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A Few of Our People and Places To Watch This Year

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Alabama Theatre
Compiled by Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson

As we welcome the newness of 2024 there are some people, places and things to watch as we embark on a new season.

People

Randall Woodfin, Birmingham’s 34th Mayor will continue to lead efforts to cement the reimagining of a better Birmingham. His first term began in 2017 and his current term ends in 2025.

Woodfin is a product of Birmingham city schools and a Morehouse College alum has been a vocal proponent of neighborhood revitalization and improved grades for the education system. He is a former Birmingham school board president and former assistant city attorney for Birmingham.

In 2023, he married the former Kendra Morris, a real estate broker, in 2023.

Darrell O’Quinn, is the newly-elected Birmingham City Council President who retained the leadership post after not one, but two elections. He chairs the Committee of the Whole and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. Prior to serving as a city councilor, O’Quinn was a clinical veterinarian for UAB with a long history of civic service in the Birmingham community prior to being elected to political office.

He’s a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a graduate of Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and is married with two children.

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Award-winning poet, author and educator Salaam Green was recently named Birmingham’s first Poet Laurate and began her term this month.

Green, a Greensboro native, is the founder of Literary Healing Arts and a self-described daughter of the Black Belt. She says her writing flame was first sparked as she grew up, was raised by a single mother and also comes from a family of educators. She graduated from the University of Montevallo with an English degree and was awarded the Poet Award for Innovation in Alabama.

Arlillian Bushelon has served as director and manager of Bushelon Funeral Home, located at 1800 14 Street SW, for 15 years and is a 2023 Birmingham Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 honoree. Bushelon is a Titusville native and 2002 honors grad of George Washington Carver High.

She graduated from Clark Atlanta University (CAU) with a degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. She went on to earn an associate’s degree in mortuary science from Jefferson State Community College, while also earning a Master of Business Administration degree from Strayer University.

In addition to helping families through one of the hardest times of their lives with the death of a loved one, Bush also created the West End Food Truck Park to help serve members of the community.

Real estate broker Abra Barnes is a leader in residential and commercial real estate at Barnes and Associates, where she also leads a school developing future real estate professionals.

Barnes currently serves on the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) board of commissioners, in addition to the Supreme Youth Leadership Academy, Southern Christian Leadership Conference boards.

A community improvement enthusiast, Barnes founded both Urban Blessings and the Magic City Bike Club. She is the daughter of the late Anthony Barnes, who started Barnes and Associates in 1989.

Physician Dr. Kre Johnson of Brownstone Healthcare and Aesthetics expands her relatable approach to direct health care with two practices in Birmingham and in Trussville. She’s also the founder of Wifeology, which, since 2018, focuses on healthcare and self-care for wives.

Johnson has one daughter with husband, Jay, and a bonus son. She’s a native of Marion, Alabama and a Spelman College graduate.

Dr. Mia Cowan of MiBella Wellness Center champions men’s health care and women’s gynecological and total health care with her practice. She is a Birmingham native who attended the Medical College of Wisconsin. While in college in Milwaukee, she met her husband Joseph Brown and married in her third year of residency. Brown, a former home inspector, has now become CEO of the wellness center. They have a teenage daughter and an adult son.

Places

The City Center, Uptown Entertainment District and Five Points South are three locales worth visiting featuring both traditional foods such as soul food, vegan and vegetarian options, and novel cuisine like Japanese, Mediterranean and Thai.

In Uptown District and grab your favorite slice from Your Pie, made in a customizable fashion. Pasta, salads and gelato are also on the menu. Or, take a bite of Eugene’s Hot Chicken and one of the delectable, Southern-spun sides like collards, okra and potato salad.

In Five Points South, grab lunch at an area staple like Surin West, which features noodles, salads, sushi and main dishes with an Asian flair. Or opt for the more traditional barbecue menu with meat, sides and a slice of pie at Jim N’ Nicks. For those with a more natural flair, stop by Golden Temple for daily-made dishes at their café.

Other popular spots within a few miles of the city center include Yo Mama’s, Hattie B’s Hot Chicken and Saw’s Barbecue.

Birmingham’s revitalization has also sparked renovation in neighboring communities, such as the Ensley Entertainment District which features restaurants, lofts and other venues.

With a goal of restoring this Birmingham bedroom community back to its former glory, located within minutes of downtown, developers and investors have taken stock of the community, which is brimming with revitalized homes and Airbnb properties for rent.

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For year-round options, the district boasts several wedding and event center venues including Ensley Loft, Ensley SoHo, the Goldstein & Cohen Building and the Ensley Tuxedo Ballroom.

And during the summer, art shows, festivals and concerts are hosted in and along several streets in the community.

For nature enthusiasts, check out Birmingham’s Rotary Trail – for running, walking or biking (formerly called Line Park). It’s located along 1st Avenue South from 20th St S to 24th St S.

This trail was the Rotary Club of Birmingham’s 100th anniversary gift to the city at a price tag of more than three million. The pathway was once a vacant railroad right-of-way, also known as “the cut.”

It was completed in 2015 and that same year, it was awarded a Governor’s Award for Water Conservationist of the Year.

You can also take a stroll through the natural landscape of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens any day of the week, located on Lane Park Road or partake in one of the educational events. Winter garden hours are 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily and entrance and parking are free.

The Gardens were built in 1962 and span 67 acres across more than 24 garden spaces in one of the most biodiverse areas of the U.S. The City of Birmingham and the nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens work to fulfill the Gardens’ mission of environmental education.

As a community in the midst of the civil rights movement, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) is also a popular attraction for visitors and those who live in the Magic City.

It is part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The center captures some of the most notable people, moments and memories of the movement and is known as a cultural and educational center.

The 16th Street Baptist Church, located at 1530 6th Avenue N, is where four little girls were killed in a bombing back on Sept. 15, 1963.

14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and 11-year-old Cynthia Wesley died in the bomb blast in the basement of the sanctuary just before church was set to begin.

Since then, the church building was rebuilt and has remained a symbol of the civil rights tension. The basement has been transformed into an educational center of the movement and hosts visitors from all over the country seeking a glimpse into Birmingham’s volatile past.

In Birmingham’s West End community, there’s the Arlington Historic House, or Arlington Antebellum Home & Gardens, is a former plantation (built by slaves) that spans six acres near downtown Birmingham.

It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places – added December 2, 1970.

The two-story building, which is now an event venue and decorative art museum, was built by slaves between 1845 – 1850. Tours are also available for a nominal fee.

The Negro Southern League Museum is a treasure of history regarding Black baseball players. It’s located at 120 16th Street S.  You can sign up to take a tour or host an event at the facility.

The museum carries the largest collection of Negro League artifacts in the country. Memorabilia dates back to the 1800s.

For those entertainment lovers, there’s The Lyric Theatre, located at 1800 3rd Ave N in downtown Birmingham. The restored theatre is owned by Birmingham Landmarks. Originally built in the early 1900s, the theatre was part of the B.F. Keith’s Vaudeville circuit (vaudeville was known as a chain of variety theatres).

The theatre, left to decay for many years, was restored and reopened in 2016 with more than an $11 million renovation budget.

The Lyric is steps away from the Alabama Theatre, at 1817 Third Avenue North.

With its beautiful flashing Alabama sign, it is known as the Showplace of the South and hosts shows and events, classic movies and live music. The venue can also be rented out for private events.

It was built in 1927 by Paramount’s Publix Theatres and was primarily used as a movie palace. It was completely restored in 1998.

The family-friendly Birmingham Children’s Theatre, at 2130 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. It is known as a professional theatre for a younger crowd. It is housed within the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

It was built originally in 1947 and houses three theatres. The theatre’s mission is to serve the community as a resource for education and expose students to theatrical arts.

Things

In recent years, Birmingham’s sports scene has come alive. Check out a Birmingham Stallions football game , part of the United States Football League (USFL), or the University of Alabama at Birmingham football game at the newly-built Protective Stadium.  It is owned by the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority and opened in 2021.

The stadium was named for Protective Life, a financial services company. It replaced Legion Field as the home for UAB football. The team played their first game Oct. 2, 2021. It’s also hosted the Alabama High School Athletic Associations football championship games and Birmingham Legion soccer games.

Catch an exciting game with the Birmingham Squadron at their host venue – Legacy Arena, located at 1001 19th Street N in the downtown area. The venue also hosts concerts and games for the Birmingham Stallions basketball.

The arena, which recently underwent a major renovation, opened originally back in 1976.

It stands 10 stories tall and is part of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex and has seating capacity of 18,000.

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When the weather warms up, the Birmingham Barons will still serve up home runs and heroes at Regions Field at 1401 1st Avenue S.  The ballpark is not just home to a friendly game of baseball, it is also an entertainment venue overlooking the beautiful greens of the game field. Personal and corporate events can be hosted at the venue.

And that’s not all.  Far from just your average park, there’s also entertainment for the whole family including a Youth Sports Zone, a Family Fun Park and Batting Cages. 2013 was the inaugural season of the new home for the Birmingham Barons. The team previously hosted games at a ballpark in the Hoover community before moving back to downtown Birmingham.

Since moving back to the Magic City in 2013, the Barons have led the Southern League in attendance for seven consecutive seasons.

For those value a hands-on approach to beautifying the inside and outside their home, Trussville hosts the 2024 Alabama Home and Garden Show in February.  Those who attend the show can learn the latest home and building trends.

The shows kick off February 9 at 10 a.m. and will last through February 11. Admission is free and the Alabama Home and Garden Show will be hosted at the Trussville Civic Center, located at 5381 Trussville Clay Road.

Birmingham Food Plus Culture Fest made a splash in its debut year fall 2023.  The festival was recently awarded the third spot in best new festivals by USA Today Newspaper for their 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

It’s described as a celebration of Birmingham’s culinary and cultural vibrancy – and it’s back September 19-22 in 2024 in grand fashion near Pepper Place entertainment district and Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

The festival hosted visitors from 18 states with 72 chefs participating in last year’s event.

In late October, the annual Magic City Classic – the largest Classic in the country – comes to Birmingham in grand-stepping, tailgating fashion at Legion Field, complete with pre-andpost-game entertainment.

The game is held on the fourth Saturday of October and visitors come to the Magic City days in advance of the football showdown between Historically Black Colleges and Universities Alabama A & M University (Huntsville, AL) and Alabama State University (Montgomery, AL).

Visitors host tailgating parties, a vendor show and numerous parties to celebrate as alumni from both schools meet in the Magic City. The city of Birmingham also sees an economic boost from the thousands who enjoy the Magic City Classic, through the dining establishments and entertainment and hotel venues.

Another favorite in October, the annual Greek Food Festival combines great food and entertainment in Birmingham’s Southside.  The 51st annual event kicks off October 3 and lasts three days at the Holy Trinity Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral, located at 307 19th Street S.

In November, put the Veteran’s Day Parade to your calendar, honoring all those who’ve served their country. The Magic City is known as the founding city for the recognition of veterans and hosts the oldest Veteran’s Day parade through its downtown.

World War II veteran Raymond Weeks is credited with organizing the first celebration in Birmingham on November 11, 1947.

This year will mark the 77th annual parade observance. It begins at the Alabama Power Building at 600 18thStreet N in downtown Birmingham and ends at 19th Street by City Hall.

For the 2024 holiday season, add the Encore Theatre and Gallery on your list of things to do and watch their feel-good, live plays featuring local artists. Owned by black playwright Marc Raby,

Encore hosts cultural shows featuring local talent displaying singing and acting talent.

The theatre is located at 213 Gadsden Highway in Birmingham. Performances are scheduled each fall.