Newsome grew up hearing about her grandmother’s experiences with the Ku Klux Klan. “As a young Black girl in South Carolina, [my grandmother] had witnessed the Klan drag her neighbor from his house and brutally beat him because he was a Black physician who had treated a White woman,” Newsome wrote in an essay for Blue Nation Review. Newson’s father was formerly a dean at Howard University and now works as president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a slavery museum in Cincinnati.
In her essay for Blue Nation Review, Newsome outlined her passion for civil rights. She said that during the George Zimmerman trial, she traveled to Florida to lend a voice in the Moral Monday movement demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Earlier this year, she traveled to Baltimore to speak with residents. “I visited with black residents of West Baltimore, MD who, under curfew, had to present work papers to police to enter and exit their own neighborhood,” she wrote. “‘These are my freedom papers to show the slave catchers,’ my friend said with a wry smile.”
Shortly after the June 17 shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, Newsome gathered with a group of activists to discuss removing the flag from state grounds. The group decided that Newsome should physically do the job, and activist James Ian Tyson should help her over the fence. They felt that a Black woman should be the one to remove the flag and that a White man should be the one to help her “as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides,” she wrote in her essay.
In 2013, she was arrested after staging a sit-in at Sen. Thom Tillis’ (R) office demanding that the State Senate restore stripped voting rights. Senators were trying to abolish both same-day voter registration and say that college IDs were not a proper form of identification at polls.
Newsome always knew that she wanted to be a filmmaker. In high school, she created a short film that landed her a $40,000 scholarship. She went on to receive her B.F.A. in film and television from NYU. After graduating, she wrote Wake, a short film that was screened at Cannes Film Festival and went on to win an award at the BET Urban World Film Festival. You can check out her film here.
Though she currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., Newsome was raised in Columbia, M.D., where she attended Oakland Mills High School and graduated in 2003. Former classmates tell The Baltimore Sun that Newsome—who then went by Brittany—served as class president for three terms and was student body president during her senior year. She was active in theater, starring in the school’s productions of The Wiz and Bye Bye Birdie.
Newsome began singing and playing the piano at the young age of 7. When she was 13, she started writing her own songs, and one year later, one of her compositions was performed by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. She still performs in a funk band, Powerhouse, and is working on a solo album. She recently released “#StayStrong: A Lovesong to Freedom Fighters,” an ode to “all those fighting for freedom around the world.” Listen to it here.
She was singlehandedly responsible for 2012’s “Shake it Like an Etch-A-Sketch,” a satirical video about presidential candidate Mitt Romney. You can watch the rap video here.
Both Newsome and Tyson were released from jail on $3,000 bail, but they face up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000 each. South Carolina House Minority Leader and State Sen. Todd Rutherford (D) will be representing Newsome in court.