Laura Kate Whitney: Where’s Birmingham headed?


Laura Kate Whitney

Comebacktown published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on better government for our region.

Today’s guest blogger is Laura Kate Whitney, a young professional.

Birmingham is two separate cities.

One Birmingham is full of hope and energy. She’s a half-full kind of gal.  She doesn’t play with the naysayers, and she also doesn’t let those with a negative view of her community slow her down. She breeds creativity, innovation; she represents a new generation of Birmingham, a 21st century population, one diverse racially, culturally, and socioeconomically.  She prefers to focus on the future rather than the past.

The other Birmingham is busy tending to open wounds, a city still not healed from its violent past. She’s not okay with the way people assume she wants to be developed and marketed. This Birmingham is not going to let things change (for the better) without her. And if you force her to be something she’s not, she will run you right out of town.

These two Birminghams sit across from each other with heads in hands, exhausted from the tension and resistance. I stand in the middle and look either way, confused and ignorant. So many of us, the ones who stand on tops of mountains and shout the many ways our city can be better, we don’t come from this place. We came to this place. And we naturally overlook the vast divide that still separates one Birmingham from the other. We take for granted that the City is poised for growth and success. We take for granted that everyone wants what we want.

Here’s another question I keep asking myself today:  “Why am I here?”

Why? What am I doing here? Why have I committed so much of my family’s time to efforts that I hope will positively impact the city we live in? Is it hope? Is it faith? Is it our only choice? Is it blind optimism? Am I just being stubborn?

Inevitably, this City will change. What that looks like, no one can say for certain, although I’ve been placing all my bets on the very best Birmingham one can imagine, the Half-Full Birmingham, if you will. And maybe I’ve been forcing it a little, perhaps even more recently than ever before. It just feels so close, so close I can see it and feel it and taste it. And I want it now. I want Birmingham to be everything, now.

Friends and neighbors like to remind me that Birmingham HAS changed much, for the better, and quite impressively over the past few years. Since moving here in December, 2009, we’ve witnessed continuous change and tremendous forward motion. Yet we celebrate these successes across the bridge from those that will tell you it’s exactly the forward motion that’s keeping us all held back – if that even makes sense…

Well, I say, let’s celebrate what sweet ole’ Birmingham will allow us. I’ll even lead the damn parade. To all you Half-Full Birminghamians out there, bring the marching band. Let’s go!

But allow me this: Should Birmingham fight the inevitable success she is destined for, well, she may very well push a few of us “believers” right out of town, for we know our own limits.

Birmingham’s Great Divide: the journey’s not long, and we’re only halfway there.

LK Whitney is a transplant who quickly adopted the Magic City as her home. Along with her husband and two young sons, she finds great joy in exploring and enjoying the many charms Birmingham has to offer. You can find more of LK at

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David Sher is a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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3 thoughts on “Laura Kate Whitney: Where’s Birmingham headed?”

  1. *Excellent post, LK. 

    B’ham is poised between the past and the future, and there are those on either side trying to pull the present each way, and that tension divides us.  I say we can have both simultaneously.  We can remember and honor the past while celebrating and working for the future.  Our present can be both…and then we will be whole.

  2. *I was once a radio/TV news reporter at WAPI, and graduated from UAB.  I now live in Huntsville.  Naturally, I’m glad to see the positive publicity for Birmingham.  However, consider this:  my wife and I drove down to Birmingham last week to catch Amtrak to New Orleans.  We were shocked at the condition of the train station.  It has to be one of the shabbiest in the entire world.  New Orleans has a wonderful train station.


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