Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales expressed concern Tuesday about the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute cancelling its plans to honor Birmingham native and Civil Rights icon Angela Davis.
BCRI was to have given Davis its Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award at its annual gala next month. That event has been cancelled, and plans to give the award to Davis have been rescinded.
“I believe that (BCRI) board members … need to be very cautious that we’re not trying to rewrite the American history according to African Americans, or blacks or the Negro experience,” Scales said. “We all want to embrace diversity, but diversity should not come at the expense of telling the history that makes us uncomfortable.”
The president pro tem of the Jefferson County Commission said it is important to value the experience of others and be willing to allow them to share that experience in a way that may make some uncomfortable.
“It is their truth,” she said.
Scales, who is African American, said BCRI is “commanded” by the City of Birmingham to tell the story of what happened in Birmingham “when no one else wanted to accept who we are, what we stood for and what we represented.”
Scales said Davis is not just a product of Birmingham. She said Davis, whose childhood home still stands in Birmingham’s Smithfield Community, represents the movement at that time when African Americans were disenfranchised by law and by law enforcement.
“What is very hurtful with this matter is the fact that she had already been contacted, probably had already scheduled to be here,” the commissioner said. “For them to rescind it based upon anything outside of what she was invited to do, I think, is very unfortunate. The immediate concern for everyone involved is Ms. Davis could have had other speaking opportunities that she turned down in order for her to come back to her hometown to share her experience.”