Walking While Black: A Parent’s Survival Rules in Trayvon Martin’s America

Since George Zimmerman’s acquittal on all charges stemming from his fatal confrontation with unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin last year, Black American parents are holding their sons particularly tight. Continue reading →

The Birmingham Campaign Began 50 Years Ago Today

On this day in 1963, the Birmingham Campaign, “Project C,” officially began. What happened here over the course of six weeks literally changed the world.

Rev. Wyatt T. Walker, executive director of the Southern Leadership Conference under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the first day of direct non-violent action was aimed at the heart of Birmingham’s economy.

So the first groups of demonstrators headed for the segregated lunch counters at Woolworth’s, Loveman’s, Pizitz, Kress and Britt’s, all located on 19th Street North. Instead of serving their African American customers, the managers closed the counters for the day. Continue reading →

The Emancipation Proclamation and the Birmingham Movement: The 150-Year Birth of a Notion

I went to see the Stephen Spielberg movie, Lincoln, on New Year’s Day, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Turned out the movie was more about President Abraham Lincoln’s resolve and political savvy in leveraging the bloody Civil War into a masterful move to weaken the South morally and economically so as to end both the war and African American slavery. The politics and change it started 150 years ago trickled down to today. And for that, I’m grateful. Continue reading →

Gentle Giant Paved the Way for Today’s Freedoms

The more I learn about the Civil Rights Movement here in Birmingham, the more I stand in awe. It took sheer nerve and raw power for those who put themselves in harm’s way to relentlessly pursue the true spirit of the American ideals, even when those ideals did not apply to them.

They truly believed in the Declaration of Independence’s towering words, “We,” meaning the founders of what would become the United States of America, “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Continue reading →

Cooper Green Mercy Madness and The Healthcare Divide

I saw trouble coming when Maralyn Mosley called the GOP JeffCo commissioners who favored closing Cooper Green Mercy Hospital “cowards” and refused to be silent. When asked to leave the chambers and sheriff’s deputies surrounded her, she shouted, “If you want me out, you’ll have to carry me out! I’m not gonna leave these cowards in here!”

But I knew the war was on when Rev. Tommy Lewis, who earlier tried to calm Ms. Mosley and supporters who started singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round,” came out of the commission’s back chamber, where he and other civic leaders apparently tried to reason with the GOP commissioners. He waved his hand in the air, exclaiming that the commissioners wouldn’t act in good faith to reconsider their vote to end Cooper Green’s in-patient services.

Then Lewis – all 6-foot-8 of him – turned toward Commissioner Joe Knight, and looking down, wagged his finger in Knight’s face, and practically shouted , “Either you take this back to committee (for further discussion), or we’re all going to jail!” It’s only the beginning, he said later.

Thus the commission debate over Cooper Green Mercy Hospital – which provides medical services to the county’s poor, uninsured and underinsured residents – turned into a full-blown civil rights protest.

How did it come to this?

Continue reading →

The Struggle Continues – Bloody Sunday and The 4-1-1

Black History Month officially ended yesterday, but the message it carries is as important today as it was on February 29 (or the 28th, if it hadn’t been for the leap year).

Black History is American History, so it has no one-month limit. And the struggle for equality, unfortunately, is far from over.

I try to get to Selma every first weekend in March for Bloody Sunday commemorations. If you don’t know what Bloody Sunday is, don’t feel bad. Until 6 years ago, I didn’t know either. The annual celebration includes the re-enactment of Selma’s civil rights leaders’ initial trek across the Edmund Pettus Bridge toward Montgomery on March, 7, 1965. Continue reading →


Keeping the Fire Burning: On the Passing of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

I first met the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church during the 30-year anniversary of the church bombing, when NBC’s Brian Williams (before he was an anchor) and his television crews broadcast a live, national town-hall meeting from its sanctuary.

I was one of The Birmingham News reporters covering the event, and I was directed to interview him. At that time I only knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in terms of the Civil Rights Movement. So Rev. Shuttlesworth’s story fascinated me.

He recounted surviving the first bomb attack on his home. A blast that should have killed him instead inspired him because he knew that God spared him to lead the Movement in Birmingham. Emerging from the ruins of his wrecked home virtually unscathed, he was from then on the fiercest foe of segregation, he said, because he was never again afraid. Continue reading →