October 16, 2013

Collat School of Business marks 50 years of civil rights progress

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The Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently hosted a night of reflection on the impact of the civil rights movement on Birmingham business since the 1960s.

collat civil rights The gathering was at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, and included a speech by Bessemer native Solomon Oliver Jr., chief judge in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio. Photo: Walt StricklinThe business school’s Student Scholars program teamed UAB students with select juniors and seniors from John Carroll Catholic and Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic schools for a summer of research known as the Birmingham Business Project.

Led by UAB students, each team explored a decade in business since 1963, when four Birmingham girls died in the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. The event was part of the Collat School’s recognition of 50 Years Forward, a collaboration with the City of Birmingham to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the seminal events of the civil rights movement.

“UAB has deep roots in the community, and we want to strengthen relationships,” said Eric Jack, Ph.D., dean of the UAB Collat School of Business. “We want students to know that, though there has been a history here, the future is much brighter. With skills, knowledge and abilities, they can go out and share this knowledge with their friends and families, and they can change this world.”

collat civil 2UAB Collat School of Business student Ariel Smith, right, discusses her civil rights research with guests at the Birmingham Business Project reception. Photo: Walt StricklinThe evening included an awards ceremony at 16th Street Baptist Church and a speech by Bessemer native Solomon Oliver Jr., chief judge in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio. Oliver discussed his thoughts and experiences of the movement, as well as its legacy today. Oliver’s brother is Collat School instructor Nathan Oliver, who advised Birmingham Business Project students.

A reception followed at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where the student projects were displayed.

“UAB is a school without walls, so to speak,” said Aerial Smith, 20, a UAB junior who was inspired by the Birmingham Business Project to start her own international youth leadership nonprofit organization. “It doesn’t have a gate around it, and I think that’s for a reason: because we are very much in the community. Not every school would put on a program like this. UAB is a school that is very open to hearing what needs to be said.”

The high school students say they were moved by what they learned.

“Once you talk to people who lived during the movement, it’s ingrained in your mind,” said Dante Campbell, 16, a student at Holy Family who explored black business after the city’s first black mayor, Richard Arrington, left office. “It shows you the depth and the extent to which it took place and the damage it did. It opened my eyes.”

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