StoryCorps Door-to-Door recently took a trip to Chicago for two days of interviews with chief service officers from Cities of Service, a non-profit program that establishes a coalition of volunteers in cities throughout the country to address the unique challenges within individual communities. Mayors from select cities hire chief service officers to organize programs and volunteers that will best meet the community’s needs. Rebecca Delphia of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Marcia Hope Goodwin of Orlando, Florida, were two CSOs who came to StoryCorps to tell the story of their cities’ progress during their two-year tenure. (more…)
StoryCorps Door-to-Door recently visited North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School on Chicago’s West Side, where, unlike at other local schools, students are not greeted with metal detectors or police. Instead, they’re chased in a playful game of tag, called “running bases.”
“We’re somewhat crazy at our place,” says Administration President and tag instigator John Horan.
Facilitator John White and I visited North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School‘s Collins campus in Chicago, Illinois, to collect stories for StoryCorps’ National Teachers Initiative. The school’s president, John Horan, and alum Tierra S. Jackson joined us for a conversation.
Tierra has an easy smile, and if you struggle with pronouncing her name, she’ll simply say, “Think of a tiara.” If that word has you thinking of royalty and princesses, such a life couldn’t be further from Tierra’s while she was in high school.
StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to the Windy City to record stories of teachers, staff members, and students at EPIC Academy Charter High School. The school’s student body consists of teens living in South Chicago. EPIC prepares their students for college and beyond through a rigorous and diverse curriculum. The school can be challenging, especially for students dealing with difficult issues in their personal lives.
Despite this, teachers and staff still expect the best of their students because some of them know well what their students deal with at home. During our three days with EPIC, Dean of Students Danny Rivera sat down with his coworker, Andre Golston, to talk about the obstacles he faced growing up in Chicago.
Facilitator Yazmín Peña and I traveled to Chicago, Illinois, to visit The New Teacher Project, where we recorded stories of new and experienced teachers of Chicago Public Schools. Among our recent StoryCorps recruits was Arelys Villeda, who invited her former 8th-grade teacher, George Drase, to participate in a conversation.
To kick off their talk, George asked Arelys why she became a teacher. She smiled coyly at her former teacher and said, “I’ve always loved school supplies.”
But of course, there is more to the story than that.
At the beginning of November, co-Facilitator Matt Herman and I went to Geneva, IL, to visit the Geneva History Center.
Located in the heart of Geneva’s downtown district, the Center’s mission is to collect, preserve, study, interpret and exhibit significant materials relating to the Midwestern city’s community and to provide related educational and advocacy services to the public.
To celebrate the city’s 175th anniversary, StoryCorps was called to record twenty-four interviews with long-time Geneva residents. Participants shared their memories of the town, their heritage, and their work in education, business, and volunteerism.
Sometimes a curious passerby will come to the MobileBooth and ask, “Are you having storytime for kids?” To clarify, the Facilitator will explain StoryCorps’ mission.
Occasionally though, a parent comes in to record a conversation with a child and it does seem like Mobile Booth East is hosting “story time” for a young audience. In Chicago, Cesareo Moreno, chief curator at the National Museum of Mexican Art, came to the booth with his son, Cesareo Diego Moreno, to share a family story about the man they are both named after.
Peoria, Illinois has become famous for its ability to most accurately represent a microcosm of the United States of America. Due to its diverse demographics, and perceived mainstream Midwestern culture, Peoria has often been used as a primary test market for a variety of products, services and policies that subsequently reach the whole of the U.S. Peoria’s utility as America’s litmus test was certainly not lost on the theater industry. During the days of Vaudeville, the phrase “Will it play in Peoria?” was coined as a reference to a show’s ability to appeal to the mainstream American Public. This mandate has undoubtedly lived on for 90 years in the care and keeping of the Peoria Players Community Theater.
In its 90th season, Peoria Players is the longest continuously running community theater in Illinois, and the 4th longest running theater in the U.S. Throughout its lifespan the stage has never gone dark for any season, even when faced with daunting obstacles ranging from economic hardship to national crises.
During World War II, the city of Peoria experienced a shortage of men, opting to cast mustache-laden 8th graders in lead male roles to remedy the problem. In the 1950s the creation of the “super highway” I-74 forced the company to move, with construction plans calling for the new transit artery to run directly through the space they inhabited. The 1960s found the Peoria Players in a leaking building and in a financial bind. A partnership was arranged with the Peoria Park District to transfer ownership, unburdening the Theater from the onus of maintenance, and allowing the group to focus more intently on filling the seats.
“All the rejection in the world can’t stop the power of a promise that you make to a loved one.” – Eric Brinker, Nephew of Susan G. Komen
At Metro Centre in Peoria, pink flags wave on top of parking lot lights. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but these flags stay up all year. Metro Centre used to be farmland, a place where Susan G. Komen, namesake of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, would go horseback riding. Now it is a community shopping center owned by Eric Brinker.
Eric came to the MobileBooth on one of the first crisp fall days to talk about how his family started Susan G. Komen Foundation. “Susan G. Komen was my aunt. She died of breast cancer at age 37,” Eric says. Susan had breast cancer in “the dark days” of the disease. “You didn’t talk about it. You called it the big C word. They weren’t providing treatment options that were anything more than barbaric. People thought it was contagious.”
It’s been an exciting first week for MobileBooth West in Peoria, Illinois. Carl Scott joined us after spending a couple months in Brooklyn, New York at the StoryCorps office. We got to know each other over a game of Scrabble and some Swedish Fish. (We found out – upon dictionary investigation – that zag can actually be its own word, separate from zigzag).
Opening day in Peoria came with amazing fanfare. There were refreshments, press, staff from our partner radio station, WCBU, and curious onlookers who wandered over from the nearby Metro Centre Farmer’s Market. There was also a ribbon cutting ceremony with the biggest pair of scissors any of us have ever seen!
Today was a busy, muggy Wednesday, chock-full of back-to-back interviews. Were it not for the constant bustle of participants in and out of the Booth today, our patch of Chicago mulch would have been pretty quiet. You’d never think that such a shady space of calm, elegant history was the host of a weekend of family, sun, and blues cover bands. Only three short days ago the DuSable Museum held its Annual Arts & Crafts Festival, complete with jerk catfish (that stares at you while you eat it), fruity smoothies, and shopping galore…
(Bottom left to right) Moonlighting Milwaukee Facilitator Becky Homann with Facilitator Toccarra Thomas
Muchas gracias to Jim and Ruth Geis, the lovely creators of our own Sarah Geis, for having the Griot Team over for some great convo and cajun cookin’! Sarah will be joining the Griot Tour during its southern stops in Memphis, Tennessee and Alabama (see the excitement on her face?!).
The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center consists of a 188-bed care facility and four community-based outpatient clinics. Jesse Brown provides care to approximately 62,000 veterans who reside in the City of Chicago and Cook County, IL and in six counties in northwestern Indiana. A budget of over $235 million supports about 1,800 staff, including 180 physicians and 590 nurses.
But during our visit there last week, it became apparent that the spirit of the facility is in its 500 volunteers who are mostly war vets and family members of vets.
The Pink Panthers Double Dutch Team graced our blog last week with the fabulous freeze frames of their opening day performance. Today, however, the group had as much to say as their recent pictures’ thousand words.
Rosalyn Jamison (left) is interviewed above by her daughter Mharion Sammons (right). Rosalyn is a co-founder of the Team, seeing a need for double dutch culture as close as her own home. Three years ago Mharion and her sister shied away from the second rope, but can now jump with the best of the team. Thanks to mom Rosalyn and Coach Joyce Dickerson, the sisters – along with dozens of other girls in the suburbs – now savor the flavor of old school Chicago.
Eugene Young only turned 10 two weeks ago and is already claiming what is rightfully his: a place at the StoryCorps Griot interview table.
Our first Door-to-Door was at ACORN-Chicago, and Eugene had the pleasure of interviewing his mom, Michelle, who adopted Eugene and his sister when he was only three-months old.
Today, with a little help from facilitator Becky Homann, Eugene questioned his mom about her first impressions of him as a baby, her own childhood in Chicago, and the trials (and joys!) of marriage and falling in love. Oh, the mah-velous mind of youth!
StoryCorps Griot Opening, Part I. June 21, 2007. Chicago
StoryCorps Griot Opening, Part II. June 21, 2007. Chicago
Studs sat down in the booth and shared some wonderful stories with us. Among so much else, he explained how technical blunders can sometimes be an asset, bemoaned the waning presence of the human voice in our culture, and told of a bus-stop confrontation during which he convinced a self-proclaimed anti-unionist that Labor Day should be celebrated.
At 93, Studs still has a mind like a trap, an encyclopedic knowledge of history and, seemingly, the ability to recall every person he’s ever interviewed. As he says, "Curiosity didn’t kill this cat!"
Thank you deeply for your hospitality, advice and constant inspiration, Studs!
What was once the Maxwell Street Market is now held along Chicago’s Canal Street. Vendors selling anything and everything line the street for blocks. We hit the street this Sunday in search of some epoxy and a high-quality power sprayer. Though these items proved elusive, we enjoyed taking in the scene, as well as several tacos.