Pamela Walbert Montanaro

Pamela Walbert Montanaro

Pam Montanaro is currently a program coordinator for Eco Cuba Network, a program she co-created, that arranges professional and academic environmental exchanges between the US and Cuba. Prior to this, she was a program coordinator and development director for Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based NGO (non-governmental organization) that works for economic, environmental, gender and racial justice worldwide. For the twenty years before that, Pam lived and worked in Maine, volunteering for a similar non profit organization, Clergy and Laity Concerned, and raising six children. Pam credits her youth in Birmingham for giving her the insight that inspires her work for a just and peaceful world.

One Sunday morning, September 15, 1963

September 15, 1963, was the day I was to move into a room near Birmingham Southern College where I was just starting my sophomore year. My family, who had been very active in the Civil Rights Movement for a number of years, lived in Homewood and we were listening to the radio as we packed up the car with my clothes, books and other things that I would be needing that semester. I was to be rooming that year at the home of one of the BSC art professors with Sena Jeter Naslund, who was later to write the novel Four Spirits about that time and that day.

We were devastated when we got the news of the church bombing and the four children who were killed. The McNairs, one of the families whose daughter was killed that day, were friends of my parents.  Although Birmingham Southern was still a “whites only” school at that time, there was a small group of students and professors who supported the Movement and were very engaged. We frequently visited with students and professors at Miles College, the all Black school near BSC. The church bombing was all anyone could talk about for days and, of course, we went to the funeral service at which Martin Luther King spoke. There was an overflow crowd there that day but we managed to get into the top balcony of the church, from which we could hear, but not see, the service below. (more…)