Earlier this year, it was announced that Food & Wine magazine would be relocating to Birmingham. For weeks, there were articles highlighting what a wonderful move this is for Birmingham and the food industry.
Birmingham has so much to offer when it comes to a blossoming food scene — wonderful restaurants with world-renowned chefs and seemingly endless opportunities for new developments.
But, our award-winning food scene isn’t the only thing that Birmingham has to offer. We’re a diverse city that is going through an amazing renaissance. Every day, I learn of something new that is happening in Birmingham that I want to be a part of.
From new bars and restaurants popping up everywhere to opportunities for making an impact on the city through social justice projects, there’s no shortage of an array of options for Birminghamians to choose from.
However, an article published recently on Medium.com argues the exact opposite. The author Shaun Chavis, who lived in Birmingham for eight years, believes that Food & Wine moving to Birmingham is bad for our country.
Whoa. When I read the headline of the article, “Food & Wine is moving to the Deep South. That’s not good for America,” I couldn’t help but think how bold and unreasonable of a statement that is.
The author writes, “The decision to move Food & Wine to Birmingham is a bad one for American culture. Birmingham is the wrong city.”
“The outgoing editor-in-chief,” she continues, “Of Food & Wine, Nilou Motamed, is an Iranian-born woman raised in France who speaks four languages and lives in New York City, known for an incredible immigrant population. Now, Food & Wine will be helmed by a white man in the Deep South, the region most associated with our nation’s racism, bigotry, and xenophobia, in one of America’s most segregated cities.”
When I first read this article, I couldn’t believe that the author was referring to MY Birmingham, the 2017 version of Birmingham. Sure, Birmingham has issues just as any other city in the US, but to say that it is one of America’s most segregated cities pushes us into a tired perception that we’ve fought — mostly successfully — for years to overcome.
As part of my job at the Birmingham Jewish Federation, I talk to Jewish people who are interested in moving to or have just moved to Birmingham. I’ve had so many conversations with people who are eager to explore Birmingham’s diversity and have the opportunity to make a difference in a city whose violent and oppressive Civil Rights history is part of what moves us all forward.
The Jewish community in Birmingham (which I am a member of) is thriving, with around 6200 Jewish individuals inhabiting our great city. And the Birmingham Jewish Federation and Levite Jewish Community Center help create relationships with other ethnic and religious groups across the city. Despite vastly different views, we all manage to get along and live in harmony. In fact, after sitting down for a cup of coffee and conversation, we have much more in common than we originally thought. And part of what we have in common is how much we love OUR — that’s right, all of ours — Birmingham.
I have no doubt that Food & Wine magazine’s move to Birmingham will be a good one. Not only will it enhance our city, but I think what Birmingham can contribute to America’s food scene is invaluable and unique.
And, even if the author of the article criticizing our city is right, she should at least give Birmingham a chance. In fact, that’s what I say to anyone who has any negative perceptions of Birmingham or is concerned about moving here: Just give us a chance.