A poignant ceremony took place at the 16th Street Baptist Church on Thursday, September 5, when a delegation from Wales made up of government officials and national youth organization leadership paid their respects at the site of the tragic 1963 bomb explosion, and visited the historic Wales Window – a gift from the people of Wales to the people of Birmingham in 1965. Find out more and learn about the small nation of Wales, my home nation.
The Wales Window
The Wales Window was donated to the 16th Street Baptist Church by the people of Wales following a public appeal by Welsh artist, John Petts, who read about the terrible act of terror that happened when four young girls lost their lives following a bomb explosion on September 15, 1963.
Within a very short space of time, funds were raised for a replacement window which was installed and dedicated in 1965.
Pett’s depiction of a black Christ is recognized throughout the world as one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most iconic pieces of art and it stands at the front of the rebuilt 16th Street Baptist Church.
A Welsh delegation visited the 16th Street Baptist Church on Thursday, September 5 as part of focusing on shared history, youth exchange opportunities, and potential university collaborations between Birmingham and Wales.
Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education in Wales, and Sian Lewis, CEO of The Urdd (Wales’ national youth movement) met Pastor Arthur Price, Jr. and members of the 16th Street Baptist Church, where they toured the building, including the Wales Window.
“It’s a tremendous privilege to see the Wales Window. The Civil Rights Movement is something I was very familiar with, but it was only recently that I became aware of this contribution by the people of Wales to this very important site”.
Upon seeing the window, Williams shared that it was “incredibly moving to see it for myself and it’s wonderful to hear from Pastor Price and members of the church just how much they value the contribution of the people of Wales to the church and what it meant at that time, to think that a small country thousands of miles away were moved by the tragedy here, the death of the children, to do something positive in the face of that terrible tragedy.”
A short film called ‘Angels of Change’ was shown, which is named in honor of Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Rosamond Robertson, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, the four school girls killed by the bombing. Pastor Price said “They were angels of change, and they were agents of change”.
Pastor Price accepted gifts from Welsh Government and The Urdd, which included a letter from the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, a ceramic plate representing a hand of friendship, and the Welsh Bible.
As the visit came to an end, a moment of reflection took place outside the church where wreaths were laid in remembrance of the tragic event which shook the world and now binds an enduring friendship between Birmingham and Wales.
Learn a bit more about Wales
Having moved to Birmingham from Wales last year, I’ve found that although most people have heard of England, Scotland, and Ireland, my Celtic homeland is sometimes less well known.
I was incredibly proud to learn about the Wales Window in Birmingham, an act of friendship and empathy that links both places, over 4,000 miles apart.
If you don’t know much about this small nation, here’s some key facts:
- Wales forms part of the United Kingdom alongside England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It borders England.
- Wales is called ‘Cymru’ in Welsh
- Population of about 3 million
- Has more castles per square mile than anywhere else on earth (approx. 600)
- Renowned for sheep farming – there’s four times as many sheep as people
- Although soccer is huge, the national sport is rugby
- The letters K, Q, V and Z do not appear in the Welsh alphabet, however there is Ch, Dd, Ff, Ng, Ll, Ph, Rh, and Th
- Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a real place name – it translates to St. Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of LLantysilio of the Red Cave
- Wales is a land of song and some might say it has the best national anthem in the world (I may be biased)
Don’t believe me? Check out this video.