|Are you sure about that?|
The mayor remembers that it was not too long ago when a Birmingham black could not try on a pair of shoes in a department store, or park in certain public lots, or work behind a sales counter, or appear on stage with whites. His brother remembers: “Our parents were afraid for us to be out too late at night. We had to go through a white neighborhood in order to get to the one segregated movie theater. So we had to come home early.”
THEY SAY IT’S ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN. And this has never been more true than in 1963, the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The events of that year revealed the best and worst humanity had to offer, as some of Birmingham’s most courageous citizens fought to release their city from the terrible grip of hatred and discrimination.
Now, 50 Years Forward, we’re coming together to commemorate “The Movement That Changed The World.” And to celebrate those who sacrificed so much to make it happen, armed with nothing more than hope in their hearts, a prayer on their lips, and the winds of freedom at their backs.
|Birmingham 2013: 74 percent black and a "high caliber city"|
When people are murdered in Jefferson County, chances are the killer was a male under 25 using a gun.
More than half of the accused killers in the county were 24 or younger, according to a Birmingham News analysis of homicides from 2006 through 2009.
Nine times out of 10, the victims were shot to death.
The percentage of homicides with defendants under age 25 who used guns in Jefferson County substantially exceeds the national average, statistics show.
In Birmingham, where nearly three-quarters of the county's murders occurred, the disparity was even worse from 2006-2009.
· Black males were 80 percent of the homicide defendants in majority-white Jefferson County and 89 percent in majority-black Birmingham. The national average was 57 percent.
· More than 70 percent of the victims in Birmingham were black males, versus 43 percent nationwide in 2007, the only year a comparison was possible.
· Guns were used in 86 percent of Birmingham homicides, and 83 percent in the county as a whole, versus 68 percent nationwide. Birmingham's rate is higher among defendants ages 16 through 24.
Arrington inspired a record 76 percent black voter turnout, edging out “law-and-order” challenger Frank Parsons by 2,000 votes. About 12 percent of white voters and 98 percent of the blacks had picked Richard Arrington as their mayor.
In a far less euphoric mood, the new mayor pledges to implement programs that will refine management and accountability in city hall, revitalize Birmingham’s downtown, improve neighborhood revitalization and stability and reduce citizen’s fear of crime by beefing up police manpower. “We have broken the barriers of public facilities,” comments State. Sen. J. Richmond Pearson, “but there is a great disparity economically now between the poor black and the whites. We need to be integrated into the economic system.”
If that, finally, is the ultimate goal of most black civil righters, Mayor Arrington approaches it with confidence. “A lot of whites who didn’t vote for me nevertheless don’t want to see their black mayor fail, because the world is watching Birmingham.”
A female Birmingham-Southern student, Quinette Shehane, was kidnapped on Dec. 20, 1976, when she left campus to buy salad dressing at a Graymont Avenue convenience store. She was brutally killed and three men were convicted of her murder.
The murder reinforced fears that the neighborhood surrounding the campus was dangerous. Security was heightened, and a fence was built around campus. Three years of unsuccessful negotiations to sell the campus to Miles College had already been going on before Neal Berte became president on Feb. 1, 1976. The school had been considering moving to Shelby County.
Commemorating 50 Years: Birmingham's Civil Rights Movement from 50_Years_Forward on Vimeo.