4 months ago

Alabama’s Literary Capital honors authors with new sculpture trail

A new collection of bronze sculptures in downtown Monroeville celebrates some of our country’s most famous writers whose roots originate in this historical area of southwest Alabama.

The Literary Capital Sculpture Trail unveiled Friday afternoon features 14 bronze sculptures created by University of Alabama sculpture students that are on display within a short walk of each other around the Monroe County Courthouse Museum.

“We have a legacy here and we want people to know what that is,” said Anne Marie Bryan, executive director of Monroeville Main Street. “These sculptures honor the 10 authors who made Monroeville and Monroe County Alabama’s Literary Capital.”

The trail honors 10 writers from Monroeville: Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Cynthia Tucker, Mark Childress, Marva Collins, Rheta Grimsley-Johnson, Riley Kelly, Mike Stewart, William Barret Travis and Hank Williams. Of those 10, three won Pulitzer Prizes: Harper Lee, Cynthia Tucker and Hank Williams. Bryan said the exhibit was created to provide arts and culture for the community, something of interest for tourists and to inspire and educate the children of Monroe County.

“We wanted to provide that inspiration that you can be a poet, a journalist, a novelist, a short story writer or even an artist and follow a creative passion,” she said.

The trail unveiling was planned to coincide with the Alabama Bicentennial celebration and this year’s Alabama Writers Symposium, which was held Thursday and Friday in Monroeville. Alisha Linam, director of the symposium, said the goal is to celebrate Alabama’s writers.

“Our names are known throughout the world,” Linam said. “We’re known for creating and developing good authors.”

Several of those Alabama authors were honored at this year’s symposium, including Daniel Wallace and B.J. Hollars. Wallace, author of five novels — including “Big Fish,” which was later made into a motion picture and a musical on Broadway — was honored with the 2019 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer, while Hollars, author of several books, including “The Road South: Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders,” was awarded the 2019 Truman Capote Prize for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story.

“I’m kind of speechless,” Wallace said. “Because I’m an Alabama writer, this is the best possible recognition I could get.”

Hollars called his award “an incredible honor. It is so humbling. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”

Both men applauded the efforts to celebrate Monroe County’s rich literary heritage with the new trail.

“Literature has a two-pronged effect: it’s just entertainment on the one hand, but on the other hand it really does create better people,” Wallace said. “It really does create a more empathetic and imaginative populace. It would be my hope that this would bring more people to the books of all of the great writers in this state.”

Hollars said it’s nice to visit Monroeville, where reading and literature is valued so deeply.

“You can’t go 20 feet without seeing a placard about a writer or see a statue of a child reading a book or a mural from the book,” he said. “I hope the rest of the nation can take a cue from Monroeville and know that our books are our history and our future, too.”

For more information about the Sculpture Trail, contact Monroeville Main Street by visiting monroevillemainstreet.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter)

5 hours ago

ALGOP holds summer meeting — ‘We are the gatekeepers of freedom’

AUBURN — The Alabama Republican Party on Saturday held its annual summer meeting in Lee County for the first time, with a host of resolutions and a proposed bylaw change on the agenda.

Members of the party’s state executive committee assembled at The Hotel at Auburn University and heard a call-to-action from ALGOP Chairman Terry Lathan.

Lathan rallied conservatives in the state to work to defeat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020, with the Republican leader explaining that Jones does not represent the majority of Alabamians.

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She referred to Jones as “the patriarch of Planned Parenthood” and “the obstructionist of President Trump’s appointments, tax cuts and border wall.”

Lathan remarked that Jones was more in line with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and “The Squad” than with his own home state.

She also called strongly for the re-election of President Donald Trump and told the many volunteers in attendance that their hard work is key to the country’s future.

“We are the gatekeepers of freedom,” Lathan said.

Perhaps the biggest item of contention on the agenda was a proposed bylaw change that would have allowed the state executive committee to pick Alabama’s delegates to the Republican National Convention instead of the state’s presidential primary voters.

Alternates are currently selected by the state executive committee, however delegates appear on each primary voter’s ballot.

After some back-and-forth debate, 55% voted in favor of the proposal, with 45% against. However, the bylaw change failed because it needed a 67% threshold to pass.

The next item of business was also controversial. Reminiscent of the ALGOP in its winter meeting passing a resolution against raising the state gas tax, members of the state executive committee on Saturday once again bucked the Republicans that have been elected by the people of Alabama to represent them in Montgomery.

A resolution opposing statewide amendment one, the historic educational governance referendum on SB 397, passed by a 64-36% margin.

Former State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) and current State Senator Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) spoke out against the resolution before the vote. While Williams also touched on other policy reasons why people should support the constitutional amendment, both he and Givan — also a former vice chair of the ALGOP — emphasized that this referendum will eliminate Common Core in Alabama, something grassroots members of the state party have long been pushing for.

However, the very title of the ALGOP resolution claimed that the constitutional amendment includes a “Common Core Bait and Switch.”

The resolution further alleged that the amendment will maintain “the very same objectionable [Common Core] standards by a different name.”

Givhan, in his remarks during debate, took issue with the contentions.

“There was one substantive issue between my primary opponent and me [in the 2018 election cycle],” Givhan said. “She was for Common Core, and I was against it. So, let’s just get that out right now — I’m against Common Core. We want to repeal it.”

After the vote did not go their way, Williams spoke with Yellowhammer News, expressing his dismay.

“Disappointing to see the resolution pass,” he said. “Because I do believe, as both a lawyer and a layman, that the language that says ‘in lieu of Common Core’ literally means we’re replacing Common Core.”

Commenting on the “bait and switch” allegation made by the resolution, Williams added, “I don’t find that argument to be grounded in a basis of truth.”

“I also believe that it is well beyond time for Alabama to do something different when it comes to moving education policy forward,” he emphasized.

Later in the meeting, a resolution commending the Alabama Legislature and Governor Kay Ivey for the enactment of the Human Life Protection Act passed on a voice vote, as did a resolution commending the same for supporting “Judeo-Christian values” during this past session.

Additionally, a resolution passed establishing the ALGOP’s 2020 cycle qualifying period from October 8, 2019 – November 8, 2019.

You can watch the entire meeting below:

RELATED: ALGOP passes resolution calling for Ilhan Omar’s expulsion from Congress

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

5 hours ago

USA professor sets ambitious goal to improve wastewater infrastructure in rural Alabama

For years – 13, to be exact – Dr. Kevin White has been on a mission to improve wastewater management infrastructure in portions of rural Alabama. He’s discovered that, in some areas, more than half of the households have raw sewage in their yards, the result of either a failed septic system or having no system at all.

“The lack of proper wastewater management is both a health issue and an economic development issue,” White said. “Business and industry certainly will not locate to an area without functioning wastewater infrastructure.”

After years of research and testing, he’s ready to take the next step. Actually, several steps.

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With support from a three-year grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, White, professor and chair of civil, coastal and environmental engineering at the University of South Alabama, has an ambitious agenda to significantly improve wastewater – and thus, public health – conditions for rural communities who need help. Chief among his goals is developing a guide for citizens who want to fix the unsanitary conditions; a guide based on his research findings and experience.

“For these rural communities, many of them poor and without resources and technical knowledge, the questions they have are, ‘Where can we get funding? What technologies should we use? How do we manage it? What are the regulations?’” White explained. “These communities want to help themselves, but it’s a real challenge to know where to start first, what to do next, and so on. And while private engineering companies are available to assist, few specialize in all of the areas needed to provide cost-effective wastewater infrastructure for these rural areas.”

The $755,761 grant came about largely because of a summary paper White and co-author Dr. Mark Elliott, assistant professor in the University of Alabama department of civil, construction and environmental engineering, submitted last year to numerous government officials and agencies, including the EPA.

Beyond the guide, the grant will also support White’s efforts to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative and sustainable wastewater treatment options in rural areas.

He’s focusing on five counties – Dallas, Hale, Lowndes, Perry and Wilcox – that suffer from high levels of poverty and impermeable soils unsuitable for traditional septic systems. These conditions have resulted in failed septic systems and widespread raw sewage discharge to the ground surface.

“We are committed to implementing cost-effective, onsite wastewater treatment solutions in these areas,” White said. “We’ll focus on individual households for now; clusters of 15-t0-50 homes will come later if we’re successful.”

White also wants to explore alternative regulatory strategies that could provide more wastewater management options for households and communities with the most challenging soil and poverty conditions. “We want to provide some experimental treatment systems and test their viability,” White elaborated. “This may lead to changes where traditional methods don’t work.”

Civil engineering graduate student Brandon Maliniemi, who also earned his bachelor’s at USA, said he chose to attend grad school at South because of the opportunity to work on the EPA project with White. He’s assisting White in identifying funding options, management options and appropriate wastewater treatment technologies. “As the project progresses, we will be installing and testing the selected technologies to verify their effectiveness,” Maliniemi said, who added that he has a personal interest in the project’s success.

“Personally, the project is gratifying. I am thankful to have the opportunity to provide value to underserved communities in Alabama. A major reason why I chose civil engineering is the public service aspect, and this project allows me to help the community.” After graduating, Maliniemi said he intends to continue work in the water/wastewater engineering sector.

The final step in the process may provide the greatest help to the most people. It’ll be the creation of the how-to guide for local governments, utilities and residents in the affected counties.

“Some of these counties are so small, rural and isolated that they just don’t have the resources or information to make useful changes,” White said. “Once they have a blueprint they can follow, that’s an important step toward clean water, better health and opportunities for economic development.”

6 hours ago

ALGOP passes resolution calling for Ilhan Omar’s expulsion from Congress- ‘Let Alabama be first and let’s see how many other states follow’

AUBURN — U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is no friend of the Alabama Republican Party.

That was the takeaway on Saturday at the ALGOP’s summer meeting hosted on the Plains in Lee County after the body passed a resolution introduced by State Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) calling for Alabama’s congressional delegation to seek the expulsion of their Democratic colleague Omar.

Hanes took to the floor of the meeting to make a case for his proposal.

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“It’s just simply asking this body to ask the U.S. delegation, the Alabama delegation in Washington, D.C. to start proceedings to unseat Ilhan Omar, congresswoman from Minnesota,” Hanes said. “This woman is continuously spewing anti-American rhetoric, anti-Semitism. She is un-American. She came from a war-torn country in Somalia to seek protection under Lady Liberty’s hand.”

“Folks, she constantly talks about the U.S. military – I put the U.S. military here,” he continued, raising his right arm. “If it weren’t for the U.S. military, we wouldn’t be here today. I put them here, and she continuously talks down on our veterans. Folks, she continuously talks about one of our most faithful and loyal allies, which is Israel.”

“Let Alabama be first and let’s see how many other states follow,” Hanes added.

One objection to Hanes’ amendment dealt with the concern that it would create “dangerous precedent” for future majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives to create a subjective basis to kick out a duly elected member of Congress.

However, one man took Hanes’ proposal to another level.

“I would just like to say the lady is guilty of sedition – and we need to kick her ass out,” an unidentified member of the state executive committee, who approached the microphone but wasn’t formally recognized, said shortly before passage.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

6 hours ago

Leneda Jones is an Alabama Bright Light bringing Backyard Blessings

Backyard Blessings exists so poor school children in Walker County do not go hungry. The problem caused Leneda Jones to act nine years ago, and her actions have multiplied. Now approximately 850 children are fed every week.

“Backyard Blessings is a local community nonprofit in Walker County that serves children in food-insecure homes,” she said. “We work primarily through the public school system to achieve this.”

Jones and her staff identify hungry children by consulting school counselors and teachers. Every child in the Walker County Schools system is up for consideration for Backyard Blessings assistance.

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“We give the children in our program a bag of food on Friday; many of them had no food the entire weekend,” Jones said. “We pack those bags here and fill them with foods children love, then we deliver them to the schools.”

Backyard Blessings puts food in hungry children’s hands from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Backyard Blessings serves nine schools every week of the school year. The children who receive the food look forward to it.

“One day I was walking through one of the schools when a little child came to me and asked with big eyes, ‘Do we get the food bag today?’ It made me cry knowing we are making a difference,” Jones said.

Jones is determined to continue her mission until all poor children in Walker County are fed.

“We get the food wholesale, and with donations from generous people who know about what we do, and who do not want little children to miss meals,” Jones said. “We also receive funds from grants, churches, local businesses and fundraisers.”

The Alabama Power Foundation is among those supporting Backyard Blessings’ work.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

8 hours ago

City of Ashford develops Master growth plan, aims to maximize growth potential

The city of Ashford has hired professionals to help it develop a master growth plan.

Brad Kimbro, chairman of the Ashford Downtown Redevelopment Authority (ADRA), said KPS Group in Birmingham will help city leaders put together a comprehensive action plan to maximize the city’s business growth potential.

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“There’s a lot of things Ashford can do,” Kimbro said, “but their experiences and professional expertise will tell us what they think Ashford needs to be, based on what we want and what our experiences say you need to do or can do. That will be important because it will be a master plan that will help us stay focused on what we need to do and what we need to avoid.”

Kimbro said a rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay for the project.

“Basically the mission is to revitalize the downtown Ashford and the surrounding community,” Kimbro said. “Businesses are going to locate where there are good people but also where there’s good business and that’s what our whole objective is.”

Team effort helping Ashford grow from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

This project is the latest in a series of steps city leaders have taken in recent months to redevelop the downtown area. Other grants and government funding have helped the ADRA revitalize McArthur Park, pour new sidewalks and repave parking areas. Kimbro credits assistance from the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, the Houston County Commission, the Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council and city leaders in making these projects happen.

“I just see everybody — perhaps for the first time in a long time, working together, on the same page, wanting the same goals, pulling on that same rope and trying to do what we can for the good of all,” Kimbro said. “It’s a great place to be.”

The teamwork is already creating dividends. The Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine earlier this year agreed to build a $1.2 million medical clinic in downtown Ashford after the city donated land to ACOM. The clinic will provide basic health care to patients with or without insurance and provide medical students a supervised learning environment.

“The doctors are going to help save lives,” Kimbro said. “That’s what Ashford is doing for this community. Our citizens are going to benefit from that.”

Kimbro said Ashford’s future is bright.

“It’s only 8 miles from the largest city in the Wiregrass, yet it’s here in the rural setting where you’re not suffering for anything,” Kimbro said. “It’s a great place to raise your family, property taxes are low, energy is reliable, and energy costs are low. I’ve lived other places, in big cities in Florida and Alabama, and I wouldn’t trade Ashford for any of them.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)