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).
Invite David to speak to your group for free about a better Birmingham. email@example.com