Wales’ largest youth organization visits Birmingham this week—here’s why


urrd welsh youth birmingham
Ambassadors of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, a Welsh youth organization with strong ties to Birmingham. (Urdd Gobaith Cymru)

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. To commemorate the tragic event, Wales’ largest youth organization, Urdd Gobaith Cymru will travel to Birmingham the week of September 11 to strengthen ties with the city they’ve grown to love. Here’s why this is such an important trip for them.

The Urdd has strong ties with Birmingham

Wales Window
The “Wales Window” at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. (Jon Eastwood / Bham Now)

Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which led to the deaths of four Black girls, was a pivotal moment during the Civil Rights movement. Welsh ties with Birmingham were formed in the immediate aftermath of the vicious bombing. When the news reached Wales, glass artist John Petts decided to pay tribute by designing a glass window portraying a Black Jesus Christ as a gift to the church. The window was installed in 1964 and continues to be known today as the “Wales Window.”

Decades later in 2019, the Urdd extended a hand of friendship and solidarity on behalf of Wales when Urdd Chief Executive Siân Lewis traveled to Alabama to visit the church. Former Bham Now employee and Welshman Jon Eastwood wrote about the meeting—check it out here. Lewis’ visit led to a partnership between Birmingham and Wales that has continued to gain strength and has provided opportunities for young people on both sides of the Atlantic to learn more about each other’s cultures and traditions.

Here are a few ways the partnership between Birmingham and the Urdd has continued to gain strength.

  • November 2020: Members of Urdd Gobaith Cymru and the students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) came together to create a virtual gospel choir, singing together in Welsh for the very first time!
  • April 2022: The Urdd Choir traveled to Birmingham to perform in a concert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) alongside UAB’s Gospel Choir. The Urdd Choir also performed at the 16th Street Baptist Church’s Easter Service.
  • June 2023: UAB’s Gospel Choir traveled to Wales to perform and learn more about the country’s history, language and culture.

Learn more about Urdd Gobaith Cymru and their ties to Birmingham.

Urdd visits Birmingham for the 60th Anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing

16th Street Baptist Church
2023 marks the 60th Anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. (Sabrina Palmer / Bham Now)

On Monday, September 11, ambassadors of Urdd Gobaith Cymru journey to Birmingham once again for the 60th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, to show solidarity with the African American community and learn more about the region’s rich Civil Rights history.

Here are some of the activities the group has planned for their visit to Birmingham and beyond:

  • 16th Street Baptist Church tour
  • Attend the 60th Anniversary Commemoration event (with wreath laying and tree planting dedication)
  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tour
  • Civil Rights Panel at Sloss Furnaces
  • Trip to Montgomery (including visits to the Rosa Parks House + Legacy Museum)
  • UAB tour, football game + workshop on human rights and anti-racism
  • Visit to the A.G. Gaston Hotel

“We are delighted to continue developing our relationship with the African American community in Birmingham, Alabama and to give Urdd members the opportunity to learn more about the history and events of Alabama.”  

Siân Lewis, Chief Executive, Urdd

Urdd’s “Call. Them. Out.” Peace + Goodwill Message

urrd welsh youth birmingham
Siân Lewis is the Chief Executive of Urdd Gobaith Cymru. (Urdd Gobaith Cymru)

Earlier this year, the Urdd continued its 101-year-old tradition of sharing a Message of Peace and Goodwill – created by the young people of Wales – with the world. 13 Urdd Ambassadors created a powerful Peace and Goodwill Message that throws a spotlight on anti-racism, clearly stating that if people see racism, we should “Call. Them. Out.”

The Peace and Goodwill Message campaign resulted in the Urdd commissioning a mural in Cardiff, the capital and largest city of Wales, as a visual reminder to declare that there is no place for racism in the world. A special performance by the University of Birmingham Alabama Gospel Choir also took place at the mural’s unveiling, as part of their international visit to Wales. 

It’s fitting that the Urdd will be visiting Birmingham on this important anniversary with the young people who created this impactful message, which was heard and shared by thousands across the world. Upon their return home to Wales, the Urdd’s ambassadors will be sharing their insights, thoughts and discussions on anti-racism in order to continue the fight against discrimination.

UAB Gospel Choir performing at the mural’s unveiling. Portrayed in the mural is Urdd ambassador Nia Fajeyisan, who was part of the 2023 Peace Message campaign. (Urdd Gobaith Cymru)

“We feel privileged to be traveling to Birmingham, Alabama with Urdd Gobaith Cymru, as we explore the history of the Civil Rights movement, fostering new friendships along the way. The students, who worked on this year’s Message of Peace, are passionate about using their voices as a means of change. I have no doubt that this trip will inspire and motivate them even further.”

Sian Morgan Lloyd, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture

To learn more about Urdd Gobaith Cymru, their ties to Birmingham and more, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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