A kid in Detroit closely followed news from Birmingham

Lawrence Bentley

Lawrence Bentley

Age 8 in 1963

Lawrence Bentley grew up in Detroit but was awakened by events in Birmingham in 1963. He lists 15 ways the “Movement” let down the young people who were killed or injured that year.

One day of 1963 that stands out for me is the day I saw the dogs and water hoses turned loose on Negroes, as, if we were lucky, we were called then. I asked my mother why would they do that, but she said not to worry since we lived in Detroit. I started reading everything I could in regard to this matter, even though it was not taught or mentioned in school. Even though I was only 8 years old, living in Detroit and my parents wisely would never allow me to be involved anyway, I am very sorry I did not do more to protect the people in Birmingham in 1963.

I think the ”Movement” – not any individual person but the “Movement” – sold out what the demonstrations were about, did not do enough to protect the community and should have come back on September 16, 1963, the day after the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and not left until: a) murderers were arrested and tried with at least 3 Black people on the jury; b) police misconduct was addressed; c) the State & City police force hired Black police; d) every bombing from 1949 to 9.15.63 was investigated; e) the graves of Johnny Robinson, Virgil Ware, Denise McNair, Carole Robinson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins were protected, maintained and accounted for; f) the health care for Sarah Collins was paid for life, along with anyone else injured in a terrorist attack; g) all real estate restrictions were removed from the legal books; h) discrimination in hiring was discontinued in the city; i) police started 24/7 patrols of Center Street and every vulnerable school and church, at the same level they protected Alabama football games at Legion Field; j) Al Lingo and Bull Connor were removed from any law enforcement jobs and charged for their roles in protecting the Klan; k) the Governor and the President of the United States offered a written and verbal apology for the 6 young people murdered on 9.15.63; l) the nation, if not the world, sent lawyers to Birmingham to file, argue and present the necessary legal cases; m) any person charged during 1963 for demonstrating had their records totally cleared; n) the Federal government ensured the City of Birmingham spends the same amount equally for the education of its children; and o) any person or person(s) profiting off the events of 1963 has to give 25% of that income to help eliminate child poverty and hunger in Birmingham (e.g., a Nobel Peace Prize).

In summary, fast forward to 2013: The fence on one side of the Greenwood Cemetery is knocked down and Sarah Collins Rudolph, who lost both her sister and the sight in one eye in the church bombing, does not have her health care paid for. At least fix these two things.

Lawrence Bentley wrote this story for Kids in Birmingham 1963, and it is published here with his express permission.