Cornucopia of Craft, Freshstyle Magazine, Mar-April 2014

Stepping into Garage 34 in downtown Asheville means accessing a veritable world of handmade goods. There are baby shoes from Uganda, scarves and purses from India, bracelets from Burma, and even pet toys from Nepal. While most clothing labels chart a path back to Asia and other global locales, sales at Garage 34 put money back into artisans’ hands. 

Those items from India, for instance, offer prostituted women an alternative for supporting themselves. The baby shoes come from the Asheville-based nonprofit Sole Hope, which partners with Eastern Ugandans, training adults in both places to make shoes using colorful fabrics fortified by bike tire inner tubes. The pet toys come from A Cheerful Pet, which employs Nepalese women to fashion their unique designs. Fashion Compassion, a nonprofit based out of Charlotte, NC, helps women get out of the sex trade by training them in jewelry making. These are just a few of the people and places behind the product lines at Garage 34. 

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Going Gluten-Free and Chocolate Chip Cookies, Freshstyle Blog, Feb 2014

I do not recall having a childhood affinity for creativity in the kitchen. While I had my beloved Easy Bake Oven, and I especially enjoyed helping my mom and grandma with their baking, it wasn’t until early adulthood that I started feeling like the kitchen was my own creative space.

In the summer of 2003, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and my whole relationship to food changed. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, where consuming gluten — the protein in wheat, rye, and barley — triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages your small intestine and keeps you from absorbing nutrients. The symptoms include everything from stomach pain to a foggy mind. The longterm effects are all the more dire, creating the potential for other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer. Rather than requiring daily doses of expensive medicines, the solution to celiac is comparatively simple — a gluten-free diet. Simple, that is, until I craved a soft, chewy, homemade cookie or a moist piece of cake. 

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Heritage: Trail of Tears, Alabama Magazine, Jan-Feb 2014

They were businessmen, judges, and lawyers. They operated an independent printing press and organized their own police force and Supreme Court. Their elite lived on large estates with substantial farms. The Cherokee in Alabama “basically had tremendously successful businesses and lives,” says Sharon Freeman, an historian and president of the Alabama Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association. While much of the Cherokee’s rich economic and civic life was erased by the events of the Trail of Tears from 1838 to 1839, the 175th anniversary of their forced removal has also sparked increased interest and helped shore up efforts to make Alabama’s Cherokee history visible again. 

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Repurposing the Past, Freshstyle Magazine, Jan-Feb 2014

Walking through the door of the Tomorrow’s Antiques shop in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, one quickly observes the creative potential for making the old new again. Walnut table legs turned into sconces, an old piano keyboard converted into a wall decoration, tabletops made from repurposed doors and iron grates — the possibilities seem endless. For brothers-in-law Justin Smith and Steven Mills each new project offers a chance to creatively merge the antique with the modern, and bring the historic back to life. 

Smith and Mills started working together when Mills bought a nineteenth century home and the two set about restoring it. As Mills re-installed the house’s pocket doors, he felt a profound connection to the house’s history. “No one had done that in 120 years,” he says. When the pair subsequently opened Tomorrow’s Antiques in early 2012 they employed a similar sense of connection to the past in each of their restoration projects. 

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Forged in the Foundry, Birmingham Magazine, January 2014

It was supposed to be the “Meeting That Made Birmimgham.” In May 1969, The Birmingham News ran a feature relating the events of a 1911 conference at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where then-Gov. Emmet O’Neal gave a speech to the giants of northeastern business and technology, including Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, urging them to invest in Birmingham and the rest of Alabama’s industrial growth. While skepticism remained as to whether northern money would profitably flow into the South, Morgan reportedly told O’Neal, “The money is on its way.”

Today, Birmingham’s iron and steel companies are global brands. Names like O’Neal, American Cast Iron Pipe Company, and McWane extend the city’s economic and industrial reach throughout the U.S., and into Europe, Asia, and South America. Although these industries no longer employ the same number of locals that they once did, the forces of industry that made the “Magic City” more than a century ago continue shaping Birmingham’s development.

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Justice Without Borders, Birmingham Magazine, October 2013

In the same years that Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King, Jr. organized nonviolent acts of resistance in Birmingham, another peaceful stand for equality brewed more than 2,000 miles away in the small central Californian town of Delano. In 1962, Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association (now the United Farm Workers), which took inspiration from King and the civil rights activists in making a non-violent stance against the inhumane treatment of immigrant farm workers. By 1965, just two years after King led the March on Washington, Chavez led a 340 mile march from Delano to the California state capitol of Sacramento.

On Sat., Oct. 5, from noon to 8 p.m. at Linn Park, Fiesta 2013 will highlight the parallel stands for justice spearheaded by Hispanic and African-American activists in the 1960s. They chose the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward: Equality for All,” for this year as they partnered with Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city’s civil rights movement.

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A Lifelong Learner, Birmingham Magazine, October 2013

Mel Glenn rode his bicycle from Ensley to 16th Street Baptist Church on May 2, 1963, joining other young people as they marched in peaceful protest down the streets of downtown Birmingham to meet unwarranted arrest. He escaped on his bike, only to return the next day as his peers faced police dogs and fire hoses. The more than five-mile journey had become familiar territory for Glenn. He had observed the movement’s organizing meetings in North Birmingham and downtown, reporting back to his friends about the planned demonstrations. The example set by the movement’s leaders, particularly by Dr. Martin Luther King and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, not only taught Glenn the importance of peaceful protest and brotherly love, but also the power of clearly communicating your message.

“These men firmly believed in education — that it was a way out,” says Glenn. That message, paired with their personal commitment, has been a source of ongoing inspiration for Glenn. “It was a very contentious time, but then we saw the love that was demonstrated by men of peace,” he says. “These leaders were willing to sacrifice their lives.”

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Farm to Table, Birmingham Magazine, August 2013

The family farm is usually an historic entity, a bucolic heirloom passed down across generations. Yet amid the growing popularity of urban vegetable gardens and backyard chicken coups, agriculture has become more accessible to people without those genealogical ties. When Greg and Ana Kelly started Dayspring Dairy in Gallant, Ala. two years ago, neither of them had a family history in farming. Now they’re creating a legacy of their own with the first sheep cheese farm in Alabama. 

Greg had the initial idea for a farm. “I pretty much thought he was nuts,” says Ana. Greg, an IT professional, and Ana, a chef and food stylist, had good jobs and a comfortable suburban home in Hoover. Ultimately, though, they wanted an alternative kind of life for their family. The benefits of the farm — a slower pace, working for themselves, giving their kids hands-on experience in the country — outweighed the conveniences of the city.

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Revolution in the Day-to-Day, Birmingham Magazine, May 2013

Before they were teachers, soldiers, engineers, lawyers, and government officials, they were the young foot soldiers of Birmingham’s civil rights movement. May 2 marks the 50th anniversary of what protesters code named  “D-Day” — the beginning of the Children’s Crusade, in which nearly 1,000 young people descended from the stairs of the 16th Street Baptist Church in peaceful protest and were subsequently arrested, flooding the city’s jails. Their protest and the city’s brutal reaction — turning fire hoses and police dogs on the children — drew national and international attention to Birmingham’s institutionalized racism and the strength of the black community’s commitment to justice.  

This year the city government and a number of organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) have devoted their efforts to memorializing the events of 1963. On the anniversary of D-Day, the NAACP and SCLC will sponsor a parade reenacting the march, and inviting the movements’ veterans and members of the public to return to the church and collectively remember the activism of the past.

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Ending Colic or Unnecessary Expense, Birmingham Magazine, May 2013

When Catherine Blackmon gave birth to her son Bo, she recalls, “He came out basically constantly screaming.” After a series of visits to the pediatrician, he was diagnosed with colic and reflux, conditions associated with otherwise healthy infants who experience cramping, stomach irritability and seemingly inexplicable crying fits. The doctor prescribed medicine for the baby, which assuaged his symptoms. Later, after weening him off the medicine, Blackmon took him to a chiropractor to have his diaphragm adjusted, further relieving his discomfort. It wasn’t until Blackmon’s next child, Hudson, suffered the same symptoms that she considered that the gluten in her diet might be contributing to her sons’ troubled tummies. 

For Blackmon’s youngest, the diaphragm adjustments proved insufficient. What was more, Hudson had an persistent skin condition. “He was red from head to toe,” she says. That’s when Dr. Nicole Ussery, R.D., a chiropractor and dietician at Balance Chiropractic: A Wellness Studio in Vestavia, suggested that Blackmon cut all gluten — the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley — from her diet. Blackmon, who exclusively breastfed her sons, found that within a week the boy’s colicky and reflux symptoms had vanished. As for his complexion, “He had the most beautiful, clear baby skin you’ve ever seen,” she says.

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Heritage: USS Alabama, Alabama Magazine, Nov/Dec 2012

Along Mobile Bay, just as the eastbound I-10 begins to cross the water toward Spanish Fort, more than 42 thousand tons of steel stands docked along the coastline. The USS Alabama runs 680 feet long and stands 108 feet high, and holds some of the most powerful American naval weaponry produced during World War II. 

Since 1965, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park has offered 14 million visitors a chance to experience this piece of American military history firsthand. With more than 20 million vehicles passing the battleship every year on the interstate, it is the most visible symbol of the state of Alabama, says park executive director Bill Tunnell. 

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The Faithful, B. Metro, September 2012

It is nearly sunrise, and within more than a thousand Birmingham households, Muslim families are praying. This is the fajr — the first of five daily Islamic prayers. In a city embedded in the Bible Belt, time can be marked by religious and spiritual events — church bells downtown, Sunday sermons, mid-week Bible studies, and the passing of each Christmas, Lenten season and Easter. 

Amid this more prevalent religious culture, members of the local Muslim community conduct their own services. Their daily prayers are accompanied by Friday evening services at the masjid (or mosque), a month of fasting in late summer called Ramadan, and two annual festivals — Eid al-Fitr, the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, celebrating when God spared Abraham from sacrificing his son Ishmael. 

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