Earlier this year, we were delighted when Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who represents California’s 12th District, was able to take time out of her undoubtedly hectic schedule to come to the San Francisco StoryBooth to record a conversation with her longtime friend and advisor, Brian Perkins. The two talked candidly about her life, career, and harrowing near-death experience as a young aide to the late Congressman Leo Ryan, who was killed in 1978 on an investigative Congressional trip to look into allegations of people being held against their will at the Jonestown colony in Guyana. Congresswoman Speier, who was also shot in the attack that killed Ryan, was 28 years old when she accompanied him on the fateful trip.
Though she’s now talked publicly many times about the trip and the horrific attack that almost took her life, the images are still vivid in her mind. She recounted having a bad premonition about the trip, but deciding it was worth the risk; investigating the allegations of wrongdoing at Jim Jones’ now infamous colony was of utmost importance to Ryan. In addition, Rep. Speier saw few women at the time in positions of power undertaking such important roles in international affairs. She felt a sense of responsibility to be part of the fact-finding group. What they found at Jonestown was at first “impressive,” she told Mr. Perkins, describing the infrastructure they’d built. Soon, however, the uglier sides of the situation became clear. They were slipped notes from people wanting to escape back to the U.S. She mentioned that Jim Jones was clearly high on speed and other drugs during their meetings with him. (more…)
If you have ever been fascinated with Little House on the Prairie, wanted to live on the open frontier or wondered how early American settlers lived, then the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers, IN, is the place for you. With its innovative approach to preserving and sharing United States history, Conner Prairie is a much deserving recipient of a 2011 National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. My co-facilitator and I had the pleasure of visiting Fisher, IN, to record the stories of the staff and volunteers who make Conner Prairie more than just a place where history comes alive. Check out the slide show below for photos from our trip.
On a Saturday afternoon in early February, not long after Atlanta had thawed from its week-long, frozen paralysis, girls from the Atlanta Girls School and the Global Village School met to get to know each other a little better. The Atlanta Girls School, a private college preparatory school, got an opportunity to meet girls whose lives, and in some cases families, had been torn apart by war. Many of the girls lived in refugee camps in countries as different as Thailand and Somalia. Now, here in the United States, they work hard to piece together the remnants of a former life to create a new and dynamic future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
These schools’ first-time meeting of minds and cultures produced many memorable moments. Students Meh Sod (Global Village School) and her partner Emma (Atlanta Girls School), talked about family activities and goals for the future. When Emma shared her family’s penchant for weekly movie-watching gatherings, Meh couldn’t relate. Her father died very young, and the Burma native’s life trajectory would land her in a refugee camp in Thailand before her move to the United States. (more…)
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…)