This past week StoryCorps headed south to Austin, TX, for the 2011 South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Summit and Film Festival. Interactive indeed! The Austin Convention Center was buzzing – or dare I say a-twitter – with activity. Thanks to our friends at P.O.V. and PBS who sponsored a series of interviews, we recorded interviews with bloggers and web developers and documentary filmmakers. In homage to the interactive nature of the conference, here’s a recap of the conference in the form of a twitter feed:
Han-Yu Hung, Eric Sanderson, and their son Everett Sanderson visited The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) on a wintry Saturday afternoon in February to record with StoryCorps. Co-Facilitator Carolina Correa and I were there because The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded the NYBG three recording days when it won the prestigious 2010 IMLS National Medal.
Han works at the NYBG and the family frequently visits as members of the Children’s Gardening Program. Everett described exploring the garden’s woods with his friends, admiring the chipmunks, cardinals, and wildlife, all reveling in the pastoral respite from the Bronx’s cement cityscape. (more…)
This line, the title of a song taken from the third scene of the second act in the opera Porgy and Bess, is Bess’ plaintive cry to her beloved Porgy to deliver her from the hands of her possessive lover Crown. DuBose Heyward wrote Porgy and Bess and the novel Porgy, on which the opera is based. George Gershwin scored the music and Heyward and Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics. Fictitious 1920′s Catfish Row in Charleston, SC, is the setting. Porgy and Bess premiered in 1935 in New York City. And, unlike any other opera at that time, Porgy and Bess showcased an entire cast of classically trained African American singers.
Porgy and Bess recently ran at The Atlanta Opera (February 26 – March 6, 2011). Tim Stylez (above), a principal dancer and a member of the chorus came into the Atlanta StoryBooth the day of opening night to have a conversation with his good friend, Martin Williams (below right). Tim wanted to come in to talk about his journey from corporate America back to his passions – singing and dancing. What made the story so remarkable is that Tim is not a “trained” dancer or singer. During the conversation, he recalled the many encouraging comments from family members and friends. (more…)
Last week, StoryCorps Facilitator Carolina Correa and I made our way to Flushing, NY, to record for a day with the Chinese-American Planning Council. The Council is a grassroots organization that’s been around for more than 45 years, and it is one of the largest providers of social services for Asian Americans in the United States. They provide their community with space to socialize (we worked out of a room that contained an awesome ping-pong table, as well as various puzzles), job placement and college prep for youth, services for seniors, and even after school programs.
Participant Lois Lee spoke a little about the birth of CPC, and mentioned that it was not a coincidence that it happened during the 60′s, when she herself was involved in Asian American and civil rights movements. She’s been with the organization for 40 years now, serving mainly as an educator and program director, and remembered fondly many of the children who first were involved with CPC in their after-school programs, and that found their way back for youth programs and even later, to help as volunteers.
Our day of recording was peppered with all the diverse people that CPC touches – from Hsiao Chiang Fang, a former film producer in China, to Abida P. Abbasi, a Pakistani educator, as well as Laurie Bernstein, also an educator and a Bronx native but life-long Flushing resident. They shared their stories and knew each other thanks to their active commitment to the community they live in; with the telling of their stories, they strengthened those ties.
The Chinese-American Planning Council’s constituents couldn’t make the trek to the New York City StoryBooth downtown – so we came to them. StoryCorps has been able to help people record meaningful conversations in offices, classrooms, libraries, even from the room that holds the ping-pong table! Don’t let distance from a booth deter you from sharing the conversation of a lifetime – stop by our website and find out ways you can help bring StoryCorps to you.
Greetings from Macon, GA! Our first week here we had the opportunity to not only listen to stories in the Booth but share some of our favorite StoryCorps broadcasts with the community. The night before our opening day, our public radio partner, Georgia Public Broadcasting, (GPB) hosted a reception and listening event. GPB’s President Teya Ryan and Vice President of Radio Jon Hoban were there to welcome us to town along with the Macon Arts Alliance, our host for the evening and neighbor to the Booth! About 80 people joined us for the event and were eager to hear more about StoryCorps, about what exactly happens during an interview, and what it’s like to be on the road with our Airstream. It was a great chance to meet community members before we even started recording!
On opening day Alan Walden came for an interview with his daughter Jessica. Phil, Alan’s brother, was Otis Redding’s friend and former manager. Alan later became Otis’s manager when Phil unexpectedly had to ship out for the army for two years. When Phil came back he, Alan, and Otis founded Redwal Records together. Even though Alan stopped managing for Otis, the two remained close. When Otis moved to Round Oak, Georgia, Alan moved in right next door: “He taught me to write songs, and I taught him how to fish and how to hunt and how to ride horses in particular. We had a ball in our years.” (more…)
It may be too late to say ‘Happy New Year,’ but it is the perfect time to congratulate the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2011 National Medal winners. This year ten institutions have been recognized for excellence in this field. As part of the National Medal award, each organization receives three recording days with StoryCorps. Luckily for my co-facilitator and I, our first trip brought us to sunny Los Angeles, CA, to the Japanese American National Museum. Not only was the trip a welcome respite from the cold New York weather, but also the stories of the volunteers and staff of the museum are an important part of a history that many have forgotten.
During World War II, the United States government removed thousands of Japanese families from their homes in California, Washington, Oregon and several other states and sent them to internment camps for the duration of the war. Allowed to take only minimal possessions, families were sent as far away as Minnesota and Arkansas. Many families never returned to their original homes. Determined to preserve this little known history, a group of grassroots activists started the Japanese American National Museum in 1985.
Over the last twenty-six years, the museum has evolved to not only includes stories and exhibitions of the Issei and Nisei (the first and second generation of Japanese Americans, respectively), but also works to create bridges with diverse communities in an effort to tell the full American story. It was a privilege to record the stories of staff and volunteers who breathe life into the museum’s mission everyday.
After the break, read about how the museum became one couple’s matchmaker.
Last month, StoryCorps Facilitator Mitra Bonshahi and I went to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, to visit El Puente, a community organization that – through the engagement in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness, and environmental action – promotes leadership for peace and justice. There, we set up a Door-to-Door recording day, where youth from the El Puente Scholars program had the opportunity to talk with El Puente founders, leaders, and artists about their experiences in the community and their visions for the future. The El Puente Scholars program is a holistic internship program for high school, college, and out of school youth that builds leadership skills in addressing social justice issues within their community while gaining life management skills and self-empowerment through arts and culture.
The scholars present couldn’t have been more excited. Recording during an off-week for NYC Schools, they arrived early and some were just hanging out with their shoes off, comfortable to slide silently in the offices’ hardwood floors. Scholars Alex and Emmanuel had the chance to speak with one of El Puente’s founders, Eugenio “Gino” Maldonado, and eagerly listened to Gino speak of his first impression of Brooklyn after moving there at the age of 9 from Puerto Rico, and of how he became involved with El Puente. (more…)
In November 2010 my co-Facilitator, Matt Herman, and I set up a Door-to-Door recording day at Youth Insights at the Whitney Museum of Art. Danielle Linzer (L) and Diane Exavier (R), associates at the Whitney, successfully planned 5 interviews for youth members to record visiting artists, their peers or parents.
They also booked the last day’s slot to interview one another. Although Danielle and Diane had then shared an office and desk space for over a year, they told each other some stories of their mischievous childhoods for the first time. (more…)
The San Francisco StoryCorps team has now had the privilege of doing two recording days with families at the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), an innovative nonprofit financial services organization in San Francisco’s Mission District. They are committed to the local community’s economic vitality and self-sufficiency. Known by its primarily Spanish-speaking client base as El Fondo Popular de la Misión, their mission is to “expand access to financial services, savings and investment opportunities for work-poor families,” so that low-income and immigrant families are able to build credit, and remain and thrive in the ever-gentrifying area. (more…)
Atlernativas, or alternatives in English, is what StoryCorps frequently provides for many of its tens-of-thousands of participants. Since its founding, StoryCorps has provided an opportunity to have voices heard that might otherwise be missed.
On Saturday, January 8, StoryCorps Atlanta spent the day with the Alterna Community in LaGrange, GA, (just 70 miles southwest of Atlanta) to record the stories of Mexican immigrants and their families. Many of the individuals who came to share their stories spoke of facing incredible personal odds and overcoming family crisis for the opportunity to work and create family in the United States. (more…)
Eric Wiberg walked into the New York StoryBooth without an interview partner. Looking back on it, I’m not sure anyone could have kept up with him.
A former captain of vessels who has literally been around the world four times over, Eric shared hard-won memories of his life out at sea. There was the time he made $59 for six months’ out at sea. And the time he was stuck on the same boat as a septuagenarian nudist and an out-of-control captain. Nothing however could top the time a shark nearly ate him alive. (more…)
Kian Goh (L) and her girlfriend and life partner Tamiko Beyer (R) visited StoryCorps’s Brooklyn office for a National Day of Listening community recording day in November 2010. Tamiko, a writer, wanted to record Kian’s impressions of her happiest moments and reflections on their relationship. (more…)
First created almost 25 years ago, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and it’s parent organization, The Names Project, have come to symbolize not only this country’s efforts to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, but also humanity’s tendency to move toward healing and wholeness even in the face of unspeakable tragedy. The AIDS Memorial Quilt, now made up of more than 40,000 individual panels, is the largest public art project in the world. And, in the spirit of the centuries-old tradition of quilting, it has brought together rich and poor, black and white, male and female, straight and gay, and every possible human demographic and iteration possible. In mid-November 2010, StoryCorps Atlanta set up shop at The Names Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt National Headquarters for a day of recording.
Executive Director Julie Rhoad and Director of Communications Janece Shaffer organized a very successful day of on-site recordings. Ms. Rhoad gave her staff the day off so that the daily grind of the small, not-so-sound-proof office space would not interfere with the recording quality. When asked why this partnership with StoryCorps was so important to her she said, “… like the stories found on The AIDS Memorial Quilt, the stories StoryCorps has recorded ask us to consider how the truth of a life is reflected in the larger permanent truths of existence that we all share.” (more…)
Former StoryCorps Facilitator and Pat Estess and her husband Gene Estess came to the StoryBooth in Foley Square to talk about Gene’s remarkable metamorphosis over the years.
“Early on I was a very spoiled child. I grew up with a mother and father who were very generous. My father was orphaned at a young age and wanted to give me everything that he never had. My mother came from opulence – opulent for Iowa. Which gave me a slanted view of what life should be. I went (to school) with sort of an attitude. An attitude that I was better than, that I could get away with anything – and did.” (more…)
Being parked outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) gives Mobile East a great view of two landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement: Kelly Ingram Park across the street and the 16th Street Baptist Church down the block. In the midst of all this history, we also have the pleasure of partnering with BCRI to invite members of Birmingham’s African-American community to record their stories.
Jomo and Asha Xulu were our first participants from BCRI. Asha jumped right in given the chance to ask her husband about anything in his life. She was most curious about his childhood growing up in South Africa: “You never talk about it!” (more…)
Along with a great month of recording at the MobileBooth in Waco, TX, Team Mobile West also worked with local leaders to organize a field recording with McLennan Community College, a cornerstone of the local community that has been serving the Waco area for more than 40 years.
We were joined by Santos Martinez, Vice President of Student Services at the College. He interviewed Irma Lopez, a friend and student at McLennan. (more…)
Is it too late to talk about 2010? Been feeling nostalgic for the good ‘ol days. Here’s a test. If you’re still find yourself saying “Happy New Year” then 2010 can’t be all that far behind.
2010 was a great year for the New York StoryBooth Department. There were so many great interviews. We welcomed over a thousand participants, partnered with some fantastic community organizations, recorded hundreds of stories, wept through several boxes of tissues, and withstood one mighty blizzard. Here are just some of the highlights over the course of 2010.
Excited participants frequently ask us what kind of stories people tell in the StoryCorps MobileBooth. As Facilitators, it’s difficult to identify specific themes because we hear all kinds of stories on a wide variety of topics. In Waco, TX, however, I heard quite a few stories about love and first meetings.
Ruben Paul Salazar, 39, met Rachel P. Salazar, 43, online, but in a very unusual way. On January 10, 2007, Ruben was at work checking his email. He noticed a message from someone he did not recognize and realized that he had been included in a chain of emails that were meant for someone else. Looking closely, noticed that the intended recipient, Rachel P. Salazar in Thailand, had an email address that, except for two digits, was almost identical to his. He forwarded this email it to its appropriate recipient and added a cheerful message:
“Hi Rachel. Hola prima, hello cousin! It seems as if this message came to me instead of you. I’m in Waco, TX, USA. It’s good to hear biodiversity is such an important topic around the world. Have a great day! -Ruben P. Salazar, Chicano, cyclist commuter, community artist. P.S. How’s the weather in Bangkok.?”
Josh Green (right) and Justin Mazzei (center) brought their friend and associate, Bill Strickland (left), to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh for a StoryCorps interview on an October Saturday. StoryCorps visited the Museum after it won the National Award for Museum Service from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Bill described growing up in Pittsburgh’s Northside, which was once a culturally robust section enriched by residents’ work in the steel mills. As industry declined, the neighborhood emptied and fell into violent despair.
Josh and Justin asked Bill, a nonprofit executive, which memory he would hold onto for all eternity. Bill humbly replied to Josh’s and Justin’s superlative challenge by describing his favorite memory as marked by the light of Saturday afternoon.
The week of November 7-13, 2010, was Gay Pride week on the campus of Spelman College – one of Atlanta’s five HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) that comprise the Atlanta University Center (AUC). And while Spelman sponsors the Pride activities, students from the other four institutions (Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Morris Brown College and the Interdenominational Theological Center) are invited to participate. Spelman openly celebrates the lives and accomplishments of its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and questioning (LGBTQIQ) students.