untitled on Flickr.
"Four Little Girls" - you will hear that phrase a lot over the next few weeks. September 15th will be the 50th anniversary of the single most despicable event that occurred during the tumultuous summer and fall of 1963. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley were attending Sunday School in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church on that Sunday morning when a bomb exploded, taking their lives. This tragedy was the culmination of a year of violence and protests centered around equal rights for all races.
1963 has been called “The Year Everything Changed”. The events of September 15, 1963 defined that year. Enough was enough! Even my parents, who had been somewhat vocal in their disdain for “those demonstrators”, had little to say about this - shocking events have that effect on people. Today, this seems like ancient history for many of us - but being a child of the sixties, I hope I never forget what our world was like then and the journey we (Birmingham) have travelled. This town is not perfect (name one that is), but it is a far better place to live than it was in 1963.
On this anniversary take the time to understand and appreciate where we were and where we have come to. If this happened before your time, spend a little effort learning about these events and how they so significantly altered history. If you are black, seek out that relative or family friend who was a “foot soldier”, thank them for what they did, and listen to their stories of those days. If you are white, take the time to gain an understanding of just how different this world was in 1963. To some degree, we have “come together”, but never ever forget how polarized we were.
Remember, Birmingham is far from perfect, but it is a far better place to live than it was in 1963.