As I woke up early on the morning of July 4th in Birmingham, I got a Twitter notification that “the Independence Day celebration had been carried out.” I was surprised for a moment, but immediately realized that Nepal time is hours ahead. This time, I will be observing this day in Birmingham, Alabama.
The celebration had already begun across the globe at American missions and settlements. There used to be only a formal program by the U.S. Embassy in Nepal, but now I am getting an opportunity to witness it for myself in the United States.
I was closely observing and following instructions for the day. We SUSI scholars were newcomers to the city of Birmingham, and spent the morning walking around. We found the city relatively peaceful, with limited activity because of the national holiday. Many people from different cities were here to celebrate the special day. Family holiday tours, picnics and music were common to celebrate the day. BBQ areas and swimming pools at the hotel where we were staying had seen an influx of more people. In comparison with the previous two cities we visited, Phoenix and Los Angeles, Birmingham welcomed more Black visitors; those whom I met were from Chicago and northern Alabama.
Throughout the day, I was watching the news. Eastern states had celebrated fireworks in their own time zone. Our turn arrived: the Vulcan Park area in Birmingham had been ready for fireworks for a week already, as reported by Bhamnow.com. The city of Birmingham joined in the 4th of July fun starting from 5 pm with a street party, and at 9 pm with a fireworks show. The fireworks show lighted up the Thursday night sky. It was like a thunderstorm of light and sound. People of all ages were there to watch the display.
We SUSI scholars from 17 countries had flown from California to Alabama to take part in this event. A few friends remained in transit due to flight cancelations and delays, which they faced for the second time since Phoenix. With this delay, they even felt the tremor of the 6.4 earthquake in Los Angeles as they were trying to depart.
Unique identity of Birmingham, Alabama
One of the founding fathers of the United States and leading author Benjamin Franklin had said, “where liberty dwells, there is my country.” This sentiment was not actually applied to this city until after the Civil Rights Movement in 1963. Sparked by racial segregation in public offices, it witnessed an outbreak of mass demonstrations, also known as the Birmingham Campaign. It ended with a victory in May of 1963 when local officials agreed to remove segregation of all kinds. This movement added a brick to the wall of modern American history.
Like other states, Alabama is struggling to advance. Everybody can feel this while stepping in from the airport, which is small with limited facilities. But this city welcomed us to familiarize with its bitter history of segregation and continued struggle for equality, public safety, employment and justice at large. I wish all the best to this endeavor. Here I take the words of the American Declaration of Independence, on this day when people here are celebrating the ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Let it be in practice. Happy 4th and Happy Independence Day!