The story of a city continues

Birmingham is famous, but often for the wrong reasons. Troubled schools, troubled leadership, troubled economy and a sordid history of intolerance.

In looking ahead to 2013, it could have easily looked past a significant milestone, the 50th anniversary of 1963’s civil rights events.

Instead, the city embraced it.

What happened next surprised even me, a native of Birmingham.

Video: announces its travel destinations for 2013 on “Today.” announced its top travel destinations for 2013 on Jan. 1 on “Today.” The list included Miami, Pittsburgh, Croatia, Nicaragua, Marseille, France, and Birmingham.

The accolades continued to pour in all year long from news and travel media outlets. Looking at not only our past but also how we’ve made progress in five decades has made for a compelling story.

Video: Promotional video for Birmingham for the All-America City competition

In June, Birmingham won an All-America City award, its second victory in 40 years.

Civil rights and history have been part of the storyline all year long. The 50 Years Forward campaign continues with Empowerment Week on Wednesday. Each day will have community events on diversity, service, human rights and more.

Sunday, the final day, will mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, in which four girls were killed.

The people of Birmingham have faced many choices since that tragic day. Even now, we face how to tell the unfolding story and what we learn from it.

The work is far from over. But it shows that in telling a complicated story with shameful chapters, we can grow. We might even overcome.

Food for thought: As we continue to commemorate those who fought for equality and justice in Birmingham and throughout the nation in 1963, I can’t help but see how far we have to go.

1. Birmingham News columnist John Archibald says our progress over 50 years has fallen far short of where we should be.

2. This clip from “The Daily Show” shows how far apart our perceptions of progress really are.

Video: “The Daily Show” on the “R-word”

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About Wade Kwon

Wade Kwon is conference director for Y'all Connect. See his full bio.

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