Constance Christensen is a retired attorney and the mother of four adult children, and one of her daughters, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Foster, jumped at the opportunity to record a conversation with her at Brooklyn Museum this spring.
A big part of Liz and her siblings’ childhood was regular visits to museums with their parents. Connie says she loved art, but she knew that if her children didn’t want to stay at the museum, then she wouldn’t be able to. Connie knew she had to get creative.
“So, I invented games,” she said, and remembered how she asked her children questions, like “Which piece has your favorite color?” until it evolved into a game they called What I’d Take Home.
During the interview, Liz and Connie explained the rules to me. (more…)
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…)
Last week, StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled exactly half a mile to arrive at Dwa Fanm, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for the rights of Haitian women in the United States and Haiti. Through education, advocacy, and direct service, Dwa Fanm strives to protect the human rights of the women they serve. The mission of StoryCorps is to record and preserve the lives of people living in the United States. What better place to do this work than in StoryCorps’ own back yard in Brooklyn, NY?
When I reached out to Margarette Tropnas, the executive director of Dwa Fanm, about the organization participating in a recording day, I had no idea that Margarette had such a compelling story of her own to share. Almost two months after my original inquiry, I had the pleasure of Facilitating a conversation between Margarette and her teenage daughter, Melissa.
Last week Facilitator Kate Brown and I visited Gleason’s, one of the oldest boxing gyms in Brooklyn, and now we want to be boxers. Veronica Ordaz, the New York City Community Outreach Coordinator who set up the day of interviews, told me that after visiting the gym, she’d resolved to do the same thing. She told me she was convinced after meeting with Bruce, the owner of Gleason’s, who was also our first interview of the day.
As a Facilitator, I have been present for a number of conversations with people experiencing memory loss as part of the StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative. Sometimes these conversations are an opportunity for the person with memory loss to share his or her stories, but it is not always so straightforward. In one conversation, a son and his father sat with their sensational mother and wife, whose stroke had left her unable to speak more than a few words. She listened to her husband recount their four year courtship through letters while he served in World War II.
Her son also remembered her devotion to her children and the love for theater she instilled in him. She was quiet and unresponsive during the interview but dazzled everyone near the end with a smile and the words, “Them were the days.” While her voice barely registers on the recording, she is present in the voices of loved ones as they narrate her story. (more…)
On August 5, Anna Walters and I traveled to Menorah Home and Hospital in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn.? I met Ralph Wolfe, a resident who came to talk with his good friend Jane Rosenthal, the Executive Vice President of the Menorah facility. Ralph’s story shed light on what it was like to grow up deaf in the 30s, and how much has changed since then.
At age seven, Ralph lost his hearing to scarlet fever, the same disease that left Helen Keller and Thomas Edison deaf in childhood. Still, Ralph was determined to stay in public school. He taught himself to read lips and was the first hearing-impaired student to graduate with honors from his grade school in Brooklyn. Although Ralph had learned to speak and succeed on his own in school, his deafness was deemed “disruptive” in high school. (more…)
StoryCorps stayed closer to home last Thursday and visited the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn. Under the leadership of Co-founder and Board President Dr. Ahmad Jaber, AAANY actively responds to the the social and economic programming needs of the Arab community in the greater New York City area. AAANY’s clients include Arabs and Arab Americans from the countries of Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Moracco, and Palestine, among others. With youth programs like after-school tutoring, boys basketball, and the Princess Club, the organization’s providing ESL and citizenship classes, and its upcoming Salaam Series Workshops with Brooklyn for Peace, AAANY is poised to remain “the Ellis Island of the Arab Community” while fulfilling its mission threefold: “Our aim is for families to achieve the ultimate goals of independence, productivity, and family stability.”
On Sunday, June 1st. Brooklyn’s Sephardic Community Center invited StoryCorps to interview participants during their “Afternoons Out…Together” celebration. The community center hosts this event as an interactive Sunday for family caregivers and their loved ones. They not only allow guests the option of doing a StoryCorps interview but they also provide a catered feast, activities such as partner yoga, pilates, workshops and sing-a-long entertainment. On this day Michael Roth played piano during the days festivities as staff, especially our host and the Social Services Director, Linda Eber, made sure that all guests had a very special day.
Enjoy the slideshow of the event. Click on an image for more information: