Look around the country, and the most dynamic cities tend to be truly welcoming: these cities encourage out-of-towners to relocate and join local civic pursuits, and they robustly embrace all minorities and cultural groups while harnessing their diverse energies towards a greater good. During Pride Week, we’re reminded that Birmingham is a relative bastion of urban tolerance–if not always acceptance–within a state that’s often feels otherwise (rainbow flags fly at the center of Five Points South, above).
It was particularly heartening to attend a Birmingham Business Alliance board meeting the other week (above) that was held not in the usual corporate auditorium, but at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute gallery housing the Living in Limbo exhibit. This groundbreaking exhibit about lesbian families (which runs through this weekend) was a fitting backdrop for local business leaders to discuss the future of this region. We all need to be reminded that this city (and its region) is truly a rainbow–and all of us should work together to celebrate that diversity and base a better urban place upon it. Happy Pride, Birmingham.
I am in Chicago this week and will be in the North Halstead area
tonight. The area is known as Boystown. It was revitalized by gay
men and women years ago. They did such a good job refurbishing the
area without developers that they received a 1.6 million dollar grant
from Mayor Dailey for continued economic expansion.
I will try to send pictures of the gorgeous rainbow colored public
planters, the restored old buildings now successful stores and hip
furniture shops, etc.
It is a great model. The area is still affordable, and offers lots of
apartments under $600. The area is a mix of wonderful modern and
pre-war homes and buildings. It boasts gorgeous gardens and yards;
great public transportation; developed one of the first no-leash dog
parks; is minutes from Lake Michigan and downtown; has the largest gay
pride parade in the country; and is filled with great clubs,
The last time I was in the area and checked out the neighborhood
growth a woman in sensible shoes got me on the right bus to my hotel
and gave me theatre tickets to Nine. It turned out she was a
benefactor and was unable to go that evening. That’s a great example
of the unpretentious, forward-thinking Chicago folks for you. Always
helpful and non-judgemental. And they care about their neighborhoods.
What a great story about the neighborhood revitalization role gays and lesbians play in many cities (including Birmingham); of course this process is writ large in a place like Chicago. Thanks.
Many out-of-towners are surprised to see that Birmingham city itself has what seems to me to be a pretty large gay community. You can miss it in the suburbs but Birmingham really does represent a diverse group of people.
In a classic Richard Florida “creative class” moment, I was showing a woman from Portland, OR around town a few years ago. She and her husband were considering a move to Birmingham, but wanted to get a feel for it first. One of the questions on her list was “do you have a gay pride parade?” That–and evidence of a large, thriving gay community generally–is on the checklist for creative class people seeking to move to new cities. Cities that support and promote LGBT tend to also support change, creativity, new ideas, and growth generally. Those that don’t tend to be less dynamic, insular, slower growth. Thanks.
Great post. People easily forget just how much the gay community can drive not just diversity but also nightlife, development, and culture (creation and preservation). I’ve noticed recently that the community has started to become a lot more public in Birmingham, and I’m hoping that it continues to step on out.
Thank you for your comments!