A Pledge, to Birmingham

Have you ever heard of The Birmingham Pledge?

Why does the Birmingham Pledge use the Atlanta skyline?


No?


Crafted in 1997, The Birmingham Pledge states:

• I believe that every person has worth as an individual. 

• I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color. 

• I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others. 

• Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions. 

• I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity. 

• I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.

All people aren’t worthy of dignity or respect, and this goes far beyond race, color, or creed. And, no, all people do not possess worth as an individual. Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to remind people why racial prejudice once existed in not just their private thoughts – as they do now – but in their daily actions. I will encourage people to tell the truth of why Birmingham in 2012, with a population that is 74 percent black, has a city council which continues to extend the ban on new payday lending and title pawn shops from opening in the city [Birmingham City Council extends ban on new payday lending, title pawn shops, Birmingham News, 10-16-2012]: 

Councilwoman Lashunda Scales proposed the original halt, saying the city is inundated with the businesses that stifle more positive commercial development.
“We’re trying to come up with law that would allow the number of payday lending and title lending institutions in the city,” Scales said after the meeting. “We’re looking for a permanent solution.”


And though 2013 will be filled with a perpetual, ubiquitous celebration of the downfall of the Birmingham prior to 1963, I pledge to remind people of just what occurred after the dogs stopped barking and fire-hoses were turned off.


The “About” section at the home page for the Birmingham Pledge reminds us:

Birmingham, Alabama ignited a fire that illuminated social injustice throughout the South and nation as a whole. Today, the city once known for police dogs and bombings is at the center of efforts to remedy America’s history of pervasive racial inequality through alliances once thought impossible. The Birmingham Pledge is one of the key components of that movement.

The state of Birmingham in 2012 (soon-to-be 2013), a city which has been under black-political control since 1979, is a powerful reminder of the reality of what ignoring racial inequalities results in producing. 


We are constantly told that “diversity” is our source of civic strength, even civic virtue, but the condition of the government in Birmingham circa 2011 would portend to showcase otherwise [Race-tinged debate over ‘Who’s Who’ book,  divides Birmingham City Council, Birmingham News, April 26, 2011]:         

Members of the Birming­ham City Council were di­vided by race Monday dur­ing an emotional debate about participation in a book highlighting black Ala­bama residents. The discussion centered on which council members would — and would not — be featured in the upcoming “Who’s Who in Black Ala­bama” book. The Budget and Finance Committee dis­cussed the request for $5,000 for an advertisement in the book.

Council members Valerie Abbott and Kim Rafferty, the only white members, ob­jected to the city’s partici­pation.

“I’m 100 percent in favor of Who’s Who in Black Ala­bama,” Abbott said. “I’m just not in favor of taxpayer money paying for it.”

Under the proposal, scheduled for a vote this morning, the council would allocate $5,000 and receive an ad with a group photo of the entire council. The seven black council mem­bers would also receive sep­arate biographies with head shots, while Abbott and Raf­ferty would not.

The committee forwarded the item to the agenda with­out any recommendation.

Rafferty called the pub­­lisher’s policy hurtful and discriminatory, noting that her district is diverse and that she represents all of her constituents.

“I am fully supportive of what their agenda is, but when I worked so hard to be at this table, to be told that I’m unequal and I cannot be in the publication, I don’t understand that. It really bothers me,” she said.

Rafferty walked out of the meeting before the group forwarded the item.“This isn’t petty, and some people try to make it petty,” she said later.Councilman Steven Hoyt, chairman of the committee, defended the book and its mission.

“I’m really not under­standing why this is so con­troversial. That seems to be my middle name, so I’m comfortable with it,” he said. “This is a business, and you’re telling we can’t sup­port minority business?”Hoyt said the city regu­larly spends money to sup­port mostly white-owned businesses, and the city has supported white institutions for most of its history.“We spent the first 75 years celebrating the white majority in the city of Bir­mingham, and now that we’ve got a little mixture and we can’t be celebrated?” he said. “I can spend all my minutes tomorrow talking about the inequities in this city.”

Catrena Carter, the book’s associate publisher who made the presentation, said she was surprised by the controversy.“Our organization and or­ganizations like us simply want to highlight and give a positive spin to us across the state and across the na­tion,” she said later. “I offer no apologies for that.”

Carter, who also leads a nonprofit organization to empower women for leader­ship, said she didn’t under­stand the complaint of dis­crimination Monday. No men ever complained be­cause her other group fo­cused on women, she said.

“Though these women say they support it, there are obviously some underlying issues here, and that is dis­heartening,” Carter said. “That’s not to knock them for speaking from their hearts, but I would urge them to read the history books and look at what the African-American commu­nity and people have gone through as a whole and tell me why you would have a problem honoring these people.”

The power of Black-Run America (BRA) is the ability to constantly transport white people back to those insidious, evil days when a city like Birmingham was under white political control (and actually had a future), and make white people feel sorry both the civilization they built and the extraordinary measures it took to keep civilization from falling to pieces — namely, legal measures to keep black people out of power. 
Birmingham hasn’t seen redevelopment since black-rule became enshrined in 1979; thus, artifacts from a vibrant, white past remain – though fading – in a city whose 74 percent black population relies on payday loan and title pawn stores as an economy

Something as innocuous as a debate on appropriate city funds to support an ad in the “Who’s Who in Black America” book is grounds for participating in the type of hysterical histrionics Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer Joey Kennedy displayed to me when we debated the collapse of Birmingham under black-political (and black demographic) control. 

That the only economy capable of thriving in a city with a population that is 74 percent black is one based on payday lending and title loan shops speaks volumes about the ability of the types of civilizations black people are able to produce. 
The best part about the Birmingham Pledge, is the Web site doesn’t even have a picture of the city from whose name the pledge originates: It’s a sketch of the skyline of Atlanta, the City too Busy to Hate. 
In Black Politics: The New Road to Freedom (August 1984 issue of Ebony), we are greeted to profiles of black mayors. Wilson Goode, Harold Washington, and Coleman Young are profiled, as is Richard Arrington of Birmingham. These words accompany the write-up of Arrington:

Birmingham, a city which is remembered for church bombings and the use of firehoses and police dogs the bloody racial strife of the ‘50s and ‘60s, changed greatly when Dr. Richard Arrington became the city’s first Black mayor in 1979.The mayor, who was re-elected last year, was also quick to implement programs to revitalize the downtown area, reduce crime and upgrade the Black business district. He adopted a citywide hiring policy that increased the Black representation on both the fire and police departments. And he was, he says, the first elected official in that city to fight for affirmative action programs.

And many of the downtown White business leaders (many of whom opposed Arrington in 1979) say he has been directly responsible for spurring downtown development in a city that has had some serious difficulty luring business for 20 years. 

 

Flash-forward to 2013, thirty years after Arrington implemented radical affirmative action policies in the city (doesn’t that violate the Birmingham Pledge… oh, never mind), a hilarious book has been published which is reminder that the white businesses leaders decided to leave Birmingham once the majority population there could only sustain an economy of liquor, payday loan, and title pawn stores. Charles Buchanan’s Fading Ads of Birmingham  offers a pictorial trek through the city, showcasing the ghosts of a once vibrant (white) past. Through mere pictures of fading advertisements in the abandoned black-controlled city of Birmingham, we are provided with the reality of racial inequality. Just read the hilarious back cover of the book, which inadvertently wallows in racism:

The fading advertisements on the walls of Birmingham paint an illuminating picture of the men and women who built an industrial boomtown in the first half of the twentieth century. Experience the disappearing art and see what these commercial creations looked like with fresh paint. Discover the stories behind the wares they hawked, the buildings they adorned and the streets they overlooked. Which soft drink helped you “get wise”? Where could you store a piano in the 1920s, and what gum should you chew for indigestion? Advertising expert, artist and writer Charles Buchanan unravels the mysteries behind Birmingham’s ghost signs to reveal glimpses of the past now hidden in plain sight.

So, I make a pledge to Birmingham that I will work to extinguish the flames of social justice in 2013, which were ignited in the Magic City in 1963 and swept across the entire western world. Detroit has been consumed; Gary, Indiana too; as have South Africa and Rhodesia. 

Though much is lost, must remains worth defending This, I pledge. 

Will you make “A Pledge, to Birmingham?”

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