Dixie Belle removes its rebel battle flags

Two fewer rebel flags are visible in Kansas City this week. After denoting parking for the Dixie Belle Saloon near the corner of 19th and Main for nearly a decade, two hand-carved wooden signs adorned with the words “Dixie Belle” and two rebel battle flags were removed by Dixie Belle owner Johnny Parks on Feb. 4.

During the Civil War, armies for the South carried the “stars and bars” flag into battle. In the 135 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, the meaning behind the flag has moved to the front lines in the battle surrounding race relations in America. For some it is a symbol of slavery and of one of the most reprehensible times in our country’s history. Others feel that it merely represents a chivalrous culture that was annihilated by capitalistic invaders from the northern states. The flag still flies above the South Carolina Capitol, prompting a call from the NAACP for economic sanctions and a march on the Capitol by an estimated 50,000 people on Jan. 17.

In a letter to PitchWeekly dated Jan. 28, an anonymous reader wrote: “I was driving north on Main Street, KCMO, near 19th Street and I noticed on the entrance of a parking lot two rebel flags with the word DIXIE. Could you find out who is responsible for exhibiting those flags, and are they in any way affiliated with the KKK or any other hate group?”

When contents of the letter were shared with Parks during a telephone conversation on Feb. 4, there was a stunned silence. “We’ve never had anybody say anything about them, actually,” he said. The bar, known mostly as a gay dance club has a large African-American clientele, according to Parks.

The flags that were displayed outside the Kansas City bar have a much less sinister genealogy than the one atop the South Carolina Statehouse. In the mid-1980s, Michael Burns, owner of Missie B’s, purchased the Dixie Belle Saloon, which was then located at 31st and Walnut. To transfer the liquor license to Burns, it was necessary to keep the name, according to current owner Parks. Since then, the name has remained the same.

“Anyway,” Parks added, “what those two rebel flags are, actually, is they’re signposts hung on a fence to denote parking. One of Michael’s dear friends many, many years ago, carved them for him. They’re just big oblong pieces of wood and on each one there is a rebel flag. They’ve hung out on that fence for many, many years.”

During the brief conversation, one can almost hear the thoughts cranking in Parks’ mind. “I haven’t thought about this in so long that, you know, it’s not in such good taste after all. Maybe we should take them down.

“It’s not socially correct these days. It’s honestly something that we haven’t thought of in a long, long time. They were a gift many years ago and I guess that the political climate wasn’t correct then either.”

Then the juxtaposition of a gay bar with symbols of hate hanging outside strikes him. “It’s almost funny,” he said, “and ironic. I guess we’ll take them down.”

Rather than taking a defensive position and spewing apologies for the Confederacy’s plight, Parks solidifies his decision to remove the signs. “It’s never been our intention to offend anybody. And now that it’s been brought to our attention, we’ll just remove them,” he says. “I’ll get out there today myself and remove them. I just never even thought about it. It’s just a silly thing because they’ve hung there for so many years. I guess I’ll take them back and give them back to Michael Burns,” he says. “That’s where they belong.”

By the time PitchWeekly’s photographer drove the two miles to the bar right after Parks made his decision, the signs were gone.

Contact Jeffrey Ramsey at 816-218-6783 or

jeffrey.ramsey@pitch.com.

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