Monday, September 16, 2013

50 Years Forward: Weekend Review

Anna June had a pretty good weekend. It started out similar to others: breakfast, play time, swim lessons, lunch, grocery shopping.

Then we came home to regroup briefly. AJ was "questionable," as they say in sports, for afternoon activities since her runny nose had given way to a grumpy disposition. We decided to soldier on, though, and went to Linn Park to the International Street Fair. We visited Aunt Connie's jewelry booth, and enjoyed a spicy pineapple popsicle, pork egg rolls and a snow cone.

Then, we walked over to Kelly Ingram Park to attend a historic event. There was an unveiling of a statue in tribute to the four little girls killed on September 15, 1963, in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. This 50-year anniversary has been marked in Birmingham by many events, but this one seemed the right one for us to attend.

We prepped throughout the day by telling AJ the story of what happened, and playing different versions of "Birmingham Sunday".

Side note: I don't like this song for many reasons. I believe that the intentions were good - I am glad that the event was memorialized in folk music, as so many important events in American history have been. I think it's poorly written. First of all, and of course, I wasn't there, calling it "Birmingham Sunday" is ridiculous. It's as if only one Sunday happened in our long history. Indeed, there were other churches bombed here on other Sundays. Yes, this is the one that got the most attention, and was the turning point in many a heart when it came to civil rights. Yes, it was the deadliest and the most tragic. But before and after, there were lots more key Sundays in Birmingham's history. If they'd just said, "In Birmingham, Sunday," as if it had just happened the Sunday prior, I think I'd have liked it better. Also, it is not likely it was "cold".  It may have been cool here in mid-September, but "cold" is quite a stretch. Furthermore, the killers, though they took four lives, had no particular pre-destined four people selected - either they intended to kill or intended to scare, but they didn't select Addie May, Carol, Cynthia and Denise as victims.

But it was important enough to include in the ceremony, so they did.

Here's a picture of the church and the statue before it was unveiled.

Many dignitaries and other people involved in the project were present to speak, including Sena Jeter Naslund, author of the novel Four Spirits, which deals with the incident. Ms. Naslund is a dear friend of our friend Nancy Moore., so I've had the opportunity to meet her a couple of times. Here's a picture of her, reading an excerpt of her book. The group selected the name for this project from the title - it was fitting that she attend. Out of the three authors that spoke, hers was the only book I've actually read.

After an hour of speeches in the hot sun, we saw the statue unveiled. Well, when we got closer, we saw about half of the statue. We will return to take a tour of all the monuments in the park one day soon, perhaps when it is not blazing hot.

Here are some more pictures of the church, the crowd, the statue, and the park.

It is our hope that AJ will be able to go past that statue and remember that she was there, when, 50 years forward from that terrible date, our community had a moment of reconciliation, and people of all ages and races were able to hold hands and sing "We Shall Overcome," not in an ironic way, but because of all that we have overcome, and all that we still have to overcome in the future.

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