Unfortunately I didn’t attend the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast January 19th, but immediately after Tanner Colby, the speaker, began his remarks, the texts and e-mails started coming—telling me I should have been there.
Since I did not hear the speech and have been unable to obtain a written transcript, I am basing my remarks on e-mails, texts, and comments from friends and from the article about the speech on al.com titled, “Tiny suburban kingdoms, desire for black power keep Birmingham from achieving MLK dream, author says.”
Tanner Colby, author of the book, “Some of my best friends are black,” spent five years living in Vestavia Hills before going off to college in 1993.
Colby is quoted in the al.com article…
“Whites fled the troubled inner cities such as Birmingham to create suburbs such as Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood and Hoover. And tragically, black political machines fed off the departure of the white people to gain power and control, even though the departure of white people also meant the departure of much-needed resources.
…the dream of wonderful tiny kingdoms in the suburbs was a mirage. It only works for the extremely wealthy cities such as Mountain Brook.”
Colby went on to say the myriad municipal boundaries that separate the Birmingham metro area are killing us both financially and racially.
This separation of races has been particularly devastating to Birmingham because we have maintained our municipal divisions—35 independent cities in Jefferson County alone. Our peer cities such as Nashville, Charlotte, and Louisville have some form of consolidated county/city government and they have progressed and prospered while we have stagnated.
Here are the just released numbers for metropolitan job and population growth, Birmingham Business Journal, January 9, 2015.
5-year change in private sector jobs
- Nashville 11.1%
- Charlotte 4.8%
- Atlanta 4.3%
- New Orleans 3.6%
- Memphis -2.2%
- Birmingham -2.8%
2-year change in population
- Charlotte 3.3%
- Nashville 3.0%
- Atlanta 2.9%
- New Orleans 2.7%
- Memphis 1.1%
- Birmingham .7%
Jobs added since November 2013
- Atlanta 59,600
- Charlotte 26.100
- Nashville 22,000
- Huntsville 3,500
- Birmingham 2,800
- Memphis 2,200 (Memphis defeated consolidated government in 2010)
Birmingham and Memphis are the losers and all of us who live in Birmingham and Memphis pay the consequences.
Upper income people in suburbs lose their children and grandchildren to other cities. It’s difficult for business owners to grow their businesses and top paying jobs are difficult to find. We lose our companies and we lose our youth.
It’s important that black politicians are represented, but our many government entities hurt the many blacks and whites who are unemployed or underemployed trying to survive in a stagnant region.
Is this the fault of a few rich white folks or a few black politicians? Absolutely not! These politicians work for us. We are at fault for not demanding better for ourselves.
Over 1,000 people gave Tanner Colby a standing ovation because he told us what we already know…
United we stand…divided we fall.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12, a division of Intermark Group, and co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).