Category: BirminghamWatch

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Is it now reasonable to discuss the end of the pandemic? Yes, but with caveats. (Washington Post)
UAB’s Dr. Saag Calls New CDC Guidance on Masks “Liberating” (WBRC)
Hundreds of Epidemiologists Expected Mask-Wearing in Public for at Least a Year (New York Times)
Colonial Pipeline Paid Roughly $5 Million in Ransom to Hackers (New York Times)
Cheers! Alabama Governor Signs Limited Wine Delivery Bill (Associated Press)
Southern Research Selects New President and CEO (AL.com)
Plans to Reduce Jobless Benefits Spreads to 16 States (New York Times)
Biden Wants to Offer More Housing Vouchers. Many Landlords Won’t Accept Them. (Stateline)
Alabama Schools, Colleges, Getting $280 Million From Technology Fund (AL.com)

A Lack of Hate or Lack of Reporting?: Alabama Has Reported Zero Hate Crimes in the Past Two Years

On April 9, 2020, the Etz Chayim Synagogue in Huntsville was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. The following day, the Chabad of Huntsville was vandalized with similar hate speech. Security footage taken from both scenes indicates the same perpetrator committed both crimes. Given that they took place on the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover, the crimes are thought to be meticulously planned and executed with one purpose: to send a message of hate to the Jewish community.

Mayor Tommy Battle released a statement to the public saying “the city of Huntsville condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms” and emphasized Huntsville as a city of inclusivity and acceptance. “Any offense against one is an offense against all,” Battle said.

The case has since been handed over to the FBI, and no perpetrator has been caught.

Despite these attacks against the Jewish community the state of Alabama has reported zero hate crimes to the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report for the past two years in a row. It is the only state in the country that has reported zero hate crimes. 

“It is highly implausible that in 2019 or 2018, no hate crimes were committed in Alabama. Of the over 417 law enforcement agencies in the state, only two actually participated in the 2019 reporting process to the FBI, which is deeply troubling and undoubtedly means that many hate crimes have gone unreported,” said Dr. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division. Read more.

The Tornado Outbreak of April 27, 2011: Are We Better Prepared Now?

It’s been roughly a decade since April 27, 2011, a day that marked U.S. weather history. The South saw hundreds of tornadoes, 62 of which were in Alabama. Some of the tornadoes tracked more than 80 miles long, bringing wind speeds up to 210 mph in some areas. The storm killed about 250 people in Alabama alone.

On this 10-year anniversary, we’re asking the question: Are we better prepared now for a tornado outbreak than we were a decade ago? Read more.

Philandering Politicians Can’t Hope That Reporters Won’t Care

Came across an academic article saying public officials no longer have private lives off limits from prying media and opposing political campaigns — to the detriment of public service. It was published in 1998.

Imagine how things are now with heightened divisive politics, partisan news media, uncontrolled social media and a never-ending list of politicians whose horrifying activities in their private lives demand public scrutiny.

The question of when the private lives of politicians deserve public exposure is a perpetual one for the press. It has arisen lately with the cases of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (OK, actually zero question here) and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who admitted last week to marital infidelity. Read more.

Lighting Up the Night Again

The neon sign for the historic A.G. Gaston Motel was lit Tuesday night in a ceremony marking the end of phase 1 of the site’s restoration. Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin attended along with representatives from the city and the National Park Service. “The A.G. Gaston motel sign served as a beacon to black families traveling through the segregated South,” Woodfin said. “It’s a sign that will now shine in remembrance of Dr. A.G. Gaston’s legacy – a legacy of black prosperity, equal opportunity, Southern hospitality and freedom.” The motel was used frequently by civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they strategized their campaigns against injustice. Restoration of the 1958 wing of the hotel has been completed. Work to restore the 1968 wing and courtyard is next, with a projected completion date of June 2022. (Photo from City of Birmingham Facebook video)

Columnist John Archibald Tries to Understand His Preacher-Father Through the Lens of the Civil Rights Movement

“Shaking the Gates of Hell: A Search for Family and Truth in the Wake of the Civil Rights Revolution,” by John Archibald (Knopf)

A rhetorical, almost visual thread runs though John Archibald’s family memoir. The thread is silence. Silence in a noisy and violent time. Safe silence. Complicit silence. This silence haunts the author, a Pultizer Prize winning columnist for The Birmingham News and AL.com.

Archibald follows in the frustrated tradition of white Southern writers — W. J. Cash, Clarence Cason, Jonathan Daniels — and writers who are children of Birmingham — Diane McWhorter, Paul Hemphill, Howell Raines — who try to understand and explain the South and what happens there.

“Shaking the Gates of Hell” is Archibald’s attempt at a conversation about historical silence with his deceased father, with his younger self, with his home state and region. The author’s father, Robert L. Archibald, Jr., was a Methodist minister who served at churches in Birmingham and north Alabama. Read more.

Family, Faith and Race Collide in Columnist John Archibald’s New Book (WBHM)

Family, Faith and Race Collide in Columnist John Archibald’s New Book

In the iconic “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote of his disappointment with white clergy who opposed the Civil Rights Movement. Alabama Media Group columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner John Archibald came to love that document, which was dated 11 days after his birth, for its clear message against injustice.

But the letter contains another layer: Archibald’s late father was a Methodist minister in Alabama whose career spanned the turbulent 1960s. He wondered what his dad said about race from the pulpit during those times. So he combed through two filing cabinets that contained every sermon his dad delivered. Read more.

Remembering Homewood Resident And Civil Rights Activist Eileen Walbert

Alabamians are mourning the death of lifelong civil rights activist Eileen Walbert, a white woman who made fighting for racial equality her life’s work.

She and her husband Jim moved to Homewood in the late 40s. Born in Virginia in 1920, Walbert was aware of the racial tensions between Blacks and whites but moving to the deep south was different. 

“She didn’t see the swastikas when she arrived here, but she saw the colored and white signs which represented the swastikas,” said historian Horace Huntley.

Huntley, former leader of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s oral history project, said Walbert was determined to challenge the racial inequalities of Birmingham and her Homewood neighborhood. 

Walbert and her husband befriended a couple who were refugees from Europe during World War II. Soon after, the couple introduced the Walbert’s to the Civil Rights Movement. 
Read more.