http://jvpcompany.wordpress.com/, Birmingham, AL 35205
Born June 1, 1871, the city of Elyton was renamed what is now one of the most famous, controversial and misunderstood cities in the south, Birmingham. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Birmingham wasn’t founded until after the Civil War. The South was still neck deep in the ravaging of the carpetbaggers. However, the city was teetering of the edge of something big.
There are three essential elements needed for the production of steel: iron ore, coal and limestone. Birmingham is the only place in the world where these three materials can be found in large deposits naturally and in close proximity to each other. When the civil war ended the South needed a way to recover economically and steel production was the answer. By the turn of the 20th century Birmingham was known as the “Pittsburgh of the South.” People were awed that such a large city had sprung up in the Jones Valley so quickly, like magic. Its industry literally exploded overnight fostering its other well known nickname, the Magic City.
Fast forward some 50-odd years and Birmingham found itself caught of in the gradual decline of the steel industry. It had been hit heavily by the great depression and has never really recovered. What’s more, it started making national headlines as its social structure was rocked by the civil rights movement. The friction between races ignited such controversy that after it was over the city had to pick up some major pieces and figure out how to fit them together. It wasn’t easy and I’m sure the entire country didn’t think we’d survive. And yet, just 17 years after the bombing of the 16thStreet Baptist Church (gaining the city yet another nickname: Bombingham,) and a decade after the end of the movement, Birmingham elected its first black mayor Richard Arrington Jr. and he served for 20 years!
Welcome to modern day Birmingham, we’re still a work in progress. You’re probably familiar with several of our stereotypes. Some of them are rightfully deserved. Our literacy rates are spiraling down the drain and we’re listed as one of the top ten most dangerous cities in the nation(for a good reason.) But the idea that we are all racist uncultured heathens is sorely misplaced. Will you still find racism? Sure if you look for it. But that is an element found in all big cities; it’s not just confined to the South. Actually you’ll find the majority of Birminghamians to be some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. In addition to this the Birmingham Museum of Art is one of the largest in the South. We have our own symphony, our own opera and a brand spanking new theater for the Alabama School of Fine arts (yes, we have one of those.
There is a lot to be proud of in our city, there is also a lot of ugly that rears its head. Both the good and the bad are juxtaposed in such an obvious conflict it’s impossible to ignore. We’re kinda a rusted, broken down, busted up city that is working on restoring its polish. We have dirty politics and beautiful parks, towering mansions with the slums hiding in their shadows, Against all odds we are trying to turn things around. We have potential. Enter: Jones Valley Poetry Company. We are tiny. Against all odds we have formed a group. If you move past Birmingham’s implied racism you’ll actually find it is VERY culturally diverse. And so are we. To quote one of our own (Cheyenne,) “We are all so different from each other, too, in so many ways; in different stages of life, different ages, with different hobbies, different morals, political views, religious views, different friends and hangouts and jobs and habits, but with something so strongly in common that we keep coming back together.”
We love our city. And we adore poetry.
And so here we are, the Jones Valley Poetry Company. We’re here because we believe we can give back to our community, that we can foster a love of our city and our craft right here at home. We are about as grassroots as it gets. But that’s how all great things start right? It’s how Birmingham started, and boomed, and declined, fractured… and now is finally working its way slowly back to the top. And we want to help.