September 14, 2017

Writer: Anh N. Tran

Editor: Catherine Libby and the Graduate Thoughts


It's hard to miss the news on Hurricane Irma, the record breaking Category 5 hurricane that has devastated several states, as well as the Caribbean. Even if you somehow haven't heard of it, you still must have felt its impact on Birmingham earlier this week, when the temperature fell to the 50s during September, together with strong winds and torrential rains. You may have heard a lot about it when Irma made landfall in the state of Florida, damaging 90% of houses and destroying a quarter of the buildings in the Keys. The economic cost in Florida alone was estimated to reach $300 billion, with millions of homes and businesses left without power.


When the whole country turned it eyes and hearts to the mainland states, it was easy to overlook the total devastation of the hurricane on another part of American soil: the U.S. Virgin Islands. Irma hit USVI at its peak, reducing most of the islands to rubble. Buildings were blown away, ships and boats were destroyed, and the lush green of the natural woodlands that had once made USVI a prominent tourist destination is now a brown barren wasteland as far as the eyes can see. With the existing aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the preparation for Irma's landfall in the mainland, somehow USVI was fading into oblivion. The help from the federal government did not reach the islands until six days after the storm. Meanwhile, local residents and tourists were cut off from the outside world with no power, landline or cellular service, and no way to reach the much-needed essential supplies like food or clean water. Violence broke out, people are left to fend for themselves.


In the midst of all the shocks from the two hurricanes, the people of Alabama have already started the relief efforts to help their fellow citizens in the damaged areas. Multiples trucks of supplies have departed for Florida, with more donations still pouring in every day. Alabamians with families or friends in USVI, understanding how we the people were the main forces that could bring changes to the islands, have united to initiate waves of aids to the most devastated in many different forms. We the graduate students at UAB, whether native Alabamians or not, should take these opportunities to help bring even hope to the hurricane victims. Below are the ongoing and upcoming efforts in Birmingham:


Wednesday to Friday, September 13-15: The city of Birmingham’s relief efforts at Boutwell Auditorium (1930 8th Avenue North)

The city of Birmingham is officially taking donations for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma at Boutwell Auditorium from 8am to 6pm until Friday this week. Historically, Boutwell Auditorium has been the go-to location for kind-hearted Birmingham citizens to unite when fellow Americans are in need. In a recent news release, Mayor William Bell has announced the expansion of the program to the island regions severely affected by Hurricane Irma at its peak: "We have had such a tremendous outpouring of support that we want to help as many areas as possible. We know that the Caribbean and Haiti were hit hard by Hurricane Irma and we want to help citizens there, as well.” There is an urgent need for essential items, such as shoes, first aid supplies, and cleaning supplies. According to the release, the city has already sent multiple load of donations to Texas and Florida in the meantime. For more information, donors are encouraged to call 335-4573.


Friday and Saturday, September 15-16: "Chapeau! An extravagant hat show." at Naked Art Gallery (3831 Clairmont Ave S)

Naked Art, a well-known and well-loved local art gallery, will host a special art show from September 15th to 30th, with the participation of many local artists. There will be two opening receptions, where 10% of sales will be donated to a wonderful Birmingham couple who moved to Coral Bay on the island of St. John, US Virgin Islands to follow their dreams, and lost everything to Hurricane Irma's destruction. The Friday, September 15th reception will be in coordination with other local restaurant and shop, Silvertron and Zoe's in Forest Park. From 5-8pm, you can come and get great food, shop at local stores and relax with awesome shows after a long working week. On Saturday, the reception will be from 10:30am to 6pm. Wear your most excellent hat!


Sunday, September 17: "Good People for Good Causes Benefitting Hurricane Victims" at Mellow Mushroom

From 12-10pm, you can join Good People Brewing Company at both Birmingham area Mellow Mushroom locations (920 Inverness Corners and 1200 20th St S) to support victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  In this special event, 100% (one-hundred-percent) of all Good People sales will go directly to hurricane victims. Open donations are also welcome.


Sunday, September 17: "Sunday Funday Island Party benefiting St. John & the USVI" at Innisfree Irish Pub (710 29th St S)

Starting at 5pm, Sunday, September 17, the popular Birmingham bar Innisfree Irish Pub will host the Sunday Funday Island Party benefiting hurricane Irma victims in St. John & Jost Van Dyke, USVI. The donation will go toward Love City Foundation and their efforts in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. The party features island cocktails and live music. Sport fans will also enjoy NFL games being showed at the same time.


"Support for the Steins" by Jennifer Smith and Friends, online at

Greg and Kathy Steins are a couple whose generosity and kindness has touched many people in Birmingham, including a number of UAB students. Their work in the Big Benefit Run and Ride, a local charity organization, has helped and supported various organizations in town striving to make Birmingham a better place, such as the Dannon Project, Animal League of Birmingham, Jones Valley Teaching Farm or Alabama Rivers Alliance. Many of us know them through the biannual event Tour de Brewers, which helps to restore lives of newly-released inmates of minor crimes. Earlier this year, the Steins moved to USVI to follow their dreams, and bringing their kindness to unite the local islanders in the process. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma has destroyed all they have and left them stranded on the island. Their closest friends from all over the country have come together to organize a campaign to help them.


If you can't make it to these events, please be assured that even more relief efforts are on the way. At the time of writing, we have learned of other fundraisers being planned in town throughout the rest of the year. Hurricane recovery is a long-term effort, and your help at the later stages will also be greatly appreciated. Updates on new relief efforts will be added to Graduate Thoughts' Facebook page at


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