Always talk to strangers: A visit to Kelly Ingram Park

Kelly Ingram Park is located across the street from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
In 1963 four little girls were killed in a church bombing, the responsible party was the Ku Klux Klan. The church and the area in immediate vicinity served as a workplace for civil rights movements. Kelly Ingram Park was the site where inhumane violence took place, as Eugene “Bull” Connor unleashed attack dogs on activists and used powerful water cannons to terrorize peaceful demonstrators.
Knowledge can be obtained through various mediums, visiting museums and historical sites are wonderful resources for education. However, my preference is learning through people and the stories they tell.
On this Sunny day in January, I visited the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and walked to Kelly Ingram Park, where by chance, I met Dr. Horace Huntley who is the director of the Oral History Project at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Dr. Huntley shared with me his views on the election of the first African American President.
Huntley said if it wasn’t for the children and students during the Civil Rights Movement progress wouldn’t have been successful.
“Obama has riled up the youth,” said Huntley. “And I think that is similar to what happened then and it is happening now. And that is a good thing.”
I thanked Dr. Huntley for his time as he wished the group well and thanked us for our journalistic duties. Alone, I then walked to a corner of the park and admired four memorial markers, and as I began taking photos of the park artwork a smiling man riding a bicycle greeted me and we began to engage in friendly conversation.
A seemingly forgotten soul or a possible product of difficult times, the man wished only to be identified as “Dread”.
Dread claims to have no special title or educational background, in our conversation he only briefly refers to graduating high school. But it is the school of hard knocks that has taught Dread every detail that Kelly Ingram Park is built on.
He speaks of unknown significances and less than obvious meanings behind each sacred site. He points out to me the significance of the number four in relation to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. There are four water sculptures, four posts that run along the edges of the park and four broken pillars incorporated into another piece of artwork called “The Three Ministers.”
According to Dread the number four is in memory of the four little girls killed during the bombing.
As the journey through the south continues and I converse with people from town and city to city, I find a unique commonality among many of the elderly Americans that have lived through or were a part of the Civil Rights Movements.
What many have said is that the Civil Rights Movement was not about race…It was about equality… My new friend Dread is another who agrees. From Birmingham, Alabama this is Bianca deCastro


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