“...I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.“
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
April 16, 1963
This weekend, I and two other staff members of the Center for Preservation Leadership for the National Trust for Historic Preservation welcomed 35 individuals from 16 states to Preservation Leadership Training (PLT) in Birmingham, Alabama. This is my first real visit to Birmingham, and I marveled how I now stood in a place of change, a a place of bravery and a place of critical importance to the history of the United States.
I think this moment was most poignant along Freedom Walk in Kelly Ingram Park. Two walls close in with vicious snarling dogs inches from my face—representations of the dogs Bull Connor released upon protesters in 1963. A short short walk away two children, defiant proclaim “I ain't afraid of your jail.” Overlooking the park is the 16th Street Baptist Church, a solid structure that has seen so much and watched so many stand for justice and truth in the fight for civil rights.
This week the participants will experience PLT in this city with its rich historical tapestry. This is most evident in the Five Point's South neighborhood (where PLT is taking place) which has an enormous collection of historical buildings built between 1890s and 1930. Take a look at Temple Emanu-El, by architectural master William Weston, the Highland Methodist Church which holds a prominent place at the confluence of Five Points, the detailing on the LaSalle Apartment building which dates from 1926, or the South Highland Presbyterian Church and its Victorian Gothic architecture.
In particular I wanted to note that our group, consisting of individuals from Alabama, California, Indiana, Louisiana and more will explore the Prince Hall Grand Lodge-- a masonic temple deep in the heart of the 4th Avenue Historical District, steps away from the 16th Street Baptist Church. This building is a challenge, in scope and use. However, in the spirit of Martin Luther King's “network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” this group is here to embrace Birmingham and produce proposals for a building that played its own role within the Civil Rights Movement.
If you are in Birmingham on Friday, January 17, 2009 please attend the public presentations which will take place at 5:30 at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Birmingham, Alabama. Click here to view the flier. For more information on PLT visit our website.
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