By Alexis Rhoden
The Underground Church, a progressive Christian community that meets monthly at the Powerhouse, is hosting an event about progressive faith with Laurin Stennis and Songs of Freedom this Wednesday, Oct. 24 at the Old Armory Pavilion at 7 p.m. Effie Burt, singer for Songs of Freedom, said she would be singing “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke and “Imagine” by John Lennon.
“The church is hosting this event because we believe in the importance of healing in our state and do not want to be complicit in matters [in justice],” said Tony Caldwell, pastor of the Underground Church. “As a multiracial, multi-ethnic and LGBTQ inclusive and affirming church, we care deeply about addressing anything that serve to separate humans from one another, be it statues, flags, ideologies or policies.”
Caldwell said he believed there was a need for this event because the community wrestles with the past and present of racial conciliation and equity. On Wednesday, Caldwell will be speaking specifically about Christian responses to Confederate symbolism.
Caldwell said he has a passion for opportunities for community-building events. He said that the discussion of the flag will give people hope for change in Mississippi.
“I also believe it is important that forward-thinking faith leaders and faith communities in our state exercise their voices in the public arena, as the majority of Christian voices in our state seem to be either in support of Confederate symbolism or silent on the issue,” he said.
Laurin Stennis, Mississippi artist and flag creator, said she wants the state to have an evocative rather than provocative state flag.
This service will be open to everyone and be followed by a discussion with Stennis about her flag design, known as the “Stennis Flag.”
Stennis said she wanted to create a flag for all people, one that comprises three important values: one, it must be a grassroots effort and have no party affiliation; it must be positive; last, it must be bipartisan.
“Ideally, flags are beautiful and have positive sense of place…and they are inspired reflections of a group of people.”
“Why is it our state has a flag that our citizens don’t believe in?” Stennis said. “I talked to people who were in favor of change of flag as well as people who were opposed to it. I did a lot of research on the state flag. In my research, I found that the flag was never officially adopted by Mississippi… it was commissioned and adopted by the newly succeeded Republic of Mississippi. I thought that’s it — I’m not backing that [flag].”