StoryCorps Wins Emmy Award for “Traffic Stop”
This month, StoryCorps won a News & Documentary Emmy Award for the animated short, “Traffic Stop”—the story of Alex Landau, an African American man adopted by white parents who was severely beaten by Denver police after what he believed was going to be little more than a routine traffic stop.
At the time of the assault, Alex was a 19-year-old Community College of Denver student driving with a white friend when police pulled him over for allegedly making an illegal turn. His friend, who had marijuana on him, was cuffed. After Alex asked police to see a warrant, officers began beating him while claiming he had a gun and drawing their own weapons: “I could feel the gun pressed against my head, and I expected to be shot. And at that point I lost consciousness. And it took 45 stitches to close up the lacerations in my face alone.”
In 2011, Alex was awarded a $795,000 settlement from the City of Denver. Two of the officers involved have since been fired from the Denver Police Department for other incidents.
Released online in June 2015, “Traffic Stop” originated as a StoryCorps interview between Alex and his mother, Patsy Hathaway. It was recorded in May 2014 and produced by Jud Esty-Kendall, facilitated by Daniel Sitts, and broadcast nationally on NPR in August 2014. In 2015, StoryCorps animation producers Rachel Hartman and Lizzie Jacobs worked with indie animators Gina Kamentsky and Julie Zammarchi to bring Alex’s story to life, and “Traffic Stop” was broadcast on POV in September 2015. (Watch below as Rachel and Alex accept the award.)
Alex has since returned to college and expects to graduate with a degree in Communications and Social Justice. He still lives in Denver and works on law enforcement and criminal justice reform issues with two organizations, the Colorado Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform and the Denver Justice Project which he founded. When Alex recorded his StoryCorps interview, he and his partner, Helina, were expecting their first child, a daughter. Maya is now two years old and Patsy helps care for her during the day when Alex and Helina are at work.
Following the Emmy Award ceremony, Alex came to the StoryCorps offices in Brooklyn and recorded a follow-up interview with Jud discussing current events, how his life has changed since 2009, and parenthood. That conversation will be the subject of the next episode of the StoryCorps podcast.
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Top photo: Jud Esty-Kendall, Alex Landau, and Rachel Hartman at the StoryCorps offices in September 2016.
The fabric of American society is being tested this year—straining against a deluge of discord, division, intolerance, violence, and fear. In the coming months, the forces that want to pull us apart are likely to get even louder.
We believe the true story of this nation, its values, and its people is being drowned out as never before—we’re at risk of losing sight of who we really are.
But we also believe that each of us has the power to do something about it.
Through November, StoryCorps and Upworthy will release a series of real-life stories told by everyday Americans that speak to our best selves. Stories that amplify love over hate and empathy over fear. Stories that build bridges of understanding between people and help us recognize our shared humanity.
We’re asking every American to step up and participate not just by sharing these stories with others, but also by reaching out to someone different from them to ask about where they come from, what they care about, and who they love.
Asking questions and listening intently to other people’s stories is a powerful force for good. If we all take one hour this year to do it, we’ll strengthen our national fabric at a time when the divisions seem insurmountably wide. Because when we take the time to listen to each other’s stories, we see the beauty, poetry, and grace hiding in plain sight all around us.
During these challenging times, this series will inspire us to imagine something better for ourselves and for our country.
It will remind us #WhoWeAre.
Peter Koechley & Eli Pariser