The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

1 year ago

Awareness is not acceptance: Alabama nonprofit fights for autism inclusivity


Dr. Julian Maha said his path to creating KultureCity began as he found himself coming to terms with his son’s autism diagnosis.

“Sometimes, in order to find your true life’s path, you need to be lost,” Maha said.

During his 2016 TEDTalk, Maha said he was inspired to create the nonprofit after experiences with his son taught him the world was aware of autism but did not necessarily accept it or make inclusive spaces for those with autism.


“In terms of the cultural viewpoint, autism had always been built by the media as a diagnosis that stripped away futures, destroyed families and isolated individuals,” Maha said. “Autistic individuals have great potential, but we have to give them a chance. We need to create environments where they can learn, where we have better ways to teach them.”

From there, KultureCity was born. Founded in Birmingham, the nonprofit strives to improve the lives of autistic people by ensuring their safety and inclusion. One way the organization does this is by making public spaces sensory-inclusive.

“We work with anybody and everybody basically anywhere where you would go to enjoy a game, an event, an experience or a concert,” said Uma Srivastava, volunteer COO for KultureCity. “One in six Americans have a sensory need, and they aren’t just for those with autism. It includes those with Down syndrome, PTSD, early onset dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Jeanie Thompson of the Alabama Writers’ Forum finds the best connections are unscripted

(Michael Tomberlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

Jeanie Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Writers’ Forum in Montgomery, never planned to write a book of poems on Helen Keller. In 2016 she did just that, publishing “The Myth of Water.”

The poetry collection, a culmination of a decade of Thompson’s work, paints pictures through the mind of Helen Keller. Thompson created the collection using a writing style called persona poetry, where the writer takes on another person’s voice and makes it their own.


The book is getting a fresh look (and its author getting new opportunities to speak on it) as Keller is among the icons being acknowledged during the state’s bicentennial celebration.

“I’m from Decatur, which as the crow flies is 70 miles east of Tuscumbia, where Helen Keller was born,” Thompson said. “When I was growing up, I read about her in Alabama history, I knew about her, but I had no pull to Helen Keller.”

Though Thompson said she recalls seeing “The Miracle Worker,” a movie about Keller at a Decatur drive-in theater as a child, she still didn’t find herself drawn to Keller until Thompson later read her book, “Light in My Darkness.”

“I didn’t know what an advocate she was and I didn’t know the depth of feeling in her life, that she had her heart broken because she was in love and her family wouldn’t let her marry the man,” Thompson said. “I didn’t know that she had traveled all over Europe and, like me, had fallen in love with Italy.”

Thompson said she also felt connected because Keller had a progressive mindset for the time in which she lived.

“As I began to know more and more about her, I felt this affinity with her,” Thompson said. “I just kept going back to her, and I knew that there was something I wanted to write about her life.”

While Thompson helps to keep the legacy of Alabama’s writers alive through her poetry and the AWF Writers Hall of Fame, she also works to support budding writers from the state. AWF does this by giving yearly grants to new writers through the Harper Lee Award and the High School Literary Arts Awards Competition.

“Alabama is so rich in talent,” Thompson said. “People across the country tend to think about Harper Lee and Truman Capote, but there’s talent times a thousand after those writers. Yes, (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) is an important story, but there are other stories being written that expand a lot on what (Harper Lee) started by talking about race in Alabama. It’s per capita in our state that our literary talent is really strong, just like our football and our basketball.”

In addition to supporting new talent, AWF works to cultivate the love of writing in Alabama youths through the Writing Our Stories program. The nine-month program teaches incarcerated youths to write poems and allows the chance to be published in the yearly publication, “Open the Door.”

“The program gives kids, who are sort of the thrown away children in society, a skill, which is writing, that they can translate across many different job opportunities,” Thompson said. “It also gives them tremendous hope and encouragement that they can go back to their homes or to wherever they’re going to live and be productive citizens.”

When it comes to upcoming projects, Thompson has a few on the horizon. She has thoughts of writing about her grandfather as well as Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s longtime teacher and friend.

AWF is also working on putting together a book about the Writing Our Stories program.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)