Birmingham, Alabama

This week is the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that murdered four young girls. This September, Birmingham’s black Mayor, William Bell, will commemorate the anniversary. Seems that Birmingham has come a long way. Each of the four girls will be honored with a Congressional Gold Medal.

I have only been to Birmingham once. I was traveling with the Rolling Stones in 1989. The opening act on the tour was the rock band Living Colour. A couple of nights before Birmingham, Vernon Reid, their great guitar player, came up to me backstage and showed me the new camera he had just purchased. He asked me to teach him a little about photography. I suggested that we walk around Birmingham and have a photo lesson on our day off later in the week. The morning came and the phone in my room rang. It was Vernon ready to rock! He suggested that we meet in the lobby. I grabbed a camera and headed for the elevators. Vernon was waiting for the same elevator. He was wearing a colorful dashiki, and his hair was braided and colored red, yellow and green. We got on the elevator together and headed for the lobby. As we approached the first floor, we heard a lot of conversation coming from the first floor lobby. When the doors of the elevator opened into the lobby, we were confronted with about a hundred white haired old ladies (obviously a lady’s club meeting).

As we walked through the group of ladies, you could hear a pin drop in the lobby. People stared at us as if we were animals in the zoo. As we walked out the front door, the conversation in the lobby picked up again. Vernon looked at me and shrugged. As he put it that day: “Happens to me every day.”

Hopefully Birmingham has changed so that a black man can walk through a hotel lobby without stopping traffic!!

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