The Other Awards

The Unsung Heroes of the ’Ham    

By Max Rykov //Illustration by Hannah Adamson

There are only 14 people in Birmingham who constantly get recognized for their professional accomplishments. I won’t list their names here, because they’re already seared into our Birmingbrains, but if you’re reading this, and you’re one of those people—thank you for your dedication to making our city better. Now please step aside and let someone else get the limelight for a change.

The people who truly make Birmingham thrive, who add character, charm, and life to the city, aren’t the ones who are prone to be featured in any Top _____ under ______ lists, or receive plaques for their philanthropic contributions to large institutions. Those folks are also extremely important, of course, but (with the exception vehemently rooting for Alabama football and Tiger Woods), I prefer to cheer on the little guy. And, after a conversation along these lines last year with my friends Al Elliott and Rebekah Fox, The Other Awards was devised. 

The Other Awards is a Community Awards show honoring unsung heroes in Birmingham. At the beginning of March of this year Mr. Elliott, Ms. Fox, and I put out a call for nominations in a variety of “Other” categories, like “Best Activist,” “Biggest Cultural Supporter,” “Most Passionate Neighborhood Association Attendee,” “Funniest Person, ” “Best Service Industry Worker,” and allowed room for a few crowd-sourced categories. We received hundreds of nominations, and narrowed the field down to those in each category whose names were most often submitted.

And who are those people that never ask for awards of praise, but who absolutely deserve it? Well, it’s folks like Doug and Charlotte Daughhetee, the married couple who attend at least 3 or 4 live shows per week, and could double-handedly support Birmingham’s local music scene. Or folks like Daniel Farris and Aaron Greene, the brilliant sound engineers who’ve been working behind the scenes for years making your favorite band sound incredible, or your least favorite band sound tolerable. It’s guys like Orlando Carrucini at Crestwood Coffee, who always greet their customers with pleasant conversation and even more pleasant service. It’s women like Sherri Ross, who exude positivity for miles, or Dee Reed and Julia Juarez, who give the most heartfelt and powerful hugs you could possibly imagine. It’s Birmingham City School teachers like Mr. Clinton Anderson at Carver High School, who takes time to invite community leaders and elected officials to talk to his US Government class, and who has challenging conversation with his students, beyond the scope of what textbooks can offer. It’s local mainstays like “Most Inspiring Entrepreneur” nominee, Donnie Goodin (AKA the Candyman), who’s been selling candy from the confines of his wheelchair for decades all around the city, in order to help pay for his medical expenses. It’s parking lot attendants like Mr. Russell, who make darn sure that the parking lot by Golden Temple in Five Points is filled exclusively with the cars of paying customers. It’s Neighborhood Officers from Birmingham’s network of 99 Neighborhood Associations like Susan Palmer of Central Park, or Hope Cooper from Glen Iris, whose presence at monthly Neighborhood Associations meetings can bring a developer trying to rezone property to their knees. It’s activists like Carlos Chaverst, Jr. who speak their truths publicly, without fear of retribution or ridicule.

It is an award show, and the format calls for someone to win each category. And what will the winners receive? Well, that’s actually my favorite part. With the permission of his estate, local maker, Katie Elkins, has created miniature versions of Frank Fleming’s “Storyteller” from the iconic fountain in Five Points South. Truly, I can think of no better figure that represents Birmingham’s wonderful quirkiness than that beloved statue. 

Personally, I’m excited to see such a broad spectrum of Birmininghamians assembled at the same time, at the same place, for one special night. If all goes according to plan, we’ll all be celebrating each other, making new friends, and presenting some amazing statuettes. 

The Other Awards will be held at Saturn Birmingham on May 14th at 8:00pm. Bring your other friends! 

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