Comebacktown published by David Sher & Phyllis Neill to begin a discussion on creating a better government for our region.
Today’s guest blogger is Willie Chriesman.
The city of Birmingham has come up with a name for its observations of the landmark events of the Civil Rights Movement that took place here in 1963. But you have to wonder if “50 Years Forward” is more descriptive of the last half-century or more aspirational for the decades to come.
When you look at how far the Birmingham metro area has come in the last fifty years, it is hard to say we’ve accomplished a lot in creating a post-racial “city on a hill” so many had hoped for then. We continue to live in a community of fractured and often dysfunctional government. We live in an area of great wealth but also soul-grinding poverty. Where a child’s chance of academic success is just as dependent on a ZIP code as an IQ score.
It’s disheartening to think of the squandered opportunities we’ve had since the dark days of the 1960’s, squandered opportunities that have put us at a competitive disadvantage not only with other cities across the South but find us being challenged by rivals right here in Alabama.
Whenever the subject of commemorating what happened here in the early ‘60’s comes up, there is always a chorus that objects to what they describe as dragging up the past and hurting our image to the outside world. (It is ironic that these are often the same people who seem to have no objection to honoring the state’s role in a war of secession from the United States of America.) They fail to see the story of triumph and redemption the history of Birmingham 1963 tells. We have come so far since then. It is something we should all celebrate and embrace.
But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we’ve come as far as we could. The inspiration we should get from 50 Years Forward is not how far we’ve come since then. It’s how far we can go in the 50 years ahead.
Willie Chriesman is a Birmingham-area native and a veteran of the media industry. He works as a media consultant and writer/producer.
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