West Asheville. Hank Williams, Jr., David Allen Coe and Waylon Jennings.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bama Landmarks

When I was studying in Birmingham one of my assignments was to go to the Civil Rights Institute. This was in a business class, I might add. Walking through the museum and seeing the exhibits that depicted the horrors and heroism of the 50's and 60's - events that happened right in B'ham and in some of Alabama's most hallowed cities - really impacted me. It made me start asking lots of questions, some of which I still struggle to get answers. Today, I'm more comfortable with not having all the answers, and I can deal a bit better with the unknown. In the end, Mahatma Gandhi summed it up best, "Be the change you want to see in the world." As for the Civil Rights Institute, its exhibits are of Smithsonian caliber, and I would recommend a trip there for anyone. I think it's especially good for young kids and for the church faithful who desire to live out the words of Jesus. Next door is the 16th St. Baptist Church, the spot where four young girls were killed in a brutal racist bombing. Back in the mid-90's, a few years after I had finished school, a couple of friends (the two Dawns!) from the Pacific Northwest, came to visit me in the Deep South. Well, in B'ham, I took them to see an Alabama football game at Legion Field. Then, on a Sunday, I took them to church at the 16th St. Baptist Church. Afterward, they toured the museum. Here's what the ladies remember about it. Incidentally, the day of the service was the morning after Princess Di's tragic death. I remember the pastor praying for her and the Royal Family of Britain.

"What stands out in my memory is the living history aspect of our time there. I noticed that the church continues to offer spiritual guidance and challenge people to be who God created us to be and to live with courage and compassion. And there was a warm welcome." Dawn Todd

"This church could be stuck in its moment of violent fame in American Civil Rights history. But I found it very much alive inside. The sermon was a poignant reminder of the need for us all to have a fixed identity in Christ. The minister recited a poetic version of the ABC's of our identity in Christ. The joke that he told is the only joke I can ever remember, "Who Boo be, Baby?" and is a great lead-in for asking people about their true identity. He ordered us to ask the person standing next to us, "Who you be?" I remember giggling as Dawn Todd and I exchanged the question. Well, I still know the answer and who I be. I am a child of God!" Dawn Herzog

My friends, "the Dawns," in Dothan, Alabama with Uncle Watty and me.

About a year later, I took a couple of ladies to Montgomery for some sightseeing.  We visited the Shakespeare Festival, and we toured the downtown.  One of our visits was to this memorial.  The girl with the red hair was an exchange student from Armenia who had been living and studying in Headland.  These days, she lives in Washington, D.C.  We remain in touch via Facebook.

Ways Samford University Remembers King
Update:  09/02/03

And today the Alabama Tourism Department incorporates Civil Rights history into its marketing.  Check it out here.  And they've even launched a smartphone app that makes visiting the sights easier.  Here it is.

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