Sunday, September 25, 2011

Birmingham connects community partners with 'Concrete, Steel & Paint'

The lobby was buzzing with activity at the Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center in Birmingham, AL. A pre-screening reception invited guests to gather early, schmooze, and take some time to peruse the display tables assembled with an array of resources. This included The Restorative Justice Team of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church who were on hand with brochures about restorative justice and information about an effort they are spearheading to connect faith-based groups in north Alabama engaged in restorative justice and prison outreach ministries; Justice and Mercy (JAM), – a coalition providing education and action on the death penalty; Kairos a prison ministry network serving incarcerated men, women and children, their families and others working in prison settings; and Hands On Birmingham connecting people with volunteer opportunities to serve their community.
A steady flow of people streamed into the auditorium and as the seats filled, the crowd numbered close to 100! Among them, Foster Cook, Founder and Director of Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities brought a group of close to 30 people, which included TASC staff and clients. TASC offers an intensive case management program for criminal offenders with substance abuse problems, providing increased access to rehabilitation services and community-based sentencing alternatives to help them treat their addiction and recidivism rate.The Dannon Project - an organization that provides re-entry services to formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, was also well-represented, as was Space One Eleven, a visual arts organization and partner of the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project.
I was excited to see so many individuals in attendance who are addressing issues related to crime, incarceration and justice. The exchange afterwards was vibrant and the organizations were given a chance to speak about their services and initiatives before the close of the discussion. There were also several opportunities for networking among the various groups.

The next day was a day off. I caught up on some much needed sleep and then headed downtown to roam the art district, where everyone was busy preparing for the evening art walk. My son Jack had a good time chasing his shadow. I also discovered that he likes lemon cupcakes.

Thank you, Birmingham, for all of your hospitality and great effort for a wonderful event!