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!
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.
StoryCorps met Leslie Salazar and Bill Sears during a recording trip to Los Angeles, California. Leslie and Bill met at Cedar’s Sinai Medical Center when Bill, a cardiac patient liaison , formed a friendship with Ruben Salazar, Leslie’s father. Leslie and Bill came to StoryCorps to remember Ruben’s life and his final moments.
Leslie reflected on Ruben’s life and the legacy he leaves behind for his family.
“My dad was a phenomenal man, the son of a immigrant father. My dad created everything on his own, from the time he was 18 he had nothing. He broke a cycle of drug addiction, alcoholism and gang violence and created an amazing family tree that will continue to flourish.”
“You also told me how he sang in the desert at nighttime.” Bill spent a lot of time with Ruben in his room, listening to stories of his military service and career as an air-traffic controller. Bill became an adopted member of Ruben’s family, learning about the family’s traditions.
“That’s the one thing I miss, he would play guitar and ukelele.” Leslie recalled, “he taught us all Mexican Folk songs.”
Ruben passed away at Cedar Sinai medical center and the family guided him through his last moments, being present as he took his last breathe. Leslie and her family sang Ruben’s folk songs in the hospital after his passing and later had a bonfire and send off for him on his favorite beach in California.
“I think if your dad was looking down he’d say wow, how proud he is of you.”
“I think he is very proud of his family”
Though it was the difficulty of losing that brought Leslie and Bill together, their friendship remains strong and they continue to bond over the memories they share.
StoryCorps Legacy provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories.
San Francisco StoryCorps celebrates the 2,000th interview recorded at our StoryBooth!
The participants in this milestone recording, Yara Ahmed (L) and Ayori Selassie (R), each received a copy of a StoryCorps bestselling book to honor the occasion. Here’s Yara and Ayori posing in front of the booth, with their interview facilitator Frank Kingman, and the happy participants after the recording session:
OutLoud is a nonprofit youth media and development organization that “gives Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) youth and their allies a safe place to tell their stories and amplify the voices of LGBTQ youth across the globe. [OutLoud makes an] impact in the lives of young people by empowering budding radio producers to find purpose, connection, and skills that they can use in the future.” (more…)
It was 147 years ago on June 19th, 1865 that Union troops descended on Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and announce and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. Juneteenth is the holiday commemorating that day and the abolition of slavery in the United States. The day is an opportunity for people to celebrate freedom and equal rights, and last month, StoryCorps San Francisco was honored to join the celebration at Marin City, California’s annual Juneteenth Street Festival. (more…)
The heart of the StoryCorps experience is the opportunity to share an honest, uninterrupted conversation with a loved one, and all participants leave our recording locations with their interview on a CD, a time capsule of this special experience that’s hot off the presses! Some people listen to their CDs on the ride home, while others tuck them away in a drawer to share with future grandchildren.
But there’s another momento created at the end of every StoryCorps interview: the photo. After sharing stories, a few laughs, and sometimes a few tears, our participants’ conversations with their loved ones are visually captured. (more…)
Summer is here, and StoryCorps San Francisco is gearing up for an exciting June! Check out the events below for a preview of what we’re up to this month.
Saturday, June 9 –We kick off a month of events this weekend at the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center to celebrate Pride Month at their Annual Pride Party. This year marks The Center’s 10th anniversary, and we’re especially honored to be part of this momentous occasion. This year, we’ll have a listening station featuring stories from our 2011 partnership with The Center. But we’ll also record more stories this year with staff and other community members who have helped make The Center such a vital and supportive institution. Click here for more information and a full line-up of the day’s activities.
Eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, say Reverends George Cummings and Bill McNabb. This pointed observation is one they witness every week at their respective churches.
Dr. Cummings resides over a predominantly African-American congregation at Imani Community Church in Oakland, and Dr. McNabb’s Piedmont Community Church is in the affluent, predominantly white and Asian-American town of Piedmont. Both California churches are merely six miles from each other, yet in some ways they are worlds apart.
Dr. Cummings and Dr. McNabb met at a community clergy meeting in 2006 and decided to take an unusual leap. They planned a one-time event to bring members of both congregations together and develop what they hoped to be an on-going, deep-reaching partnership between the two churches.
Now, six years into the partnership the sister churches recorded interviews with StoryCorps San Francisco to further their efforts to foster dialogue and sharing. The idea was to encourage members to sit down with one another, share stories about their lives, and reflect on their churches’ partnership. Hosted by the Imani Community Church, several members of the two congregations shared their stories with each other. (more…)
Close to one quarter of American high school students drop out before graduation. In Oakland, California, the dropout rate is higher at 35 percent. Last month, Northern California’s KQED hosted it’s first American Teacher Town Hall at Laney College in Oakland. Educators came from across the Bay Area to discuss these high dropout rates and the state of education in their communities – in California and across the nation.
StoryCorps San Francisco was also there to highlight the work we’ve done, locally and nationally with the National Teachers Initiative. For the past year, the National Teachers Initiative has supported the work of teachers nationwide by recording and preserving their stories and broadcasting them on NPR’s Weekend Edition. StoryCorps also supports the American Graduate Initiative by recording stories with public media hubs in communities where the dropout crisis is most acute.
At our table, current and former teachers and students listened to stories we recorded with teachers, including Antero Garcia and Roger Alvarez, Sarah Benko and Meliza Arellano, and Ayodeji Ogunniyi. Town Hall participants also wrote messages of thanks to teachers who have inspired them. (Below are just a handful of those notes.)
Do you have a favorite teacher? Thank them in the comments below!
Happy Lunar New Year, from StoryCorps San Francisco!
The team had a table at the Oakland Museum’s annual Celebration of the Lunar New Year and Other Asian Traditions. The family event welcomed 2012, the year of the dragon, with a plethora of fun activities and special performances throughout the day. The colorful, lively party included an opening ceremony with a dragon parade, a mochi pounding demonstration, face-painting and calligraphy, and many tasty treats to sample.
At our table, attendees learned more about StoryCorps in the Bay Area by answering two questions on post-its: What is your earliest memory? and What are you most proud of We got many wonderful responses from party-goers of all ages! Check out our pictures from the day’s happenings below.
Happy Year of the Dragon!
Please note: The mochi pounding demonstation video was shot by our own San Francisco staff.
Okay, I must admit that when I think of libraries, the image conjured (as stereotypical and dated as it may be) features cold, fluorescent lighting. Aisles upon aisles of books. The Dewey Decimal System. People hunched over dusty periodicals in an almost religious repose. The Quiet Police, also known as librarians. You get the picture.
So, when StoryCorps Door-to-Door visited our first 2012 Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) National Medal Award winner, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. branch of the San Jose Public Library, I was both curious and excited to discover just how much the daunting public institution of my youth has evolved.
Located in the heart of downtown San Jose, the library’s facade resembles the other sleek glass and concrete office towers, but once inside it reveals it’s true identity: a community hub, campus hangout and epicenter for learning. One look out of an east wing window reveals sweeping mountain vistas, an old bell tower, and San Jose State University academic buildings, a landscape dotted with palm trees. Immediately impressed, I looked forward to meeting some of the folks who made this place special.
Fortunately, library administrators Jane Light and Ned Himmel set the record straight. The first sign that this wasn’t the library of my past came when Jane quoted Keith Richards: “The public library is the great equalizer.” Very cool.
If there’s one thing I’ve witnessed time and time again while working at StoryCorps, it’s the power of storytelling and sharing to bring families, friends, and communities together. Stories also create the histories of the spaces we inhabit together, especially the neighborhoods and cities in which we live. I was reminded of this when StoryCorps San Francisco returned to Oakland’s Peralta Hacienda Historical Park to record interviews at this unique museum and community cultural center located in the city’s Fruitvale District.
Originally a prominent, Spanish colonial hacienda of 1800′s California, Peralta House is now a fully restored and preserved historical site. The center is, in a sense, a “living museum.” Through interactive multimedia exhibits and an array of community programs, the center brings to life the site’s past and celebrates the stories of the Fruitvale District today. In a city already known for its diversity, residents of the neighborhood trace their roots to all corners of the country and the globe, including recent immigrants from Latin America and Southeast Asia, as well as African-American, Latino, and Caucasian families that go back several generations. Their stories are the center of the museum’s exhibits and certainly celebrated in their motto, “Every human being makes history at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park.”
StoryCorps San Francisco kicked off National Teachers Initiative interviews this fall with a unique and innovative Bay Area high school, Downtown College Preparatory. DCP is a public charter school in San Jose, California whose educators work closely with students and their families to promote academic excellence and to develop the self-confidence and community support they’ll need to succeed in college and beyond. The school prepares students – most of whom are first-generation Americans and will be first-generation college students – to thrive at four-year universities. They do this through a singular goal set for each student: DCP students must gain admittance to a four-year academic institution before graduating from high school.
In early December StoryCorps Facilitator Kevin Oliver and I made our way to East Salinas, California to visit Sherwood Elementary School and collect stories for the National Teacher’s Initiative. There, we met educators who enjoy their work and shared what it’s like to teach children whose parents are often migrant workers. Fact is, some of the educators we talked to also have parents who are/were migrant workers, and in the case of teacher Gloria Baker, once worked in the fields themselves.
This fall, San Francisco’s St. Anthony Foundation celebrated 60 years of providing food, shelter, clothing, and health services to much of the city’s homeless population. The day kicked off with a Hope Rally on the steps of City Hall and finished with a BBQ Block Party in the heart of the city’s Tenderloin District. StoryCorps San Francisco was there to share some of the many stories we’ve recorded with St. Anthony’s community for the past three years.
A standout highlight for the San Francisco StoryBooth recording team this summer was our two-day recording trip to the Pinoleville Pomo Nation, the reservation of the Pinoleville Pomo people indigenous to the Ukiah, CA, area. Invited by the tribe’s Environmental Director, David Edmunds, Site Supervisor Natalia Fidelholtz and I took the trip about two hours north of San Francisco. Like most StoryCorps interviews, each conversation touched on a range of themes, though the thread that ran throughout was the importance of documenting stories of Pomo tribal history in the area, particularly those of community elders and leaders like Violet Carpello Renick (interviewed by David Edmunds) and Tribal Chairwoman Leona Williams (shown with her daughters Lenora Dawn Brown-Steele and Angela James).
The moment I walked into the San Francisco LGBTQ Community Center I could see it really lives up to its name. “The Center,” as it’s called by patrons and staff alike, is an inviting multi-level, brightly colored building that’s a hub for events and services to support the city’s diverse Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community.
On any given day at the Center, patrons can find an impressively vast range of direct services and classes, advocacy organizations, and arts events going on. There’s the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative; Aguilas, a supportive, culturally sensitive group for gay/bisexual Latinos; Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits, which offers culturally relevant activities for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Native Americans; and the acclaimed San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, just to name a few groups that call the Center home. Their services are an especially critical support to members of the community who, as the Center’s mission states, often experience additional, intersecting forms of discrimination – people of color, transgender, lesbian, and bisexual women, differently-abled people, youth, elders, immigrants, and low-income individuals.
his July Tadashi Yoshii celebrated his 90th birthday. Joining him in for the festivities were his wife of 63 years, Lily, their three children, the children’s spouses, and their five grandchildren, now all adults too. To honor the milestone their grandfather’s birthday and learn more about Tad and Lily’s lives, two of the Yoshii granddaughters, Sachi Yoshii, 28, and Michi Yoshii, 26, decided to bring their grandparents into the StoryCorps booth in San Francisco for a couple of interviews.
Tadashi shared many of his favorite family memories with Michi and Sachi, including the birth of his first son, Kenny, and meeting his wife and their grandmother, Lily, at their church in Richmond, CA. Tadashi’s conversation with his granddaughters focused mostly on his experiences during World War II, a painful topic, and one about which neither he nor Lily had shared much with the family’s younger generations. Tadashi, or “Tad”, as his family calls him, was originally from Oakland, CA, where the Yoshiis were part of a large and vibrant Japanese American community. Growing up, he said, his parents tirelessly worked around the clock to run their family’s restaurant. The start of World War II changed everything. Tadashi was 20 years old when their family, along with thousands of other Japanese American families, was forced to leave their business and almost all of their possessions behind to be interned away from the West Coast, labeled as potential “domestic threats” in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks. In all, over 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes during that time.
Today the big marriage issue captivating the country is the debate around same-sex unions. But, not long ago, it was inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages that sparked intense political and legal debate across the 50 states. It wasn’t until 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court officially legalized interracial marriages on a national level. The case was Loving vs. the State of Virginia, named fittingly after the newlywed couple who brought the case before the court, Mildred Jeter Loving and Richard Loving. Mildred was African American and Richard was white, and though they lived in Virginia, they married in Washington DC, where interracial marriage was legal. Upon their return to Virignia, they were arrested. With the help of the ACLU, their case eventually reached the Supreme Court, and with the court’s decision, all interracial couples in the U.S. were legally free to marry.
This landmark court decision is now commemorated as Loving Day, celebrated with events and festivities across the country on June 12th, the day of its passing. To honor this year’s 44th Anniversary of Loving Day , StoryCorps San Francisco teamed up with the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the Loving Day national organization, LovingDay.org, to host a special community recording and art-making day for multiracial, multiethnic and mixed heritage individuals, couples, and families. We also set up listening stations with some of our favorite Loving Day-related broadcast stories.