Civil Rights Road Trip: “Sweet Home Alabama.” From Magic City to Tragic City

Lamar Boudoin ’20 — “Sweet Home Alabama.” From Magic City to Tragic City. Our stop in Birmingham, Alabama at Magnolia BBQ and Fish was great. Even though the food was spot on, this is not what caught my eyes and swept me right up off of my feet. Within the restaurant were numerous hand drawn portraits of many black influential people who have made big names for themselves whether in music, comedy, acting, and civil rights movements. The owner of the shop gave us a brief presentation on 4th street or as the area was known back in the day “Black Wall Street.” The many black owned businesses that lined up among this street was where most of the black people spent their day to have a great time away from the nonsense of segregation. This was the only place where blacks felt truly free. Hearing about how Afton Lee, who came from enslaved parents, became the richest black man, and man, in Birmingham, Alabama back in the 1900s showed me that it doesn’t matter where you start, it is all about where and how you finish. Hearing about someone who actually came from nothing and made a name for himself somehow, enough to lead a truly effective was truly an inspiring moment for me.

Along with that, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was horrible but what came as a result of it was also inspiring. A couple years after the bombing, a beautiful stained-glass window was given to the church from England. The window was a portrait of a black crucified Christ who had one hand pushing away segregation and injustice while the other hand reaches out offering forgiveness. People from all over the world knew about what had taken placed and were donating all they could to help the church with whatever they needed. This wasn’t only a southern or “Land of the Free” problem, this was a problem that the world knew needed to be put to a halt. This event scattered throughout the minds of many individuals who only knew the right thing to do was to help; Discrimination and profiling will get us nowhere in America.

Hearing the many first-hand stories from two men who were actually involved in the many Birmingham events and protests was very rewarding. Hearing the pain in their voice every time they told us a story about a death or events that had happened took an overwhelming toll on me. Everything they said was connecting to me as if I was there in the exact moment with them. Their personal stories of meeting Dr. King and being involved in the movement at young ages was breathtaking and it just encourages me to do something to help better and change the world. We all have to start somewhere so why not me. Better yet, why not us?