Tag Archives: attitude

Introducing Dear Birmingham (and the beauty within)

You Are Beautiful, too. acnatta/Flickr.Birmingham has been bombarded with positive messaging about itself in recent months. The Birmingham Business Alliance tells us that we’re open for business while Mayor Bell promotes a message of a united city. For years we’ve even said how nice it is to have you in Birmingham and look forward to restarting that campaign again on Monday.

I for one am quite excited as it gets old just hearing about the problems facing the region without offering solutions or shining a light on the good things going on. It was the original founding principal of this site and one that will continue to be as we move forward.

The latest additions to this push for an attitude adjustment have been the two “You Are Beautiful” signs that have been painted in prominent locations in greater downtown – and they are prominent locations. There is no questioning the impact that the original statement painted onto the Highland Avenue Bridge has on the thousands of cars that enter the heart of Jones Valley via the cut through Red Mountain every day. The same can be said of the subtler results that the one located along First Avenue South near Railroad Park’s 14th and 15th Street entrances has on those visiting the city’s newest green space.

A quick perusal of you-are-beautiful.com, the site that provides the most likely back story for these signs, lets you know that the interpretation of the signage is up to you.

The part I love about what should really be called a manifesto is the idea of creating activism instead of consumerism. This sentence captures it beautifully:

“Projects like these make a difference in the world by catching us in the midst of daily life and creating moments of positive self realization.”

These signs can be read in hundreds if not thousands of ways, hopefully leading to thousand of ways to help make those other messages mean more to Birmingham first and foremost than the others have so far…

Folks driving in from over the mountain may now be driven to look up information about Sloss Furnaces and the beautiful artwork that is created there nowadays. Visitors to Railroad Park have an opportunity to enjoy a gorgeous view of the city that they probably wouldn’t have stopped for just a year ago while imagining just what else is possible.

The idea is for the individual to determine just what they’ll do to reach out to the community and get them to dream – and then take action.

That’s just my opinion though.

Yesterday I spoke of this site’s effort to secure a Knight News Challenge grant and said it was the first step in changing the approach that The Terminal takes in serving as a source of information for the city of Birmingham. Now it’s time to draw your attention to changes that will hopefully be implemented on this section of the site in the next few weeks.

When this site launched in 2007, this section was called My Birmingham – playing off the excitement of MySpace (yes, I know…). The idea was if folks saw it as writing about the city as their own, it would elicit a great deal of opinions that would lead to interesting conversations. Well, you may have noticed that the header for this section has read Dear Birmingham for two months now.

Nobody’s really noticed, though there hasn’t been much reason to visit either. Hopefully they will have a reason to notice soon.

I’m a little behind on contacting the folks I wanted to via email yesterday, but a few of them will see something land in their inbox late this afternoon and early tomorrow morning.

It will still serve as a “letters to the editor” section. The hope though will be to focus on folks offering solutions to issues and inviting people to use whatever medium they feel appropriate to share their story about or message to Birmingham.

It’s my hope that people will agree to help us create additional content about the story behind the words they’ve chosen (perhaps receiving a copy of those thoughts as a benefit of supporting the site).

As the tagline says up above, we hope to serve as a hub for the voices of the Magic City – in their own words. It’s also our intent to make it a little easier for people to see those words even when they’re not sitting in front of their computers. That initiative will hopefully be unveiled in early 2011.

Right now, all I can ask is for you to check back on the site Monday morning to see how to take part in sharing your voice with your city – and to think about just how you’d do it and what you’d say.


André Natta is the stationmaster of bhamterminal.com.

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the City Positive

Birmingham Railroad Cut - East End. Curtis Palmer/FlickrI got into a conversation about an area of downtown known as “the cut” yesterday with someone very familiar with it. It runs down the middle of 1st Avenue South between 20th and 24th Streets South and is considered an important piece of the continuation of the soon to open Railroad Park – providing a pedestrian connection to Sloss Furnaces.

I’d recently walked across the 21st Street Viaduct, looked down and noticed a great deal of garbage and debris inside of it. It disturbed me because I’d taken part in one of several clean-ups of the stretch of land while I was a resident of the Birmingham’s Central City neighborhood.

I suggested to the individual that it was probably time to organize another clean up the space again, perhaps engaging a new group of concerned individuals in the process while they suggested that perhaps a phone call to the city to do so would be better while finding another way to get citizens involved, like a charrette.

When I asked why, he said that it would most likely be the same group of folks who always came out that would do the clean up again since it probably wouldn’t attract any new people.

I’ve got a feeling that people visiting Railroad Park in September who’ve still haven’t heard of it as of yet (and live in metro Birmingham) could be motivated to clean up a piece of property for the first time if invited.

Perhaps we’ve become so accustomed to seeing the usual suspects all of the time that we don’t always think of new ways to reach out to more people and engage them as well (maybe even using some of the same things that don’t work on the usual suspects anymore).

Maybe it’s because it appears to some that others are always looking for something to complain about or they immediately have a negative reaction to any idea that is presented to them – for no really good reason. If you hang around a lot of people like that long enough, it tends to rub off on you too…

I write those last statements knowing that the majority of the voices that we normally hear online are those of a small minority made vocal due to the majority not necessarily wanting to share their opinions.

It would be nice to hear more of those optimistic and positive voices across more of the platforms that we use for communication here in Birmingham, AL. There are some people that need to hear from others like them; from imagining what this portion of Jones Valley can be in a few short years. Luckily, there are a few of them online (and offline – that you will run into every once in a while.

Avondale Brewing Co. home in progress. Courtesy of their fan page on Facebook.I headed over to the future site of the Avondale Brewing Company on the city’s east side today. I went over to check out the progress on their building – one that I’ve looked at optimistically for years in my former life at Main Street Birmingham. It was great to see the progress…

I was also over there scouting out a potential location for the office/collaborative space that I’ve talked about before on these virtual pages (BTW – the survey results and other news regarding that project will be posted on Monday morning – along with a few other minor changes to the site in general).

As I parked I noticed that the space that I was heading over to stare into again was in fact open, leading to one of those weighted moments where you’re thinking “I know there are other places there but…” That feeling went away when I figured out that the person leasing the space was a long time champion for the neighborhood.

His plans for the space reminded me of the hope that I used to hear from merchants and residents in parts of this city that many of the folks in the know actually don’t know. One of the great things about my former job was the level of passion that you could feed off of after a conversation with a property owner who’d been there for 50+ years or a new business that wanted to be where they were because they truly believed in the city’s future. It’s something I’m beginning to find again as the site begins to churn out content again.

Getting back in a positive frame of mind is one way to combat the “we’ll never do better” attitude. As more things come online those here in Birmingham, AL will learn to once again accentuate the positive (and eliminate the negative).

André Natta is the stationmaster for bhamterminal.com.


Birmingham Railroad Cut – East End. Curtis Palmer/Flickr
Avondale Brewing Company under construction. Courtesy of their fan page on Facebook.

Where is the ethical line nowadays?

This post has nothing to do with the current state of our public officials here in Birmingham or the standards that we may be unrealistically attempting to hold them up to (at least, not yet).

It begins as a response to an ever growing debate on the blogosphere and the newsrooms, both physical and virtual, about what it is that the people want and if we as bloggers and mainstream media should give it to them.

The decision by TechCrunch to publish some of the documents that were stolen from Twitter has led some to want to cast stones about where “the line” is that should not be crossed.

Personally, I’m not quite sure that the line’s moved from where it was; I think we’ve just chosen to ignore it more often.

I do feel that we’ve become more accustomed to getting whatever we want whenever we want. This leads to voices becoming lost in the digital wilderness of finger pointing and innuendo. It is also not limited to the digitial world as we become frustrated with terrestrial radio stations and political representation – despite the fact that our choices have helped lead to what we’ve received, whether intentionally or not.

No one is immune from this, but it is possible to tone down the rhetoric just a little and see if we can’t get folks to think of solutions instead of dwelling on the doom and gloom.

Andrew Keen’s column in today’s Daily Telegraph about the situation, published while most of the metro Birmingham area was asleep in bed but just as our morning anchors started their days, said as much. According to a Tweet he sent out around 3 a.m., it cost him just a couple hundred followers. I’ll be interested in seeing what my comments cost me.

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