Some of the first people out on Monday morning are the cleaners—sweeping streets, wiping off a weekend of fingerprints from glass doors or mopping away the after effects of Mardi Gras. In a parking lot on Government Street, Damian sweeps off the lines and paints them again.
“Parking cars is one of my jobs and I treat this as my lot. I want to make it nicer for the people who park here.”
Waiting at Serda’s to interview Lynn Campbell, I read today’s story from John Archibald on AL.com, “Where are you from?” It is about people leaving Birmingham and never looking back except in spite or shame. He wrote:
“Birmingham became some spectator sport for suburbanites, a big top for the circus of the politically absurd. It was easy to boo when performance was bad. It was easy to ooh at the bone-crushing collisions, at those moments when the high wire was just too shaky.
“There were people, though, who told us things could be better. Bunches of them.
“They preached that we could accomplish more if we worked together. They told us a house divided is a shack just waiting to be condemned, and that Birmingham must stand as the living room to welcome guests before we can bring them visitors straight into our bedroom communities.”
Mobile has a similar story about people being ashamed of what she became, giving up, and getting out. However, some of her own people are standing up and believing she can be better. That we can do more if we work together.
Lynn Campbell grew up in Mobile and still lives here. But she found her voice and herself at 17 while training in Italy to become an opera singer. She is internationally-known and sings for large audiences around the world, but most people don’t know her in her hometown. I hadn’t heard of her until the Arty Awards.
This city may not know her, but she takes Mobile wherever she goes.
“Mobile is in the music I sing. The culture, my experiences and who we are. It is in the music classes I teach around the world. I watch my students receive standing ovations for our music that they were never exposed to before. The things we sometimes take for granted by living here are transcending. I love to go back and resupply then with Mobile. We are changing the world and people are loving it.”
From Damian, a retired cop who paints the lines of a parking lot to care for people who may never notice or appreciate his work, to Lynn, a world-class opera singer who goes to local schools telling students to follow their dreams, Mobile is being changed by people who are proud of where they are from.