They call Birmingham The Magic City because of its rapid early growth when it was founded. It has certainly always been magic for me.
As my home city, Birmingham – at an early age – instilled in me a love for diversity. It was in my pilot-program elementary school, EPIC, that I learned about multiculturalism. White, black, Asian, Hispanic, rich, poor, deaf, blind and differently abled, we were a melting pot of students form various parts of the city. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those early experiences set the trajectory of my life.
This is my 5th year directing the Multicultural Journalism Workshop, held on the University of Alabama campus and run by the Department of Journalism. Sixteen students were selected from across the country to come to Alabama for 10 days and get a crash course in print, multimedia and online reporting, photography and video.
Each year the Multicultural Journalism Workshop group travels to a different part of Alabama and produces a newspaper and website. This year Birmingham was chosen, as that city marks the 50th anniversary of events that catapulted the Civil Rights Movement into the national spotlight. In Tuscaloosa the week before the MJW students arrived, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of integration of our university.
Co-director Tara Bullock and I couldn’t have asked for a more inquisitive and naturally curious bunch of student this year. We told them that many students go into journalism because they love to write, but the best reporters also like to listen, a skill this group has mastered.
This is a special year for the Multicultural Journalism Program. Not only do we celebrate 30 years as a program, but this is also the first year to have a child of a former MJW participant in the program.
Our founders – Marie Parsons, Marian Huttenstine and Ed Mullins – created a legacy. It is on their shoulders that these students stand – a proud group of MJW alumni worldwide, involved in media and other careers, giving back to young people as they move forward in their own careers.
This program has grown as fast as The Magic City, and its influence will continue to grow, thanks to its supporters.