From Alabama to India: Birmingham’s Mayor Bell Looks to Build Connections


The Ecomonic Times reports that Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama has announced his intention to visit New Delhi and Mumbai in October. Mayor Bell, who was recently in Washington to attend the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, will undertake the tour as part of a wider trip to India and the Middle East to foster “economic opportunities” and “cultural relationships” between major Indian cities and the city of Birmingham.

Mayor Bell’s trip follows U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent visit to India, in which he and External Affairs Minister of India Shri Salman Khurshid held the fourth U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue on 24 June, and confirmed the commitment of both parties to collaborate on matters of commerce, defense, education and sustainable development. Describing the partnership between the United States and India as “indispensable”, Secretary Kerry spoke of the continuing work by the U.S. and India to “lay the foundations for peace, democracy, and prosperity in Asia and around the world.”

In alignment with Secretary Kerry’s approach, Mayor Bell affirmed the importance of looking beyond the apparent differences between cultures in order to develop greater understanding and connections. The strengthening of ties between the cultures of America and India will be a critical component of his upcoming trip. Stating that "the more we share our cultures…we find out that we have many things in common”, Mayor Bell highlighted a significant connection already in existence between Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi, the former of whom was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy of peaceful change in his own nonviolent approach to enact powerful societal change.

While focusing on the importance for the U.S. of establishing relationships within India and the region, Mayor Bell has also concentrated on the opportunities to develop connections within the U.S. Significantly, Indian Americans not only comprise the largest group of Asian Americans in Alabama state, but also in Congressional District 6--home of Birmingham city--numbering 4,250 out of a total population of 14,564 Asian Americans. Citing the beneficial impact that the Indian American network has had on his own city of Birmingham, Mayor Bell spoke of the advantages offered to the whole community by improving links with the Indian community in terms of both professional and cultural enrichment, and importantly, to drive stronger domestic economic growth.