The Western Tribune this week contains my column regarding the resolution of inclusion recently passed by Birmingham's City Council. To my knowledge, this is the first gay positive column or report pubished in a Bessemer newspaper in history. I know there are homophobic people in western Jefferson County, I ran across several while I was campaigning, but whether they read the Trib or not I don't know. But just in case, it would be nice for the Tribune to hear from readers of this column (and the paper) who support diversity in our community. I am sure they will hear from those who don't. Dan titled my column "One Vote for Diversity in Bessemer." Mine may be the first vote, but I am sure it is not the only one. Let them know. The mailing address is The Western Tribune, 1530 Third Avenue North, Bessemer, AL 35020, and their email is firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who do not have the newspaper (you can subscribe at 425-7171) the column is repeated here:
One Vote for Diversity in Bessemer
A few weeks ago I was critical of the Birmingham City Council because they failed to pass a resolution of inclusion proposed by Councilperson Valerie Abbott. The resolution would promote tolerance and respect for all residents and visitors and condemn racism, bigotry, homophobia and other forms of discrimination, and would encourage the city of Birmingham to embrace diversity.
Birmingham’s history, like Bessemer’s, does not always shine when the issues of tolerance and inclusiveness are brought forth. The words of intolerance and division that filled the chamber just weeks ago are evidence of a past that lingers, one of mistrust and hatred.
A city that has been divided has no business promoting intolerance when wounds are still healing and fences are still being mended. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And Coretta Scott King echoed her husband’s feelings by saying “Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others” when she was speaking against discrimination against gays and lesbians in 1994.
On May 15 Birmingham righted this wrong by passing, unanimously, a modified version of the resolution for inclusion. The council members who had voted no the first time realized that voting to exclude people because of who they are presented a negative image for their city. One councilor who changed his vote, Steven Hoyt, said this was the right thing to do, after doing some research and having discussions with spiritual leaders. By voting now to reverse that decision, all residents and visitors can feel welcome and appreciated.
I wonder if the Bessemer City Council, if presented with a similar resolution, will behave like the Birmingham Council did in March with hateful speech and divisive votes, or will they show unity with a progressive vote for inclusion and tolerance. With the contributions that gays are making toward improving our city, I would hope for the latter. Bessemer is a diverse community and has been mentioned more than once by the Birmingham News as a community where gays are helping to revitalize the city by preserving their historical homes and contributing to efforts to bring cultural events and art shows. And history shows that revival of fading communities across the nation is often heavily influenced by the contributions of gays in those communities.
Resolution or not, let’s hope the leaders and followers in our community appreciate the efforts of everyone to improve our city.