With the swipe of a pen, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has declared April Confederate Heritage Month in his state, reported the Jackson Free Press.
In a February 10th letter posted on the website of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group vehemently opposed to removing the Confederate symbol from the Mississippi state flag, the governor wrote that April is a fitting month for to celebrate Confederate heritage because it was "the month in which the Confederate States began and ended a four-year struggle."
The month already has a Confederate Memorial Day in the state, the Gov. Bryant noted.
The official proclamation letter has not been posted on the state's official website with similar proclamations, the Free Press points out.
Gov. Bryant has refused to take a stance on whether the Confederate flag should be removed from the state flag, even amid last year's national uproar about the persisting Confederate symbols in the South following the murder of 9 black parishioners in South Carolina by a Confederate flag enthusiast.
Rather, he points to a 2001 referendum in which the state voted, largely along racial lines, to keep the Confederate symbol intact.
"A vast majority of Mississippians voted to keep the state's flag, and I don't believe the Mississippi Legislature will act to supersede the will of the people on this issue," Bryant said in a statement last year.
“Like his predecessors—both Republican and Democrat—who issued similar proclamations, Gov. Bryant believes Mississippi's history deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be," Bryant's office said in a statement to Fusion. "Like the proclamation says, gaining insight from our mistakes and successes will help us move forward.”
The office did not respond to a question about why the proclamation wasn't posted on Mississippi.gov.
Rallies last year brought hundreds into the state capitol calling for the state to change its flag, which opponents say persists as a symbol of slavery and oppression against the state's one million black residents.
Earlier this month, calls for changing the flag were renewed when a group of about 200 took to the streets.
Rev. Thomas Jenkins, a black bishop based in Jackson, told The Associated Press that the state needs to redesign its flag to be on "the right side of history."
"We must remember the rules of war," said Jenkins at the rally. "The side that loses, their flag goes down. And I have an announcement to make today — that the Confederacy lost."
As part of an ongoing audience call-out, the Free Press has compiled over 50 new flag designs that might serve as an alternative to the current state flag.
The full proclamation letter from Gov. Bryant can be read below:
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.