Shari Takes On The South

I went to Birmingham, Alabama last week and had a blast! I must admit, Birmingham wasn’t on my bucket list of cities to visit.  I didn’t think it was really a tourist state and it’s very hot in the south. As a matter of fact, it was in the lower nineties all four days; but I’m so happy the opportunity presented itself for me to see a place immersed in civil rights history.

Birmingham is part of the freedom trails organized by the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). After four young black girls were killed in a church fire, the organization, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., organized a march to Washington, DC to advocate for justice.  Dr. King was arrested and wrote a letter about the entire set of circumstances.  The letter is now a part of history.  Both the letter and march in D.C. had a lot to do with the Civil Rights Movement being passed in 1964.

The reason I went to Birmingham was to present at the SABE (Self Advocates Becoming Empowered) National Conference. Darren Morris, an advocate from Arkansas and I, conducted a break-out session on How Developmental Disabilities Councils Can Help Grow Leaders. Developmental Disabilities Councils (DDC) are a national network of state councils that is committed to self-determination and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities. Councils are federally funded to support inclusion for all with disabilities.

If you’re not aware of council’s mission, especially Ohio’s, you should take time to explore their website. It’s a great organization that’s doing many positive things.  Also, the Council has played an important role with my growth as an advocacy leader.

The SABE Conference welcomed 701 people representing all 52 states, including advocates from other countries like Guam.

The conference was awesome and some of the highlights for me include the parade of flags from all over the US and beyond; (which was absolutely beautiful); The Freedom Choir, who sings songs about the journeys’ and struggles to achieve equality (it was very empowering); the break-out sessions I attended, on topics from voting, how to write a song of advocacy, to disability culture.

I also found time to take on some sights. The McWane Science Center was fun. Many exhibits were hands on and the underwater sea world was magical and colorful.  Uptown food district had many great restaurants. If you make it there, try Todd English’s Pub and Eugene’s Hot Wings. Great food!

I took on the south and happy that I did!  Between the SABE Conference and the rich history of Birmingham, I have a wealth of knowledge that will help me to keep on advocating for change.

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