Several days ago, as I participated in the 31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast, two thoughts crossed my mind.
First, I was reminded of a recent picture of grandson no. 3 and one of his best friends. They are great athletes and great friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the starting shooting guard and power forward or the starting running back and wide receiver for Oak Mountain High School in 2025 and 2026, but I digress. Here’s the important point – I am literally seeing Dr. King’s dream become a reality before my very eyes.
Second, I spent a few moments reflecting on the word “unity”. It’s an easy concept to understand, but a difficult one to achieve. Synonyms of unity include “togetherness”, “wholeness” and “oneness”. Unfortunately, it’s a word that I have a difficult time consistently using to describe the Birmingham Metro Area. At times, too much of our community’s energies are focused on division and subtraction, instead of on addition and multiplication.
Poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau observed, “It’s not what you look at, but what you see.”
When I look at the Birmingham Metro Area, I see beautiful terrain with rich natural resources; I see a giving community that is one of the most generous in the United States; I see religious leaders who have opened their doors to all; I see civic leaders who believe we can do better than we’ve done in the past; and I see a business community that is open for business.
In light of all these positives, what’s holding us back from becoming a truly unified community? Let’s be honest with each other. Despite the tangible progress of the last 50 years, too many whites and blacks still don’t trust each other enough to sit down at the same table and transparently share their hopes and dreams for the future – many of which are the same. As examples, we all want our community to have more and higher paying jobs – better education for our youngsters – and safer communities.
Reverend King put it this way, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
From my point-of-view, the ongoing goal of Birmingham’s Unity Breakfast and similar events throughout our state is to sit down at the table of fellowship; to better understand each other’s thoughts and motivations; and to leave the gathering more committed to issues that unite us than to those that divide us. United we can reach our community’s fullest potential – divided we will surely fall short.
Quoting Sir Winston Churchill, “When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.” So, I say to all the unity eagles in our community, let’s resolve to not let the divisiveness of the jabbering parrots drown out our collective voices of mutual respect and inclusiveness. The opportunities are too great for us to keep silent!
David Carrington is a member of the Jefferson County Commission