Last week, Door-to-Door Facilitators, Gaspar Caro and Naomi Greene, traveled to Los Angeles, CA for three recording days with the Braille Institute Library Services. Due to the library’s outstanding service, Braille Institute is one of ten winners of the 2009 National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). In addition to a cash prize, each winner received StoryCorps recording days in recognition of their excellent work within their communities.
Braille Institute provides services for blind and visually impaired individuals in the Los Angeles area. Braille’s library consists of more than 90,000 audio titles. Besides audio tapes, Braille provides braille books, audio listening devices and a host of other services. Although the weather in Los Angeles was not at it’s best, inside the library, we were greeted with nothing but sunshine from the library staff and the participants. Below is a slideshow featuring a few of our participants as well as the inner workings of the library’s vast collection.
Thank you to all the participants who shared their stories, proving that although one is blind, one is not necessarily limited. Also, a very special thank you to library staff members Tina, Kokoi and Siran for making our three days run smoothly…and for sharing information about the best restaurants near the library!
On the first Monday in June, the Memory Loss Initiative partnered with the Museum of Modern Art for an afternoon of art and memories. Meet Me at MoMA is a monthly program for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their family members or care partners to enjoy art and make art. With specially trained Museum educators, the visitors joined discussions about the different sculptures in the Metropolitan Garden and were given the opportunity to create a wire sculpture or ornament.
This is our second collaboration with MoMA, and you can read about StoryCorps’ last visit to the museum in the post, “Meet StoryCorps at MoMA.” This year we recorded seven interviews at the Museum using StoryKits, our most portable form of recording equipment, and a very popular service for many of our Memory Loss Initiative participants. All of the interviews were recorded simultaneously throughout the museum while the other activities were under way. Sisters, mothers and sons, husbands and wives – all came together to share their unique stories and to bask in the world of art.
The Latin American Youth Center, (LAYC) Art & Media House is the perfect place for a creative teen. Picture this: the school day is over and you can head to a building that serves as Art Gallery, Recording Studio, Computer Lab, has a basketball hoop out back, a yard big enough for you to garden in, and a room full of musical instruments. All that AND there’s some popcorn while you hang out with your friends in the kitchen? Yep! Perfect.
StoryCorps Door-to-Door made an Historias stop in Washington, DC and the Art & Media House served as one of our local partners, letting us use their amazing recording studio for two recording days, as well as helping us celebrate the Historias Initiative at their Art Gallery. There we had the opportunity to meet some very talented youth. Among them were Jefferson, a filmmaker, Joel, a photographer, and Shannon (also known as Lady Limelight), a poet. These teens shared with us their talent and hopes, with Lady Limelight gracing the attendees of the Historias celebration by reciting one of her poems about the impact of gentrification in D.C. During his StoryCorps interview, Joel talked about all the Dominican delicacies his grandma cooks, and about how the food helped him connect with a country he’s never visited. In his part, Jefferson spoke about his fascination with horror and suspense movies, about how they instilled in him the desire to direct, and how relevant to everyday life they can be. StoryCorps had the chance to record the voices of these youth, right as they are preparing to create goals for themselves and to discover who they are. The Art & Media House encourages them to discover their true self through art, in its many forms.
On Friday, June 4th the MobileBooth West team headed north from Albuquerque for a day of recording at the Chimayó Museum in Chimayó, New Mexico.
As participants from Chimayó and nearby Cundiyo arrived to record, many recognized relatives in the photographs hung on the museum’s walls. The building itself is a traditional adobe structure that opens on to the Plaza del Cerró–a Spanish colonial settlement established in 1740. An irrigation ditch or acequia runs by the front of the museum and is part of the system of waterways still used from colonial times to the present to irrigate the land around Chimayó.
A longtime mayordomo or caretaker for one of these acequia‘s, Samuel Vigil, recorded a conversation with his grandson, Mario. At 85, Samuel continues to be the volunteer organizer for the cleaning and maintenance of the collectively owned acequia. Mario grew up with his grandfather in Cundiyo and asked Samuel to share stories about his own childhood in the small town. Mario currently works as a teacher while living on the family’s land in Cundiyo where he plans to stay and carry on the traditions he was raised with.
In the last three months, StoryCorps recorded interviews in six different towns in the land of 10,000 lakes. While partnering with the Great River Regional Library of Minnesota, we recorded in Annandale, Elk River, St. Cloud, Melrose, Little Falls and Staples. We heard stories from all walks of life — including farmers, mothers, teachers, nurses, doctors, and soldiers of Central Minnesota.
Our partner, the Great River Regional Library, is a group of thirty-two branch libraries that provide books, materials, computers, programming and information services to almost 450,000 residents. The branch libraries are a source of knowledge and information in their communities, and for March, April and May they were our host family.
In our visit to Staples, Carol Weber, 63, came with her husband Rick Weber, 64, and her mother-in- law, Mrs. Marlys Weber, 87. During their interview, Mrs Marlys talked about her heritage, meeting her husband and her family. Halfway into their interview, Rick and Mrs. Marlys talked about how Ernie, Marlys’ husband, started the family business. “Ernie’s Food Market” was different than most grocery stores in Staples, MN. At that time, most grocery stores had a person that would take their order in, the order would be filled for them and the customer paid for it at the counter. Ernie started the first self service grocery store in Staples, and for a while it even provided both services.
Mrs. Marlys also described how she helped her husband stocking the store and how Ernie’s Food Market keeps growing and growing. Ernie retired and currently Ernie’s Food Market has a different owner, but it is still the town’s main grocery store and still has the neon sign to let you know who used to own it.
To learn more about The Great River Regional Library, please visit http://www.griver.org/
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (NS11MM) occupies a preview space across from the World Trade Center pit, nestled among the organized discord of bustling pedestrians, congested traffic, and a monolithic construction project. StoryCorps and the NS11MM nurture a partnership a few years old, and the museum invited us to record at its preview site on May 25, 2010.
The memorial reserved a soundproof room for a full StoryCorps recording day. It was originally installed to record museum visitors’ impressions. Although stress, loss, and chaos surrounded the site, the room was a sanctuary where we recorded participants’ stories.
One participant, Brian Dorsey, emerged from the pack of tourists. Joined by Amy Weinstein, NS11MM Oral Historian, Brian remembered his late wife, Jennifer Dorsey-Howley, a small woman with brown hair, sharp-blue eyes and “a smile that lit up a room.”
Erica set the scene in the present tense: “You can smell the popcorn and hear the people yelling” she told Melissa, and they laughed. “Soccer moms have nothing on soapbox parents,” they explained to me.
Erica remembers feeling nervous, even though she had won the previous race. If she lost this one, she could still beat her opponent by the time. The winner was to be decided by the differential. She zoomed down her lane. In the blink of an eye, it was all over. No one yelled or cheered.
Spend a day at the colorful VOX office and you will walk away impressed by the seriousness, imagination, creativity, and audacious energy of the teens in the program. They dream, and they dream big.
VOX Teen Communications is a non-profit youth development organization located in downtown Atlanta, GA, dedicated to “giving us teens the skills and resources to raise our voices about issues that most matter to us.” They publish a teen newspaper and maintain a web site. Some VOX teens are active in the Just Georgia project, an initiative to revise Georgia’s Juvenile Code related to youth living in foster care.
So, what issues did these teens voice when StoryCorps spent a day at VOX? They articulated dreams and hopes for their future, concerns about their peers, and what they think college life will be like. Of course there were pop culture references to music, television, and movies as well. The teens also chose to talk about more serious topics.
For example, Cassandra Maddox (15) and Teyonna Ridgeway (18) discussed body image and its effects on the age at which girls become sexually active. They came to their StoryCorps interview with pages of notes and questions for each other. After discussing how they work to maintain a positive image of themselves in spite of messages they might receive from media, Cassandra noted, “When a guy says you’re sexy, he’s looking at your body. If he tells you you’re pretty, he’s looking at your face. If he tells you you’re beautiful, he’s looking at your inside.”