ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is David Carrington. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
(Comments of Commissioner David Carrington at the unveiling of the new mural at Jefferson County Courthouse April 24th)…
Today is my 70th birthday – and I’m closer to my journey’s end – than I am to its beginning.
I’ve seen so many new things in my lifetime – from air conditioning – to indoor plumbing at my grandparent’s house – to color television sets – to images of a man walking on the moon – to microwave ovens – to a personal computer that conveniently fits in my shirt pocket – and is insultingly called a phone.
I’ve also seen things of the past – like colored bathrooms – and colored water fountains – and blacks in the back of the bus – and images of dogs on the streets of Birmingham.
I’m going to tell you a story this morning that I’ve never publicly shared before. Many years ago, when I was about to enter my senior year in high school, I worked at a law office. I became good friends with a pharmacy student who was working his way through college. We cut up – we helped each other complete projects on time – and we alternated going to buy lunch so the other one could remain on the clock – we both needed the money.
One day, as I was out buying us lunch, a black man verbally abused and threatened me. I was so mad. When I got back to the office, my friend could tell I was upset and asked me what was wrong. I told him that some “n-word” had just accosted me.
I could instantly see the hurt and disappointment in his eyes. Until that moment, I never really saw John as a black man – I saw him as my friend. Apologies were given – and accepted – but our relationship was never quite the same.
To the best of my memory, I had never spoken that word before – and haven’t said it since. It was a life changing moment for me. I began looking at each person I encountered as an individual and not as a member of a certain classification.
On June 18, 2013, I gave a speech to the Downtown Kiwanis Club entitled “What’s Holding Us Back?” It included the following sentence. “Just like the piano needs both the black keys and the white keys complementing each other to make beautiful music, Jefferson County needs to elect black leaders and white leaders, who are committed to harmoniously working together to address what might seem to others to be insurmountable challenges.”
This Commission will probably go down in history as the one that restored the County operationally and fiscally from a corrupt abyss.
That’s well and good – but it should also be remembered as a group of five dedicated individuals who showed that blacks and whites could harmoniously govern together for the better good. This mutual respect is historically memorialized by the mural that will be unveiled in just a few moments.
In closing, it has been my distinct honor to serve the citizens of Jefferson County the last 7 ½ years. It is truly my hope and prayer that men and women of good will – all throughout our county – black and white – rich and poor – young and old – and of all religious beliefs – make a conscious decision to step out of the gray twilight of racial mistrust and into the bright sunshine of racial harmony – so that we can honestly shout to the nation, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, Jefferson County is free at last!’”
David Carrington is now serving in his second term on the Jefferson County Commission. He is currently Chairman of the County’s Finance and Economic Development Committee.
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David Sher is Co-Founder 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).
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