For the inaugural issue of Weld, we asked dozens of people from throughout the community — young and not-so-young; male and female; black, white, Hispanic and Asian; Christian, Muslim, Jewish and agnostic; students, professionals, artists and more — to each give us one idea for making Birmingham better. This is one of those ideas. You can read more here.
Scott Douglas • Executive Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Peter Drucker
Birmingham, the segregated city in the valley that could later have become an inclusive “City on the Hill,” was born with a rusty spoon in its mouth. Founded following the discovery of extractable resources — iron, coal and limestone — that would resource post-Civil War industrial expansion; newly freed slaves, landless whites and immigrants from the Middle East, Asia and Europe powered the “economic miracle” that was the Birmingham of the early 20th century. However, this miracle birth was complicated by systemic defects resulting from an unholy coalescence of forced cheap labor, economic and political domination of agricultural and industrial “Big Mules,” and structural racism and classism rooted in Alabama’s Jim Crow Constitution of 1901.
With such a start, it took decades of struggles including establishing Birmingham’s first schools, churches and businesses for African-Americans; creating democratizing counter-power with unions and building Birmingham’s heroic human rights movement, to have Birmingham barely within shouting distance of democratic modernity — inclusive, informed, transparent and democratically accountable self-governance.
Those institutionally democratizing steps were interventions of organized people tilting against windmills of established power, fear and “just the way things are.” Birmingham must rise to the vision and discipline sufficient to create a future worthy of the sacrifices of our past. Our future asks can current generations build new civic engagement enterprises. Can we build effective, equitable, multi-constituency, multi-issue coalitions across our city’s silos and lay claim to our city’s future by becoming active and conscious producers and not just passive and unwitting consumers of the future we all will share?
Read more Big Ideas to Make Birmingham Better here.