My thanks to the Chamber

Published 12:36 am Sunday, August 30, 2009

More than two decades ago the Black Belt Tourism Council was formed by residents from the five or six counties that lie between Prattville on the northeast, Demopolis and Eutaw on the west and encompass the area around Selma, Uniontown, Camden, Marion and Greensboro.

Alabama’s Black Belt is more than the geographic locations mentioned. It is an affair of the heart, a state of mind, a mystique that has its origin in those dauntless pioneers who trudged from Virginia through the Carolinas and Georgia to this rich land in search of room to grow and fresh air to breathe.

People from other parts of the country pay dearly to see them, to walk their halls and hear the tales of those who walked there before them. In these houses are artifacts, mementoes and relics of other days and other ways, and a story of civilization comparable to those of ancient Greece and Rome in culture. But, someone must open the doors and say “Come in. You are welcome.”

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There are tales to be told also, tales of log cabins and Indian raids and the tragedy of sudden death and the happiness of small joys that came to those who felled the trees and cleared the land and brought forth the first crops. But someone must tell them.

There is a need to put aside insularity, a need to tear down the walls of separateness and self, an urgent need to think in terms of togetherness and community – because in community there is strength.

In combined talents and thought and concern lie the ways to victory, which for the Black Belt means persuading tourists off the interstates and into the heart of rural south central Alabama. That was the meaning and purpose of the organization of the Council more than two decades ago. That is now the goal and purpose of the Tourism division of the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, and success is already noted.

However, there are those who may not yet recognize tourism as a major industry, although those clean, green dollars rolling into Alabama from tourists are an obvious sign. True, due to the price of gasoline and to the uncertain state of the national economy, at present fewer tourists are driving into and through the state.

That, however, will cease. It always has and, to quote a favorite Washington politician, “Things always get better. Just hold on and prepare for when it happens.”

In Selma and the Black Belt we have long recognized the value of our natural resources. We are aware of the Black Belt that is a sturdy, natural place of rivers and lakes, wooded hills and fields, and of the appeal to visitors of the hunting (quail, deer and dove) and the fishing made possible by these God-given resources.

We, and our visitors, are fascinated by the mystic appeal found in historic Cahawba.

And for sheer natural beauty, what is more appealing to a vacationing refugee from an asphalt city jungle, than moonlight over a tree-edged meadow where deer are feeding, or the cry of wild geese heading south into the sunset over the Alabama River?

Thanks to the efforts of our Chamber and the many, many caring people who volunteer and work with it promoting our special days and events, success will be ours.

Such was the purpose of the former Black Belt Tourism Council. Such must be the purpose of our tourism industry: enough tourism dollars to make and keep the Black Belt economically stable. Let us join hands and hearts in resolve to do it.