As part of Mastercard’s ongoing work to help tackle the racial and opportunity gap and empower Black entrepreneurs in cities across America, the company’s Data & Services team will work with Birmingham leaders to create a tourism strategy to cement the city as a premier civil rights destination. Mastercard is providing data analytics, digital tech and payments know-how as part of its support.
The blueprint will guide the city as it prepares for the World Games in Birmingham in July 2022, when the first phase of the Gaston Motel renovation is expected to be opened to the public, and beyond.
Linda Kirkpatrick, president of North America for Mastercard, toured the grounds with Gilmore and other local leaders and Mastercard officials last week. “The historical significance of Birmingham serves as inspiration for our partnership with the city,” she says. “Using our data, insights, and technology, we can help drive tourism and support the Black business community, building towards a recovery that will be felt by all.”
The Gaston Motel, jointly owned by the city and the National Park Service, is the heart of the monument, which encompasses about four city blocks. The site includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, Shuttlesworth’s Bethel Baptist Church, St. Paul United Methodist Church, the Colored Masonic Temple, and Kelly Ingram Park, where photographers captured indelible images of police dogs attacking young protesters in 1963.
The boarded-up motel might have met the same fate as other sites of significance to the Black community had the city not intervened. “We can go to every city and I promise you, there is an historic site, a cultural site, that has been sitting in disrepair for years because there’s no will to actually preserve them,” Gilmore says. “For Black people, these places have always been valued.”