Soul of the South Awards 2023 Winners
We believe that Alabama is the Soul of the South. Found within our state lines are gifted human beings who cultivate their craft from home, creating the best of our nation’s culture. These are people who love our land, grow our food, create our art, curate our spaces, take care of our people, feed us award-winning meals, clothe us, entertain us, tell our stories, and take us to some of the most beautiful destinations on earth.
Nominated by honored guests, our 2023 Soul of the South Award recipients represent the best that’s yet to come in Alabama. Below are this year’s Soul of the South Awards winners.
Savannah Yarborough | Fashion & Textile Design
Nominated by Billy Reid, Billy Reid
Savannah Yarborough, a sartorial British-trained menswear tailor and designer, founded SAVAS in 2015. Her goal was to bring the Savile Row approach to the world of leather, opening first in Nashville, TN, followed by Los Angeles in 2022.
She has redefined how leather and suede are perceived in the market using proprietary materials that transform classic wardrobe styles into modern-day armor. Her Italian tannery partners create leather for the brand alongside the finest brands in the world, including Hermes, Bottega Veneta, and Dior.
Her bespoke pieces are crafted from start to finish by hand in her tiny but mighty New York atelier. She has created jackets worldwide from boardroom executives to lead singers on arena stages. Some of her notable clients include Brian Cox, Jack White, Jason Isbell, lead members of the Rolling Stones, Alison Mosshart, Damien Lewis, Brandi Carlile, and many others.
Combining the best of old-world craftsmanship with cutting-edge innovation, Savannah’s brand Savas offers trunk shows, bespoke, made-to-measure, and ready-to-wear leather jackets, boots, and accessories whose unparalleled quality, small-batch perfection, and rock n’ roll spirit is a tradition all its own.
Jahman Hill | Writing & Storytelling
Nominated by Ashley M. Jones, Alabama Poet Laureate
Jahman Hill is an award-winning poet, playwright, director, professor, and the executive director of The Flourish Alabama, an arts education nonprofit he co-founded, dedicated to helping artists Bloom. In 2018, Jahman claimed the title of 3rd best slam poet in the world, and in 2019 he wrote, produced, and starred in an award-winning one-man show, Black Enough, which played off-Broadway. In 2021, Hill debuted his first short film, the award-winning Vanderwaal’s Journey, as part of the Alabama School of Fine Arts’ ArtWorks@theDJD series, combining poetry, dance, and videography to tell stories of his people. A recipient of the 2021 Alabama State Council on the Arts Literary Arts Poetry Fellowship, Hill has become a sought after poet internationally, and his poetry videos have garnered millions of views online. Jahman is a professor at the University of Alabama where he received Master’s degrees in both Communication Studies and Women’s Studies while also co-founding the Alabama Student Association for Poetry.
Mack Braden | Architecture & Interior Design
Nominated by Chris Reebals, Christopher AI
At an early age, Mack was fascinated with Legos and houses, which naturally guided him to a career in architecture. A native of Birmingham, he has developed a deep appreciation for the homes and history throughout the city. Mack received his Bachelor of Architecture from Mississippi State University where he met his wife, Chelsea. He is a registered architect and one of the leaders in the residential studio. His passion for creating homes is evident and he has seen multiple projects recognized with various awards. His attention to detail and love for design can be seen in the book collection displayed around his workspace. On Fridays you will be sure to find Mack in maroon for “Maroon Friday” and reading anything pertaining to MSU Football. He loves reading a good book on the beach, woodworking, cooking, and spending time with his wife, their twins, and their dog Dixie.
Brooke and Jonny de Jong | Food & Beverage
Nominated by Chef Kelsey Barnard Clark, Eat KBC
Brooke and Jonny de Jong are the impressive couple and co-owners behind Venture Milk, LLC.
Brooke grew up near Atlanta, Georgia. After completing her college degree in Art History, she went on to pursue a career in professional kitchens working at nationally recognized restaurants. During her culinary career, specializing in pastry, she took a special interest in sourcing ingredients directly from farmers which included Working Cows Dairy. She later made the move to Alabama to work on the farm and more recently with Venture Milk, LLC.
Jonny has always been very active with the farm operations in Slocomb, AL. Following high school, he sourced his own college scholarships and completed his basic courses while attending welding school where he honed his skills. He went out and earned enough money to later be used to help expand the processing facility. He and his brothers then decided to form and build their own milk processing facility and deliver their own milk around the southeast.
After dating long distance for a year, Brooke moved down close to the farm and soon, they were married. Fast forward about 7 years and they have moved in town with their two girls and two dogs. They are now partners in life, and business, co-owning Venture Milk.
Mary Lauren McBride | Architecture & Interior Design
Nominated by Ashley Gilbreath, Ashley Gilbreath Interior Design
Mary Lauren McBride remembers dreaming of designing and decorating spaces as a child. She would think of what might look best in a space or how a room should be decorated from an early age. Her greatest satisfaction comes when she’s helped to make a space feel both effortless and inviting.
She pursued her dream by graduating from The University of Alabama with a degree in Interior Design. After working for a small, commercial interior design firm for eight years she stayed at home to care for her twin daughters. However, her passion for interior design never left her even after adding a third daughter. What began as quietly helping friends with their homes turned into building a business with both new and repeat clients alike. She is blessed to live out her passion for design each day while also striving to balance life as a wife, mom, and servant of Christ.
Shannon and Megan Brantley | Artists & Makers
Nominated by Garlan & Heather Gudger, Southern Makers
Megan and Shannon Brantley, the husband-and-wife artist duo behind Flannel and Floral are a creative force known for their distinctive blend of artistry and nature-inspired aesthetics. With a shared passion for art and a deep appreciation for the world of the South, they have seamlessly woven their talents together to produce captivating works of art that resonate with viewers far and wide. Together, Megan and Shannon Brantley’s art celebrates the beauty and serenity found in the simplicity of nature while also embracing the warmth and comfort of home.
Their works mostly consist of woodworking, ceramics, painting, screen printing, design, cabinetry, and many other creative avenues. Their creations are meant to last for generations and be passed down through time. Their collaboration is a testament to the power of love and shared creativity, resulting in a body of work that resonates with art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Isaac Cooper | Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Nominated by Jim Cavale, INFLCR
Isaac M. Cooper’s trek to Birmingham began by being recruited by Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan at Samford University. Immediately, Isaac transitioned into financial services with the goal of helping clients navigate and make smart financial decisions. After transitioning from a Fortune 100 Company, Isaac Cooper founded IMC Financial Consulting.
Isaac is the recipient of the 2015 Agent of Change Award via AL.COM, the 2017 Birmingham Business Journal Rising Star of Money, the 2018 A.G Gaston “People’s Choice” Community Service Award, the 2018 Samford Inaugural Audrey Gaston Howard Award, and the 2018 100 Black Enterprise Modern Man Award. He has been named to the Birmingham Business Journal Who’s Who in Financial Planning & Wealth Management in both 2021 and 2022. He’s also been featured in NASDAQ, Nerd Wallet, AL.COM, and many other publications and is one of the first Certified Digital Asset Advisors (CDAA) in the state of Alabama.
Karah Skinner | Farming & Agriculture
Nominated by Anna Brakefield, Red Land Cotton
Karah Skinner and The Skinner Family are the owners of Rock House Farms, LLC. in Fruithurst, Alabama. They started their journey wanting to feed their growing family with the healthiest meat they could provide. After filling their own freezer with homegrown beef and pork, they saw a great interest from their local community in meats for their families as well. What began as a “garage business” has grown into a retail farm store with shipments of their farm-to-table meats going out to homes all across the Southeastern United States. They are proud of their small farm and they work hard together as a family each day to manage their livestock properly and humanely resulting in high quality, nutrient dense meats.
Uma Srivastava | Humanitarianism & Philanthropy
Nominated by Dr. Michele Kong, KultureCity
Uma Srivastava was born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and started volunteering for KultureCity in 2015 where she now operates as the Executive Director. Aside from KultureCity, Uma is a member of the Rotary Club of Nashville and Junior League of Nashville and serves on the board of Progress Inc. During her time in Birmingham, she was recognized in 2018 as a Trailblazer for her commitment to Birmingham and most recently was honored as a Nashville Emerging Leader in summer 2023. Uma has spoken about the importance of acceptance and inclusion at several conferences such as Collision, GuestX, and ALSD.
Wanda Band | Music & Entertainment
Nominated by Ryan Murphy, Orion Amphitheater
Wanda Wesolowski has been performing professionally since age 14. Growing up in Huntsville gave Wanda a lot of opportunities to play as a teen between all-age events and busking on the streets. Wanda was able to create a name for herself at a very young age in the city of Huntsville where she decided to continue her music career. She initially attended the University of Montevallo before deciding to pursue her career full-time. She now attends the University of North Alabama for their Entertainment Industry program. Through time and consistency, she has made it to where she is now, and she holds a lot of gratitude for those who have supported her along the way.
“The most important thing is that I do this because I love it and not because of any other motive, this is simply what I am supposed to do.”
Freddy Padilla | Sports & Outdoors
Nominated by Tim Gothard, Alabama Wildlife Federation
Freddy is the Federal Affairs Manager at Alabama Power Company. His primary responsibilities are the company’s federal governmental relations efforts in Washington., and throughout the state. Freddy has worked for Alabama Power for over 12 years. He began his career in Western Division, headquartered in Tuscaloosa, where he was responsible for relationships with elected officials, civic organizations, and local media while supporting business office managers in communities throughout West Alabama.
While with the company’s Public Relations department, he supported a variety of departments including Economic Development, Generation, Marketing, Customer Service, Corporate Real Estate, Power Delivery, and Environmental Affairs. He also was a company spokesperson on the media relations team. He has served in areas of increasing responsibility in Governmental & Corporate Affairs.
A native of Demopolis and avid outdoorsman, Freddy attended The University of West Alabama and The University of Alabama, where he received a B.A. in Public Relations. Freddy serves on the Board of Directors for Alabama Black Belt Adventures and is an active member of The Alabama Wildlife Federation. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of The ZeroZero Foundation and The Alabama Business Coalition in Washington, D.C. He is a past United Way Loaned Executive and chaired Alabama Power’s company-wide campaign for the United Way of Central Alabama.
Our 2023 Soul of the South Awards will be celebrated in an exclusive ceremony later this week.