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.
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.
The San Francisco StoryBooth has been at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) for the past two and a half years. I began as a volunteer soon after the opening of the booth – a StoryCorps greeter, but without the orange vest. Four months later, I was offered the opportunity to become a StoryCorps facilitator.
I have particularly enjoyed the fact that our booth is located here at the CJM. It’s the first time a StoryBooth has been housed in a museum, and because of it, we have many benefits not available to other locations: we are sheltered from inclement weather, restrooms are nearby and the building that houses the CJM is remarkable architecturally. But by far, one of the greatest benefits is the variety of people coming to our booth and to the CJM. They reflect the great diversity of San Francisco and the Bay Area, and through them I encounter a cross section of our society that I otherwise would never have a chance to meet.
To celebrate the 2010 National Day of Listening on Thanksgiving weekend, the San Francisco StoryBooth and the Contemporary Jewish Museum collaborated to put on a fun-filled afternoon of family activities.
The program featured a “listening stick” art-making project, which was a big hit for all ages! In line with the event’s theme, kids and parents sat at tables hanging out together, telling stories, and adorning their crafty cardboard tubes with ears, collaged images, and even some written messages about the importance of listening in their lives.
When I first saw Jerry McLilly approach the San Francisco StoryBooth, I felt that I recognized him from someplace in the past. As he began to tell his story, it finally hit me: He was that remarkable and unforgettable crooner in the dapper suit that I had heard so many times over the years in downtown San Francisco, singing his signature numbers, “When You’re Smiling” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
Also known as Mr. Smiley, Jerry sang for most of two decades in front of the old Emporium store, before and after it closed (the facade still stands as the entrance to Bloomingdales). We were fortunate that this day in August he brought some songs, his engaging smile and his story to share with us.
While at high school in Detroit, Jerry met Jackie Wilson, who later went on to become a major rhythm and blues star with “Lonely Teardrops” and “Reet Petite.” Jerry was hired for $175 a week as Wilson’s valet and chauffeur when they began a tour of the “Chitlin Circuit” – D.C, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, The Fillmore in San Francisco, and the Apollo in Harlem. Jerry rehearsed with his mentor and role model and began his professional singing career. After some years on the road with Wilson, he performed with a later version of The Ink Spots vocal group in venues around the world.
A bilingual, bicultural home could present challenges for both parents and their children. What will be the dominant language? How do you balance the two heritages?
In July, Olga Galvez brought her mother, Chris Ettlin Galvez, to our San Francisco booth to tell the story of their family for an Historias recording. Chris grew up in a white middle class family in East Oakland. During the 1960′s Chris was hitchhiking in Central California with a friend and they were given a ride by a family of Latino farmworkers. Chris’ friend, fluent in Spanish, was able to converse easily with the family. That day turned out to be a transformative one for Chris. She was introduced to an entirely new language and culture. She went on to became a Spanish major at San Francisco State College where she also earned a teaching credential.
Having been active in the civil rights movement during this period, and with her newly developed language skills, Chris found a place in the United Farm Workers organization. Soon, Chris met her future husband, a Salvadoran immigrant. After a whirlwind courtship, they got married and began a family in San Francisco. In Chris’ words, having her children was “the best thing that ever happened to me.” Chris felt that it was important for her daughters to be fluent in Spanish and it became the dominant language spoken in the home. English could easily be picked up from Chris’s side of the family and in the larger culture.
Mickey Stewart came to the San Francisco StoryCorps booth on August 15, as part of a community partnership with Friends of Negro Spirituals, an Oakland-based group that continues and holds the tradition and heritage of spiritual songs.
Mickey came with stories rich with culture and history. He talked about San Francisco’s North Beach during its heyday of the “Beat” era and also when the Fillmore District, once known as “Harlem of the West,” was a lively and thriving black-owned jazz mecca before the city’s redevelopment plan targeted some 60 square blocks and forced the removal of 200 black-owned businesses. The plan affected more than 13,000 Fillmore residents, mostly African American. After redevelopment, block after block had nothing but large empty lots where buildings had been razed.
Mickey recalled some of the happiest times of his youth spent near old Fillmore, street like the Chicago Barbershop, Red Shoe shop, and Kansas City Bar-be-cue.
In San Francisco, we have a new outreach partnership with Marriage Equality USA’s LOVING Quilt Project. The LOVING Quilt Project, curated by the effervescent Maya Scott Chung, is a traveling exhibit of quilts featuring beautiful story and photo collages of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex married couples along with their families. The project is about honoring families affected by the legislation against the right for all to marry. We are so thrilled to be working with this fantastic project to celebrate and preserve the voices and stories of these couples.
Dr. Erica Britton and Gwendolyn Bikis first met at a book club. They have been married several times; their right to marry has been overturned and marriage certificates nullified a few times over the course of their relationship. Last married in 2008 – the ‘Summer of Love’ – they are one of the 18,000 couples whose marriage is still recognized by the state of California after the passing of Proposition 8. As Erica says, ‘We are one of the fortunate few.’
Erica and Gwendolyn came to the StoryBooth and shared some of the moments when they felt “most married.” For Erica, it was after their wedding ceremony when the party was dying down, and she and Gwendolyn were sitting on the back of a pick-up truck, their feet dangling, watching the sunset and catching their breath together for the first time that day. For Gwendolyn, she feels most married on Saturday afternoons at home, when they argue about what to watch on TV. This, of course, made Erica laugh.
Good friends Maria Mouchess and Patty Garcia could be sisters. In fact, if you were to see them together there would be little doubt in your mind that these two share a curious symmetry, like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together perfectly.
I had the opportunity to play a part in their StoryCorps experience when they came into the San Francisco StoryBooth recently. As members of Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Maria and Patty share a passion for molecular biology, a field in which they are working towards their Doctorates at U.C. Berkeley. Much of their conversation focused on the emerging role of minorities, specifically Latina women, in the ever-expanding world of scientific research. Both Patty and Maria seek to bring diversity to their field and to promote an intersection of science and culture, an idea people rarely stop to consider. But the two women have a connection that runs deeper than similar academic motivations.
(Maria and Patty)
As the children of parents who immigrated to the United states, they share a deep and unwavering commitment to their families and to the importance of education. Patty tells the story of her mother who, as a young child, would wake up before the sun rose to pick fruits and vegetables in the San Joaquin valley in order to help her family make ends meet. She would then arrive late to school where she sat in the back of the class, ignored by her teacher and saddled with the task of trying to learn in a language she did not speak. After months of hard work, she had shown such improvement and resolve that her teacher moved her to the front of the class; a moment she has been proud of ever since. She went on to finish high school and received scholarships to go to college, all the while continuing to pick fruit and vegetables with her family every morning. Through her mother’s example, Patty has learned a thing or two about responsibility and perseverance.
In her own life, Maria has reached similar conclusions:
‘Thinking about growing up, my mom… she works at Target stocking things… my dad used to drive a truck taking people to and from the airport. To me that’s very laborious compared to now, where I’m sitting around talking to people about my ideas in a very academic setting. To me those are two very different worlds… I almost feel selfish because I never had to go through that process and they did it all for us. Because of that I feel a very great sense of responsibility to help my parents as soon as I can, and I feel a responsibility generally towards my community.’
It is this feeling of debt to the greater community that acts as the glue to Maria and Patty’s relationship. How to give back to others what one has been given? To pass along a lineage of honor, respect, and dignity and promote the common good? These are the questions that Maria and Patty will spend the rest of their lives answering.
We are so excited to partner with SACNAS as part of the StoryCorps Historias initiative, and we look forward to recording more of their wonderful stories.
Well, whew! A lot of exciting things have happened here at the San Francisco StoryBooth since last we’ve blogged. There was the Teacher Development Workshop that we co-hosted with the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s Education Department, and an Oral-history Workshop for Teens, and then there was a Community Listening Event at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.
And, perhaps most exciting of all, there have been some new additions to our San Francisco team. Let me introduce Facilitators Frank Kingman, Eloise Melzer, and Lena Richardson!
Frank comes to StoryCorps following an over thirty-year long career as a locomotive engineer and conductor for the Southern Pacific Railroad and Amtrak. Originally from San Jose, California, Frank studied history, philosophy, political theory, and sociology at the University of California in Santa Cruz. He lives with his wife, Rhonda, in a designated historic district of San Francisco known as Dogpatch.
Hailing from Wisconsin with a degree in Anthropology from Middlebury College, Eloise has always been fascinated by the stories people tell and what lessons we glean from them. Eloise recently completed the radio program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, an enriching experience that introduced her to many wonderful people and reinforced the power of storytelling in everyday life.
After earning a Masters Degree in Adult Education and Community Development in Toronto, Lena moved back to her native Brooklyn to spend a year working as a New York City-based StoryCorps Facilitator. Long-time readers of this blog might recognize her from midwest adventures such as this and this, not to mention serving as an accomplice to this wild and crazy act, here. Lena now lives in Berkeley, California, where she works as an acupressure practitioner and continues to study the healing arts. We are so thrilled to have her back!
We couldn’t be happier to welcome these folks to the StoryCorps family. Come by the booth and say hello some time!
It is a very interesting experience listening to two people converse in a language you cannot understand. You must rely on hand gestures, facial expressions and vocal inflections to get the tone of the conversation. Laughter, of course, always helps. Usually when a StoryCorps interview takes place, a Facilitator will be jotting down notes from the conversation and asking pointed, insightful (hopefully) questions that allow the participants to really tap into long lost memories. The San Francisco StoryBooth’s Door-to-Door at the Mabini Day Health Center was different in that none of the Storytellers spoke any English.
Everyone one of us feels attached to the place(s) we grew up. Be it amongst the bustling city streets or acres of grassy farmland, a quiet ocean beach or a sandy desert stretch, the word “home” means more than simply a place to rest one’s head at night. For Wilson Wong, home is the Chinatown districts of Oakland and San Francisco.
Roy Chan and Wilson Wong
Hello from StoryCorps’ newest home, our StoryBooth at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco!
This past June, the Contemporary Jewish Museum began a new chapter in its history by opening the doors to a new building by the architect Daniel Liebskind—an adaptive reuse of the 1907 Jesse Street Power Substation. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase L’Chaim, meaning “To Life,” the building is the physical embodiment of the Museum’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in a celebration of life and shared humanity. The Museum is designed not only as a space to experience works of art, but also–more importantly–as a space to experience other people through conversation and debate.
Sound familiar? We couldn’t be more thrilled to be here.