The Birmingham Project
After my 50th high school reunion, I felt the urgent need to revisit Birmingham Alabama, my childhood home, with new eyes and a new heart. One year later, I made the journey. I am exploring my personal narrative in relationship to the settlement of my family, who became slave-holding planters, in Shelby County Alabama and to the history and geography of Birmingham. I am considering aspects of the white Southern psyche, with its roots in the past and in the land, its values of honor, loyalty, and gentility, its sense of loss, and its embrace of death, as well as its underside of suppression, misogeny, and violence. I explore my own ignorance and distance from the struggle of Black people in Birmingham during the 1950s and 60s. I am reckoning with my own experience of growing up white in this world of nostalgia, social ordering, and uncertain race relations. How do I understand my whiteness and white debt? How do I understand the racial and class struggles of today in light of this history? Commemorative plates, created from thrift store plates using personal or archival imagery, show the divergence of lived experiences, the passage of time, and the relationship between the personal and historical. Digital prints, with kudzu as a theme, focus on the obscuring and suffocation by the plant of political events.