Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Library Releases New African American Booklist

African American BooklistThe Birmingham Public Library (BPL) hosted a series of programs focusing on the arts in February—visual arts, performing arts, language arts, and theatre arts. Now as it wraps up programming for Black History Month, BPL continues to highlight the arts by showcasing literary works with the release of its annual publication the African American Booklist.

This 2012 publication includes 115 book titles—with brief descriptions—of works published last year by and about African Americans. "The African American Booklist is a compilation of our librarians’ reading suggestions. Our goal in creating and publishing the list is to help patrons make choices on what to read next,” states Renee Blalock, Director of the Birmingham Public Library. The publication includes titles for adults, teens, and youth, along with a list of top ten titles in the BPL collection. Copies of the African American Booklist are free and available at the Central Library downtown and all BPL branch locations.

'Beary' Loved Author Dies

Most of us have the Berenstain Bears to thank for helping us through childhood issues such as fear of going to the doctor, dealing with bullies, and resolving sibling rivalries. In the 50 years, 300 titles, and 260 million copies, our endearing ursine family has been a part of many story times and childhoods. This past Friday, half of the husband-wife team of this successful children’s literature, Jan Berenstain, died in Solebury, PA, after suffering a stroke. She was 88. Her husband, Stan, passed in 2005 at the age of 82.

Born Janice Grantin in Philadelphia, Mrs. Berenstain met her future husband in an art class at the Philadelphia Museum of Industrial Art in 1941. She completed her studies at the Philadelphia College of Art as Mr. Berenstain served as a medical artist in the Army during World War II. They were married in 1946 and began their collaboration on cartoons for the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. It is said that Mr. Berenstain contributed the humor and she for the heart-warming stories. By 1956, the team published monthly cartoons in McCall’s magazine called “It’s All in the Family.”

After much encouragement by their two sons, the Berenstains submitted their first children’s book to Theodore Geisel, better known to many as Dr. Seuss, who at that time was editor in chief and president of Beginner Books, a division of Random House. It was our introduction to the warm Mama Bear, the comedic Papa Bear, and the rambunctious siblings Brother and Sister Bear. Geisel also suggested the characters be named after them.

After Mr. Berenstain’s death, Mrs. Berenstain continued her literary collaboration with her son Mike, who will run the family enterprise with his brother. Nineteen new Berenstain books are scheduled to be published this year.

Branch News

The Woodlawn Branch Library will be closed to the public Wednesday, February 29 thru Friday, March 2 due to AC problems. The library is tentatively planned to reopen Monday, March 5.

BPL's neighborhood libraries—Ensley, Inglenook, North Avondale, Powderly, Woodlawn, and Wylam—will return to their regular scheduled hours of 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. on Monday, March 5.

Today's Brown Bag Lunch Program: The Fight Continues in an Unlikely Place: African American Comic Art

BBL program logoJeffreen Hayes, Curator of African-American art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, will discuss the work of two African American comic artists: Brumsic Brandon Jr. and Aaron McGruder. Wednesday, February 29, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's
Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WORD UP! Poetry Series Spotlights Southeast’s Top Talents

In an era where it can be challenging to get the attention of high-school students, the WORD UP! Poetry Slam has garnered both their attention and involvement. Launched in partnership with high schools in Jefferson County, WORD UP! marks its fifth anniversary in April 2012. As the preliminary student competition gets underway—this competition will occur at participating high schools through the end of March—the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will host WORD UP! The Art of the Word on Tuesday evenings in March at 6:30 p.m. in the Richard Arrington, Jr. Auditorium of the Central Library, showcasing the talents of noted poets throughout the Southeast.

M. Ayodele Heath
M. Ayodele Heath

The Art of the Word series kicks off on March 6 with Atlanta native M. Ayodele Heath, author of Otherness (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2010). Heath is a graduate of the MFA program at New England College and is the two-time Southeastern Regional Slam Champion and top-10 finisher at the National Poetry Slam.

Kevin Young
Kevin Young

The March 13 program features Kevin Young who is regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation. Young’s most recent book, Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (Knopf, 2011), was named one of the best Poetry Books of 2011. Before earning an MFA degree from Brown University, Young studied at Harvard under Seamus Haney, who was often recognized as one of the major poets of the twentieth century.

Irene Latham
Irene Latham

On March 20, members of the community are invited to share famous favorite poems during My Favorite Poem. Modeled after former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project, the program will be moderated by Irene Latham, poetry editor for the Birmingham Arts Journal and author of the award-winning poetry collections The Color of Lost Rooms (Blue Rooster Press, 2011) and What Came Before (Negative Capability Press 2007), and the novel Leaving Gee's Bend.

Elizabeth Hughey
Elizabeth Hughey

The final program on March 27 features Birmingham resident Elizabeth Hughey, recipient of the prestigious Iowa Poetry Prize for her book Sunday Houses: The Sunday House (University of Iowa Press, 2006). She earned an MFA degree at the University of Massachusetts and teaches creative writing at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

The four-program series promises to be inspiring and entertaining for both teens and adults celebrating the art of the word.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Exhibition Focused on “Simpler Times” Opens at Central Library

Maurice Cook painting
Though material possessions were limited in the rural area where Maurice Cook grew up, his family was rich in love, warmth, and compassion for one another. These are the elements and emotions reflected in his exhibition Simpler Times: The Paintings of Maurice Cook. This show by the Birmingham resident and folk artist who grew up in Carbon Hill opens in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Central Library on Tuesday, February 28, and runs through Friday, April 13.

Cook is self-taught and his work depicts people enjoying life and activities typically found throughout the rural South. One of the characteristics of Cook’s art is that although the activities are easily identified, the people are anonymous—they do not have faces. He paints them without facial features to create images that can be universal. Cook explains, “I want all people to relate to my paintings. I try to tell the story with body language.”

He began painting professionally in 1994. Working primarily in acrylics, Cook’s art is honed from experiences and impressions through his lens on life—working as a juvenile detention officer, barber, welder, and fireman. Cook has exhibited in numerous shows including the Birmingham Art Walk, Montevallo Art Show (where he was recipient of the 2010 Award of Excellence), Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, and the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, Virginia.

Bards & Brews Returns to Central Library March 2

Bards & Brews logo
Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) popular Bards & Brews poetry performance and beer tasting series returns to its place of origin on Friday, March 2. Held the first Friday of each month, the March edition of Bards & Brews heads back home to the Central Library as an OPEN MIC event rather than a poetry slam. The musical entertainment will be provided by singer/songwriter and guitar player Kurt Jenkins beginning at 6:30 p.m. Brian “Voice Porter” Hawkins is the emcee. He will deftly guide both novice and veteran poets through an evening of verbal banter ranging from comic to social commentary starting at 7:00 p.m. The Central Library is located at 2100 Park Place.

Bards & Brews is one of the ways the Birmingham Public Library is reaching out to a younger demographic. The craft beer movement in which beer is elevated to the level of fine wine as something to be savored and appreciated has really taken hold especially among the younger generation. The pairing of beer tastings with the poetry slams—which have grown in popularity in recent years—makes the program a natural fit for the library. This combination has broad appeal. The slams held last year attracted some of the most diverse audiences BPL has had for any programming. Last month, more than 120 attended the program at the Avondale Regional Library.

Craft beer will be available for sampling along with light refreshments. You must be 18 to attend Bards & Brews and age 21 to sample the beer. IDs will be checked. This program is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, visit our website at or check us out on Facebook.

Basic Home Repair Class Offered at Powderly Library

Saundra Hill demonstrating home repair how-to.

Are you a senior citizen having problems with basic home repairs? Is your drain clogged? Do you have lights that that need replacing but can't be reached? The seniors at Powderly Branch Library have been learning how to handle all these tasks and more. Saundra Hill of Wiggins Recreation Center has been teaching seniors basic home repairs. Meetings are held the third Friday of each month from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. The next class on Friday, March 16, is “Circuit Breakers and Changing Fuses.”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Life Before Sookie Stackhouse

True Blood“You’re different,” he said. “What are you?” . . . “Well. I’m Sookie Stackhouse, and I’m a waitress,” I told him. “What’s your name?” . . . “Bill,” he said. Dead Until Dark (2001) by Charlaine Harris

If you’re a fan of the TV show True Blood, I’m sure you know all about Sookie and Bill. What you may not know is that long before Charlaine Harris wrote her first Sookie Stackhouse novel, she was writing a mystery series featuring librarian-turned-detective Aurora Teagarden. The first Aurora Teagarden novel, Real Murders, was published in 1990. Due to the success of True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse books, Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series is being republished in hardcover. The new hardcover edition of Real Murders was released in 2010 and books two through four were released in 2011. Book five of the series, Dead Over Heels, will be released in March. If you like Charlaine Harris, check out this series and follow the adventures of Aurora Teagarden.

Real MurdersA Bone to Pick Three Bedrooms, One Corpse The Julius House Dead Over Heels

  1. Real Murders -- One of the members of Aurora Teagarden's crime club, Real Murders, is murdered and the other members of the club become suspects.

  2. A Bone to Pick -- Aurora inherits the estate of a deceased Real Murders Club member and discovers a human skull inside the house with the note, "I didn't do it."

  3. Three Bedrooms, One Corpse -- Having quit her librarian job after she inherited a fellow club member's estate, Aurora decides to pursue a real estate career. At her first house showing, she finds the naked corpse of another real estate agent.

  4. The Julius House -- Aurora marries wealthy businessman Martin Bartell and moves into the Julius House. The Julius family disappeared six years earlier and when Aurora is attacked inside the house, she tries to uncover the secrets of the house and her new husband.

  5. Dead Over Heels -- A plane circling overhead drops the murdered body of Detective Sergeant Jack Burns into Aurora's backyard.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Brown Bag Lunch Program: The Fight Continues in an Unlikely Place: African American Comic Art

BBL program logoJeffreen Hayes, Curator of African-American art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, will discuss the work of two African American comic artists: Brumsic Brandon Jr. and Aaron McGruder. Wednesday, February 29, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

The Art of Science March Programs: Science of Geometry

Art of Science logo

A futuristic structure of someplace
Not your typical stick and stone.
Each triangle unit’s face
Creates a geodesic dome.

Participants will learn about the science of geometry and work together to create a geodesic dome.

The Art of Science is a grant-funded after-school program conducted by Elinor and Winfield Burks at six Birmingham Public Library branches: Avondale, East Lake, Five Points West, Ensley, Powderly, and Springville Road. The program will run nine months—from September 2011 through December 2012—and will cover the science of nutrition, geometry, sound, plants, optics, recycling, and materials engineering in a hands-on atmosphere. Each program will begin with a science principle and end with a craft or group project. Supplies for the crafts are provided.

At each session, the library will showcase books and videos about the program’s topic, and introduce age-appropriate databases for children to further explore what they learned at each program.

The Art of Science is made possible by the Kresge Arts in Birmingham, a partnership with the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham.

March Programs
Five Points West Regional Library, March 6, 4:00 p.m.
Ensley Branch Library, March 8, 3:15 p.m.
Avondale Regional Library, March 9, 3:15 p.m.
East Lake Branch Library, March 13, 3:30 p.m.
Springville Road Regional Library, March 14, 4:00 p.m.
Powderly Branch Library, March 27, 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Latest in Urban Fiction

For all my Urban Fiction fans out there, here is a sample of what you can expect to find in the library soon. All descriptions are from the publisher.

Baltimore Chronicles Volume 4Bi-Curious Volume 2Deception

FrostbiteGet It Girls Man Swappers

Baltimore Chronicles, Vol. 4 by Treasure Hernandez

Scar Johnson is the biggest drug dealer in Baltimore, and with the help of his girlfriend, who happens to be a District Attorney, he has become the most untouchable. But is he really safe? The mysterious observer has come out of the shadows and infiltrated the Dirty Money Crew. Together with his accomplice, he plans to exact revenge on Scar.

Bi-Curious, Vol. 2: Life After Sadie by Natalie Weber

Weber delivers the powerful and provocative tale of a woman whose bi-curious nature gets her into more trouble than she can escape.

Deception by Naomi Chase

Acquitted of murder, Tamia Luke is on a mission to reclaim all she’s lost, including her ex, Brandon, who saved her life. Brandon’s about to get married, but Tamia’s determined, even if it means resorting to deception. Her sister, Fiona, betrayed Tamia to save her own skin. Now the two share a scandalous secret that may destroy both their plans to start over.

Frostbite by Eric Pete

His real name is Truth, but most don't call him that. He's a man...a ghost...a figment that the lucky ones don't even know exists. And who you really don't want to know. But sometimes the past can come back to bite even the most prepared. Now, the man who is paid to destroy people's lives, finds himself suddenly having to save one.

Get it Girls: A Harlem Girl Lost Novel by Treasure Blue

When Jessica Jones and her three best friends venture out on prom night, a tragic incident turns a night of high school achievement into a crime scene, and Jessica and her girls are left with bloody hands and shattered futures. After spending years paying off a debt that wasn't theirs, Jessica and her friends return to Harlem to find it changed.

Man Swappers by Cairo

By day, bombshell sisters Porsha, Persia, and Paris do everything together. And getting the attention from the opposite sex has never been a problem for these vixens. In fact, they’ve had more than their share of men vying for their attention. But there’s a catch: You date one sister, you date them all.

If you would like to be notified about new Urban Fiction titles, just sign up to receive e-mail notifications each month when the New Urban Fiction list is published on the library website.

Simply Adele

At a time when we have lost many popular female singers including such greats as Etta James, Teena Marie, Amy Winehouse, and Whitney Houston, a young singer/songwriter has emerged from relative obscurity to win the musical hearts and minds of many new fans worldwide.

Offering the raspiness of a Janis Joplin or Bonnie Raitt, yet with a polish worthy of Lisa Stansfield, she has become the latest iteration of blue-eyed soul.

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, now widely known simply as Adele, was born in north London to a single mother on May 5, 1988. During her childhood the two moved about the edges of London under modest circumstances with little fanfare, though Adele did show musical aptitude at an early age. In 2006 a friend of hers posted a demonstration of her talent onto Myspace that led to her discovery by a professional agent.

She released her first album in early 2008 at the age of 19 appropriately titled 19, and became an immediate hit with the British public. Her reception in the United States moved on a slower trajectory. Finally, after much play of her video “Chasing Pavements” on VH1 and a musical guest spot on the same Saturday Night Live episode that featured Sarah Palin, her recognition and popularity in the states began to soar. In 2009 Adele won two Grammy awards in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance as well as being nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Her second album was released in January 2011 and was titled 21, again for her age. This release was greeted with popular acclaim, especially in the UK where many chart records were broken. Adele became the first living musical artist to achieve two top five hits in both the Singles Chart and Albums Chart simultaneously since the Beatles in 1964. By September the album had sold over 3 million copies and has gone on to become the best-selling album of the 21st century to date.

Critics who had claimed her strength was only in her captivating alto vocals were forced to concede her talents as a songwriter and as a master of diverse musical styles. Suspicion that she would fade away as a one-hit wonder for her song “Chasing Pavements” all but disappeared.

In 2011 Adele began a sold out North American tour. Due to inordinate stress on her ailing vocal cords, she had to cancel a couple of shows in October to take rest. She did manage a performance in London at the spectacular Royal Albert Hall (Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD) where she commented on her affliction. In November she underwent surgery on her hemorrhaging cords in Massachusetts.

She would not perform publicly again until the 2012 Grammy Awards on February 12, 2012, when she nailed a performance of her hit “Rolling in the Deep.” On this evening, guests, presenters, performers, nominees, awardees, and viewers alike battled their stunned disbelief and sorrow over the only hours-old news of Whitney Houston’s sudden passing. With all due respect, the evening continued forward to honor the musical excellence of the previous year. Adele won all six of the categories for which she was nominated including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. If there seems to be an echo, there is. Beyonce, a major fan of Adele’s, won six Grammy awards at the previous year’s celebration.

Before Adele could catch a breath, it was time for the Brit Awards (the British equivalent to the Grammy) held at London’s O2 Arena on February 21, 2012. Here, she once again performed her hit single “Rolling in the Deep,” giving her concerned British fans the reassurance that her voice was in fine shape following her surgery. She won two of her three nominations. She lost Best Single to the One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.” An emotional George Michael presented her with the Brit for Best British Album of the Year for 21. Perhaps the most interesting “Adele moment” of the evening came when she was presented with the award for Best British Female Solo Artist of the Year. When Kylie Minogue handed her the Brit, Adele, never shy to speak her mind, quipped, “Thank you so much. I feel like a drag queen next to Kylie. It’s been an amazing year and I want to thank my record company for letting me be the kind of artist I wanted to be.”

Given all of the acclaim, the ongoing accolades and the trophies, it would appear that Adele would need a warehouse or a museum in which to store them. The recognition comes well-deserved. Adele’s voice, her stage presence, her song-writing acumen, and her determined perseverance, all coupled with her “rags to riches” rise, make her the enviable woman of the year.

Her best-selling albums, 19 and 21 are both available at the Birmingham Public Library as is the DVD, Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall. Check these out for free and discover the artistry and diversity of Adele.

Notice that her newest award-winning hit “Rolling in the Deep” starts with a steady, tribal-sounding beat and suddenly ramps up to a cascading joy that will make you rise to your feet in exultation. The gorgeous ballad, “Turning Tables” will leave you mesmerized in romantic melancholy. The songs “Set Fire to the Rain” and “Someone Like You” will call to mind the beautiful piano work of Coldplay. Her mastery of many styles is loaded with soul and rhythm and blues, but also contains touches of gospel (“Take It All”) and of country (“Don’t You Remember” and “One and Only”) as well.

If you have ever loved the pop sounds of Lulu, Dusty Springfield, Mama Cass Elliot, or Duffy, you would do well to discover Adele.

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, or simply . . .


Submitted by David Blake
Fiction Department
Central Library

Book Signing Featuring Children's Author Cynthia Levinson at Central Library Tonight at 6:30

book cover
Nationally known children’s author Cynthia Levinson will speak and sign copies of her new book We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree Publishers, 2012) at the Central Library, Thursday, February 23, at 6:30 p.m. In her book, written for young readers age ten and up, Levinson tells the story of four young civil rights activists who took part in the Birmingham demonstrations. Three of those activists, James W. Stewart (age 15 in 1963), Arnetta Streeter (age 16 in 1962), and Washington Booker III (age 14 in 1963), will join the author to share their memories.

Copies of We’ve Got a Job will be available for purchase and signing ($15.00). The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information contact Jim Baggett, or 205-226-3631.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One of Three Women to Play in Negro League Shares Her Story

Mamie “Peanut” Johnson is Featured Black History Month Speaker

During an era when playing professional sports was filled with obstacles for women and African Americans, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson was one of just three women to play in the Negro League. Now 77 years-old, Johnson will take her anticipated audience of middle-school students and others on a journey back in time to when she was a 100 pound ballplayer breaking into the game. Come out and celebrate Black History Month and baseball with the Birmingham Public Library on Monday, February 27 at 10:00 a.m. in the Richard Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library. Johnson’s autobiography, A Strong Right Arm written by Michelle Y. Green, will be available for purchase and signing.

Johnson’s skill, passion, and commitment to play scored her a spot on the roster of the Indianapolis Clowns. In 1953 Bish Tyson, a former Negro League player, observed Johnson practicing. Recognizing her athletic abilities, he suggested she play professional ball and introduced her to the manager of the Indianapolis Clowns. After only one tryout, Johnson made the team. Johnson played professional baseball for three seasons from 1953 to 1955. During her tenure, she won 33 games and lost 8. Her batting average ranged from .262 to .284. "Just to know that you were among some of the best male ballplayers that ever picked up the bat, made all of my baseball moments great moments," Johnson proudly stated.

After her baseball career ended, Johnson worked as a licensed nurse. Now retired from her second profession of nursing, Johnson now manages the Negro Baseball League’s Memorabilia Shop in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Today's Brown Bag Lunch Program: Plays on the Go

BBL program logoChristi Toyer, Artistic Director of Plays on the Go Touring Company, will offer an energetic exploration of poetry, song, and dance as a cultural and traditional journey through the lives of African Americans who have survived hardships, and who are living with hope and believing in a dream. Wednesday, February 22, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Remembering Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston album cover
During the mid-1980s, I recall buying many hits of a new singer on the block named Whitney Houston, whose slow powerhouse ballads would always tug on the heart strings. Not only could she sing, but she was a beautiful caramel honey that all of my male classmates in high school dreamed of meeting. Some of her early hits included “Saving All My Love For You,” “You Give Good Love,” and “The Greatest Love of All,” and were released from her debut album, Whitney Houston. These ballads were infused with fiery gospel fervor and pop appeal that appealed to not only the black music market but to the mainstream as well. Whitney could also spin out songs such as “How Will I Know” that would get you moving on the dance floor and turn them into hit records. The hits from her debut album had seven consecutive U.S. number ones, which surpassed the Beatles' record. The album sold three million copies its first year in the U.S. and went on to sell 25 million worldwide, winning her the first of six Grammys.

The 1987 follow–up album Whitney included the hits, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” In 1991, she sang a definitive version of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, which was played on the radio often after this defining moment. The 1992 film The Bodyguard placed her in the echelon of best-selling artists of all time. Her acting performance in the movie was not highly praised but the soundtrack album and her cover of the Dolly Parton song “I Will Always Love You” topped the singles and albums charts for months and sold 44 million copies worldwide. Whitney Houston took this ballad and squeezed every bit of emotion out of it as she sang it using melismas, vocal swells, and vocal dynamics that showcased her “money notes.”This same year she married ex-New Edition singer Bobby Brown, with whom she had her only child—their daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown born in March 1993. It was around this time that her voice and behavior began to change.

Her next album, My Love Is Your Love, was released in 1998 and did fairly well. Whitney Houston’s 2009 comeback album I Look to You was positively received and sold well but her promotional performances were marred by her weakened voice. Her final acting performance was in Sparkle (2012), a remake of the 1976 movie

Whitney Houston was destined to have a Stradivarius voice. Her mother is the well-known gospel star Cissy Houston of the Drinkard Singers, a famous gospel group from Newark, New Jersey. Cissy also performed with another group, The Sweet Inspirations, that recorded their own records and also provided background vocals for such artist as Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, and Aretha Franklin, to name a few. Whitney was also the cousin of the songstress Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin. Whitney was discovered by Clive Davis while performing with her mother in nightclubs. Clive Davis knew that she possessed something special in her voice and had the right formula to propel her into music history. Thus began her long career with Arista Records.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston passed away on February 11, 2012, in a Beverly Hills hotel where she was to attend Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party a few nights before the Grammys were to take place.

It is so pleasing to my ears to hear this songbird’s sweet music when I listen to the recorded legacy she left for the entire world to hear. Gone but not forgotten.

RIP Whitney Houston.

Submitted by Russell Lee
Arts, Literature, and Sports Department
Central Library

Friends Bookstore News

Dear Bookstore Patrons,

We've just received a new supply of best sellers, including:

James Patterson, Christmas Wedding
Catherine Coulter, Prince of Ravenscar
Iris Johanson, Bonnie
Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me
James Lee Burke, Feast Day of Fools
Danielle Steel, Hotel Vendome
John Sanford, Shock Wave

Also, we have a couple of book sets that are not on display, but may be of interest. We have a 20 volume Authors Digest, 1908 edition, a monogram edition certified in Vol. I to have been prepared for Henrietta M. Sample. The digest contains examples of the writings of many great authors. Comparable sets have dealer prices at various on-line sites of $125 to $185. We received this set through a donation from the family of Mary Anderson Tutwiler. We have priced the set for $45.00.

We also received a 10 volume set of Source Book Encyclopedia, dated 1931, which describes itself as "an international encyclopedic authority written from the New World Viewpoint prepared by over two hundred authorities in the fields of literature, art and science." This set is sold by the volume at prices ranging from $10 a volume to $14.50 a volume. We have priced our 10 volume set at $40.

We've attached a photo of these two sets for your evaluation. If you know of any collectors or bibliophiles who might be interested, please pass the word to them.

Thank you!
The Bookstore Staff

BPL Archivist Reviews Book on Birmingham Children's March

Revolutions are made by small groups of people. Most American colonists did not fight the British. And in Birmingham most people, black and white, sat out the street protests that helped end legally sanctioned racial segregation. During the Civil Rights demonstrations of April and May 1963, a few more than 1,000 adults were arrested. Not enough to fill the jails and force white officials to negotiate a truce. The shock troops of the Birmingham movement were children and teenagers who marched and were arrested by the thousands — no one is sure how many. Cynthia Levinson tells their story in We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree Publishers, 2012).

Writing for young readers age 10 and up, Levinson looks at the 1963 protests through the experiences of four young demonstrators: Audrey Faye Hendricks (age 9), James W. Stewart (age 15), Arnetta Streeter (age 16) and Washington Booker III (known as Wash, age 14). Levinson, who writes for several children’s magazines, joins an impressive group of authors writing Civil Rights history for kids. These include National Book Award winner Phillip M. Hoose, author of Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009) and Larry Dane Brimner, author of Birmingham Sunday (Boyds Mills Press, 2010), a history of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.

The young people featured in We’ve Got a Job each came to activism in their own way. Audrey Hendricks was a child of Civil Rights workers. She attended mass meetings with her parents and wanted to make her own contribution. James Stewart, son of a physician, learned that his comfortable middle-class life did not protect him from the indignities of segregation. And while his family lived in a comfortable home with a swimming pool, he saw the poverty of other African-American children. Arnetta Streeter, also a child of activists, helped found the Peace Ponies, a service club at all-black Ullman High School. Originally planning to mentor younger students and practice thrift, the Peace Ponies decided to battle segregation instead. Wash Booker, who liked to wear “a Davy Crockett coonskin cap,” remembered standing at the window of Newberry’s Department Store watching the white people inside eat banana splits at the lunch counter. He wanted one too.

During the climax of the demonstrations, the Birmingham police arrested so many young protestors that they filled the city jails. Like many of the kids who marched, Wash Booker played hooky without his mother’s knowledge to go to the demonstrations. When she dropped him at school, he went in the front door and straight out the back door with hundreds of other young people. Unable to arrest more, Bull Connor tried to drive the demonstrators from the streets with dogs and fire hoses. Young bodies absorbed many of the blasts as children and teenagers held on to one another. Arnetta Streeter recalled that she and another girl were “hugging together; and the water just washed the two of us down the street.” The pressure from the hoses tore away clothing and young girls were picked up by the force of the water and thrown over the tops of cars. But the children kept coming. Bull Connor vanquished many opponents during his long political career, but he was no match for the Peace Ponies.

As world opinion bore down on Birmingham and the peaceful demonstrations turned to riots, the city’s black and white leaders worked out a compromise. They desegregated department stores and agreed to talk about desegregating schools and the police department. Looking back over fifty years, it doesn’t seem like much. But it was more than white Birmingham had ever given up and it was an important step toward ending legal, if not actual, segregation. For the young people who helped lead the revolution, it meant they were freer to grow up as full citizens of their country, and freer to be kids. Arnetta Streeter went to the movies at the Alabama Theatre and sat on the main floor, not in the balcony. Audrey Hendricks had dinner out with her parents “at restaurants where they had never been able to eat.” James Stewart watched the world changing around him with pleasure, and like Arnetta, took in a movie at the Alabama. Wash Booker went to Newberry’s and sat on a stool at the shiny, stainless steel lunch counter. He ate ice cream.

Cynthia Levinson, Washington Booker, James W. Stewart and Arnetta Streeter will speak at the downtown Birmingham Public Library, on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Copies of We’ve Got a Job will be available for purchase and signing.

Jim Baggett is Archivist at the Birmingham Public Library. He can be reached at Follow the Archives on Facebook.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Last Week to Visit the African American History Makers Quilt Exhibition

quilt of the ObamasElegance, Lumumba's representation of Barack and Michelle Obama

Aisha Lumumba's quilts will be displayed in the Central Library's Fourth Floor Gallery through Friday, February 24. Don't miss your chance to see these African American heritage quilts in person. Lumumba has been quilting since she was a teenager, and the more than 25 years of experience show in her quilted pop culture images of Whoopi Goldberg; Biggie Smalls; Oprah Winfrey and her BFF, Gail King; Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles; Halle Berry; Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Academy Award for her role in Gone with the Wind; and many others.

A native of McDonough, Georgia, Lumumba now resides in Atlanta. She is a member of the Brown Sugar Stitchers Quilt Guild, the Ebony Stitchers Quilt Guild, Black Art in America, and African Americans for the Arts. Her quilts are in the collections of Ambassador Andrew Young, The Atrium on Sweet Auburn, and President & Mrs. Obama.

Research Your House at the Central Library

picture of house
A house on Indian Hill Road, Vestavia, 1961...

picture of house
and in 2012.

You’ve just purchased an old house and you want to research its history. So where do you start? First, it’s important to note that not every home will have documentation of historic significance. Keeping that in mind, the Central Library offers several avenues to start your research.

Your first step will be to obtain a parcel ID for the property you are researching. If you own your property, you should be able to find the ID number in your closing documents or on your property tax bill. If you are unable to locate the parcel ID, you can go to the Business, Science & Technology Department at the Central Library and use the RealQuest database to obtain the ID number. The RealQuest database also provides detailed property profiles, parcel maps, and street map plus.

After obtaining the parcel ID, you can go to the Archives Department to see if they have Board of Equalization records on your property. According to the Archives Department, the BOE files contain basic information on the structures and accessed values on properties built before the mid 1970s. Some of the files also contain pictures of the fa├žade of the structure and references for deeds and mortgages.

The next step is for those who are interested in researching previous occupants of their home. The Southern History Department has the Polk directories dating back to 1883 in bound-book format. The directory can identify the name of the resident, including the spouse’s name. Sometimes the directories provide the resident’s occupation and/or place of work.

As you can see, the Central Library is a good starting point in researching the history of your house.

Submitted by Busines, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

Friday, February 17, 2012

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Plays on the Go

BBL program logoChristi Toyer, Artistic Director of Plays on the Go Touring Company, will offer an energetic exploration of poetry, song, and dance as a cultural and traditional journey through the lives of African Americans who have survived hardships, and who are living with hope and believing in a dream. Wednesday, February 22, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

Libraries Use Poetry Therapy as Post-Storm Rx

Voices from the Storms flyerThe Birmingham Public Library’s (BPL) “Voices from the Storms” takes a page from the Operation Homecoming writing program for military veterans as an initiative to aid survivors of the tornadoes in central Alabama in 2011 and 2012. “Voices from the Storms” encourages area residents to turn to expressive writing to share their thoughts and emotions as part of the post-tornado healing process. Originally slated to end in January, the deadline for submitting an original poem, short story, or essay has been extended to March 31. You may e-mail your submissions to Haruyo Miyagawa, Arts/Literature/Sports Department, Central Library at or you can turn in hard copies at any Jefferson County public library. All submissions will be posted to the Jefferson County Library Cooperative website: John Paul Taylor, executive director of Real Life Poets, will select the works that will be compiled and included in a paper anthology that will be available to library patrons free of charge.The program is open to all ages.

There are indications that expressive writing and poetry therapy can play an important role in improving health and well-being. In 2012, writing workshops will be part of the medical protocol to help service members heal at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, expanding the landmark 2004 Operation Homecoming partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Department of Defense.

The BPL and other members of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) have partnered with Real Life Poets, Inc. on the “Voices from the Storms” project. Real Life Poets, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit community service and mentoring organization for young adults encouraging good communication and oratorical skills using spoken word poetry and the arts.

Lady Hip-Hop History Kicks Off Black History Month at Smithfield Library

photo of Candice Hardy and participantsLady Hip-Hop History surrounded by some of her dance partners.

Candice Hardy a.k.a. Lady Hip-Hop History gave a lesson on the origin of dance from Africa through songs, poetry, and interactive dance at the Smithfield Branch Library on February 11. In Black History Speaks: Dancing Through Our Past, Hardy compared and contrasted stepping, salsa and hip-hop dancing to African dance while encouraging her audience to join in. This was the first program in a series at Smithfield Library that celebrates Black History Month.

February programs at Smithfield Branch Library:

Music of the Mines, Mills, and Railroads of the Birmingham District: Sloss Furnaces Presenter Depicts Labor-Related Music of the Birmingham District
Thursday, February 9, 2012
10:00 a.m.
Migrants pouring into Birmingham’s industrial district, whether from the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta or the Appalachian hills, carried with them their unique styles of music, as well as their unique traditions and culture.

National African American Read-In Chain
Thursday, February 16, 2012
3:30 p.m.
Shronda N. Major who will journey through African American history with dance, poetry and drama.

Photographic Exhibit of Artist Joe Minter’s African Village in America
Available throughout February at Smithfield Library
Mondays-Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Folk Artist Joe Minter began his African Village in America in 1988 after he received a vision from God. It resulted in a densely-packed art environment consisting of sculptures, monuments, signs, plantings, and totems. Located on his Woodlawn neighborhood property, Minter’s creation is an homage to the social and spiritual struggle of African Americans in America. These powerful images will be displayed throughout the month of February. Minter has donated several of his sculptures to the Smithfield Library.

Submitted by Smithfield Branch Library

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks—Not Just for Fiction

downloadable logo
The Arts, Literature, and Sports Department (ALS) has been acquiring downloadable eBooks and audiobooks for several months now on a variety of subjects to appeal to the varied interests of our readers. Fascinated by the lives of the rich and/or famous? Try a biography of Ice-T or Clint Eastwood. Need a mood pick-me-up? Try Adam Corolla's In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks, Maggie Rowe's Dirty Laundry, or Dave Barry's I'll Mature When I'm Dead. For the sports enthusiasts we have Gene Chizik's All In. If you're a music aficionado, you can download Life by Keith Richards.

If you have not already tried an eBook or audiobook from the ALS Department, spring break is rapidly approaching, and summer will soon be here. Vacation would be a great time to load up the Nook, Kindle, MP3, or smartphone and give downloadables a try. We think you'll be glad you did.

Submitted by Arts, Literature, and Sports Department
Central Library

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Civil Rights Activists and Author at BPL

book cover
Nationally known children’s author Cynthia Levinson will speak and sign copies of her new book We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree Publishers, 2012) at the Central Library, Thursday, February 23, at 6:30 p.m. In her book, written for young readers age ten and up, Levinson tells the story of four young civil rights activists who took part in the Birmingham demonstrations. Three of those activists, James W. Stewart (age 15 in 1963), Arnetta Streeter (age 16 in 1962), and Washington Booker III (age 14 in 1963), will join the author to share their memories.

Cynthia Levinson joins a long list of hundreds of authors who have researched books in the collections of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) Archives. These authors spend hours, months, or even years working closely with Archives staff. Reflecting on her research, Levinson says, “The book would not have been so comprehensive or revealing without the expertise of the library staff. In addition to providing excellent photographs from the library's collection and background information on ‘Bull’ Connor, the Archives team led me to resources providing answers on confounding but essential issues. Dr. King's mission was to ‘fill the jails.’ But, what did that mean? Nowhere could I find data on the number of jail cells in Birmingham in 1963. The BPL collection included a report from the American Civil Liberties Union that pinpointed the figure. That, combined with arrest records available from other sources, dramatically conveyed the inability of adults to ‘fill the jails’ in April 1963 and the need to turn to children."

Critics are raving about We’ve Got a Job. This past Sunday, the New York Times Book Review said, “This extensively researched account of the Birmingham Children’s March is enriched by Levinson’s in-depth interviews with dozens of its students and by its intimate focus on four of those children. Black and white photos and excerpts from documents of the time round out this riveting, significant work of nonfiction.” The Kirkus Review describes We’ve Got a Job as “A moving account of young people rising at a pivotal historical moment” and School Library Journal calls it “Amazing.”

Copies of We’ve Got a Job will be available for purchase and signing ($15.00). The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information contact Jim Baggett, or 205-226-3631.

Do you love Downton Abbey?

Downton Abbey Image
Picture walking down a winding path leading to a beautiful Edwardian style country estate. There's beauty behind the British interior walls, but also wicked secrets. Please, stop by for a spot of English tea and stroll through the magnificent English gardens. Don't rush, there's so much to see and learn.

The year is 1911; the extravagant Highclere Castle is the setting. We follow the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V. The first series follows the family through the two years before the Great War, beginning with the news of the sinking of the Titanic. From social life and customs during this period, to beautiful scenery, extravagant costuming, intrigue and delicious gossip, we love Downton Abbey.

If you love the PBS Primetime Emmy Award winning series, Downton Abbey, you might also consider checking out these books and dvds at your local library. If you haven't watched this series, get started today. We look forward to your visit.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
The English Country House by Gervase Jackson-Stops
The House at Riverton
by Kate Morton

Today's Brown Bag Lunch Program: Women in the Media

Malena Cunningham is President and CEO of Strategic Media Relations, Inc. In this one-hour segment, she shares her experiences as an award-winning journalist. Prior to launching Strategic Media Relations, Cunningham was evening news anchor for NBC13 covering numerous high profile stories including every gubernatorial race in Alabama since 1992 during her 12-year stint at NBC13. Cunningham is author of Savvy Leadership Strategies for Women; the book will be available for purchase and signing by the author. Wednesday, February 15, noon.

Feed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in Central Library’s Arrington Auditorium.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Friends Bookstore News

bookstore merchandisebookstore merchandise
bookstore merchandisebookstore merchandise

Greetings from the Friends Bookstore staff,

This month we're highlighting the Friends Bookstore gift shop.

To encourage you to check out items with our Friends logo, we have a special on our Aztec mug and soup cup with spoon. Regularly $5.95 and $7.95 each, we're dropping the .95 from each item and pairing them for only $12.00 for the rest of this month.

Also, check out our Friends water bottle for $10.95, our white ceramic Friends mug for $4.95, and our "sticky notebook" for $2.95. We also have a lovely metal bookmark with our logo.

We have Friends T-shirts in both red and green adult sizes and pink and green children sizes for $12.95, and a Friends tote bag that is $12.95 as well. We also have other library T-shirts and bags for less.

We have lightly used donated gift items such as candles and candle holders, puzzles, stuffed animals, journals, picture frames, and more.

And we have some of our nicer and more unusual books that are specially priced—to raise just a little more money for BPL. The books in the gift shop include new books offered by the Birmingham Historical Society, the Alabama Bench & Bar Historical Society, The Birmingham Public Library, and the Birmingham-Jefferson Historical Society. These books are sold for full price.

And, as usual, we are continually putting out additional donated and library-deacquisitioned books. This week we will be be putting out a new estate donation as well as more of the Rushton family donation. We'll give you more details as we get them ready. And thank you all for making our "stock reduction" sale a great success!

Unsung African American Opera Star Camilla Williams Is Silenced At The Age of 92

Camilla WilliamsWe still have Leontyne Price, Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman, Denyce Graves, and Barbara Hendricks, to name a few of the most famous African American opera divas of today, but there were great ones before these who paved the way. Before Marian Anderson there was Camilla Williams.

Williams performed the role of the doomed heroine Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on May 15, 1946, at City Center in Manhattan. She was the first black woman to secure a contract with a major United States opera company, a distinction widely ascribed in the public memory to the contralto Marian Anderson. This performance gained rave reviews and came nearly a decade before Marian Anderson sang at the Metropolitan Opera.

Although she was too well-mannered to boast about her deserved accolades in history, it caused her great private anguish. “The lack of recognition for my accomplishments used to bother me, but you cannot cry over those things,” Miss Williams said in a 1995 interview with the opera scholar Elizabeth Nash. “There is no place for bitterness in singing. It works on the cords and ruins the voice. In his own good time, God brings everything right.”

Camilla Williams was on the forefront of operatic trailblazing. In 1943, Williams won a Marian Anderson Award, a vocal scholarship established by Anderson. In 1944, she gave a recital in Stanford, Connecticut. In the audience was the soprano Geraldine Farrar, who was the Metropolitan Opera’s first Madama Butterfly in 1907. Farrar was captivated by William’s voice and became her mentor and helped her secure a contract with RCA Victor; she also helped her to secure management under the impresario Arthur Judson.

Gone but not forgotten on January 29, 2011. We applaud your artistry and contribution to the world of opera and say thank you for opening the door for Aida’s black sisters and brothers.

Submitted by Russell Lee
Arts, Literature and Sports Department
Central Library

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gardening from Seeds

It’s not too early. If you’ve been studying seed catalogs all winter and have already bought your peat pots, you know what I mean. It’s almost time to start seeds indoors! The Old Farmer's Almanac has some helpful tips in "Starting Seeds Indoors," as does Fine Gardening's "10 Seed-Starting Tips."

Most seeds can be started about six weeks before the last frost date, so you have about a month left to decide which varieties of peppers, tomatoes, and squash you want to start, or maybe you’re more interested in zinnias or cosmos. Whether you choose to plant flowers or vegetables, the library has the books for you. There are books on container gardening, vertical gardening, raising vegetables on your balcony, organic gardening, heirloom seeds, flowers for sun or shade, propagation, pruning, composting, and everything in between.

Start reading now to get a jump start on spring gardening.

Submitted by Business, Science & Technology Department
Central Library

Black History Web Resources for 2012-- sampling from BPL staff

Part of the work that Birmingham Public Librarians are doing in this digital age is finding the best- and therefore most credible- resources on the Internet (sort of the wheat-from-the-chaff analogy). Librarians have sometimes even been called the original search engines.

One of my former bosses, a wise and modest BPL librarian, keeps a famous quotation by Samuel Johnson next to her desk: "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."

Each year as we celebrate African American History Month, BPL is flooded with worthy assignments from young scholars across the city of Birmingham. In order to help these students, the librarians at BPL have sifted through hundreds of websites on Black History and chosen a few which have been helpful.

We hope that you'll enjoy them and as Thomas Jefferson once said, you will be "bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they [lead], and bearding every authority which [stands] in their way."

African-American Literature Book Club: Provides hundreds of profiles of African-American authors or authors who have written books important to the African-American community. (Site listed by Librarian’s Internet Index.)

African-American Women Writers: Presents text and images from the renowned Schomburg Center on the topic of African American women writers of the 19th century.

Birmingham Public Library Digital Collection of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing: Included as part of the Civil Rights Digital Library documenting America's struggle for racial equality. Database includes photographs, newspaper articles, and documents.

Birmingham Public Library African-American History & Culture: This site covers history, arts and culture, race and society, biographical profiles, and more, including more than 500 years of African-American history. This comprehensive reference database features informative entries, including biographies (some with quotes), primary sources, images, timelines, and maps and charts. Web links direct users to additional information sites.

Black Inventors A-Z: Provides biographies, inventions and photos of inventions.

Black Inventors Patent List: Gives a table of African American inventors - black inventors and the patents that they hold from every field of science and design.

The Buffalo Soldiers: Presents a through picture of the role Buffalo Soldiers played in American history beginning in 1866. Buffalo Soldiers from Wikipedia: Provides an overview.

Faces of Science Index: Contains an index of African American Scientists from their past, present and future by occupation or last name. Occupations include engineers, inventors, mathematicians and more. (Last updated September 11, 2007.)

Famous Firsts by African Americans: Lists famous African-Americans according to their groundbreaking firsts.

Gale Free Resources Black History: Gives historical information, biographies, educational activities, and quizzes. Profiles feature several dozen prominent black men and women in the biography section while briefly highlight events with an African American History Timeline.

History Channel: Celebrates Black History Month with biographies of historical figures, highlighting civil rights struggles and historical speeches from Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. to Jackie Robinson.

History Makers: Represents the single largest archival project of its kind in the world, dedicated to preserving African American history as the missing link in American history. Focuses on American history, oral history and education in general and more specifically on African American history, education, music, law, the arts, science, technology, media, medicine, entertainment, fashion & beauty, business, the military, politics and sports. (Link provided by American Library Association.)

Infoplease: Covers historical events and timelines, a variety of contemporary issues, 500 biographies of notable African-Americans and a special features section that covers such topics such as famous African-American quotes.

History of Black Achievement: Includes page-length biographies of black leaders, audio clips, and large and small portraits, browse alphabetically or chronologically.

History of Blacks in Mathematics: Supplies biographical informational for great blacks American Mathematicians.

Library of Congress’s American Memory: African-American Collection: Provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. American Memory from the Library of Congress - African-American

Negro Baseball Leagues: Offers information on the history, teams and players of the Negro Baseball Leagues.

The Oxford African American Studies Center: Combines the authority of carefully edited reference works with sophisticated technology to create the most comprehensive collection of scholarship available online to focus on the lives and events which have shaped African American and African history and culture.

PBS African American Reference Room: Provides over 300 articles from the reference company of Encyclopedia Britannica on leading African Americans and the events that define African American History.

People of Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys: Features profiles of African-American religious leaders through the last three centuries while exploring the connections between faith and the development of “African-American cultural values."

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama: Provides an overview of the bombing.

Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Projects: Links to timeline, King's autobiography, biography, writings, speeches, sermons and more.

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