Dine Out and Make a Difference

On Thursday, April 25, your dining dollars will make a big difference to a lot of people—if you’re eating at the right places.

Dining Out For Life will involve more than 30 local restaurants that are committed to making our community better, including Bottega Café, Crestwood Coffee Co., El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar, 5 Point Public Oyster House, Slice Pizza & Brew (in Lakeview and Vestavia), Ted’s Restaurant, Bistro V, MELT Avondale, Yo’ Mama’s Restaurant, Birmingham Breadworks, Chez Lulu and Chez Fonfon. They are teaming up with AIDS Alabama to bring awareness about HIV in our community as well as raise funds for AIDS Alabama’s HIV services, prevention initiatives and housing programs.

Dining Out for Life is an international event that has been taking place for more than 20 years. Birmingham is celebrating its 10th year of participation.

My friend Caroline Bundy, director of development for AIDS Alabama, says:  “It’s pretty amazing the way this event has grown over the years. Though Dining Out For Life takes place in 60 cities in the U.S. and Canada, all the money that is raised here in Birmingham stays here, helping people living with HIV and their families in our community.”

Each participating restaurant has committed to contributing at least 25 percent of the day’s food and beverage sales from breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Many are contributing more.

Some of the first to sign up this year included Fig Tree Café (35% of lunch and dinner sales), Avondale Common House & Distillery (35% of lunch and dinner sales) and Bamboo on 2nd (35% of dinner sales) as well as Moss Rock Tacos & Tequila (25% of lunch, dinner and all-day catering sales), Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato (25% of lunch, dinner and all-day catering sales) and Big Bad Breakfast (25% of breakfast and lunch sales).

For a complete list of restaurants and when they are serving, go here.

“Every year, over 30 restaurants participate,” Caroline told me. “Over the past 10 years, more than $350,000 has been raised to support the programs of AIDS Alabama. These funds enable us to provide critical programs and services that include housing, supportive services, HIV testing and prevention education efforts to thousands of Alabamians.”

AIDS Alabama devotes energy and resources statewide to helping those with HIV/AIDS live healthy, independent lives. The organization works to prevent the spread of HIV and to meet the needs of Alabama’s HIV-positive population, providing safe, affordable housing to low-income people living with HIV and their family members. Additionally, AIDS Alabama’s prevention education and outreach efforts provide free and confidential HIV screening,

Currently, more than 13,000 Alabamians are living with HIV/AIDS, and per the Centers for Disease Control, Birmingham ranks 17th in the nation for the number of new HIV diagnoses. Though there have been many medical advances that make HIV manageable as a chronic disease, HIV rates in the South remain high and within epidemic proportions—making AIDS Alabama’s prevention, transportation, mental health, and housing services vital.

Fox 6 Books: April

Here’s what I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on April 2: Two of these books—one for adults and one for kids—are by local authors! Then there’s an important book about African-Americans and our country’s history and a moving novel about some brave young women set in India.

Glory Roadthe new novel by Birmingham author Lauren K. Denton, is about Alabama and gardening and three generations of strong women. It’s also about healing and the possibility of new beginnings. Set in fictional Perry, Alabama, this is the story of Jessie McBride, who is one busy woman—keeping up with a teenage daughter; looking after her own feisty mother; and running her garden shop, Twig. (There’s lots of gardening wisdom planted in these pages.) Denton writes what she knows, drawing from her own experiences living in Mobile, where she was born and raised, and Homewood, where she’s raising her own family. This familiarity is evident throughout the book. “One of my favorite things about writing novels is including things I love in the hopes that readers will enjoy those same things. The story’s setting on Glory Road came from the actual red dirt road where my maternal grandparents lived for my entire childhood,” Denton says. “As a child, I loved how the dirt road made the place feel separated from the real world, and I knew I wanted these three women to enjoy that same peace and quiet.” Check out Denton’s other books, The Hideaway and Hurricane Season.

Ernestine’s Milky Way is written by Kerry Madden-Lunsford who directs the creative writing program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The lovely illustrations by Emily Sutton take readers into the beautiful Appalachian mountains and introduce readers to the people and animals living there. Five-year-old Ernestine has been given a special job to do:  carry two jars of milk down the holler to Mrs. Ramsey and her children. The way is long and hard, but Ernestine is “a big girl” and she’s not too afraid of the critters she meets along the way. When she stumbles in her task she thinks she’s failed, but sometimes mistakes are blessings in disguise. Kerry is the author of several books for young readers including the Appalachian Maggie Valley trilogy:  Gentle’s Holler, Louisiana’s Song and Jessie’s Mountain. This book takes place in that same Maggie Valley setting. Kerry wrote, and her daughter Lucy illustrated, a book about the beautiful friendship between author and storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham and folk artist Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas called Nothing Fancy About Kathryn & Charlie.

American Founders:  How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World by Christina Proenza-Coles shines a light on some important historical facts. Most people relate the African-American experience in our country’s history to antebellum slavery and later the civil rights movement. But, in reality, Africans preceded the English by a century and arrived in the Americas in numbers that far exceeded European migrants up until 1820, and they played a comprehensive role in creating and shaping the country we know today. The author consulted hundreds of sources to collect stories of people of African descent who developed and defended New World settlements, undermined slavery and championed freedom for centuries before that happened in Selma and here in Birmingham. She shows how Africa-descended people contributed to American history as explorers, soldiers, lawyers, nurses, mathematicians, artists and artisans, translators, doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, scholars and much more. This is an important book.

A People’s History of Heaven is a brand-new work of literary fiction by award-winning Indian-American writer Mathangi Subramanian, and it’s about geography as much as characters. Five girls—almost women—share an unbreakable bond even though they are quite different—Muslim, Christian and Hindu. They also all are marginalized people—living in tin shacks in a slum hidden between luxury high rises in Bangalore, India. When the government threatens to demolish their homes to build a shopping mall, the girls and their mothers (women also discarded by their husbands because they’ve produced no male heirs) refuse to go quietly. They wage war on the bulldozers sent to raze their homes and are fierce in their refusal to be ignored anymore.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and BooksThe Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center, and I often visit my local library.