Sunday, January 9, 2011

Magic City Post: Building An Intercultural Society

Well friends, check out my latest article on Building an Intercultural Society in the Magic City Post. I share thoughts about internalized oppression and how we as southerners have to take pride in our city despite our past. Check it out. It was also picked up by a national diversity blog--Diversity News Online.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Intercultural Communication Internship

Internship opportunities are available with The Byrd’s Nest, LLC consulting specializing in professional development, cultural diversity, intercultural communication.

Job Description
: The intern (s) will work support Bettina Byrd-Giles, professional development consultant, by performing several of the following duties:

1. Help coordinate seminars, discussions, or events
2. Assist with social media (FB, LinkedIn, blogs)
3. Help with marketing and public relations
4. Research topics
5. May write summaries, descriptions, articles or abstracts
6. Communicate with clients, participants electronically and/or in person
7. May represent consultant at local events


1. Excellent writing skills
2. Experience in using Microsoft Office suite.
3. Current student at a college or university
4. Flexible attitude
5. Works well independently

Credits: Internship credit hours as agreed upon by instructor and Ms. Byrd-Giles
Compensation: Course Credit

Please forward resumes and letters of interest to

For more information about the work of Ms. Byrd-Giles, visit:

Friday, June 25, 2010

JCPA African-American Mission: Final Thoughts

I had the pleasure of representing Birmingham and the JCRC along with Joyce Spielberger this week to the JCPA African-American and Jewish Mission. Several people from across the country visited Birmingham to learn more about our social justice and civil rights initiatives. They came in twos--one Jewish, one African-American. Each came with the desire to learn from each other and to come away with ideas for their communities.

After seeing some local organizations on display, I was REALLY proud of Birmingham and of Alabama. We have had to work uphill from a bloody past. I think we have done a great job. Of course there is more work to do. Some of the initiatives that have helped Birmingham progress no longer exist or they are struggling to hold on. We need to fund Anytown, AL and the Heritage panels. We need to make sure Youth Leadership Forum and Leadership Birmingham are secure. Because of de facto segregation and socio-economic disparities, we have to orchestrate contact. It won’t happen on its own.

The group came away with the power of relationship building and how well our community seems to do that. We have many organizations that cross social and religious lines. Others were struck by the racist past and how it still haunts us in the present. Although I sometimes get overwhelmed by the fact that we always talk about the past, if we didn’t, we would be in denial. Denial is a dangerous state of mind. In Alabama, racism is thrown in your face all the time. In many states, it is hidden. Issues erupt and no one knows how to deal with them. We have had several organizations in place for years to address racism and religious intolerance.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to share this work with members of the Jewish community for over 20 years. I hope we continue to build on what we have started. Keep up the good work Birmingham.

African-American /Jewish Mission Service Project

he African American/Jewish Mission includes a service project as a culminating event. We connected with Urban Ministries, located in the Western section of Birmingham. They have a housing initiative that help people to spruce up their homes.

Learn more about Urban Ministries:


We met a wonderful woman who resided in what used to be Roosevelt City.


Some members of the group painted


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

African-American /Jewish Mission Civil Rights Trail

The African-American Jewish Mission toured part of the Civil Rights Trail by crossing the Edmond Pettus Bridge, visiting the Lowndes County Interpretive Center, and Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Everyone was moved and inspired by crossing the bridge.

The group also had the opportunity to hear presentations by staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative. A few participants were particularly impressed by the SPLC's intelligence arm. Though I wasn't present, I understand from a few people that the group reacted to some of the issues that represent modern-day injustices. They ended the evening with a meal at the Fish Market Restaurant in Birmingham.
Rabbi Steve and Pastor Keni's prepared us for this historic journey over the bridge.


Monday, June 21, 2010

African-American /Jewish Mission: BCRI Visit

Day One of the African-American/Jewish Mission started at a cherished Birmingham institution--the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Participants toured the exhibits and were treated to presentations by Birmingham residents. A story that many of the participants had only read about came alive through exhibits and first-hand accounts.

Michele Forman and Helen Shores Lee shared how their experiences growing up in Birmingham led them to careers that helped future generations have a broader experience. Michele was a producer on Spike Lee's Four Little Girls. She was inspired by Spike Lee's ability to tell stories of importance to through film. I happened to watch Do the Right Thing this past week. It is a film that is on the syllabus of most film schools.

The Honorable Helen Shores Lee shared how her father's work as a Civil Rights attorney eventually led her to law school. Through the law, she could seek justice and channel her energies. Through the law, she found a means of addressing injustices that left her powerless as a child.

Sal Kimerling outlined the role of the Jewish community during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Through legal advocacy, financial contributions, and an unyielding commitment to social justice, individuals and congregations were fully engaged in the Movement.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The African-American/Jewish Mission: Setting the Tone

After a tour of Vulcan Park and dinner, members of the African-American/Jewish Mission congregated to establish the tone for the rest of the week. The mayor gave an historical perspective of Birmingham under Jim Crow, examples of passive resistance that included the help of a Jewish merchant in the Titusville neighborhood. The leader of the local Jewish Federation introduced representatives and gave participants an opportunity to share thoughts, questions and ideas.

One of the participants began the discussion with a scenario that is familiar to many of us. We literally and figuratively have a situation where communities live on opposite sides of the track. It gave Birminghamians an opportunity to talk about initiatives that have been in place for several years. We discussed decades of programs to address issues of race, religion and life circumstances. It was a great opportunity to introduce many successful initiatives.

As we showcased our Birmingham success stories, participants wanted to know more about cultivating personal and institutional relationships across cultures. I had forgotten how deeply these organizations impacted me. My emotions began to take over so the details of everyone's comments are a bit fuzzy. The fact that I have maintained many of the cross-cultural relationships that were facilitated through these programs began to overwhelm me. Hopefully, participants will comment on this post. So how did people in a divided community begin to build relationships across cultures?

Some comments from the group included:

1) A shared history of struggle connects the community across racial, religious, social and cultural lines. The comment originally related to the Civil Rights Movement, but as we were leaving, a participant added an interesting comment that African-Americans and Jews also have a history of slavery.
2) The community has faith-based institutions who have a social justice mission to address social issues faced by different religious communities. They are willing to share resources, both human and financial.
3) There are people who are willing to take risks.
4) Some of the aspects of southern culture and community lend itself to this type of work.
5) A participant shared the realization that the next generation can perpetuate or change our past. They have begun the work of eradicating racial divisions on their own terms.

Some group members also identified challenges:

1) Intragroup issues that prevent the work from being done.
2) Unwilling partners across community lines.
3) The realization that some factors of the past have not faded.
4) The perception of a paternalistic agenda and people attempting to change communities without buyin from the local community.
5) Keeping the dialogue going.

I look forward to tomorrow's visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There is a gallery that chronicles the impact of the Movement on people around the world. Perhaps it will deepen the dialogue. I also look forward to hearing success stories from other parts of the country.

Please check out A Rabbi and A Pastor Go to Birmingham for additional perspectives on the trip.