Friday, October 07, 2016

Birmingham Public Library to Host 2016 Eat Drink Read Write Festival October 1-7

What: 2016 Eat Drink Read Write Festival
When: Saturday, October 1–Friday, October 7, 2016
Where: Central Library
Details: Six-day schedule online at

If you’re the type of person who relishes eating adventurous foods, mark your calendar for October 1-7, 2016, when the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) hosts its 2016 Eat Drink Read Write festival (EDRW).

This year’s EDRW festival is dedicated to the idea that taking a risk and seeking out adventurous foods can result in great culinary experiences, said Brandon C. Smith, coordinator of the 2016 event.

“Whether it’s trying a Thai restaurant located in a gas station, buying ribs that have been cooked in a 55-gallon steel drum smoker in a parking lot, or foraging for wild blackberries along an old fence line, some of the best meals I have ever had involved taking a little risk,” said Smith, manager of the Eastwood Branch Library.

Headlining the 2016 festival is Chef Bryant Terry of Oakland, California, who has built a national reputation as a vegan chef and food activist, Smith said.

Terry is a 2015 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award-winning chef and author known for his activism to create a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. He is currently Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR’s radio program All Things Considered, and many other publications. Fast Company magazine named Chef Terry one of the “9 People Who are Changing the Future of Food” in its April 2016 issue.

Bryant’s fourth book, Afro Vegan, published by Ten Speed Press/Random House in April 2014, was named by as one of the best cookbooks for 2014. It was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Literary Work category. Read more about Bryant at his website,

“Chef Bryant Terry is probably the foremost vegan chef in the U.S. right now,” said Smith of BPL. “He is known as being a leader in the area of food advocacy and working to change the conversation on food in our country.”

Here is the schedule of events for the 2016 Eat Drink Read Write festival

Saturday, October 1, 2016, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Central Library
An Evening with Chef Bryant Terry

In illustrating why he is known as a premier food-justice activist, Terry will present a dynamic program in which he will discuss the need for a healthy, just, and sustainable food system as well as his passion for good food. Expect to be entertained with stories of how jazz, reggae, and soul music have influenced Chef Terry’s cooking. His unconventional presentation style with hip-hop interludes will delight you. Several local restaurants will offer samples of adventurous dishes for attendees to enjoy. This event will require $20 paid admission. Tickets are available at

Monday, October 3, 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Central Library
Children’s Adventurous Food Art Reception

Delve into the minds of local children’s interpretations of adventurous food through this juried exhibit of artwork located on the First Floor Gallery at the Central Library. The artwork was done by young patrons of BPL. The Junior League of Birmingham’s Project Yummy Van will provide healthy snacks and educate the young attendees on healthy eating and skills useful in the kitchen. Free admission.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Central Library/Linn-Henley Research Library/Arrington Auditorium/4th floor
Fermented & Foraged Food Panel Discussion
Pete Halupka and Lindsay Whiteaker of Harvest Roots Farm, Forage, & Ferment, Cameron Strouss of Deep Roots Apotheké, and Chef Thyme Randle of the Underground Cooking Academy will discuss fermented and foraged foods in a panel discussion moderated by Birmingham Magazine’s managing editor, Carla Jean Whitley. Attendees will sample kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and curtido from Harvest Roots, tonics from Deep Roots Apotheké, and lacto-fermented pickled vegetables from the Underground Cooking Academy. Free admission.

Thursday. October 6, 2016, 7:30-8:30 p.m., Wine Loft, 2200 1st Ave. N.
Happy Hour with Literary Cocktails

The Birmingham Public Library’s Young Professionals board is presenting an evening of literary cocktails at the Wine Loft with complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Several of Birmingham’s top bartenders will compete in a contest in which they will create cocktails inspired by works of Latin American literature. Comedian Funny Maine will emcee this event that will take place in the heart of October’s Art Crawl festival. There is no admission for this event, but attendees must be 21 or older.

Friday, October 7, 2016, 6:30 p.m., Central Library
Bards & Brews Slam

The library’s popular Bards & Brews spoken word poetry and craft beer tasting event will close the festival. Poets will compete in a slam for cash prizes while attendees sample beer from craft breweries including SweetWater Brewing, Cahaba Brewing Co., and Band of Brothers, as well as light hors d'oeuvres from Jim ‘N Nick’s, Babalu Tapas & Tacos, and the Ranch House. Voice Porter, a performance artist and experienced poetry slam emcee, will host this fantastic evening at the Central Library, which is presented with assistance from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Free admission.

The 2016 Eat Drink Read Write festival was made possible by BPL partners including the Birmingham Public Library Young Professionals Board, Deep Roots Apotheké, Dining Out with Comedienne Joy, Coca-Cola Bottling United, Jim 'N Nicks Bar-B-Q, Silvertron Café, Tutwiler Hampton Inn & Suites, Harvest Roots Farm, Forage & Ferment, Michael's Restaurant, Kalisha DigiMedia, Golden Flake, the Junior League of Birmingham, SweetWater Brewing, Cahaba Brewing, Band of Brothers Brewing, Cathead Vodka, Ranch House, Tropicaleo, Babalu Tapas & Tacos, Revolve Kitchen & Brew, Jersey Boys, Edolyn's Pies, Cowboy Chicken, Redeaux's Café at City Hall, and Not Just Catering.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Southern History Book of the Month: The Rivals: A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton

The Rivals: A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton 
Hon. Jeremiah Clemens

With the smashing success of the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr is once again front-page news with fans taking sides and discussing how and when the relationship became a rivalry that led to a deadly duel. However, this is no new phenomenon. In 1859 the Hon. Jeremiah Clemens, an Alabama senator, published a historical novel titled The Rivals: A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The very order of the names gives a clue right away about how he regards the two men. The novel is relentlessly pro-Burr and makes no apology for this viewpoint. Early on we have a scene where the young Burr is ill in a field hospital during the American Revolution. Upon hearing the news that Benedict Arnold is preparing an invasion, he intends to join the expedition to prevent it:
The commands, and then the entreaties of his uncle and guardian, were alike in vain. All the kindly arguments of friends and relations were answered in a spirit equally kind; but his determination was unshaken.
“You are not well enough to leave your room,” urged his physician.
“I will be to-morrow,” was the reply.
He did leave it. By a mere effort of will he shook of disease as a loose garment and, enfeebled and emaciated as he was, went forth to brave hardships and dangers from which the stoutest frame and the boldest heart might have shrunk without disgrace.
Nor does Clemens conceal his estimate of Hamilton’s character, after telling us he had tried to look at “[Hamilton’s] character in the light of reason alone”:
The more I studied it, the more I became convinced that the world never presented such a combination . . . of daring courage and vile malignity, of high aspirings and low hypocrisy. Shrewd, artful, and unscrupulous, there were no means he might not employ to accomplish his ends . . .
In short: nothing that might not apply to modern politics, though pistol duels among political rivals have fallen out of fashion. In fact, Clemens dispenses with the duel in a few brief paragraphs, but practically the last words of the novel are Burr’s conviction that Hamilton deserved to die:
Face to face in the presence of the God who must pronounce our several dooms, I shall say that he deserved the death he received at my hands; and never, for one moment, has a thought of repentance obtruded itself upon my soul!
The Rivals is an interesting historical artifact of a time when the duel between Burr and Hamilton was within living memory, not some dry page out of a history book. The event took place on July 11, 1804 and Clemens was born in 1814; in his boyhood the duel would have been a part of the immediate past and he admits in the foreword of The Rivals that he had entertained “strong prejudices” against Hamilton from the time he was young. At this time when Alexander Hamilton is enjoying a period of unprecedented glamour in the public eye, a pro-Burr document is a fascinating counterbalance.

Our copy of The Rivals is housed in Southern History’s Rare Book collection. Come and visit us if you would like to view it, or if you can’t come for a visit, there are numerous online sources available.

What are your thoughts on the Burr and Hamilton conflict?

For more information:
The Rivals online
Jeremiah Clemens at Encyclopedia of Alabama
Jeremiah Clemens at Find A Grave
Aaron Burr
Alexander Hamilton
The Duel Site
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (the book that inspired the musical)
Hamilton’s America (coming to PBS in October)

Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Linn-Henley Research Library
Central Library

Smithfield Library, Springville Road Library Offering Afterschool Study Help for Birmingham Students

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s 19 locations are a haven for many students across the city who come in after school to wait on their parents. Two city libraries—Smithfield Branch Library and Springville Road Regional Branch Library—have begun new programs designed to help students boost their grades and study skills.

The Smithfield Library is offering free homework tutoring help for elementary- to high school-age students on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. The program, Power Hour: Making Minutes Count, is being offered through November 22 to students who register in advance at the Smithfield Library. See the full schedule at the link below:

The afterschool tutoring service began last week, said Heather McWilliams, Smithfield Library branch manager. “This is more of a homework help session than a class. It's ongoing and it's every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30-4:30,” McWilliams said.

The Springville Road Library has also started a new afterschool program designed to help Birmingham area students improve their grades. The program, Study Skills and Listening Skills Classes, will meet again on Tuesday, September 28, at 4:30 p.m. “Get the school year started the right way with education consultant Ursula Bradley. She will speak to students about essential study skills and listening skills.” To sign up, call Springville Road Library at 205-226-4085.See details at the link below:

Monday, September 26, 2016

Meet Paul Boncella, Map Conservator/Book Mender at the Birmingham Public Library   

Paul Boncella
If you have an antique book or historic map in need of mending in metro Birmingham, Paul Boncella of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is a guy you need to know.

Since October 2012, the former concert organist has been fixing old maps and books as map conservator and book mender in the Southern History Department in the Linn-Henley Research Building, Central Library. He occasionally does this work as a favor to patrons, but many of them are unaware of the fascinating jobs Boncella did in his previous career that allowed him to showcase his musical talents across the globe.

Prior to joining BPL, Boncella spent 13 years as a concert organist, including performances in the former West Germany, and as a church organist. He also published musicological studies in several publications, presenting his research at conferences in Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Spain, and throughout the U.S. Boncella also served as an instructor of music at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore while pursuing his graduate degree there, and at Rutgers University in New Jersey while pursuing his doctorate in musicology. He also taught music in Alabama community colleges for 12 years before joining BPL.

“My work as a musician and a musicologist prepared me for my current job,” said Boncella, who also says his hobby of genealogy also led him to join BPL.

Name: Paul Boncella.

Title: Map conservator and book mender in the Southern History Department, Linn-Henley Research Library.

Hometown: Central New York.

College: BM and MM in organ performance from Johns Hopkins University; MA, MPhil, and PhD in musicology from Rutgers University.

How long with BPL: Four years.

What you do: Prepare antique maps for digitization, storage, and study; repair and rebuild books in the Tutwiler Collection; provide genealogy reference assistance to patrons; develop and teach genealogy classes.

Favorite part of your job: Map conservation affords me the privilege of handling beautiful, valuable maps that date as far back as the 1500s, and it gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I have put them on the path to surviving for centuries to come.

Favorite book: Dune by Frank Herbert.

Favorite movie: Dune (David Lynch, 1984).

Favorite Television Show: Anything with Jacques Pepin in it.

Favorite quote Paul uses as a guide in life: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

How to reach Paul: Office: 205-226-3663; Southern History Department: 205-226-3665; or visit him at the Southern History Department.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Finding Answers in DNA for African Americans and Native American Genealogical Research

Anyone researching their family tree knows that DNA is the hottest trend in genealogy. Genetic genealogy can often break down brick walls or confirm suspicions that you found in your research. One of the most difficult things to do is African American and Native American genealogical research. DNA does provide clues, but there is no magic in genetic genealogy and no special tests for African American and Native American research. However, you can make choices that will make DNA testing an invaluable tool in your research.

Beyond the Basics of Genealogy

Our final Beyond the Basics of Genealogy workshop is Genetic Genealogy Strategies for African American and Native American Research. It will be held in the Arrington Auditorium on Saturday, October 1, 10:00-11:30 a.m. Workshops are free of charge, but registration is requested. To register, contact the Southern History Department of the Birmingham Public Library at 205-226-3665 or

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Registration Open For October 2016 Classes

Registration is now open for staff and the public for the October 2016 class schedule. During this month, we include a variety of classes including Basic PC, Excel 2010 Basic, and Hiring Process for Jefferson County. All classes are held in the Regional Library Computer Center (RLCC) of the Central (downtown) Library. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CLASSES.

Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. You will receive an email confirming your registration for classes. You may also call to confirm your registration.

To register for any class, please email us at or call 205-226-3681. You may also download and print a pdf copy of the October 2016 class scheduleto bring to a Computer Commons staff member on your next library visit. Please note that the October 2016 class schedule pdf can be sent to us as an email attachment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Teens Engineer Birmingham Program Expands at Birmingham Public Library This Fall

(l-r) Josia Hudson and Michael Joseph at Southside Library's STEM program

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the UAB Benevolent Fund, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL)’s Teens Engineer Birmingham (TEB) afterschool program has expanded from the Central Library to two additional branch libraries this fall.

In mid-September, the Woodlawn Branch Library began offering TEB for students from nearby Woodlawn High School on Mondays at 3:30 p.m. On Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m., the Southside Branch Library is now hosting TEB for students from nearby Ramsay High School. The Central Library has added more activities for participants of its TEB afterschool program, held on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. and comprised mostly of students from nearby Phillips Academy.

BPL purchased 3D printers and other engineering equipment to expand the program after being chosen as recipient in February of $50,000 from the UAB Benevolent Fund, a grant program funded by UAB employees. Lance Simpson, system teen librarian for BPL, and Carrie Campbell, now working in the Arts, Literature and Sports Department and formerly grants and special projects librarian, submitted the grant application on behalf of BPL.

“Our teens are very excited, and so are the UAB students with whom we've been working,” Simpson said. “This program will encourage students to push themselves academically and prepare them for great success in future STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers.”

The UAB School of Engineering has partnered with BPL’s Central Library since 2015, coordinating the engineering program offered for school children in Birmingham, including Phillips Academy. Dr. Abi Yildirim, director of outreach for UAB’s School of Engineering, and UAB student mentors work with the teens participating in all three BPL engineering programs.

Lisa Higginbotham, UAB Benevolent Fund program manager, said in a statement last December that UAB is honored to support the BPL Teens Engineer Birmingham program.

“We appreciate the work BPL does in our community and we look forward to a strong continued working relationship with BPL,” Higginbotham said. “The Community Impact Grant is a unique and engaging opportunity for UAB employees to make their voices heard and make a deep, lasting impact in our community.”

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Great College Football Season Already

Winningest College Football Teams in Each State

I cannot be happier that college football is back. We are in Week 3 and rankings have been moving around like pieces on a chess board. The first week of the season is always very exciting because I can’t wait to see if teams live up to the preseason hype and hang on to their rankings. Good recruiting classes and healthy returning starters are important, but you never know what’s going to happen until the teams take the field.

Several games during Week 1 changed the football landscape. It was no surprise that top-ranked Alabama defeated #20 USC down in Texas, but the score was quite a surprise (52-6). I expected a top-25 team to put up better numbers and so did the Associated Press. USC dropped out of the top 25. Tennessee entered the season at #9 but needed overtime to beat Appalachian State (20-13). They dropped to #17 but their Week 2 win over Virginia Tech (45-24) elevated them to #15. Houston entered the season at #15, but the show they put on at home defeating #3 Oklahoma (33-23) elevated them all the way to #6. Oklahoma dropped down to #14.

One of the best opening week games, in my opinion, was #10 Notre Dame vs. Texas. Texas has a history of great quarterbacks (e.g. Vince Young, Colt McCoy) and their true-freshman gunslinger, Shane Buechele, is no exception. He had two touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown in his first college game. The teams battled through double overtime with Texas pulling out the win (50-47). As a result, Texas went from unranked to #11. Notre Dame dropped to #18.

I was excited to see LSU ranked at #5 to begin the season because college football is more fun to me when several SEC teams are expected to have a strong season. Unfortunately, they lost to an unranked Wisconsin team (16-14) which dropped them down to #21.  They moved up one spot to #20 after their Week 2 victory over Jacksonville State (34-13). Wisconsin landed at #10 after the victory and gained an additional spot (#9) after their Week 2 victory over Akron (54-10).  It's a long season, though, and you can never sleep on LSU.

I hope you are enjoying the first few weeks of college football season.  I expect a lot of great games and plenty of shuffling in the AP Top 25.  If we can get some cooler weather to go along with all this football, that would be perfect.  Enjoy the season!