After spending a wonderful month in downtown Detroit, from July 3 to August 8, 2012, thanks to WDET and the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, the StoryCorps Mobile Booth headed west to visit the Islamic Center of America in nearby Dearborn, MI. From August 10 to August 11, we partnered with the Islamic Center, the Arab American National Museum and the Yemeni American News to record stories of Dearborn’s diverse Arab American community during the holy month of Ramadan.
Two of our first participants, Ali Nasrallah (21) and Jaber Saad (21), best friends and college students at the University of Michigan, came to the MobileBooth to discuss their friendship and their identity as both Muslims and Arab Americans in the United States. (more…)
In early August StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for three days of recording with the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), a 2011 awardee of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal.
It was fitting that the scope of our participants’ conversations was wide, as members of the CML community were invited to share the stories of their lives. Parents and children shared family histories. Two women discussed their children’s marriage to each other. Best friends talked about the bonds of their relationship. And two of our participants, April Johnson and her fiancé, Michael Dornbusch, discussed their life together during their cancer diagnoses. (more…)
Detroit, Michigan: AKA Motown, Motor City, Hockeytown, Detroit Rock City. It’s industrious. It’s got grit. And it’s got soul. It’s got the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, and…teachers.
Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I recently got the call to conduct interviews with educators for the National Teacher Initiative with Town Hall partner Detroit Public Television, where witnessed how these select teachers seem to embody the city’s reputation. These educators not only participated in StoryCorps; they connected with others in their field by trading stories and showing support and love, as well.
While our peers in Brooklyn, New York prepared for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Facilitator Mariel Gruszko and I traveled to Dearborn, Michigan to record a different group of 9/11 voices. StoryCorps Door-to-Door partnered with the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), a non-profit organization committed to advocacy and empowerment, to record the stories of Arab and Muslim Americans.
We heard from a variety of community activists, family members, and friends who talked about how their lives changed after 9/11 and how they worked to build bridges in their communities in the 10 years since the event. The slideshow includes photos of StoryCorps participants and the Arab American National Museum, where they shared their stories.
Facilitator Daniel Littlewood and I traveled to West Bloomfield, Michigan to record stories of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library community. Michigan’s weather greeted us with a cold front, but the library staff, patrons and participants were plenty warm and inviting. Brenda, our on-site contact, gave us a tour during the first day. Besides their large collection of books, the library boasts a state-of-the-art computer center, outdoor patio space near several nature walks, and a magazine corner with a fireplace. According to the West Bloomfield residents we spoke to, the library is their home away from home, which may be one reason the Institute for Museum and Library Services gave the library one of ten National Medal Awards.
We recorded stories from residents of diverse backgrounds who utilize the library’s resources in a variety of ways. When Melba Harris was laid off from her job as a medical technologist, she had the opposite reaction of most people. As Melba remembers, “Being laid off was one of the best things that happened in my life. In being laid off, I learned who I am. And who I am is being resilient to what life brings me and being happy [with] whatever life gives me because this is the only life that you have.” (more…)
Peter White Public Library in Marquette, MI, was one of the ten libraries and museums honored with a 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. Their award includes three days of Door-to-Door interviews, and Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I trekked the snowy shores of Lake Superior to record them.
We realized our time in the Upper Peninsula would be special when on the night before the recordings started, the library held a reception celebrating their IMLS National Medal and the arrival of StoryCorps, complete with a beautiful cake!
We recorded conversations with a grandfather and grandson whose family has used the Peter White Public Library for four generations, best friends who remembered having a little too much fun on some nights before working at the library, two writers and professors who overcame their fears of public speaking, and many more. Check out the faces of Marquette, MI, in the slideshow below.
With the first days of fall, the East MobileBooth headed west from Akron, Ohio to Grand Rapids, Michigan-the last stop on an unofficial “Great Lakes Tour” that also featured Erie, Pennsylvania and Rochester, New York.
The MobileBooth is settled on the banks of the Grand River just outside The Public Museum. Among other artifacts, the museum houses a 1920′s Driggs Skyla biplane. Grand Rapids native John Shipman (below) came to StoryCorps to describe his first taste of flight in one of those planes as a ten-year-old farm kid growing up during the Depression. Now, John likes to visit the museum just to see the plane and get lost in the memories it calls up.
With such beautiful architecture in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, we had to showcase these photos in their own slideshow. Enjoy!
Day photos by Daniel Littlewood. Night photos by Naomi Greene.
Philanthropy? What does it mean? Well, if you are a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, philanthropy is what you do when you care. StoryCorps’ longest Door-to-Door partner, Council of Michigan Foundations, invited us back to record the stories of philanthropists in the Grand Rapids area.
Last week, Storycorps Facilitators, Mike Rauch and Naomi Greene, attended The Center for Self-Determination International Conference in Detroit, Michigan. Over 900 people attended the conference from various cities and backgrounds, but they shared a common belief, despite their mental and/or physical disabilities, they can be in control of their own lives and live they way they choose.
For some, being self-determined must be learned, but for Maria Marquez-McCrory, standing up for herself comes naturally. Vickie Vining (R), a consultant in the mental health field, interviewed Maria (L) about how she became the fighter that she is.
As early as kindergarten, Maria wanted to be treated like all the other schoolchildren, but because of her physical disability, she was separated from the rest of the school. Once when a fellow schoolmate tried to tease her, Maria flipped him the bird. When she was sent to the principal’s office, she argued that if the other children made fun of her, she had the right to defend herself. Today, Maria’s tactics have changed, but her message has not. As a self-advocate for people with disabilities, she continues to spread the message of equality and self-determination to as many as she can.
One of Griot’s community partners in Detroit is the Renaissance Lions Club. The Lions are the world’s largest service club organization with over 45,000 clubs worldwide. Their members raise millions of dollars each year for charitable causes.
The Griot D2D team spent the day at the Lions Clubhouse recording conversations which told of Detroit’s rich history. Thanks to Mr. Young and Ms. Phillips for making the day a great success.
Tuesday May 29th, 2007. 5:30pm. Detroit, MI aka Motorcity.
After two years with StoryCorps, facilitator Nadja Middleton passes the torch during the customary Changing of the Griot Guard.
Bye-bye Nadja. Hello Johnny!
Shirley Talibah D. Touchstone-Garnett came to the Griot Booth to honor the family matriarch, Mary Dunn. Dunn was taken from Africa at the age of 12 in the early 19th century. Upon arrival in America, she was separated from her family and enslaved. Mary had 14 children and after she passed away in 1914, her children began a tradition of annual family reunions. Today the gatherings bring together as many as five hundred people.
Shirley paid hommage to the strength of her Great-Great Grandmother Mary Dunn, and the importance of family and keeping alive the connections we have to our ancestors.
As a child, Tyree Guyton knew that he was destined to make an impact on society. One day his grandfather gave him a paintbrush, and it changed his life forever. In 1986 Tyree began using art to transform a two-block stretch of Heidelberg Street, which was suffering from neglect, into a beautiful creative space, using the ruins as his palette. Two decades later, the Heidelberg project (www.heidelberg.org) has become world renowned, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world each year. Tyree says that Heidelberg is a calling, and for 20 years he has devoted himself to the project, demonstrating in the process that art can be a force for transformation and healing.
Tyree Guyton shared his remarkable story with Jenenne Whitfield the Project’s executive director.
Gorgeous weather, friendly people and a real life griot greeted us on opening day in Detroit, MI. Indeed, standing at the podium (next to Melvin Reeves, Manager for the StoryCorps Griot Initiative), Cardinal Mbuyi Chui explained the traditional role of griots such as himself and the significance of the StoryCorps’ Griot Initiative.
On their way from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Omaha, Nebraska, facilitators Jenna Weiss-Berman and Lena Richardson stopped in Chicago to visit friends.
Lena catches up with old friends Bindu and Ravi while eating delicious Vietnamese food in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.
Jenna’s friend Sarah tells us to "talk to the hand."
Jenna and Lena hang tough in Chicago.
After lunch in Chicago, Jenna and Lena got to driving. While making their way through Iowa, this sign made the facilitators feel close to home.
While Susan attempted to cure her hiccups by drinking water upside down while plugging her ears on our last day of interviews in Kalamazoo…
Our stickers were under attack!
And some truly adorable StoryCorps fans were enjoying some clips at our listening station:
Thanks to everyone who made our stay in Kalamazoo such a wonderful one (especially our NPR partner station, WMUK). We will certainly miss you!
On their day off, facilitators Susan Lee and Jenna Weiss-Berman decided to explore. They hopped in the car and headed due west, where they ended up at what Michiganders call “the beach.” Susan and Jenna, both east coasters, obviously could not conceive of this “beach” in a landlocked state of the Middle West. Therefore, they were beyond pleasantly surprised when they happened upon this:
Laura Livingstone-McNelis (left) interviews her mother Phyllis Knighton (right) about how Laura’s formerly non-verbal daughter Mary learned to speak after spending one magical summer with her grandmother Phyllis. Phyllis, who was encouraged to go back to school in her 70s for speech therapy, had developed a method–to write down every activity she and Mary had done, reading it aloud together at the end of the day. One day, Laura received a call. The voice on the other end was Mary with the simple message of “I love you” for her mother.
These days, Laura is one of proprietors of the Henderson Castle, where StoryCorps facilitators Jenna and Susan are staying. The facilitators are lucky to be surrounded by such inspirations like Laura and her family. Susan and Jenna plan to be further inspired when they get ice cream with Laura and her kids on Thursday.
Karrie Cross and Kenneth “Raven” Fraser, who will both be 40 in September, also stopped by the booth. Both were formerly incarcerated, and Karrie says that their similar life experiences are what make them perfect for each other. They recently found an apartment and will be moving in together soon. Kenneth loves to play the guitar, and would like to pursue a career in music.
Speaking of guitars, the Gibson Guitar Corporation was founded in Kalamazoo in 1902 by Orville Gibson (but back then he was only making mandolins, which probably wouldn’t have interested guitar-rocking Kenneth).
At the end of the day, Gordon Evans came from WMUK to pick up copies of some of our favorite interviews of the week in order to produce them for local broadcast. He brought along his 15-month-old twins, Abby and Nate Evans, who remarked “Lovely day we’re having. Not even one cumulus cloud in this recently extraordinarily blizzardous atmosphere of Kalamazoo to complain about.” Actually, Abby and Nate can’t yet talk, but the part about the weather is true.