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Students, Silent No More, Urge Change At Birmingham Unity Rally

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Participants gather for Shape The Culture's "Be The Change Unity Rally" at Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr., For The Birmingham Times)
Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times

Nine-year-old Kaylen Crusoe was born in Birmingham but now lives in Fort Worth, TX. On Sunday, the rising fifth-grader at Sunset Valley Elementary in Keller, TX, had a microphone lowered for her height as she spoke at the Be the Change Unity Rally in Kelly Ingram Park in downtown.

“We must not be silent,” the grade-schooler said. “If we’re silent, that’s part of the problem. For 400 years, we have been given less freedom and respect. This should not happen for even 401 years. It needs to stop now. In another 30 years, I don’t want to have to tell my children or nieces or nephews, about the ways of racial injustice because it should not be happening.”

A few hundred people turned out for Sunday’s diverse event, the brainchild of rising Indian Springs School senior Jordyn Hudson, founder of Shape The Culture, sponsor of the event.

Quoting former President Barack Obama, Hudson said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or some other time,” she said. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

The aim of the rally was to bring together young people to protest and to rally for equity and against racism and inequality, Hudson said.

“I thought that it was really important to bring young people together to talk about how these issues are affecting lives,” she said.

Carter Dewees, 18, a recent Vestavia Hills High grad, headed to Yale University, said Alabama is the state of former segregationist governor George Wallace. “But we’re also the state of [Civil Rights icons] Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. We’re in a period of flux. We are on the brink of generational action.”

The question is how will state and local governments respond, he said.

“What will our government do in the 2020s?” he asked. “We have to push, every day for more equitable structures, because this moment is once in a generation, and we cannot waste it.”

Alex McFadden, a transgender person who recently graduated from Indian Springs, said it is impossible to stand up for things and always be welcomed.

“Maybe the real problem is that I’m uncomfortable with letting them in,” McFadden said of friends and classmates. “If they’re willing to like a post about a rally, if they’re willing to make posters for a rally, and if they’re really to come to a rally, it probably means they care. It’s these people, our allies, who have the responsibility of educating themselves on the issues at hand.”

Jordan Davis, a recent Morehouse College graduate, headed to grad school at Columbia University in New York City, cited the words of Mississippi civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

The 22-year-old also quoted the lyrics of singer-songwriter Solange, who in 2016 penned the words, “I am weary of the ways of the world.”

“What I find most interesting is that over the course of about 50 years these profound women were saying the exact same thing. Enough is enough,” Davis said. “Today, on June 21, 2020, we are saying the exact same thing. Alabama, enough is enough. Birmingham, enough is enough.”

Jordyn Hudson, the rally organizer, is the daughter of John O. Hudson III and Nyya Hudson. Her father, a longtime Alabama Power Co. executive, is chairman of the Board for the Foundation for Progress in Journalism (FPJ), which owns the Birmingham Times, and also chairman of Bronze Valley, a non-profit, early stage venture investment platform. Her mother is a judge in Birmingham.

Updated at 9:57 a.m. on 6/22/2020 to edit for clarity and add new information.  

Updated at 11:55 a.m. on 6/22/2020 to correct name of college.