Her roles as Nancy – Nat Turner’s mother – in the movie “Birth Of Nation” and as Miranda Shaw – the Assistant FBI Director – on ABC’s “Quantico” are only part of what drives actress Aunjanue Ellis these days. Acting is her career but her true calling may be as an activist in this climate of social change.
Aunjanue Ellis wears a gown with the words ‘Take It Down President Obama,’ a reference to the Mississippi state flag that contains the Confederate Stars and Bars. (Twitter)
Though her livelihood is made in the make believe world that is Hollywood Ellis remains true to her Mississippi roots. She loves football and despises the state flag which still flies the star and bars in homage to the Confederacy. Ellis – a passionate NFL fan – is challenging the league to remove the Mississippi flag from waving at the Super Bowl until it has been changed. She wrote and read an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell during a press conference while in D.C. last month.
“With the NFL’s insistence on flying the confederate flag, is the NFL telling its African American players, telling America that they are merely material value,”? Ellis wrote. “Is the NFL the new plantation?”
She is vigilant about bringing attention to her state’s allegiance to the Confederate symbols that still wave. Mississippi remains the only state in the union that continues to fly the stars and bars on their state flag. Earlier this year Governor Phil Bryant announced Mississippi would celebrate Confederate Heritage Month in April which has divided the state.
Ellis is leading the movement of public dissent by penning op-ed pieces for Time Magazine and making statements with her wardrobe. She wore a special evening gown to the Gracie Awards where she advocated for President Obama to become more active in the cause of the flag’s removal. Her gown was white and she had words “Take It Down President Obama” in golden bronze hue across the front hoping he would become an advocate for the cause.
Her career is flourishing but Ellis still pushes the envelope on activism which has setback many actors who have represented causes in the past. Born into a family that stood on front lines of the original civil rights movement in Mississippi and Georgia activism is a part of her social DNA.
“We can never grow complacent,” Ellis told the AFRO. “As we’ve all have witnessed over the last year and a half power dynamics change and because of that we have to fight those battles again. We want to believe that we’ve achieved something and we don’t have to fight that battle anymore. But that’s not just how it works”.
Ellis is using her platform to address racial issues with the same presence that she brings to her roles. She publicly supported San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for his on field protest during the national anthem. She frequently cites how South Carolina removed the stars and bars from its flag after Dylann Roof shot nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Ellis is “proud” of her work in the “Birth of a Nation” epoch though she but understands the “hurt and pain” of those involved in the rape case against director Nate Parker that he was cleared of. However, she feels its historical context is important speaks volumes today.
“In a few weeks we will have a man as president who is an unapologetic White supremacist who surrounds himself with other White supremacists,” said Ellis. “We need to have discussions about rebellion of the enslaved because we need to be staging rebellions in our lives because of where we are and the world we live in”.