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People, Places, and Things by Gwen DeRu

Gwen DeRu


People, Places and Things


Gwen DeRu




Johnathan Austin at graduation from Miles College/Birmingham City Council Johnathan Austin
Johnathan Austin at graduation from Miles College/Birmingham
City Council Johnathan Austin

Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin Graduates from Miles College


Birmingham City Councilman Johnathan Austin and brother Gerald Austin graduated from Miles College recently. It’s one thing to be a student in college, it’s another thing to be a student and serve as the President of the City Council for the largest municipality in Alabama. While those tasks may be daunting for some, District 5 Councilor Johnathan Austin showed others what hard work and determination will produce as he walked across the stage this past weekend to receive his bachelor’s degree. President Austin said the task wasn’t easy, but he stayed the course and his hard work has paid off. During Mile’s commencement services this past Saturday, President Austin walked across the stage to receive his Bachelor’s Degree in management.an area very fitting for his expertise. President Austin says he plans to use that experience to further his career. He has already submitted applications to law schools in the area, including Cumberland School of Law. This is definitely an example of someone trying to better themselves and setting an example which is what this is – Austin Bettering Himself and Setting an Example.



From Homeless to Hopeful: Miles College Student, Titus Battle Overcomes Obstacles and Realizes His Dream of a College Education at Commencement


Titus Battle
Titus Battle

Titus Battle, a 54-year-old Education major at Miles College began a new journey recently at the Boutwell Auditorium where he participated in the commencement ceremony.


“I entered Miles College’s Division of Education to satisfy my burning desire to work with children and students that are academically and/or behaviorally challenged,” said Battle. “I have many dreams and aspirations following graduation from Miles College.”


Battle was determined to overcome his obstacles to achieve his goals. “I had no idea how challenging it would be to accomplish my dream of becoming an educator,” said Battle.  “There was a lot more to my dream than just being able to make it come true. I still have my challenges ahead of me as I transition from a semi-non-professional life to a professional life.”


Battle would like to complete an internship or volunteer as a Juvenile Caseworker to get some training and understanding on how the Family Court serves to help children in difficult life circumstances. He feels that this would be valuable training for him to learn how he can assist children in the future.


Battle has endured some challenges himself and could have thrown in the towel. Instead, he threw up his college graduation hat as a celebratory symbol of his accomplishment.




Coca-Cola UNITED Invests $35 Million to Better Serve Customers


Left to Right:  John H. Sherman, Chief Executive Office, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Claude B. Nielsen, Chairman of the Board, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton N. Dean Sr., Montgomery Chamber Board Chairman A. Bruce Crawford and Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie Jr.
Left to Right: John H. Sherman, Chief Executive Office, Coca-Cola
Bottling Company UNITED, Claude B. Nielsen, Chairman of the Board,
Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange,
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton N. Dean Sr., Montgomery
Chamber Board Chairman A. Bruce Crawford and Prattville Mayor Bill
Gillespie Jr.

Montgomery Coca-Cola Bottling Company dedicated its new, state-of-the-art $35 million distribution center and warehouse located at 4919 Westport Boulevard in Montgomery, Alabama.  Montgomery Coca-Cola has added 63 jobs to the workforce and now employs 310 local associates with an annual payroll of approximately $13 million.


Coca-Cola UNITED plans to acquire the production facility located at 300 Coca-Cola Road, Montgomery, Alabama. “Great brands and great people, coupled with our long-term commitment and presence in Montgomery allow us to deliver excellent customer service and the highest quality products to our consumers,” said Claude Nielsen, Chairman of the Board, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. “This investment demonstrates our commitment to operating in Montgomery for another 100 years and speaks positively for the growth and favorable business climate in Central Alabama.”


With over 113 years in the Montgomery area, Montgomery Coca-Cola continues to attribute their enduring presence to their local business operating model, which includes creating and cultivating strong relationships in both business and in community.


“What a great day this is for Montgomery Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola UNITED and for our entire community. We are certainly proud to count an organization of this caliber among our business partners,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. “This new cutting-edge facility and the jobs it represents speak volumes about the opportunities that exist in Montgomery. We’re grateful this company took advantage of those opportunities and had the vision to see that success happens when you do business here in the Capital of Dreams.”



Bow Tie Day
Bow Tie Day

BRACY BOW TIE DAY – Members of the Alabama House of Representatives Democratic Caucus celebrated the fourth annual “Napoleon Bracy Day” by wearing their bow ties on the last day of the legislative session. Representative Bracy (D-Prichard) is the only representative who wears bow ties every day in the State House, and the Democratic caucus created this fun, annual tradition to encourage the other representatives to sport a new fashion. Last year’s Napoleon Bracy Day was the first time some veteran lawmakers had ever worn a bow tie. In preparation for this year, Representative Bracy learned how to tie neckties into bow ties, and every Democratic Representative proudly sported their newly fashioned ties on the House floor. Representative Bracy said, “Wearing a bow tie today represents our unity and togetherness. I think every day is a great day to wear a bow tie, and this is a fun way to end our 2016 legislative session.”






SISTER ACT – If you love theatre,  you don’t want to miss Sister Act, now through May 22 at the Red Mountain Cabaret Theatre. Showtimes: Thursday – Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.


Sister Act is the feel-amazing musical comedy smash based on the hit 1992 film that has audiences jumping to their feet! Featuring original music by Tony and 8-time Oscar winner Alan Menken (Newsies, Beauty And The Beast, Little Shop Of Horrors), this uplifting musical was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Musical.


(Caprenia Anthony)
(Caprenia Anthony)

When disco diva Deloris Van Cartier, played by CAPRENIA ANTHONY, witnesses a murder, she is put in protective custody in one place the cops are sure she won’t be a found: a convent! Disguised as a nun, she finds herself at odds with both the rigid lifestyle and uptight Mother Superior. Using her unique disco moves and singing talent to inspire the choir, Deloris breathes new life into the church and community, but in doing so, blows her cover. Soon, the gang is giving chase only to find them up against Deloris and the power of her newly found sisterhood.

Filled with powerful gospel music, outrageous dancing and a truly moving story, Sister Act will leave audiences breathless. The cast is chock full of amazing roles for women of all ages making this a perfect choice for high schools and community theatres. A sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, Sister Act is reason to REJOICE!  For more, call (205) 324-2424.




NEW IDEAL: NEW WORKS – An Opening Reception for New Ideal: New Works by MERRILEE CHALLISS will be held on Saturday, 2 – 4 p.m. at the Boardroom on the 4th Floor of the Birmingham Public Library, downtown, Free and Open to the Public.




A RADIO HERO – PAUL “TALL PAUL: WHITE – For a little Birmingham Black Radio history, head to the Smithfield Library on Eighth Avenue at Center Street, today, at 10:30 a.m. to get more about the early history of radio icon Paul ‘Tall Paul’ White and the contributions that radio and Tall Paul made to the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement.


Photo: Paul “Tall Paul" White
Photo: Paul “Tall Paul” White



JAZZ IN THE PARK – Enjoy JAZZ in Gadsden Park, this Sunday, 6-9 p.m. with CASHMERE WILLIAMS and ON PURPOSE featuring DWIGHT HOUSTON


T.J. HOOKER TAYLOR at the TIDE AND TIGER – If you love soul, blues, R&B and gospel music and JOHNNIE TAYLOR, then join the music lovers to hear his son T.J. HOOKER TAYLOR as he sings some of his father’s tunes, Sunday, 6 p.m. Showtime at the Tide and Tiger Lounge. If you love soul music and blues then you know a few of the favorites, “Last Two Dollars”, “Just Because” and “Tell Me How You Like It.”  TIDE AND TIGER LOUNGE is open for hanging out, is located on Graymont Avenue across the street from Legion Field and open on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. CHECK OUT….the TIDE AND TIGER. Every Tuesday enjoy wings for 50 cents and $5 drinks at half price. Every Sunday enjoy music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s with DJ Tide and Tiger. For more information, call (205) 503-3880.


OPERA BIRMINGHAM COMPETITION CONCERT AND AWARDS DINNER – The Opera Birmingham and William L. Williams invite you to attend the 38th Annual Vocal Competition Finals Concert and Awards Dinner, Sunday, 6 p.m. at the Vestavia Hills Country Club, 400 Beaumont Drive, Birmingham, 35216.  For more information, call (205) 322-6737.





SPRING WALKING TOUR – Vulcan Park and Museum will hold its last Walking Tour Saturday, 9 a.m. – Noon at Forest Park – One Architect’s View.  Jeff Dungan, AIA, will lead the tour identifying styles, materials and proportions that resonate in timeless residences. Dungan is known for his modern approach to traditional vernaculars and classical architecture and few people are more knowledgeable on historic architectural styles.





3rd ANNUAL SMART ART FESTIVAL – The City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office Division of Youth Services (DYS) will host its 3rd Annual SMART ARTS FESIVAL, Saturday, 11 am. – 3 p.m. in the UAB Mini Park located at University Blvd and 14th Street. The park will be overflowing with arts enthusiasts, intrigued parents and Birmingham youth. This FREE event is for youth and parents looking for information about cultural arts opportunities for the youth and will include interactive games and prizes.  The Guitar Center Instrument Discovery Zone will feature FREE guitar lessons. Other activities include live performances, demonstrations and children’s activities, with over 20 vendors.  he festival will bring together ethnic and cultural groups, dancers, theatre groups, balloon artists, bands, singers, jugglers and storytellers. Because this is not your ordinary arts fair, you should be there or be square. A lifetime learning event!  For more information, call (205) 320-0879.





MEN’S DAY AT BROAD STREET BAPTIST – Celebrate Men’s Day, Sunday, with featured speaker, REV. GERALD JONES, Pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist Church of North Birmingham and the members of Broad Street Missionary Baptist Church with a day full of praising the Lord.  Worship and fellowship starts with Sunday School at 9:30 a.m., morning service is at 11 a.m. and afternoon worship at 3 p.m.  Rev. Truitt Evans is Pastor of Broad Street located at 121 Morris Avenue North in Birmingham. For more, call (205) 540-2461.






The Rise of Speed
The Rise of Speed

NASCAR: THE RISE OF AMERICAN SPEED – NASCAR fans can see more of racing this Sunday and next Sunday which includes NASCAR’s early origins during the Prohibition Era as visionary Bill France recognizes the sport’s potential.


About the Series:


  • NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed premiered on CMT Sunday, May 8 at 9

p.m. ET


  • It’s a three-part event that also airs on May 15 and May 22


  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. is an Executive Producer on the project, which was created in

partnership by CMT and NASCAR


  • The docu-series is a mix of archival footage, reenactments and interviews – an

unprecedented format used to tell the history of the sport


  • NASCAR participants include Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad

Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Richard Petty, Tony Stewart and Darrell

Waltrip, along with Brian and Lesa France Kennedy


  • Episode Descriptions:


◦       Night 1 – Southern bootleggers race each other for bragging rights during the

prohibition era, and one man, Bill France, sees an opportunity


◦       Night 2 – Bill France risks everything as he fights to turn NASCAR into a

mainstream sport


◦       Night 3 – The age of TV changes NASCAR forever, and makes racing’s great

modernizers household names overnight


For more, go to NASCAR.com.







James Gregory
James Gregory


AT THE STARDOME: Every Thursday is Postively Funny Improv and this weekend: JAMES GREGORY! The Funniest Man in America returns! For over twenty years, the unforgettable caricature of veteran comic James Gregory has stood grinning: his blue shirt untucked, his arms outstretched, a carefree welcome to a down-home, hilarious storytelling experience. The trademark caricature is the essence of James Gregory´s comedy: whimsical reflections on life from the front porch.




COMING SOON TO THE STARDOME: RALPHIE MAY – May 11,  JAMES GREGORY – May 13-14; ADELE GIVENS – May 27-29, June 3-5 – FELIPE ESPARZA, June 10-12 – COREY HOLCOMB, June 17-19 – FORTUNE FEIMSTER , June 21-26 – JOHN MORGAN, July 1-3 – D.L. HUGHLEY, July 8-9 – CARLOS MENCIA, July 15-17 – ARNEZ J, July 22-24 – RICKEY SMILEY, and July 28-30 – RODNEY CARRINGTON.  Call (205) 444-0008 for more.





SPRING BUSINESS CARD AND SPEED NETWORKING MIXER – Today, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Summit Club is the Spring Networking Mixer for business owners as well as those interested including how to generate leads, find referrals, meet

like -minded professionals from various industries, promote your business or service and find your next opportunity. For more, call (205) 538-4508 or 448-3221.


VOLUNTEER TRAINING AT CARES – Become a Volunteer at CARES with Volunteer Training, tomorrow, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the Friedman Center for Jewish Life. CARES stands for Caring for Adults through Respite, Enrichment & Socialization. It  is a program for people with memory and movement disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Volunteers are the key to success. Volunteers serve at least one 4-hour shift once a month. Background check required. For more, call (205) 879-3438.






MAY 18 – 22 – REGIONS TRADITION – Don’t Miss the Regions Tradition Annual Golf Tournament, at the Greystone Golf Course.


JULY 16-17 – SLOSS MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL, in Birmingham. Look for more soon.






Well, that’s it.  Tell you more next time.




(People, Places and Things by Gwen DeRu is a weekly column. Send comments to my emails: thelewisgroup@birminghamtimes.com or gwenderu@yahoo.com.)


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