Author of ‘Why we escaped the Mtn. Brook bubble’ has second thoughts

Maury Shevin
Maury Shevin

Today’s guest blogger is Maury Shevin.

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I questioned the diversity of our suburbs when I wrote, “Why we escaped the Mountain Brook bubble.”

But, two recent events have given me pause for reflection.

# One:  I attended Birmingham’s 2019 Veterans Day Parade.  This parade has an incredibly long and glorious history in Birmingham.  As I watched floats and marching bands pass in review, I greatly enjoyed the pride and spirit of both participants and viewers alike.

On display were the new uniforms worn by the Birmingham City Schools marching bands—kudos to Mayor Woodfin and the City Council for funding that effort.

The marching band that most impressed me, however, was not a BCS band, but rather the band from Hoover’s Spain Park High School.  And what impressed me the most about this band, was not its uniforms nor its size.  What impressed me most was its diversity–the kids were White, Black, Latino, Asian, those in wheelchairs—you name it.

If Spain Park High School itself is reflected in its marching band, then its diversity is something to be celebrated.

# Two:  Several weeks before Veteran’s Day, I had the occasion to visit a Habitat for Humanity “build” in a suburb in northern Jefferson County far away from urban Birmingham.  The home is now home for a minority family.

One of my co-visitors, who is as much a Birmingham booster as I am, wondered aloud whether a minority family would feel “welcomed” in what seems to be a largely homogeneous area of our County.  But, I quickly learned that this suburb in Jefferson County is extremely welcoming and proud of its diversity.

So, why do these two events have me questioning some long-held beliefs?  Let me explain.

I have been a Birmingham booster and cheerleader for years—and have written about the virtues of being a part of Birmingham’s diverse fabric.  I have expressed the belief that those who live in our suburbs, rather than in the City of Birmingham, live in a bubble—and that a primary reason for living outside of the city limits of Birmingham is to avoid living among those “not like us.”

I recognize that living in suburbs with perceived better schools has always been an important factor in choosing one’s home—but I have expressed my concern that a subliminal factor for Whites is too often the desire to avoid living in a majority minority city. (The fact is that Birmingham has the fourth highest minority percentage population of major metropolitan cities in the USA.)

Well, Spain Park High School’s band and Habitat’s build location have me rethinking the entire issue of diversity and have me digging deeper.

People vote with their feet. They choose to live, work and play, where they feel comfortable and where they feel welcomed. Hoover’s Spain Park and Jefferson County’s Clay and Chalkville communities are comfortable areas not only for majority Whites but for minorities as well.

I know also from personal experience that Homewood is a markedly diverse city offering great schools and a great quality of life.

None of this is to say that I do not remain a huge proponent of the City of Birmingham.  I still know that the successes of Hoover, Homewood, Clay and Chalkville ride on the coattails of Birmingham’s success.  I still know that a major university, world class health care facilities, entertainment venues and educational opportunities are going to be found within the City of Birmingham.

I still know that the job opportunities are going to be driven by growth of our new entrepreneurial initiatives that arise in Birmingham.  But, I do now share a healthier respect for the contributions of our suburban cities.

And, this is why we residents of the greater Birmingham community—urban and suburban—have to stick together and continue to work together on regional cooperation—heeding the warning of Benjamin Franklin: We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately!”

Maury Shevin—passionate about the City of Birmingham–lives, works, thinks and plays on Birmingham’s Southside.

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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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5 thoughts on “Author of ‘Why we escaped the Mtn. Brook bubble’ has second thoughts”

  1. It is not a simple question. I live in Birmingham as well and would have no thought of moving. I grew up on the South Side, then on Beechwood Rd in Mt Brook. I went to Lakeview and then South Highland schools. Then Shades Valley, Mt Brook High did not even exist and Valley (a County school) was the top merit scholarship winner in the state (half of the total).

    I’m proud of Homewood as well. And I pretty much agree with all that you said. The issue is the likelihood of better and real cooperation among the MANY municipalities that we have. The challenges are many, as are, probably the difficulties. The potential benefits if it could be pulled off are also significant. Tommy and Doug were promoting consolidation a long time ago. They were very much ahead of their time!

    I see things done by Birmingham that I think are counter productive as I also see from the surrounding communities. And some things from both that are positive.
    I don’t always agree with Woodfin, but I like him and do agree with him often.
    For my money my friend George Siebels was the best mayor in recent history. And not just because he was a Wahoo!

    I have said, and often, that I think the movement back to the south side, and even to downtown, is a good thing for the whole greater area. I still think so though the impacts I have been looking for are taking longer than I expected. But certainly much of the south side is not recognizable compared to our youth. It has really spread its wings. I recently drove across 1st Ave S from 20th Street all the way over to 41st Street. I really did not recognize much of it. Particularly from 25th to about 35th. It is amazing and totally different. If you haven’t been in that area in a while I suggest you take a look.

    One of the things that aggravates me the most is when people say that “nothing has changed in Birmingham in 60 years”. I am old enough to have seen the changes and young enough to remember them. One only has to have lunch in a meat and 3 around town and see the groups having lunch and spending time together. There can always be improvement, but the culture is dramatically different. People who say that nothing has changed are either not paying attention or have agendas of their own.

  2. I give you huge kudos for being observant to the point that you are starting to change your train of thought towards the suburban landscape in our area. As a parent of a SPHS band student, I truly appreciate your observation of our beloved band program and the school in general. We haven’t always gotten the credit we deserve – mainly due to a few bad apples. But, I’m going to have to interject here and hopefully create a more full understanding for you.

    You praise the suburban landscape of diversity & acceptance that you seemed to be unaware of until now, but you then nullify that praise by stating we’re riding the coat tails of Birmingham proper and that Birmingham is always going to be the center of our metro area universe. In other words, the Metro Birmingham suburbs will always be “less than”. So basically you have contradicted yourself. There’s a cause and effect that you’re not accounting for here. White flight seems to always be blamed for the lack of overall progress in Birmingham proper in the past. What if the supposed “white flight” created a cause and effect that is propelling Birmingham’s recent rejuvenation and successes? If Hoover hadn’t been around, would the Barons have made a comeback and existed long enough to be reintroduced back into Birmingham? Would Regions Bank have been able to survive the rest of the financial industry’s abandonment of Downtown Birmingham in the 2007/2008 if the bank’s large Operations Center didn’t already exist in Hoover. I would say, no to both. Both of those entities have been crucial to downtown’s rejuvenation. The building of Regions Field and the Barons moving there have been one of the main catalysts for Birmingham’s new growth.

    I’m giving you a bit of a hard time because of few sentences –
    “I still know that the successes of Hoover, Homewood, Clay and Chalkville ride on the coattails of Birmingham’s success.” and “I still know that the job opportunities are going to be driven by growth of our new entrepreneurial initiatives that arise in Birmingham.” That seems to negate the impact of your newly professed “healthier respect” for these suburbs. I think it’s time for full respect of the suburbs and what they have done to bolster and support Birmingham proper through the city’s bad times.

  3. I also live in the city. Highland Park now but previously Crestwood, Forest Park and near UAB. I am white and must mention that 90%+ of my neighbors look like me. So much for diversity in the city.

  4. Informative article by Maury Shevin except let us stop using the minority word to describe those of us who are Black. Just say the race and keep the late and great James Brown regarding “Say It Loud I Am Black And I Am Proud” in focus!
    George Munchus
    School of Business at UAB
    Go Blazers GO!!!!

  5. When promoting diversity, don’t forget that our motto is not E Pluribus Pluribus. It is E Pluribus Unum. We have to merge together as Americans because maintaining separate identity groups will cause our destruction.

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