Ashley Cleek

Ashley Cleek is a freelance multimedia journalist.

Barbecuing to Stop Violence in Selma

For Tamalyn Whatley, living in Selma, Alabama, violence is always nearby. “It’s an everyday thing,“ the 24-year-old explains as she plays with her youngest son in the front yard of family’s her home. “I see it and deal with it.” She grew up in this house, where she lives now. It’s also where her mom […]

Birmingham Revitalization: Some Neighborhoods Feel Ignored by City Hall

When David VanWilliams moved to Birmingham, he was looking for a fixer-upper and fell in love with the neighborhood of Inglenook. Inglenook sits just north of the airport. Like its southern neighbors, Crestwood and Avondale, Inglenook has turn of the century brick bungalows and wide streets with sidewalks. But unlike those other neighborhoods, potholes mark the road and many houses are in disrepair. Residents don’t have the money to fix them.

Remembering April 27: Cordova Recovery Means Unease

This week marks the fifth anniversary of a massive tornado outbreak that killed more than 250 people across Alabama. Since those storms on April 27, 2011, communities have been slowly rebuilding. Two tornados tore through the town of Cordova, northwest of Birmingham. Five years later, some residents feel uneasy about the change.

Rotary Trail Opens in Downtown “Magic City”

Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday evening to celebrate the opening ceremonies of Rotary Trail along 1st Avenue South in downtown Birmingham. While sipping free champagne and eating popsicles, residents took pictures in front of the new “Magic City” sign – a throwback to an old sign that welcomed visitors to Birmingham more than 60 years […]

Meeting Over Changes to Mayor-Council Act Incites More Debate

At a public meeting Monday night, more than a hundred people huddled into a tight room in the Jefferson County courthouse. Residents poured out into the hallway. They gathered to discuss proposed changes to the Mayor Council Act, legislation that divides powers between the mayor and city council.

Calls for Governor Bentley’s Resignation Continue to Grow

It's just under a week since scandal rocked Montgomery. Last Wednesday, Alabama's former top cop told the media about an affair between Governor Robert Bentley and his top advisor and a phone sex tape surfaced online. While Bentley continues to deny any "physical affair” with Senior Political Advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, calls for his resignation have only gotten louder among state leaders.

Birmingham Residents Speak on Potential Changes to Mayor-Council Act

More than 100 people gathered in city council chambers Thursday night hoping to understand the latest grievance between the mayor and city council and encourage civility. Tensions between Birmingham Mayor William Bell and the city council have been high for months. In December, there was a scuffle between Councilman Marcus Lundy and Mayor Bell that sent both […]

Crime in Greater Birmingham: Targeting the Violence

There was a spike in homicide last year and Birmingham is on pace to hit a new high this year. Studies show much of this violence isn’t random. According to data from the University of Cincinnati Policing Institute, less than one percent of a city’s population contribute to more than 73 percent of violent crime. Other cities have instituted programs to cut down on homicide, by targeting the groups and people most likely to be involved. Birmingham started its own initiative last year.

Judge in Jefferson County Rules Alabama’s Death Penalty Statute Unconstitutional

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hurst v. Florida that Florida’s death penalty statute was unconstitutional. Alabama and Delaware are the only other states with similar statutes that require a judge – not a jury – to make the final decision about life of death in a capital case. Attorney General Luther Strange has held that the Supreme Court ruling does not apply to Alabama. But today one judge in Jefferson County disagreed. Ruling that the death can’t currently be imposed in Alabama.

Birmingham City Council Ups the Minimum Wage

The Birmingham City Council’s agenda was long, but all anyone seemed to care about was what the minimum wage would be come Wednesday. The council passed the initial minimum wage ordinance unanimously in August (Councilor Valerie Abbott abstained), but today, members were divided. Councilors Kim Rafferty and Valerie Abbott voted against the ordinance. Abbott said she’d received multiple […]

Alabama Judge Nomination Sparks Tension

Several prominent lawyers, judges, and U.S. Representative Terri Sewell held a press conference on Saturday in downtown Birmingham, in support of Judge Abdul Kallon’s nomination to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Protesters Rally Against Bill Blocking Local Minimum Wage

State lawmakers passed a bill out of the House Tuesday evening that would block cities in Alabama from establishing a local minimum wage. As the debate grew contentious in Montgomery, about 50 protesters gathered in Mountain Brook to protest the bill, proposed by a legislator from that city, and to show support for the Birmingham City Council's decision to raise that city's minimum wage.

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Visits UAB for Black History Month

UAB Hosted a discussion with one of the founders of the social justice movement Black Lives Matter Monday evening. While the event was scheduled around Black History Month, the conversation was focused in the present.

The Low Price and High Cost of Heroin

Heroin overdose deaths are on the rise nationally. In Jefferson County, deaths increased by more than 140 percent in 2014. The numbers were shocking: Heroin caused or contributed to 144 deaths in 2014. Area law enforcement responded by increasing efforts to get traffickers and drugs off the streets, especially in Birmingham.

Correspondence That Shaped the Jefferson County Courthouse Murals

Since last Fall, the Jefferson County Commission has been debating what to do about the murals in the foyer of the county courthouse.

Alabama Lawmakers Propose Vote on State Lottery

State Senator Jim McClendon, a Republican from Springville, has proposed a bill that would allow Alabamians to vote on whether or not they want a state lottery.

Committee Could Decide the Fate of the Jefferson County Courthouse Murals

Back in September, the Birmingham chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) petitioned the Jefferson County Commission to remove two murals that currently hang in the entrance way to the county courthouse.

Birmingham Residents Rally to Show Support for Syrian Refugees

A about four dozen people gathered Saturday morning in Birmingham's Railroad Park downtown to take a picture showing that some Alabamians would like to accept Syrian refugees.

Plaintiff in Landmark Civil Rights Montgomery Bus Case Shares Her Story

Most people know the story of Rosa Parks' resounding 'no' when she was asked to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus. Sixty years ago this month, Parks's refusal prompted the Montgomery Bus boycott. But before her actions made history, there were other women and men were arrested for protesting segregation on public transportation.

Buses may be Integrated, but Problems Plague Transit System

With yesterday’s 60th anniversary of the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute hosted a panel to mark Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man. But the talk didn’t stay focused on history. It quickly turned to the present, particularly the problems plaguing Birmingham's buses.

Sewer Overflows Persist Despite Billions Spent

Jefferson County's sewer system has been troubled for decades. First it spewed sewage into area rivers. Then, years of corruption prevented repairs from being done and forced the county into what was then the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. The county has spent billions to fix the sewer system, but some neighborhoods in Jefferson County haven't seen much improvement at all.

Black Belt Residents not Happy as State Closes Satellite Driver’s License Offices

Rural Alabama residents are not happy state law enforcement closed 31 satellite driver's license offices Wednesday. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says the closures were due to an eleven million dollar cut in the new budget that went into effect Thursday. While drivers can still renew their license in most counties, they’ll have to travel further to get a new one. Particularly hard hit is the Black Belt, which is one of the poorest regions in the state.

Court Fees Increasingly a Bad Deal for Alabama

If you don't pay a traffic ticket on time – or you lose in court – you may end up paying a hefty court fee in addition to the fine. In some cases, those fees in Birmingham bring the bill to up 10 times the original ticket. Over the years, the Legislature has raised court fees to cover the costs of running the system. And many people think this is a bad idea.

NAACP Asks for Jefferson County Courthouse Murals to be Removed

Members of the Jefferson County Commission say they’ll address a petition by the local NAACP chapter and other groups calling for the removal of two murals in the courthouse. This latest push comes in the wake of the killings of nine African Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, that sparked a debate over symbols of the Confederacy throughout the South.

“To Me, It Was A Good Thing” Feizal Valli Remembers How Hurricane Katrina Brought Him To Birmingham

Feizal Valli worked as a bartender in New Orleans for over a decade. When he first moved to the city back in the 90s, New Orleans was known as the murder capital of the country. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Valli was living on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. He talked to WBHM's Ashley Cleek about his life before and after the storm.

UAB Research Lab Hopes To Define Concussion Biomarkers

There’s been a spike in children under 19 visiting the emergency room with concussions. ERs saw a more than 50 percent increase between 2001 and 2009. Doctors say this could actually be a good thing, resulting in part from improved awareness of what a concussion is. But, perhaps surprisingly, there’s still a lot we don’t know about concussions, like how long they last or what all the long term effects are. A group of doctors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who aim to change this.

Alabama Reacts to Gay Marriage Decision

Gay marriage is now legal in Alabama. In a 5 to 4 decision the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday states can’t stop same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize those unions across the country. Ashley Cleek has an overview of how the decision is playing out in Alabama.

Food Stamp Fraud Investigation Means Fewer Places to Find Groceries

A federal investigation into food stamp fraud called operation T-Bone shuttered 11 stores across Jefferson County in June. The scam allegedly involved store operators buying food stamp debit cards from local customers and then using those cards to stock their own shelves with goods from wholesalers. The investigation turned up the heat on the alleged scam, but it also left many communities in Birmingham without anywhere to buy even the most basic groceries.

Uncovering Alabama’s Hidden Hepatitis C Problem

Injection drug use is on the rise around the country, feeding an increase in cases of the blood-borne liver disease Hepatitis C. The Centers for Disease control says that, nationally, Hepatitis C infections rose 150 percent in the last 3 years. But the spread of the disease in Alabama is hard to measure. Doctors and health care officials are trying new ways to determine the true spread of the disease here in Alabama -- doctors like Jim Galbraith, an emergency room physician at UAB.

Birmingham’s Broken Parking Meters

Depending on where you are in Birmingham, you could pay around two dollars to park for two hours on a city street. Or – you may not pay at all. Birmingham has more than 5,000 parking meters. With more restaurants, businesses and residents returning to the city center once again, those steel gray meters with an appetite for quarters are stirring concerns among those who live and work downtown.

Are Cigarette Taxes A Good Idea For Alabama?

The Alabama Legislature is running out of days this session. Today's the last day that any new revenue raising measure can be introduced and still stand a chance of passing during regular session. And there's still disagreement on how to fill the state's more than $250 million deficit. One idea: cigarette taxes. Governor Robert Bentley's proposed revenue package relies heavily on an 82 cent tax increase per pack.

Anthony Ray Hinton Released After Almost 30 Years On Death Row

After almost 30 years on death row, Anthony Ray Hinton was released from prison today after the prosecution dropped the charges. Ashley Cleek was at , when Hinton was released. Family and friends sobbed and rushed to hug Anthony Ray Hinton as he walked out of the jail in downtown Birmingham free man. Hinton been imprisoned since he was convicted of murdering two men in 1985. For WBHM, Ashley Cleek was at the jail in downtown Birmingham, when Hinton was released.