50 Years ago is a long time. I am from the city everyone called Bombingham for the worst reasons imaginable.
I saw the buildings and spaces where horrific things happened only years earlier everyday.
I’m only 20-something and I’ve lived in the Birmingham metro all my life. Alot of you are in the same position I imagine. Our parents and teachers built imaginary roadmaps in our heads of what neighborhoods were “good” and “bad”. When I was about 10 years old, I put two and two together when I realized all of my black friends lived in the arbitrary “bad” zones. This was the late 90s in the United States.
Luckily, I went to a school full of life. Everyone was relatively poor, so the playing field was leveled. No one ever got teased for living in “the poor parts”. Hell, the white kids who lived in subdivisions still lived 2 miles from Ensley. I loved my high school especially, because it was huge. We had access to kids from all kinds of backgrounds and no one really made the race issue a thing because I’ve had my ass handed to me by a Bajan on math team and then again I’ve been the only white girl on state-championship track team.
Some stupid poll came out this week saying the rest of the nation perceives folks from Alabama as the ugliest in the country. I think we might deserve that one indirectly thanks to the shitty mindsets & cruel acts that our grandparents’ generation perpetrated that made it a long time coming before epithets were banished or basic human consideration was given to good people who had deserved it all along.
Today, Birmingham is in a perpetual mood of painful remembrance but every single kid, black or white, has had the badassery of MLK and Fred Shuttlesworth (among so many, many unsung female heroes & others) hammered into our head by outstanding places like our Civil Rights Institute & Museum. And rightfully so.
MLK’s “Dream” resonates more with us than almost any other city in the country because of reasons I wish it didn’t have to, but thank God it happened. Fuck Bull Connor. Fuck giving any credence when you hear rednecks or old folks throw hateful words around based on someone’s race. Reverend Shuttlesworth once said to Dr King: “‘I assure you if you come to Birmingham, this movement can not only gain prestige, but really shake the country.”
I want to share some pictures and some music to go along with us remembering Dr. King’s speech today. We are a strong city. We are a different city. Our state motto is “We Dare Defend Our Rights” and I am proud as hell to say that now applies to every one of our city’s citizens. Not just the ones who own guns. Not just the ones who were raised Over the Mountain. And not just those who love someone of the opposite sex.
Be decent human beings today and every day y’all. I’m very good at shaming and I’ll be back.
Listen to this music and try to feel strong and proud.