Today’s guest columnist is Richard Dickerson.
What can Birmingham claim that no other city in the world has?
Some folks may say it is healthcare…
Others may point out our incredible restaurants.
However, other cities may claim the same.
So what is totally unique to Birmingham? What should be our face to the world?
Birmingham has the 16th Street Baptist Church, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson are names that will be forever remembered. They went to church and never came home.
Birmingham was home to fearless Fred Shuttlesworth often referred to as the bravest man in the civil rights movement.
Birmingham is where Dr. King wrote his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. In short Birmingham was and remains the birthplace of the civil rights movement. The events that occurred in Birmingham changed America and the world. It was Birmingham where the moral and economic imperative to end racism became a national movement.
As the birthplace of the civil rights movement Birmingham has a painful, powerful and rich history that is literally known and shared by people from around the world. The Birmingham story is shared in text books from New York to California and most places in between. The Birmingham story has been the subject of TV specials, movies and grand debates.
The Birmingham story is unique because it chronicles a march for civil rights against unbelievable odds. It is the classic David vs. Goliath. In the Birmingham story David won. The people who were denied basic rights were successful. The bombings stopped and because of Birmingham major civil rights laws were passed.
It is Birmingham through its trials and tribulations that helped to birth and get passed the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the 1965 Civil Rights Act. The Birmingham story reminded the world of the many injustices suffered by people with dark skin. The institutional racism and the collusion of federal, state and local officials to deny black people basic rights.
Birmingham has been a beacon to the world because of the changes that occurred here. Birmingham is a special place because of the unique events that occurred here.
No city can claim the Birmingham story.
Birmingham can claim and celebrate its story because it is unique to the nation and the world. Birmingham is a civil rights city that helped to change America and the world.
The Birmingham civil rights story is far from being completed. There remains much to do. Birmingham once again has the opportunity to lead, to be that lantern of hope for a polarized nation and troubled world. We live in a nation and a world where civil rights and democracy are under attack.
Democracy can no longer and should no longer be taken for granted. Leadership will require the Birmingham story to be told, the struggle, the strife, the pain and the suffering and yes the incremental and important steps made to move forward.
As Birmingham strives to become a lighthouse of hope for the nation and the world it must address the institutional racism and segregation which remains.
Birmingham is a unique city much more than fried chicken and smoked meat. Birmingham is the birthplace of the civil rights movement the place that changed the nation and the world.
Richard Dickerson is the President and CEO of RAD Communications, a business and political consultancy specializing in planning, government relations, community relations, political campaigns and grassroots lobbying. He has over 25 years of experience in campaign politics, state and local government and business. Richard served as the Director of Strategic Communications for USAID in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He also served as a senior official in the Clinton Administration and in a variety of senior roles with state and local government.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. 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. firstname.lastname@example.org.