This year San Francisco StoryBooth heads into our 5th year of recording stories in the Bay Area!
We’ll be celebrating the landmark all year, and we’d like to thank everyone who’s contributed to making all these years possible.
It’s hard to believe that we opened way back in 2008! We’ve since recorded over 2,300 interviews at the Booth and an additional 700 interviews on-site at organizations and schools in all nine counties of the Bay Area. Over 6,200 participants — from the Bay Area and beyond — have shared their stories. Every month our local Bay Area broadcast partner, KALW, plays Bay Area stories on their news show, Crosscurrents.
To honor the milestone, we invited Bay Area interview alumni and community partners to celebrate with us here at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM), our gracious host site since 2008. The museum just shared with us a multi-media video they did of the evening’s program. Check it out!
It was a memorable evening for all. Dan Schifrin, Director of Public Programs and Writer-in-Residence at the CJM, and StoryCorps’ very own President and Founder, Dave Isay, acted as MC’s for the evening. Dave talked about his original inspirations for the ground–breaking oral history project that became StoryCorps.
Martina Castro, Managing Editor of KALW News programming, spoke of the joys of being able to share local community members’ stories through the station.
A few participants also spoke at our event, among them, Scott Wall and Isabel Sobozinsky-Wall. They came to the San Francisco Booth on Valentines Day of 2011 to celebrate 20 years of marriage. Their tale of a long-distance courtship through audio cassette tapes is featured in our All There Is book of love stories. Scott and Isabel read aloud and even acted out some of their interview published the book, and then shared about how their recording session brought them even closer.
Cheng Wang, son of Kay Wang, who is now featured in the StoryCorps animationÂ No More Questions,Â also spoke about how special having a recording of Kay to remember her by has been.
We also celebrated four years of work with a number of local organizations and schools. Some of our partner organization leaders spoke about the meaning and impact of recording their community member’s oral histories. Lyvonne Chrisman, co-founder of Friends of Negro Spirituals, an organization dedicated to educating the public about African American spiritual folks songs sung by slave ancestors, shared about the importance of preserving the rich cultural legacies of community elders.
Holly Alonso, Executive Director of the Peralta Hacienda Historical House, a community cultural center and ‘living museum’ of local stories in Oakland’s Fruitvale District, spoke about the significance of recording the vast diversity of stories from people who live in the area surrounding the museum. To learn more about the Peralta House check out my previous blogÂ Everyone Makes History in the Fruitvale.
Maya Scott-Chung, of the Loving Quilt Project and several other Bay Area LGBTQ organizations, described the power of the interview process and telling ones’ story as a healing experience, particularly for people whose experiences have not always been honored in the way they are at StoryCorps.
Stefan Lynch, who came in originally through COLAGEÂ (Children with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer Parent) and shared about his interview whenÂ he told his friend Beth Teper about his “aunties,” a group of gay men who helped raise him, and their experiences at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
A warm belated thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate with us back in January and everyone who has played a part in collecting the wonderful stories of the Bay Area! Our work wouldn’t be possible without all of your support. Here’s to many more great years!
Posted by Sophia June 14, 2013 Comments Off
As Sophia Simon-Ortiz and I lugged the Door-to-Door suitcase up the steps of San Francisco International High School (SFIHS) – located in the Mission District – half a dozen eager high school students rushed by, running into school. The sight impressed me, conflicting with the stereotype of students being more inclined to run away from school.
Not your typical high school, SFIHS is a free, small public school focused on providing a safe, supportive environment that prepares immigrant (or, newly arrived) youth who have recently arrived in the U.S. for college and their careers. Walking up the stairs and down the hall of the school you can hear students calling teachers by their first name, comfortably asking for what they need. In the halls between classes, the bubbly, infectious quality typical of teens explodes in a mix of their first languages and English. All the walls are covered in a mix of traditional and experimental art created by youth who seem to love the opportunity to express themselves.
In my first interview of the day, Alejandra Rodriguez, a sophomore at SFIHS, interviewed Angel Cortes, a senior who is about to graduate. Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to have an intimate conversation, Alejandra shyly asked Angel about the trouble he used to get into when he was her age. His story ensued, beginning with when he left school at the age of ten to work in Mexico, and how he has found himself at SFIHS as a senior looking forward to attending college in the fall.
Later on, a pair of enthusiastic teens, identifying as “best friends”, interviewed each other about their homelands, Nepal and Mongolia respectively. They ended up comparing how different it is to be a teen in the United States than it would have been to grow up in their home countries.
And that is the beauty of SFIHS. While students come from a world of homelands, here they find they have a lot in common. And what better way to collect their stories then through StoryCorps.
Posted by Jessica May 24, 2013 Comments Off
StoryCorps is a “one of a kind” oral history project and sometimes our participants come up with unique and fun ways to describe what we do. We’ve heard “relationship builder,” “new-age museum,” and even “unique date night.”
Ana Maria and Mario Martinez, however, have labeled StoryCorps “the time capsule,” a snapshot in time or the capture of the essence of a moment to be preserved for discovery in the future. At StoryCorps, the couple excitedly chatted about their sweet 11-month old baby girl, Lily. Their plan is to preserve the CD and play it for Lilly on her 18th birthday.
“We might be the only people who know what we are going to be doing on Nov 28, 2030,” jokes Ana Maria Martinez. “This is just so special to us and I know it’s going to be surreal to listen to our emotions and thoughts after 18 years have passed.” Listen to a portion of Ana Maria’s story here!
Similarly, Kendall Brown jokes, “I will come to StoryCorps as long as it will have [me]!” The three-time StoryCorps veteran comes to StoryCorps Atlanta every year during the same month as a way to document his year-to-year journey. Kendall listens to the previous year’s CD right before coming in to record his next story.
“I was adopted so I feel like I had to create my own history,” says Kendall. “StoryCorps offers me a way to do that and to remember what I’ve learned in a year’s time.” Listen to Kendall’s story here!
We want to YOU to have your own unique way to describe StoryCorps! Book an appointment today. Call our reservation line at 800-850-4406.
Posted by Stephanie May 1, 2013 Comments Off
StoryCorps recently visited Seattle’s Pacific Science Center as part of our partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We were honored to collect the stories of supporters, employees, and patrons of the beloved community establishment in celebration of their recent National Medal Award.
Journalist Knute Berger and historian Eugenia Woo shared with StoryCorps how the 1962 World’s Fair brought an interest in Science to Seattle. Along with the Space Needle and monorail, the United States Science Pavilion was an installment that remained and eventually came to house the Pacific Science Center. With all of the school groups and students who pass through everyday- the PSC is molding the minds of the future while preserving a piece of the past.
“Girls can’t do science.” Dana Riley Black, the Director of the Center for Inquiry Science was interviewed by her inquisitive ten year old daughter Carmen. She remembered this statement a student made to her when she was teaching as part of the PSC’s “Science on Wheels” program. Dana showed her students that women belong in the science world. Today she models that lesson for her daughter in visits to the PSC. Carmen told her mom about her interests in rocks and minerals and Dana recalled her own experiences at the PSC when she was a child.
It was clear throughout our three recording days that the Pacific Science Center holds a special place in the hearts of Seattle citizens. It was a pleasure to learn more about its bright, dedicated patrons and employees.
Posted by Jill April 27, 2013 Comments Off
As part of StoryCorps ongoing Military Voices Iniative and in partnership with The Service Project, participants Major Amy McGrath and Major Tegan Owen talk about being Marines and one of the first women in combat (McGrath).
She recalls watching a documentary as a 12 year old girl in Kentucky that inspired her to fly air craft carrier fighter jets. There McGrath’s journey began. There were obstacles. After learning of the combat exclusion law she wrote letters to her local congressman, senator and house armed services committee members, asking them to change the law so that she could fulfill her dream to be a fighter pilot. None of them said she could be a pilot, one said there were a lot of other jobs in the military that she could pursue, perhaps nursing. The dream carried her to the Naval Academy. Good fortune followed McGrath there. At the end of 1993 congress repealed the combat exclusion law, opening many of the jobs that had previously excluded women. After graduation from the academy, she was commissioned as a Marine and began flight school. She became the first woman Marine aviator to fly in Afghanistan.
“A lot of people ask me if it’s harder being a woman flying? I don’t think it is. I just try to take it in stride”.
She continued, “what the guys were looking for is ‘what does she do when she fails?’ Once they found out that I’m gonna pick up and learn from that mistake and move on and do better next time, they were ok. There is pressure but you just have to know about it and deal with it”.
Posted by John April 25, 2013 Comments Off
In early February, Door-to-Door escaped winter in New York City and went to record interviews with the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Florida. The museum was a 2012 recipient of a national medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Through the interviews, we got a look at the many wonderful aspects of the museum’s programming. From artists to volunteers; educators to musicians; and students to curators, we heard about how MOCA has worked to make contemporary art accessible for people across Miami.
On our last morning, Jill Hernandez and Anya Wallace, good friends and coworkers, came in to talk about their role in Women on the Rise. As a young woman and art student, Jill had become passionate about feminist art, at one point making a film about the experiences of women in Miami. After graduating from college, she went to work at MOCA. One morning, Jill heard a story on the radio about an increase in the number of young women being detained in juvenile justice centers, and decided that she wanted to start doing programming at some of those centers.
As Jill began going to the detention centers, she was nervous, because she didn’t have a clear-cut plan or agenda. However, “things just happened” as she started to meet the young women there and talk about the artists whose work she would present to them. Their reactions, she says, were the best part, as the girls were bringing a wide range of experiences to their readings of the images. She remembers that the conversations they had “not only showed me what the art could teach the girls, but how the girls challenged what the work is, or what I think about what the work is.” The second year of the program, they received a grant from the Women’s Fund Network, and it began to take off.
Jill and Anya met later, at a Women’s Studies conference, and found instant friendship. Anya had been working with young women in Savannah, Georgia, and remembered feeling that their meeting was serendipitous. Anya was also surprised by finding someone who shared her feminist perspective “not just on working with girls, but how we connect with them.” Shortly after meeting, Jill offered Anya a position at Women on the Rise. When they began to talk about their favorite memories from their work at the program, it turned out they shared quite a few. Reflecting on their work, Jill said, “I know it feels good to write something. I know it feels good to make something. I want to give girls a space and a reason to do that.”
Posted by Katie April 24, 2013 Comments Off
When John and I arrived at Park View High School on the first real day of spring, we weren’t sure what to expect. We were there because the school’s library had won a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the first time any high school library had received the honor.
We entered the sprawling building and met Candace Rush, one of the librarians and the person who had worked to painstakingly craft a perfect interview schedule for the next three days. Working around the school’s bell schedule, as well as the students’ and teachers’ classes, Candace had made a chart in their office, complete with moveable cards representing each interview pair! This was definitely a first for us, and a good indication of the diligence and care that the library runs on.
For the next three days, we spoke with a series of students and teachers about their experiences at Park View. It is one of the more ethnically and economically diverse schools in the area, a fact that members of the Park View community are proud to claim. Students talked about the warmth of the school environment, and the support of their teachers. The teachers talked about their respect for their students, many of whom are working to help support their families while working as hard as possible in their classes.
On the last day, Uyenmy Dao and Beth Walker came in. Beth has been a teacher at Park View since it first opened, and Uyenmy is a student in her sophomore year. Beth had grown up nearby in Virginia, while Uyenmy was born in Vietnam and moved to Sterling six years ago.
Uyenmy vividly recalled her memory of her first moment in the United States, and the adjustments she began to make soon after. She explained that in the United States her priority is her education. If she goes to college she will be the first in her family to do so. Beth shared her own experience with education, both as a teacher and a student. After decades of teaching Physical Education and Driver’s Education at Park View she returned to school and got a Master’s Degree, and now works to support teachers in their use of technology in the classroom.
Throughout their interview, they spoke of the Park View community. Beth, who coached the girls’ softball team for 27 years, talked about how being part of the ever-evolving community has changed her, for the better. Uyenmy remembered the struggles she found as she adjusted to life in the United States, went to school, and helped her family. She said that through those struggles, she learned to have confidence in herself, and the ability to accomplish what she set out to do.
At the end of the interview, Uynemy and Beth put the pieces together and realized that Uyenmy’s mother and Beth have met, and that Beth and Uyenmy had been looking for each other, at Uyenmy’s mother’s encouragement. It seemed a fitting end, a coming full circle, for two people who had been learning just how much they valued their community.
Posted by Katie April 23, 2013 Comments Off
As part of our ongoing Military Voices Initiative, StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to the Human Rights Campaign Headquarters in Washington, DC to record stories in partnership with the Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC), a non-profit that provides support, advocacy, education and outreach for partners and children of LGBT service members — including families of service members on active duty, in the reserves, national guard, and veterans.
During our stay in DC, I met Allyson Robinson, who came to StoryCorps with her wife Danyelle and shared her story of coming out as a transgender woman and, in her own words, eventually living a life with honesty reflecting who she truly is.
Allyson, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, spoke about having to suppress her feelings of who she really was throughout her Military career. During her time at West Point, she said she was in denial and would overwork to suppress her needs to express herself as a woman and felt guilty whenever she did. “I lied and I hid a lot. I kept a suitcase inside another suitcase in a a trunk room at West Point where I would keep some clothes and make up,” she said.
Allyson spoke about contemplating suicide as the only way out before realizing she had to “live life with honesty, quit fighting and just be,” she added. This is when she decided to come out to her wife, who she was married to since 1994, and their four children.
Her wife, Danyelle, talked about what went through her mind as her then husband came out to her as a transgender woman. ” I remember being bewildered and knowing it was better to know, but at that point I didn’t know what it meant. There were questions out there that I didn’t know”.
Danyelle said she admired Allyson’s honesty and stood by her side. “I let time work through all of the questions and details.” She explained how their four kids were accepting and how easy they took it. “They were wonderful, they were the easiest part.”
Allyson explained what she feared the most through the years, which was to lose her family, did not happen after she came out and how glad she is of it. She took the opportunity to thank her wife for sticking by her side throughout the difficult transition.
In 2012, after serving four years as first Deputy Director for Employee Programs at Human Rights Campaign, Allyson Robinson became the executive director of OutServe-SLDN, a leading advocacy organization serving active-duty LGBT members of the military and veterans. She lives in Maryland with her wife and four children.
Posted by Luis April 23, 2013 Comments Off