BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On Friday, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute celebrated a milestone – 30 years of promoting a better understanding of civil rights while keeping the history of Birmingham alive.

“This is a moment that we’ve all been waiting on to be able to celebrate with our friends and family and talk about not only where we’ve come, but also where we’re going,” Chairman of the BCRI Board of Directors Isaac Cooper said.

Cooper said the work isn’t finished yet. After nearly three decades worth of change, the institute still had to reshape itself without walls during the pandemic.

“It forced us to reimagine how are we looking into our programs, how are we connecting with the community,” Cooper said.

The idea for BCRI goes back to the 1970s, according to former Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr. He helped to make it a reality.

“The institute is designed to tell about freedom struggle here in Birmingham, the civil rights struggle,” Arrington, Jr. said.

He said although it may open old wounds, it’s the history that has shaped where we are today.

“We thought that the story and the history were so important that we had to tell the story,” Arrington, Jr. said.

Lighting the way to the future while keeping the past front of mind.

“I believe that the stories that we’re able to tell to keep the story alive, I think it’s important for people to remember where we came from so we can constantly and intentionally work on where we’re headed,” BCRI Vice President of Education Dr. Samantha Elliott Briggs said.

BCRI leaders said moving forward they have to appeal to the younger generation. The pandemic forced them to think of new ways to reach an audience without the building – so they’re finding a way through QR codes and virtual reality to keep the history of the Magic City alive.

You can find events celebrating the institute all week here.