It has been a very busy week. It’s hard to believe a week ago we arrived in this great city! We’ve spent the week totally immersed in the food desert challenge as well as meeting a terrific group of people and really working to get to know the City of Birmingham better. Today was no different. The day started early with a couple of us visiting the West End Community Gardens. The gardens are sponsored and supported by the local Community Church Without Walls and is doing great work. They are producing fruits, vegetables, herbs and ornamental flowers. They are also bee keeping and have branched into composting. They have standard composing piles as well as a worm casing composting pile. They are selling their produce and their compost through the Pepper Place Farmers Market. They also have a community outreach program to hire young people and train them to build and manage gardens. They are looking to expand to other lots that have been acquired by the organization. A great example of community involvement and caring.
We got back from our tour of the gardens and mid day went to the Birmingham Museum of Art. There are several exhibits going on there and it is a wonderful resource for the community. They have a wide variety of exhibits including a newly reinstalled African Art Exhibit. There were pieces there from 200 BCE with a wide array of pieces that span pottery, statuary, clothing, jewelry and other pieces. There was also the Hester Bateman Silver exhibit and a Samurai Armor exhibit. We walked around for about an hour and then went to Mrs. B’s a local restaurant in the downtown area that serves good down home cooking. The meal was excellent!
The final part of the day was a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute which included a visit to the 16th Street Baptist Church, where on September 15, 1963, a white supremacist group detonated a bomb that killed 4 young girls who were preparing to sing in the choir.
As we traveled through the institute we followed the progression of the history of Birmingham and how the two races built separate societies that eventually became codified in the Jim Crow laws of the South. The Institute leads you through the story of the pivotal events of 1963 in Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma that directly led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since then, much progress has been made but much still needs to be done. Recently, the City erected a monument to the 4 girls who lost their lives across the street from the Institute. The Institute is a valuable gem for preserving the stories of those who struggled for equality and social justice.