, but we don’t think that it represents the values of the people in Hillsborough County."
But the anger, such as it was, only manifested itself at a few County Commission meetings back in 2008. Cl covered the unveiling of the flag in the summer of 2008, and there were no demonstrations or any other public displays of dissatisfaction about it on that Saturday.
One community meeting between the Sons of Confederate Veterans group and some activists did happen, though only 14 people attended.
One activist who did raise a stink at the time was Michelle Williams, who referred to the flag as a "monstrosity," at a County Commission meeting, and carried with her pictures of blacks hung and lynched that she displayed on boards. Williams said she wanted to see some public officials get bold and stop the flag from being hung.
When contacted by CL on Thursday, Williams lashed out at Curtis Stokes, who she said didn't protest sufficiently hard enough the flag because "he used his position to gain the seat on the City Council." (Stokes was selected by the City Council in 2010 to replace Linda Saul-Sena on the board after she was forced to depart, but lost his bid when running for another seat on council last March).
And then Williams, who says she will challenge Arthenia Joyner for her Tampa area state Senate seat next year, said this. "It has become apparently even more clearer that the boot licking, ass kissing house Negros who remain passive have kept us oppressed."
Stokes said he wouldn't comment on Williams remarks.
Michelle Williams then articulated why she and no doubt many more people in the black community, whether they have expressed it outwardly or not, have an issue with the Confederate Flag hanging so high at the I-4/I-75 intersection.
"It's just a sad day in Florida that we have to be reminded of the pain that this flag, this symbol of hatred has brought to millions both then and now."
The Sons of Confederate Veterans take umbrage at the charge that the flag is racist. Marion Lambert has called the flag "a profound statement," and says it doesn't represent slavery, but the valor of Southern men in their lost cause during the Civil War.