Welcome to “My Perfect Birmingham Saturday,” a column where About Town asks Birmingham residents from different walks of life how they would spend a Saturday in the Magic City if they had it their way (and COVID notwithstanding). 


Today’s Saturday was planned by one of Birmingham’s biggest champions, well-known force for change J.W. Carpenter. Carpenter is the inaugural president of Prosper, a role he’s had since February of this year. “Prosper is focused on long-term, data-driven, inclusive economic growth in the city and the county,” Carpenter said. “We want to make sure our region is not only growing economically, but inclusively, and that everyone has a seat at the table.” Prosper focuses specifically on supporting the Black community and women, Carpenter said, and their mission is to see those communities as well as Birmingham thriving not just now, but in the future, as well. Here’s how Carpenter – who is, as ever, chock full of his trademark wit and humor – would spend a rare day off from that important work.


My perfect Saturday is always going to be spent with my kids. That means I will awaken via a knee or elbow drop around 6am by one or both children. They need to begin their day, and need me to be aware that they’re awake. Then they leave.


The first two priorities are to get out of the house and feed them. Any alternative plan is a recipe for disaster.  There are tons of great choices, but we usually end up at Ruby Sunshine because you can sit outdoors and you can get a cold brew and a Bloody Mary. At that point, the battlefield has shifted toward table manners. Can you get an eight-year-old and a six-year-old to sit and use all of the different resources the restaurant has provided not as weapons or musical instruments, but for how the manufacturer intended them to be used? This is likely my Waterloo and is a team sport to get through the meal without being asked politely to leave by either the restaurant or your fellow patrons.


From there, there are so many different options, but we are already outside so you will probably find us at the Kiwanis Vulcan Trail, Red Mountain Park, Oak Mountain, Railroad Park, or Ruffner Mountain, where we will hike and discuss our favorite Pokemon Go characters (mine is Charizard because I can remember his name). We’ll also gather rocks for the collection the kids have been amassing for years. We have enough dirt and rocks and sticks from our wonderful local parks in our home that we are now eligible for federal funding.


Lunch depends on our location. If we are downtown, we’ll go to Paramount or if we’re close to home in West Homewood, we will go to Ash. The food is reasonably priced and really good. If everyone gets through this lunch in a normal, civilized, polite way, we’ll scoot down to the best ice cream shop in the land – Neighbors. There is nowhere better for ice cream. Anywhere on Earth. And the owners are beautiful people like from the old Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs.


By now, we’re kind of hot and sweaty. It’s been a good day, but nobody is tired yet. What do we do now? We have lots of different opportunities. We might take advantage of the unbelievable library system – the Vestavia, Homewood, Hoover, and downtown libraries are all great.. There are so many good things to say about the library system especially how cooperative it is, an example for our entire region.


After we’ve cleaned up, if we aren’t spending time with friends, we will go to any of the terrific events that are always going on in Birmingham. That could be HICA’s pig roast or the Sidewalk Film Festival or Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Twilight Supper. I am leaving out too many great events as there is no weekend of the year where there is not something going in Birmingham that is fun, supports a great cause, and allows you to mix and mingle with so many different people.


Regardless of exactly what the day holds, we know that Birmingham is a great place to be (especially if you have little kids). There are so many opportunities to see Birmingham at its best: when diverse people come together to learn, celebrate, and grow. We are proud of be part of a community that is increasingly doing everything they can to be sure that more and more people from every possible background have the same opportunities to thrive here. When we fully achieve that, I can truly say I have had my perfect Saturday.


-  As told to Rachel Burchfield