2 weeks ago

Alabama artist leads volunteers in bringing joy, creativity to Marion

Excited voices and laughter rang in the air as community volunteers, led by Tres Taylor and his paintbrush, transformed a blank white wall in downtown Marion into a magical tale of hope and light. It’s part of Taylor’s effort to start a “Revolution of Joy” in Alabama’s Black Belt region.

“My vision has been to create a route of murals that would inspire tourists to travel to these little Black Belt towns,” said Taylor. “Art drives tourism and commerce. If I can be the seed that brings other artists to the area to create their own murals, it could be a great boon for the economies of the towns.”

On April 25-26, Taylor and 78 adults, students and children painted a 16-by-42-foot mural on the Teach for America building on Alabama Highway 14 in Marion. It’s the fifth in his Revolution of Joy series of murals that spans the Black Belt.

The mural, which Taylor titled “Birdsong,” celebrates nature and learning through art and storytelling. In the painted tale, a visitor to the village teaches the townspeople the magic of listening using the simple things in nature, like trees, sunflowers and birdsong.

“I always try to create a story around the town,” said Taylor, a Selma folk artist. “As the home of Marion Institute and Judson College, Marion is known as a college town, and Earth Day was April 22, so the theme brings those elements together by showing that nature has a lot to teach us.”

Tres Taylor is leading “Revolution of Joy” with murals in Alabama’s Black Belt from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Painting the mural is somewhat like staying within the lines of a coloring book, Taylor said. He traced the design on the wall before the two-day event. Then, like a conductor, Taylor directed the volunteers as they painted their assigned portion of the wall.

As part of the Earth Day emphasis, the children created signs that read, “Please don’t litter.” Every volunteer received a packet of sunflower seeds to plant at home as a reminder of the story behind the painting.

“I like to connect an activity with the story of every mural. It’s like bringing art to life,” Taylor said.

The “Revolution of Joy” series is a team effort between Taylor and Can’d Aid, a Colorado-based nonprofit that works to provide access to and cultivate a love of art, music and culture in rural communities.

Joining them as a local partner in coordinating the Marion mural project was Perry County nonprofit Sowing Seeds of Hope (SSOH). This organization served as boots on the ground, spreading the word about the event and rallying residents to try their hand at art. SSOH coordinated efforts to clean and wash the wall to prepare it for the mural.

Frances Ford said the event was a “great way” to bring the community together.

“We wanted to come alongside Tres because it was something we can all do to improve our community,” said Ford, SSOH executive director. “It was an opportunity not only for young people to determine if they have gifts or talents but for older individuals to come out and share their talent and wisdom as they mentor the younger generation. Anytime we can come together to uplift our community, it’s exciting.”

Terri Byrd, an SSOH board member, and her husband, Paul, were among the volunteer artists.

“It meant a lot to me to be part of this community event,” she said. “I think the mural is symbolic of the beauty of the area and the people. To be part of something that brings joy and spreads the word about the wonderful attributes of Perry County and the Alabama Black Belt is amazing.”

An idea blossoms

Taylor said the germ of the idea for the mural series dates back to 2007. But he launched the project years later after meeting Diana Ralston, executive director of Can’d Aid, and realizing they had a shared mission: beautifying communities.

“My idea was to find a route through the Black Belt that would go from one side of the state to the other,” Taylor said. “I picked Highway 14, which starts in Mississippi and ends on the Georgia side of the state.”

Since forming their partnership in 2019, Taylor and Can’d Aid have worked with volunteers to create two “Revolution of Joy” murals in Selma, one in Greensboro and another in Eutaw.

While Taylor is the expert who helps volunteers create the murals, Can’d Aid provides the paint, brushes, tarps and supplies. During the pandemic, the organization has included masks and hand sanitizer.

“We all need more joy,” said Ralston. “Tres just exudes this exuberance, love, joy and community connectivity. His murals are not only a great way to beautify a town, but they bring community together. When you pass that mural later, you remember working side by side with your neighbor to paint it.”

A latecomer

Taylor was an adult before he discovered his true calling as an artist.

“I was raised around artists all my life,” said Taylor, noting that his brother and sister are artists. “There was something deep inside me that wanted to create, but I didn’t think I had the talent, so I ended up in science. I loved it, but it wasn’t my passion.”

In 1998, Taylor, a biochemist at the University of San Diego at the time, spent his Christmas vacation with relatives in Alabama. During the trip, he decided to visit some of the state’s folk artists.

“These are guys who never had an art lesson in their life,” said Taylor. “I was so amazed by what they were doing and captured by the spirit of their art.”

Taylor said those artists showed him that “you don’t have to have years of experience to create art.”

Taylor said he picked up a paintbrush for the first time on Jan. 10, 1999. The canvas was a piece of discarded wood he found in front of Balboa Park in San Diego.

“It was very primitive and childlike, but it was so cathartic. I was touching a place deep inside me,” he said.

“I picked up the paintbrush and never put it down. I was infected with the drive to make art and couldn’t stop. I had so much art on the floor of my house that one time I had to go out the window to go to work.”

Taylor quit his job 18 months later, moved to Birmingham and made art his full-time career. With the recent success of the “Revolution of Joy” series, he moved in 2020 to Selma, in the heart of the Black Belt.

“I’ve had an amazing 20 years of success,” Taylor said. “The joy of being able to make art, make a living and support my family has been incredible. Now, in what I call the fourth quarter of my life, it’s important that I do something for communities. That’s why we moved to Selma so we can be more involved in the community and the Black Belt.”

The Marion mural is the first of three “Revolution of Joy” projects this spring. Taylor will lead volunteers in painting a mural in Camden on May 8-9. The date of the Greenville mural event has not been set.

“Art can heal; it healed me,” Taylor said. “I think it heals not only us, but it can heal the community. When you bring people to a wall, it breaks down barriers because people are laughing and having conversations. If we discover this joy within ourselves, it will create a revolution and will lead to change that’s good for the community and good for each individual.”

For more information about Taylor and his “Revolution of Joy” project, visit https://www.trestaylor.com/shop. Taylor plans to post the story behind his newest mural on his website. Learn about Can’d Aid and sign up to help paint future murals at https://candaid.org/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Tuberville celebrates public charter schools — ‘Look forward to their continued success’

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) this week co-sponsored a resolution honoring the 22nd annual National Charter Schools Week, which ends this Saturday.

The resolution was bipartisan and introduced by U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).

“After spending 40 years recruiting students from high schools all over the country, I know the difference a quality education can make in a young person’s life. I’ve seen public charter schools give parents a valuable option for students in Alabama and across the country,” said Tuberville in a statement.

“Charter schools give educators more flexibility to teach in ways that best fit students’ unique needs, and studies show charter schools help close the achievement gap for our most at-risk students,” he concluded. “I’m grateful for the educators and administrators who have helped make charter schools available to students and parents, and look forward to their continued success in educating America’s next generation of leaders.”

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Nationally, 44 states — including Alabama — and the District of Columbia have public charter schools, with more than 7,500 schools serving approximately 3.3 million students.

Scott’s resolution congratulates “the students, parents, teachers, and leaders of charter schools across the United States for making ongoing contributions to education.”

The resolution notes that “high-performing public charter schools deliver a high-quality public education and challenge all students to reach their potential for academic success.”

“[P]ublic charter schools promote innovation and excellence in public education,” it continues. “[P]ublic charter schools throughout the United States provide millions of families with diverse and innovative educational options for the children of those families.”

The resolutions especially praises public charter schools for “making impressive strides in closing the academic achievement gap in schools in the United States, particularly in schools with some of the most disadvantaged students in both rural and urban communities.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

State Rep. Stringer ousted from Mobile County Sheriff’s Office over ‘difference of opinion’ with sheriff; Blames pro-Second Amendment stance for removal

On Friday, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office announced State Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle) was no longer serving as a captain for the department.

According to Mobile County Sheriff Office spokeswoman, Stringer was dismissed for his support of so-called constitutional carry, and Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran had a “difference of opinion” with the Mobile County Republican legislator.

Shortly after those reports surfaced, Stringer responded with his own press statement declaring himself “proud to stand in defense of the Second Amendment.”

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“The Second Amendment gun rights of Alabamians are under attack from a liberal federal government that is out of control and even from some factions right here at home,” Stringer said in a release. “After dedicating my life and career to law enforcement, losing a job because I stand in support of Alabama gun owners is certainly surprising, but nothing will discourage me from defending the constitutional guarantees promised to all of us as American citizens.”

Also, according to the release, Cochran notified Stringer, who served as the Satsuma Police Chief before winning his election in 2018 to serve in the State House, on Wednesday of his dismissal from the captain’s post in the department “because he is sponsoring ‘constitutional carry’ gun rights legislation.

HB618 would allow Alabamians to carry or conceal a pistol without first obtaining a permit from their local sheriff’s office, an effort that the state’s sheriffs have vociferously opposed in the past.

“The U.S. Constitution does not say you have a right to keep and bear arms as long as you pay what amounts to a gun tax in the form of permit fees,” Stringer said in the release. “It says you have the right to keep and carry firearms. . .period.”

“As a state legislator, I swore an oath to God that I would support the U.S. Constitution, and this legislation does just that,” he added. “And whether or not I am employed by the Mobile Sheriff’s Office, my heart and soul will always belong to the mission of enforcing the law and to my fellow officers who seek to protect the men, women, and children of Alabama.”

The bill has 11 other co-sponsors, including State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R-Mount Hope), who served as an officer in the Decatur Police Department.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

13 hours ago

Report: Environmental activists team up with socialists, sex workers in Birmingham

According to a report published Thursday, left-wing Birmingham environmental group GASP is moving to support socialism and sex work in the Magic City.

Alabama Today reported that a rally is being planned in Birmingham to support sex workers, including prostitutes.

The first speaker listed for the event is reportedly GASP’s Nina Morgan, and the organization itself is set to have a table at the event alongside the local “Party for Socialism and Liberation.”

“Stated in their latest Facebook post is, ‘Without the economic, political, military and diplomatic backing of U.S. imperialism, the state of Israel would not last long,'” Alabama Today noted.

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Morgan is listed as GASP’s “Climate & Environmental Justice Organizer.”

“She became radicalized first and foremost by her parents, who were divorced but often had conversations with her and her twin brother about the social ills of the world. Further, her political analysis emerged during her time serving on the youth council of a reproductive justice initiative called the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth,” GASP’s website advises.

The event, scheduled for June 6, is billed as an “International Sex Workers’ Day Rally.”

Per the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) website, the day is an annual event. One of the organization’s core values is, “Opposition to all forms of criminalization and other legal oppression of sex work.”

A flier promoting the event shows a police car in flames, smushed by a stiletto.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

7 Things: Biden says you have his permission to take off your mask, special session may be needed, Democratic state representatives want Huntsville’s police chief fired and more …

7. 150 Republicans emerge and embarrass themselves again 

  • Since the first day Donald Trump came down the escalator, the American media and their Democrats touted the “courageous Republicans” who would abandon the party over the former president. With U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) losing her leadership post, those same people are leaving the party again, for real this time.
  • The “Call for American Renewal” is an uncompelling list of the usually gripers and grifters, CNN and MSNBC contributors and Lincoln Project hacks. This includes independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, former Trump staffer Anthony Scaramucci, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Painter, columnist Max Boot and a “Who’s who or who’s that?” of American politics.

6. White House: We have to teach about systematic racism

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  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to some who have said that teaching critical race theory is “liberal indoctrination,” saying that they don’t “think we believe that educating the youth, next leaders of the future, leaders of the country, on systemic racism is indoctrination.”
  • Psaki went on to say that teaching about systemic racism is “actually responsible.” This comes after U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced the Ivory Tower Act to tax the endowments of colleges and universities to put more money toward training in trades. Cotton said that these establishments are making money while “indoctrinating our youth with un-American ideas.”

5. Ivey makes it clear that Alabama stands with Israel

  • Governor Kay Ivey clearly stated that Alabama is standing with Israel as they face attacks from the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza. There has been some speculation from UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland that if conflict continues or gets worse, it could result in “a full-scale war.”
  • Alabama has a strong business relationship with Israel, with exports totaling $49 million in 2020, which was 27% higher than the state’s exports to Israel in 2019. Ivey spokesperson Gina Maiola said, “[I]it is appropriate with Alabama’s longstanding relationship with Israel that she reaffirmed our position as an ally and friend. As Governor Kay Ivey said this morning, Alabama stands with Israel.”

4. Group calling for Huntsville PD chief to be fired or forced to resign

  • Due to the comments made by Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray after officer William Ben Darby was convicted of murder, the Rosa Parks Day Committee in Huntsville is calling for Mayor Tommy Battle to fire McMurray.
  • State House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) and State Representative Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) were present with the committee at a press conference where they made these requests. They claimed that McMurray should be removed due to his comments on Darby and the handling of the protests downtown in 2020.

 3. Special session likely needed for issues like prisons and gambling

  • State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) said it’s likely a special session will be necessary to deal with issues like prisons and gambling since there’s only one more day left in the regular session and it’s unlikely that these issues will be resolved in that short time.
  • Chambliss said that Governor Kay Ivey should at least call “a five-day short special session to make it work.” He added that a special session to deal with building more prisons in the state is even more necessary as there have been funding concerns and the state still faces an order from the U.S. Department of Justice to fix unconstitutional conditions. Chambliss went on to say that if the issue isn’t addressed, he thinks “the DOJ is going to be very serious about their next steps.”

2. Biden thinks he did something on masks

  • New guidelines have been released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on when vaccinated people should wear a mask by saying that they don’t need to wear a mask “in any setting” and you can “resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.” The U.S. House, some cities (including Birmingham), states, and many businesses will keep the masks for now.
  • President Joe Biden hilariously tweeted some authoritarian nonsense, stating, “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.” Governor Kay Ivey praised the decision to lift masks, despite only lifting the statewide mask mandate in Alabama about a month ago. She said, “Finally, we are seeing some encouraging, common sense guidance from the CDC.”

1. Now schools should be open, too

  • After months of resistance to reopening schools, a teachers union is now deciding that schools must reopen in the fall. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers said, “There is no doubt: Schools must be open,” adding, “Given current circumstances, nothing should stand in the way of fully reopening our public schools this fall and keeping them open.” Weingarten also said, “The United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school. And my union is all in.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling for the schools to open up all the way, telling CNN, “I believe the schools should be open five days, full blast, just the way it was before,” and he wants it done “by the time we get to the fall.”

16 hours ago

Huntsville-based Torch Technologies awarded $722M U.S. Army contract

Huntsville-headquartered Torch Technologies this week announced a $722 million contract award from the federal government.

The task order comes via U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Aviation and Missile Center (AvMC) Systems Simulation Software and Integration Directorate (S3I) for Modeling and Simulation (M&S) Aviation and Missile Systems. The order has a five-year period of performance and will be executed primarily in the Rocket City.

According to a press release, the Torch team will develop and apply models and simulations to aviation and missile system analysis ensuring warfighter readiness and future capabilities are realized.

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Torch will reportedly supply cost-effective solutions that facilitate readiness and technological dominance of the Army’s current and future force.

“Torch is pleased to continue our long-standing relationship with the DEVCOM AvMC S3I M&S customers,” stated Torch president and CEO John Watson. “We are proud to be a part of their important mission to provide weapons development and modernization support to our warfighters.”

A 100% employee-owned business with more than 900 global employees dedicated to quality technical services, competitive costs and ethical business practices, Torch also has an Alabama presence at Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass. In 2019, Torch annual revenues were approximately $513 million.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn