The Great Thanksgiving Listen

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“We are excited to use the new StoryCorps app to bring the country together in a project of listening, connection and generosity. Together we will collect the wisdom of a generation and archive it for the future, while at the same time reminding our grandparents how much their lives and stories matter.” –Dave Isay, StoryCorps Founder and President.

GTL_960x416_v.41Over the coming months StoryCorps will work with high school teachers across the country to ask students to interview a grandparent or elder over the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Using the new free StoryCorps mobile app, participants will be able to upload their recordings to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and in one holiday weekend we will capture an entire generation of American lives and experiences.

For the Great Thanksgiving Listen, StoryCorps is partnering with The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, TED, NPR, and ABC News–our exclusive television partner (watch the GMA announcement). Educational partners include Facing History and the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) along with sponsorship from The Rockefeller Foundation.

The scale of the Great Thanksgiving Listen is made possible by the new StoryCorps mobile app that was launched in March using the $1 million 2015 TED Prize.

The app takes the StoryCorps experience out of the booth and puts it entirely in the hands of users, enabling anyone, anywhere to record conversations with another person for archiving at the Library of Congress and on the new StoryCorps.me website.

StoryCorps hopes to make the Great Thanksgiving Listen a national tradition and to continue fostering meaningful connections within families, communities, classrooms while also creating a singular and priceless archive of American history and wisdom.

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Click here for more info and to receive an education toolkit.

Follow the Great Thanksgiving Listen on Facebook.

A Return to Post-Katrina New Orleans

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This month marks the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina touching down in New Orleans and the massive destruction left in its wake. Over the past decade StoryCorps has made numerous trips to the city and to other affected cities to listen to people and record first-hand accounts of how their lives, and the communities they care about, were changed by this devastating storm.

In July, StoryCorps producers Liyna Anwar and Jud Esty-Kendall–joined by photographer Ira Peppercorn–returned to see where the city’s recovery stands and to listen once again to the people of New Orleans.

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Tyra Treadway shares family photos with StoryCorps producer Liyna Anwar. Photo credit: Ira Peppercorn

While there they met with the family of Dr. James Kent Treadway (listen to their StoryCorps interview), a beloved local physician for almost 30 years who followed in his father’s footsteps to become a pediatrician. Known for wearing eccentric costumes and his ability to make people laugh, Dr. Kent as he was known, listened as his patients recounted their stories of pain and grief while he continued to care for them following Katrina. According to his family, the agony that surrounded him as well as losing the medical practice he dreamed of passing on to his own children left him anguished. Months after the storm he took his own life.

Liyna, Jud, and Ira visited with Dr. Kent’s wife, Tyra, and his daughter Ardyn in the home the family was forced to flee following the storm. While Jud set up the recording equipment downstairs in a house that was uninhabitable for months after Katrina, Ardyn took Liyna upstairs to show her bulletin boards full of personal photographs that once decorate Dr. Kent’s medical office.

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Burnell Cotlon relaxes with a friend prior to his StoryCorps interview. Photo credit: Ira Peppercorn

Following Katrina, Burnell Cotlon (listen to his StoryCorps interview) spent more than two years living in a FEMA trailer. The Army veteran and father who lost everything in the storm noticed that the Lower Ninth Ward no longer had a community grocery store so he took money he had saved and bought a rundown building opening his neighborhood’s only market. His plaza also consists of a barbershop and a sweetshop.

Burnell gave Liyna, Jud, and Ira a tour of the Lower 9th Ward Market that opened last year. With a sign in front announcing “Makin’ Groceries”-New Orleans-speak for grocery shopping-it has become a place where local kids hang around after school lounging on picnic tables and where inside customers can find fresh fruits and vegetables. Other shelves are lined with items like packaged and canned goods and due to local demand Burnell also offers sneakers and baby clothing.

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The Lower 9th Ward Market is trying to meet the local demand for fresh produce. Photo credit: Ira Peppercorn

Another section of his plaza-the sweetshop-sells prepared foods, ice cream, and snowballs (snow cones) in dozens of flavors (including customer favorite, tiger’s blood, which Burnell and others described as “the best mix of strawberry and coconut you can imagine.”)

Burnell’s mother Lillie shared with Liyna and Jud a story about her son’s long-held entrepreneurial streak recalling that when he was a child he would leave home early for school. At the time she didn’t know why, but later she discovered that Burnell was going to the local candy factory before school and later selling the sweets to his classmates out of his locker. Now employing six people, Burnell’s store has recently begun accepting EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards and he has also started making deliveries to those unable to get to the market on their own.

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Producers Liyna Anwar and Jud Etsy-Kendall enjoy “tiger’s blood” snowballs. Photo credit: Ira Peppercorn

While the Lower 9th Ward market is not yet profitable, Burnell’s immediate goal is to raise enough money to buy a commercial grade refrigerator so that he can regularly stock dairy and meat items. Eventually he hopes to keep expanding by opening the first Laundromat in the Lower Ninth Ward since Katrina while also helping to fulfill his community’s needed for a notary public.

If you would like to help the Lower 9th Ward Market supply groceries to the community please check out their Go Fund Me page.

For other market information find them on their new Facebook page.

“Traffic Stop” Q&A

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With the recent release of “Traffic Stop,” StoryCorps shorts take on a new look under the artistic direction of animators Julie Zammarchi and Gina Kamentsky.

StoryCorps talked with Julie about what it was like when Gina met Alex Landau and his mother, the research they put into the short, and some of the artistic choices they made.

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Pulled over by Denver police in 2009, Alex Landau lost his belief in a color-blind world and nearly lost his life.

How did you first learn about StoryCorps? What made you want to work on the animations?
I learned about StoryCorps when I saw an animated short at a film festival I was attending. I liked the humanity of the story and the focus on the relationship of the characters. I’ve always been interested in stories that express a sense of magic in a mundane context.

How do you decide what visual approach to take with an animation?

I think the process of creating a film is about discovering what the film wants to be and what story it wants to express. So all of the decisions made during that process lead you to the completed piece. Working in this way allows for a style or visual look to emerge in a more organic way.

StoryCorps_TrafficStop_RoughLayoutWhat is the first step in your process? Is your process for StoryCorps shorts different from your past work?

Naturally for StoryCorps, the very first step is listening closely. Not just to the final edited audio track but also to the longer unedited interview. Then, imagining whatever the storyteller is describing such as place, people, and other details to fill out the scene. Most important though is understanding and empathizing with the emotions expressed by the storyteller whether it’s a happy memory of a beloved relative or a painful experience. This is similar to other pieces I have made based on an existing script, poem, or song where the words or music give the film its basic structure and the animation can add illumination and enhance meaning.

What do you think the medium of animation can bring to stories that deal with serious social issues?

Animation can depict any issue in an unlimited number of ways. A couple of examples would be using a direct straightforward approach from a first person POV which gives the viewer an immersive experience or conversely employing visual metaphor to create a whole new level of understanding around a complicated topic.

What did Gina bring back from meeting Alex Landau and Patsy Hathaway that stuck with you while you were working on “Traffic Stop”?

Alex Landau and his mother, Patsy Hathaway

Alex Landau and his mother, Patsy Hathaway


Gina returned with an understanding of the deep commitment both Alex and Patsy share for their work as they create awareness about police brutality and racial prejudice in our society. She also learned what wonderful people they are and how much they care for each other.

 

Besides talking with Alex and Patsy, what other research did you do for the short? What was most helpful for your work?

We did a lot of research about police brutality. A lot of the stuff we looked at was ugly and made us feel sick. It’s important to only ingest so much of that stuff or it can affect you in a negative way. The most helpful thing was remembering why we were doing it. Alex and Patsy lived through the horror of that experience and that can’t be undone but you have to believe that change can happen if enough people want it to.

Why did you decide to feature text from the story on screen? How did you decide which quotes to use?

Text on screen seemed like a natural fit here because some of the words from the story expressed powerful, raw emotions that could have been undone by using the wrong image. Sometimes they jumped out at us at pivotal points in the story so in that instance it creates an emphasis. Also, the repetition of a phrase created a rhythm that allowed it to resonate with the viewer.StoryCorps_TrafficStop_Patsy_CharacterDesignScreen Shot 2015-08-04 at 3.02.03 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why did you use a minimal color scheme for this story?

Most of the story happens at night so the lighting was more important than color. I wanted to pare down the palette to just the essentials to give it a spare feeling with the focus on the characters and the tension of the situation. Black, white and a third color for tone, in this case blue, like I had seen some of my favorite contemporary comics artists do.TRAFFIC_Alex_kneeling

What was the most challenging part of the story to animate and how did you come up with a solution?StoryCorps_TrafficStop_Alex_CharacterDesign

The attack scene was the hardest part. Trying to depict violence without having it be juicy and seductive in animation is difficult to do. Action in general is not my strong point, but this was extra hard. We tried to keep the cutting and the views simple so the viewer could clearly see the fear and feel the chaos and waste of the violence.

 

How do you hope people will respond to the animation?

I hope people, especially young people, respond by empathizing with the characters and therefore understanding the conflict on a personal level. Racial prejudice is prevalent in our country. I hope people take the message to heart and understand that the abuse of authority and treating each other cruelly are both unacceptable. I think shining a light on these dark corners that exist in our culture is a powerful step toward eradicating these behaviors.

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Watch StoryCorps’ extraordinary Animated Short, “Traffic Stop.”

 

 

 

From our Archive: Americans Living with Disabilities

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2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, promoting civil rights for Americans living with mental and physical conditions. In honor of the anniversary and in celebration of the powerful and varied experiences of people across America, StoryCorps recommends these Animated Shorts and Audio selections from our archive.

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Josh & Sarah

 

 

Young Josh, who has Asperger’s syndrome, came to StoryCorps with his mother, Sarah Littman and sat down for a one of a kind conversation. Josh questions his mom on an array of topics, from motherhood and parenting to her feelings about cockroaches.

>> Watch Q&A, the StoryCorps classic Animated Short here.

 

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Gweneviere & Yasir

 

After surgery to remove a brain tumor, Gweneviere Mann lost her short-term memory. She was faced with many new obstacles, but she wasn’t alone. Her boyfriend, Yasir Salem was there with support and help to tackle all the new challenges thrown her way.

>> Watch Marking the Distance, this inspirational animation here.

 

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Bonnie & Myra

 

 

Bonnie Brown was born with an intellectual disability, she has a low IQ. At StoryCorps, she talked with her then-teenage daughter, Myra. Her daughter ensures her mom, “Even though our situation is unique, I’m happy that I’m in it, because I’m happy that I’m with you.” Myra attends gifted and talented classes in her high school, she hopes to attend Cambridge University when she graduates.

>> Listen to more of this heartfelt interview right here.

 

 

 

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Meaghan & Colleen

 

 

 

“This was a man who I could stand with and love. He was a man among men. Your dad was a giant.”

Max Starkloff was in a near-fatal car accident that left him quadriplegic. Max was living in a nursing home when he came across a woman working there, Colleen. After two years of dating, Colleen and Max got married. In partnership with the Disability Visibility Project, their daughter, Meaghan and Colleen came to StoryCorps to remember Max.

>> Listen to their interview here.

 

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Leo, Nick, Steven & Ollie

 

 

“I didn’t know there were other blind people except me and my brothers.”

Triplets, Leo, Nick and Steven Angel have been blind since birth. Their mother had a difficult time raising them alone, rarely would they go outside. After meeting, Ollie Cantos, another blind man from the community, their lives changed. Ollie is in the process of formally adopting the brothers.

>> Listen to their conversation here.

 

 

 

 

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Keith & Tim Harris

 

 

“I wanted to own a restaurant ever since I was a kid.”

In 2010, Tim’s Place first opened their doors, this small family style restaurant in Albuquerque is known as “the world’s friendliest restaurant.” Tim Harris who lives with Down Syndrome, helped start this business with his father, Keith. At StoryCorps, they talked about life’s challenges and Tim’s role in the restaurant.

>> Listen to their interview right here.

 

 

 

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Jenny & Sean

 

 

“You gave up your life to give me a life.”

Sean Carter was a college student in Texas when he got into a car with a friend who had been drinking. They got into a serious car accident and Sean sustained a tramatic brain injury in the crash. Sean is now able to communicate with the aid of a computer, he is unable to walk and his mother, Jenny has become his full time caretaker. At StoryCorps, Sean let his mom know he loves her to the moon and back.

>> Listen to their conversation here.

 

 

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Patrick & Michelle Kreifels

 

“What made you decide you were going to be gay?”

Michelle Kreifels was born with an intellectual disability. She grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska with six other siblings, who all treated her the same. Michelle was a little closer to her brother, Patrick. They felt their differences brought them closer together.

>> Listen to their conversation here .

 

 

A PRIDE Playlist from StoryCorps Outloud

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In honor of Pride month, StoryCorps is celebrating OutLoud stories all month long. StoryCorps OutLoud is dedicated to recording and preserving LGBTQ stories across America – we recognize the profound historical importance of capturing the stories of the LGBTQ community and the urgent need for this work to happen now.

Enjoy this playlist of great stories from the LGBTQ community, across the country, and across generations.

“He dropped me off in the middle of the night with a 5 dollar bill.”

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Bryan & Michael

Bryan Wilmoth grew up in a strict religious household, after his father found out he was gay, Bryan was kicked out of the house. Eventually, all of seven of his siblings estranged from home. On StoryCorps, Bryan talks with his young brother, Michael about reuniting all of their brothers and sisters. Watch A Good Man here.

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Patrick in a 4-H Drag Show 1959

 

“When I saw him coming, I ducked around the hall and hid from him.”

Patrick Haggerty grew up in rural Washington during the 1950s on a dairy farm. As a young teenager, Patrick started to discover he was gay but thought he kept it hidden. On StoryCorps, he recalls a day when his father, Charles Haggerty came to school during a school assembly to have a serious talk. Listen to Patrick tell his daughter about that talk here.

 

 

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Jackie Miller and her son Scott

 

“I couldn’t be happier if you’re happy with your life. Plus, you help me with my hair sometimes.”

In a StoryCorps Animated Short Me & You, Jackie Miller shares a secret that she held from her son, Scott for many years. Together they reminisce over the time Scott came out. Hear the profound love they have for one another and watch Me & You right here.

 

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Alexis & Lesley

“I went as macho as I could be to mask what I was underneath.”

Alexis Martinez grew up in a rough housing project on Chicago’s southside in the early 1960s. Back then her name was Arthur. When Alexis first came out to her mom as transgender at 13 or 14 years old, her mother called the police.

Lesley reassures her that she is loved. “You don’t have to apologize. You don’t have to tiptoe. You know, we’re not going to cut you off. And that is something that I’ve always wanted you to, you know, just know-that you’re loved.”

Listen to their heartfelt conversation here.

 

 

“Do you remember when we were 19, totally in love and couldn’t tell anyone?”

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Bobbi & Sandi

Bobbi Cote-Whitacre and her wife, Sandi were together for 33 years before they stood up in front of their friends and family and declared their love for each other. Before their beautiful wedding ceremony, they overcame a lot of discrimination. They talk about their journey. Listen here.

Behind the Scenes of A More Perfect Union

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In less than two weeks, POV will present the national broadcast of our newest short, A More Perfect Union. It features Theresa Burroughs, who recalls her struggle to register to vote during the Jim Crow era in rural Alabama. She perseveres despite persistent and flagrant discrimination, unwilling to rest until she can exercise her Constitutional right.
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“We did vote in the next election. It was a joy, but the thing about it is I didn’t feel it should have been this hard. I knew it shouldn’t have been this hard.” – Theresa Burroughs

A More Perfect Union will air on POV on Monday, June 29th. Check your local PBS station for air times in your area. The short will be released on the web and digital platforms the following day, June 30th. You can find the short on StoryCorps.org, YouTube, and Vimeo.

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While you eagerly await its release, please take a look behind the scenes as animation team the Rauch Brothers meet the real live Theresa Burroughs.

You can find more StoryCorps animations here.

Questions for Dad

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For Father’s Day, sit down with your own dad or the father figure in your life and capture their story. Here are some questions to ask your father:

 

What was I like as a baby?

 

What do you remember about the day I was born?

 

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Always a Family

What were your thoughts and feelings the moment you first saw me?

 

What part of being a dad makes you happiest?

 

What did your dad teach you about being a parent?

 

What did your parents say or do to you that you said you would never say or do to your child that you now find yourself saying or doing?

 

What is the toughest part of being a dad?

 

How do you know if you’re doing a good job raising me?

 

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A Family Man

What surprises you most about who I am today?

 

Was being a father ever a struggle for you?

 

What makes me a great kid?

 

How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a father?

 

If you could start over and raise me again what would you do differently?

 

Do you do anything that makes you think you’re turning into your parents?

 

What were some of your proudest moments as a father?

 

Which qualities of mine do you think will help make me a good parent?

 

If you somehow still do not have the StoryCorps app download it and share your stories on www.storycorps.me

And don’t forget to tag ThanksDad!

 

Father’s Day Playlist

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Father’s Day is Sunday, June 21, and we’re digging into our archive to share some of our best father stories with all of you. StoryCorps has traveled the country collecting American stories from all walks of life. Over the last 12 years, we have collected and archived some very inspiring fathers, whose wisdom needs to be heard and shared.

Family Man_1In our Animated Short A Family Man, Samuel remembers his dedicated father, John L. Black Sr. He worked for the Cincinnati public schools for 30 years and usually worked 16-hour days, to provide for his family of 11 children. Samuel recalls an incident as a kid when his father caught him attempting to steal a pop bottle from a store and the power of his father’s look. Watch our Animated Short here.

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Albert & Aiden Sykes

 

StoryCorps is probably the only place you’ll hear a nine-year-old conduct an interview on a national radio program. Young Aiden Sykes, who is only in the fourth grade at the time of the interview, interviews his father, Albert, all about fatherhood. Albert answers some tough questions from his son like, “What was going through your head when you first saw me?” and “So dad, why do you take me to protests so much?”
Albert runs an education nonprofit and mentors kids who are struggling in school. This interview was recorded in 2015 during the MobileBooth visit to Jackson, Mississippi. Listen here.

 

 

 

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Priya, Ken, Bhavani

Priya and Bhavani brought their father, Ken Morganstern to StoryCorps. “It’s a wonderful life. I get up in the morning. Go to sleep at night. And in between – three meals,” says Ken who was 81-years-old at the time of the interview and living with Alzheimer’s disease. Ken passed away in 2007 and his two daughters came back to StoryCorps to remember him. Listen here.

 

 

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Delalb Walcott Jr.& Dekalb Walcott III

 

 

 

 

 

“Everyone wanted to be like Mike, but you were my Michael Jordan.” Dekalb Walcott III explained to his father. Since the young age of 8-years-old, Dekalb he was eager to follow in his dad’s footprints. His father, Dekalb Walcott Jr., was a firefighter for the Chicago Fire Department for 30 years. After retiring from a long passionate career, Dekalb sat down with his son to talk about their family legacy. Listen to their story here.

 

There are many more great fathers, sharing incredible wisdom with their loved ones in our archive. Listen to some more great fathers stories here.

 

Just Released: New Collection of Stories from OutLoud

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Just in time for Pride Month, StoryCorps has released a new collection of stories from the LGBTQ community across the country and across generations.

Hosted by NPR’s Ari Shapiro, the 2-CD collection presents 15 stories from our OutLoud initiative, including Patrick and Robin Haggerty, MJ Seide and Genna Alperin, and Clela Rorex and Sue Larson, to name a few. The second disc includes Dave Isay’s 1988 radio documentary, Remembering Stonewall.

The CD is available for purchase in selected stores, and is also available for digital download on iTunes, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, among others.

Launched in 2014, StoryCorps OutLoud is dedicated to recording and preserving LGBTQ stories across America. StoryCorps recognizes the profound historical importance of capturing the stories of the LGBTQ community and the need for this work to happen now.

Upcoming National Broadcast of StoryCorps Short “The Last Viewing”

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StoryCorps Animated Short The Last Viewing will be broadcasted nationally on PBS’ POV on June 29th (10pm Eastern/9pm Central). POV is the premiere showcase for independent documentary work in the United States and is in its 28th season.
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In The Last Viewing, Vietnam veteran Allen Hoe honors the memory of his son, Nainoa, who was killed while serving in Iraq in 2005. Directed by the Rauch Brothers, the short originally premiered as a part of StoryCorps’ commemoration of Veterans Day 2014, which shared some of the most powerful stories from our Military Voices Initiative. The initiative provides a platform for veterans, military members, and their families to share their stories. It also provides a wonderful way for civilians to gain a deeper understanding of their service and sacrifice. The Last Viewing, along with 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, The Nature of War, and Germans in the Woods represent just a few of the experiences recalled during the 1,000 plus hours of interviews recorded by Military Voice Initiative.

At the end of May, The Last Viewing was also honored with a screening at the GI Film Festival during their “Best of the Fest” awards show in Fairfax, Virginia. Both the festival screening and the upcoming national broadcast are meaningful acknowledgments of the work of the Military Voices Initiative, the animation team, and everyone at StoryCorps.

GI Film Festival 2015

GI Film Festival 2015

We couldn’t be prouder that this short continues to connect with viewers because the need for these stories to reach wide audiences is clear. For civilians. For veterans. For military families. Sylvie Lubow, Program Manager of MVI, comments, “There’s not a lot of space when you are in active duty to reflect on what’s happening to you. You are reacting. Whether you are listening or telling your own stories it’s a different way to process what has happened. It can be hard, but it’s powerful.”

We hope that The Last Viewing will encourage people to listen more to our veterans and their families- and that it will encourage other military families to share their own stories, too. And we hope all who view it will honor Allen Hoe’s sacrifice and dedication, whether they recognize his experience in their own lives, a loved one’s service, or simply as a compassionate civilian.

Allen Hoe & Paula Couglin

Allen Hoe & Paula Couglin

POV has long been a broadcast partner of StoryCorps and we encourage you to enjoy the diverse and compelling lineup they are presenting this summer and fall. Find your local PBS broadcast schedule here.