1963 to 2013: Telling the Story

By J. Mason Davis, Sirote & Permutt attorney

They say those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

Thankfully, there are many organizations around Birmingham that are hosting events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement in our city. It’s an anniversary that’s close to my heart, since I remember the events of that time well.

There are too many anniversary events planned to name, but a few that stand out to me are:

  • Reflect & Rejoice: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a concert at the Alys Stephens Center on Jan. 20
  • The Annual Unity Breakfast and Annual Civil Rights Rally on Jan. 21 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)
  • Marching On: The Children’s Movement at 50, an art exhibit at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute that begins March 1.

Throughout the year there are events for everyone: music, art, lectures and films for all ages.

All of the events are important. I encourage you to attend as many as you can in order to truly understand how far this city has come. 

I applaud the organizations for planning these commemorative events, and I hope that they will help young people learn what really happened in that turbulent year and the others years leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and how they changed Birmingham – as well as our nation – forever.

Many young people don’t know how we had to live before the demonstrations occurred, or how far we had to go to get where we are today. That’s the aim of all of these events – to tell the story of the street demonstrations, voter registration, the fire hoses and police dogs. The vote to change the form of Birmingham’s government from a commission to a city council was as important as anything. The good, the bad, the ugly and the glorious.

It’s important that we celebrate this important anniversary, while also remaining reverent about our history. In order to tell the story of Civil Rights in Birmingham, you have to talk about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. That was the pivotal event that turned the tide of the movement in 1963.

I encourage everyone to make plans to attend as many of these events as possible. For a complete list, visit http://50yearsforward.com/events/.

Sirote Supports, a Sirote & Permutt initiative, provides support to programs that strengthen the community and positively impact the areas of health, education and the arts. To learn more about Sirote & Permutt, please visit us at www.sirote.com.


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