On Wednesday, June 22 StoryCorps Atlanta fans gathered for our second annual “StoryCorps Out & OutLoud: A Celebration of Stories from the LGBTQ Community.” The evening’s host, WABE’s John Lemley, commented that despite moving to a larger venue, the event was once again standing room only.
Kerrie Cotton Williams, Archivist and Manager of the Archives Division at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History and StoryCorps alumna discussed the importance of archiving our stories.
November 16, 2010 was the one-year anniversary of the first StoryCorps Atlanta broadcast on WABE’s City Café. To mark the occasion, we invited Atlanta Alumni and Community Partners to celebrate our first anniversary. Fittingly, John Lemley, the host of WABE’s City Café, was the MC for the evening.
The evening began with opening remarks by John Weatherford, Chief Operating Officer of WABE, and a special message from Dave Isay, Founder and Executive Director of StoryCorps.
We listened to several StoryCorps Atlanta stories that evening, starting with the very first story that aired a year ago, a conversation between mother and daughter, Joyce and Errin Haines.
On Saturday, September 25, the StoryCorps Atlanta team packed up its equipment and headed to the heart of downtown Atlanta to the second annual Neighborhood Summit. The event, a program by the Civic League for Regional Atlanta sponsored by the United Way and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, had the theme “Neighborhood Connections, Regional Voices.”
Throughout the day, Summit attendees sat in on workshops that focused on topics ranging from communities using social media technology to organize themselves, to learning about a new plan that, according to the organization’s website, “will determine how the region accommodates population and economic growth sustainability over the next 30 years.” Heady stuff to be sure!
In May, StoryCorps Atlanta Facilitator, Katrina Singh and I spent a day at the Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse. The clubhouse, in Stone Mountain, GA, is a place where people living with the lifelong effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are respected and valued as contributing community members. Members practice life skills such as cooking, counting money and answering the phone.
Members and their caretakers recorded their stories Although the members can’t remember the details of their accidents, they clearly remembered their lives before the accident.
Husband and wife Bisi and Deborah Alabi immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria. They were on the way back from a family friend’s college graduation, when they skidded on ice. After the crash, Deborah, a nurse, could tell that her husband was alive, though badly injured. Now years later, they talked about how happy they are. Bisi can’t work due to his traumatic brain injury, but that seems quite alright with his wife. Before the accident, he worked three jobs as a pharmacist (a day job, a night job and one on the weekends). Now he spends more time at home with his family. Since he volunteers in the kitchen at Side by Side, he’s started helping his wife out in their kitchen (something he never did before the accident). And every day he Skypes with his grandchildren in Las Vegas.
Sagal Radio Services is a nonprofit that broadcasts weekly radio programs aimed at immigrant communities. Their programs, broadcast in 5 different languages, providing information to help newcomers adapt to life in the United States.
Hear Me Today: The Voice of Today’s Teens is a Sagal Radio Services program created by Clarkston high school students who intern with the International Rescue Committee over the summer.
This summer, I visited Sagal Radio Services, where interns, Nawal Abdirahman from Somalia and Ram Koirala and Tara Powdyal from Nepal interviewed me about StoryCorps. After my time in the hot seat, I invited them to return the favor and visit us at the WABE studios to learn how we create StoryCorps. They toured the Atlanta StoryBooth, met WABE on-air personalities, asked questions of the News Director, Michael Fields, and saw how producer, Kate Sweeney edits a story.
In 2010, HIV/AIDS is not as scary a diagnosis as it was in the early- and mid-eighties. Now, almost thirty years since the disease first became part of the public lexicon, HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. In late-August, StoryCorps Atlanta partnered with Positive Impact to record stories of individuals living with and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Trevalle Ambrose arrived early for his conversation with Positive Impact group facilitator Rico Curtis-Davidson. He found out he was HIV positive on his 21st birthday. When he told his family that he was positive they, in his words, “just cut me off.” One year later, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia with his best friend, Devin Murphy. Three days after they arrived, Devin died. Trevalle was alone in a new city, grieving the loss of his friend and estranged from his family. With the help of Devin’s brother, Trevalle found the medical resources he needed. His spiritual journey, though, had just begun. Trevalle would face numerous illnesses – many life-threatening – battle drug addiction, and fight to regain his family’s love and respect. Looking back, Trevalle says, “I was a mess. I was a lost soul.”
When I tell people that I work for StoryCorps, many people mention a parent or grandparent they wish they had interviewed before they passed, which is one of the many reasons we are so excited that we’re partnering with Ruth and Naomi Senior Outreach in Birmingham, AL.
Chaplains Mary McQueen Porter and Lynn Bledsoe visit isolated elders to sing, play harp, and provide human and canine companionship. In their own way, they exemplify the StoryCorps motto, “listening as an act of love.”
Mary and Lynn are now incorporating StoryCorps interviews into their senior outreach visits. To date, they have recorded over a dozen interviews with elders using a StoryKit.
It’s not very often that homeless men and women are given a stage to tell their own stories. But that’s exactly what happened when artist/teacher Polly Garcia approached Atlanta Outreach Project’s about creating Life Without Walls.
Atlanta Outreach Project provides innovative solutions to ending homelessness in collaboration with other agencies. Life Without Walls project was a 10-week writing and theater workshop designed to teach and improve writing and artistic skills. In the workshops, individuals who are or have been homeless were guided through an artistic process in which they created poems and scenes based on their own stories. As part of the process, they used a StoryKit to interview each other and tell their stories. (more…)
When Julia Anne Bourne was diagnosed with cancer, she got mad. Then, she got busy raising awareness and money for breast cancer research. Since she was “incredibly” healthy – a marathon runner and a cyclist – Julia felt blindsided by her cancer diagnosis. One of her friends was uneasy about Julia’s breast cancer diagnosis. “It scared her. If this (breast cancer) could happen to me, it could happen to her.”
Julia decided she would not be a “happy camper” and fight her disease with stoic passivity. She describes participating in a breast cancer event not long after her diagnosis. “I was confused when they saluted breast cancer survivors. I was told that I was a survivor even though I had just been diagnosed. What other disease labels you a survivor based on just the diagnosis?”
A self-described “cancer curmudgeon,” Julia dislikes the ubiquitous breast cancer “pink fluff.” Says Julia, “I prefer white – the color of research labs – rather than pink.”
In early March, StoryCorps Atlanta spent a day recording stories of hope, redemption and service at City of Refuge, a neighborhood-based service center in the Vine City community of Atlanta. We had an opportunity to listen to some of the staff, volunteers, and residents while we were there. Based on the stories we heard and the people we met, City of Refuge assists the helped to become the helpers.
“It’s a privilege to be in this space and place and do what I do,” says Dr. Charles Moore, who heads the free clinic at City of Refuge. Dr. Moore and his research advisee, Sheri Davis-Faulkner, were one of the six pairs to share their stories at City of Refuge. As a physician treating patients with head and neck cancers, Dr. Moore grew frustrated that by the time he saw patients, they had few treatment options left. He kept thinking, “Somebody needs to do something to help these patients.” One day he thought, “Maybe that person is supposed to be me.”
As a young girl, Sheri studied ballet from ages 3-13 and her ballet instructors told her she needed to lose weight. Her baby-sitters armed Sheri with the self-confidence to “decide what my body looked like and not to feel like I needed to fight my body.” As part of her doctoral research, Sheri wanted to help middle and high school students in urban food deserts (locations with limited access to whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables). She needed a site that would agree to provide space for her field research on childhood obesity and body image.
On Monday, November 23, five Brownies from Troop 565 of Newnan, Georgia visited StoryCorps Atlanta to prepare for the National Day of Listening. Ava, Chloe, Angelina, Carly and Annalie started their visit with a tour of the WABE and PBA studios where they met a number of Atlanta celebrities: Alicia Steele, Steve Goss, Rose Scott, John Weatherford, Lois Reitzes, and John Lemley. The scouts got to listen in as Lois mentioned their troop’s visit on air. The scouts had a chance to visit the Atlanta StoryBooth where they talked into the mics and learned how the facilitators adjust the sound. “I loved learning how to use the microphones!” says Annalie Harris.
After seeing the studios, the girls learned about StoryCorps and the National Day of Listening. They listened to StoryCorps clips and talked about the importance of listening as an act of love. The girls decided who in their in their family they’d like to interview for the National Day of Listening, the day after Thanksgiving. By interviewing a family member, the girls will earn the Her Story patch. “We really learned to listen to each other,” says Angelina Capponi.