34 / ’southern
he 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement
in Birmingham is not simply a commemorative
event or a historical era or a documentary tale.
The 1963 movement changed the trajectory
of society in America for both good and bad.
Although I was a toddler in ’63, I have vague memories of
the evening news with Walter Cronkite, and I can still hear
my mother’s screams at the horrors of the water hoses, dogs,
and the brutality of the events that unfolded nightly.
As an adult, I compare those tragic moments to other
historical human liberations: the Hebrews from Egypt, the
South Africans and apartheid, and the Greeks and Troy (this
may be mythological and more about war than suppressing
a race of people). However, people that obtain power never
share, surrender, or bequeath it to other people; it must be
taken. History has proven that a set of circumstances will
present itself and the oppressed will stand up regardless
of the potential risks to themselves or to loved ones. This
inner strength is fashioned from pain, pressure, and the
agony of being oppressed. It seems ironic, but the same
characteristics that allow people to bear oppression become
the same characteristics that make them say “enough.”
I am privileged to have seen and remember some of the
“enough” era. I am a direct benefactor of that era. While
Velma Williams, MPPM ’95
Community engagement and
outreach prevalent at
One of Birmingham-Southern’s main goals has been
to forge and strengthen community partnerships that
improve lives beyond the college’s gates.
Through a range of community engagement and
outreach activities, students, faculty, and staff have plenty
of opportunities to involve themselves in Birmingham’s
rich history and its deep social ties to the Hilltop.
Students, especially, get to branch out into the city, see its
neighborhoods, and address issues of concern.
“Community and public service have always been at the
forefront of what we do here, and we can never tell these
stories often enough,” said BSC President Gen. Charles C.
Here are just a few current programs and projects:
Close to 150 student-athletes participated in the
citywide MLK Service Day on Jan. 21 in honor of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. and in conjunction with the 2013
National Day of Service. The group distributed shoes
to needy children in the community and assisted with
school clean-up projects.
This spring, Dr. William Holt’s Urban sociology
students are developing and conducting a usage study
for Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. Camille
Spratling ’98 (MPPM ’07), executive director of the
Railroad Park Foundation, will work with the students
on a planning forum to assess park needs; students
will also conduct a park-users survey in April. The
foundation will use the data to assist in their future
The education department is partnering with NorthStar
Youth Ministries to train and equip academic
instructors for the summer program Camp NorthStar.
For more than a decade, BSC has hosted this academic
enrichment day camp that helps dozens of youngsters
from west Birmingham boost their learning over the
summer. Camp NorthStar is directed by Paul Neville
BSC’s Urban Environmental Studies program recently
received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Education grant to analyze soil samples from around
Birmingham. Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr.
Scott Dorman, Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Scot
Duncan, UES Administrative Coordinator Francesca
Gross, and UES Program Coordinator Dr. William
Holt are leading this interdisciplinary look at pollution
in Birmingham’s old industrial neighborhoods.
Components include on-site data collection by an
environmental earth science class, chemistry lab
courses to analyze soil samples, and a UES class policy
evaluation as well as a UES senior capstone class
examining community issues.
Dr. Sarah Frohardt-Lane, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the history
department, is teaching a course this spring entitled “The African-
American Civil Rights Movement.” The course is a research-history
seminar on the black freedom struggle, focusing on local, national, and
international events. Students will extend their learning through visits to
the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and other local historic sites.
The Southern Environmental Center plans to build its 14th and 15th
ecoscapes in the Eastlake and Druid Hills neighborhoods near downtown
Birmingham later this year. The EcoScape program utilizes local artwork
to illustrate organic gardening practices, provides low-cost nature
centers or outdoor learning sites, and offers an oasis of natural beauty in
communities. The most recent park was completed in September 2012 in
the Riley-Travellick neighborhood near Midfield.