On February 16th, the UAB Institute for Human Rights held a very important talk. It was called Stand as One: Empowering Marginalized Voices in Birmingham.
Speakers and students from Birmingham’s minority communities came together to uplift and educate. It was an event I had been excited about, but due to my work schedule, I was unable to attend. Fortunately for me, and for you, viewer at home, the event was livestreamed and is now available on Youtube.
It took me a few days to finally get around to watching the full talk, but I got the most amazing recaps and reactions from people on the BSC campus. The first thing people pointed out was how much they wanted Temple Beth-El’s Rav Barry Leff to be their uncle. I work for Rav Barry, this is definitely something that they want, yes. But what really delighted me was the exposure people got to diversity itself at the talk and the education they wanted.
A BSC student, born and raised in Vestavia, had told me he had never, or so he had thought, been exposed to so many transgender people and transgender-issue information. The student, a cisgender male, described listening to the speakers as “completely eye-opening.” He proceeded to tell me information about transgender resources in Birmingham that I had never heard of, and I was heavily involved in LGBT advocacy in this city on a few years ago. The same student told me that listening to an immigrant man give a speech with a translator made him realize how scary it is to be an immigrant. Another student during my sociology class had said that during the panel, it was mentioned that the Trevor Project receives the majority of their hotline calls from the South, which is as astonishing as it is terrifying.
The discussion was kicked off by Ashfaq Taufique, the president of the Birmingham Islamic Society (and real life, actual teddy bear). A film followed in which UAB students read from personal essays about their experiences as minorities in Birmingham. They are earnest, they are sometimes tearful, they are hard-hitting.
Speakers then went on to represent Magic City Acceptance Center, National Organization of Women, the Islamic Society of Birmingham, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Black Lives Matters of Birmingham, Disability Rights and Resources, and several other groups and organizations both local and national.
This program shed some much needed light on minority and women’s issues for many, both in attendance and online viewers. Three of my BSC classmates were particularly appreciative of Lauren Jacobs, panelist for the Magic City Acceptance Center, and the information she provided in her floor time, as well as descriptions of intersectionality and how to engage in productive dialogue.
Please, check out the event here, and keep up with what the UAB Institute for Human Rights has coming up.