American Pathways Archives - StoryCorps

Separated by Time and Distance, Best Friends Reunited After More Than Three Decades

Pak Yan and Joe Chan grew up in the same neighborhood in Hong Kong. They developed a close friendship, learning to ride bikes without training wheels and walking each other to school every day. Then, in 1962, Joe’s family moved to the U.S., seeking refuge amidst the Great Chinese Famine.

Pak Yan (left) and Joe Chang at a StoryCorps interview in San Francisco on September 18, 2014. By Geraldine Ah-Sue for StoryCorps.

An ocean between them, the two sent handwritten letters weekly via airmail. But after several years, as they moved and their addresses changed, the two lost contact. Pak often wondered what had become of his friend, and when he was 30 years old he also moved to the U.S. Years later—in 2000, when the internet was still relatively new—Pak decided to use Yahoo to search for his friend. He found 108 Joe Chan’s and called them one by one, leaving voice messages until he finally reached Joe on the 104th call.

“It’s like we just picked up where we left off,” Joe said. In 2014, the two men came to StoryCorps to remember their reunion.

Top Photo: Pak Yan (left) and Joe Chan (right) at Friendship Park in Richmond, CA soon after they reunited. The text on the rock reads ‘friendship’ in Chinese. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired November 25, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

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A Teen Asks Her Mom: ‘When Can I Wear The Hijab?’

Like any 14-year-old Dana Aljubouri is navigating the rites of passage on her journey to adulthood. Dana, a devout muslim living in Jacksonville, FL, is eager to begin covering her hair. To her, the hijab demonstrates her pride for her religion and her family’s culture. But her mother, Basma Alawee doesn’t think she’s ready.

Basma Alawee and Dana Aljubouri pose for a selfie in Jacksonville, Florida. 2022. 

The family came to the U.S. from Iraq in 2010, when Dana was not yet two years-old. Since then, Basma has been made to feel uncomfortable, even unsafe, while wearing her hijab in public spaces in Florida. She worries about her daughter, and wants her to wait.

Mother and daughter came to StoryCorps to discuss this important decision.

Top Photo: Basma Alawee and Dana Aljubouri at their StoryCorps interview in Jacksonville, Florida on October 7, 2022. Andrew Avitabile/StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired October 21, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.



Vietnam Separated Them, But These Brothers Stand Side By Side

Ron Amen grew up in Dearborn, Michigan in the 1950s. He belonged to a large and close family, including his brother, Alan. They were raised to look out for one another, and it was a lesson they took very seriously.

Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.

In 1965, when the U.S. started committing combat troops to Vietnam, Ron was in one of the initial waves to be drafted for battle. This was the first time the brothers had been separated. But despite the distance the war brought, Ron and Alan kept their bond alive.

Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.Ron Amen during his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of Ron Amen.

The brothers came to StoryCorps to reflect on their relationship, and to remember the effect war had on them — and their brotherhood.

Top photo: Alan and Ron Amen at their StoryCorps interview in Dearborn, Michigan on August 10, 2012. By Erin Dickey for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 23, 2022 on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

The Rent We Pay

A Marine Corps veteran caught between two cultures.

Ajmal Achekzai

During the onset of the Soviet-Afghan war, Ajmal Achekzai and his family fled to the United States to seek asylum. More than 20 years later, Ajmal returns to the place he once called home as a United States Marine. In 2021, as the political state of Afghanistan took a turn for the worse, Ajmal came to StoryCorps to reflect on the dualities he faced as an Afghan-born U.S. Marine.

Listen to Ajmal’s original StoryCorps interview.

Para subtítulos en español, haga click en el ícono de YouTube en la esquina derecha, y escoja “Spanish” bajo la opción de “settings” y “subtitles/CC.

First Muslim Chaplain In U.S. Armed Forces Recalls His Decades-Long Career Of Supporting Soldiers

Lieutenant Colonel Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad joined the United States Army in 1982. Before enlisting, he was a civilian imam in San Diego, CA, and he joined because was attracted to the discipline and values of the military culture there.

In the early 90s, Lt. Col. Muhammad became the first Muslim chaplain in the Armed Forces. In his duties, he consoled the families of fallen soldiers, and offered mental and emotional support to service members dealing with grief.

He came to StoryCorps with his wife, Saleemah Muhammad, to talk about what that was like.

Top Photo: Lieutenant Colonel Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad and his wife, Saleemah Muhammad. Photo courtesy of the participants.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired November 6, 2021 on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

For Those Left Behind: An Afghan American Marine Reflects On His Homeland

In 1980, Ajmal Achekzai fled Afghanistan during the onset of the Soviet–Afghan War, leaving his birth city of Kabul behind. He was only five years old.

The next time he would return would be in November of 2001. U.S. Marines were the first major ground forces sent to Afghanistan after 9/11. Ajmal was among them. 

Cpl. Ajmal Achekzai talks with two Afghan locals on December 10, 2001 at the perimeter of a patrol base in Southern Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Joseph R. Chenelly/USMC/Getty Images.

Twenty years later, Ajmal is witnessing the return of Taliban control. He sat down with StoryCorps to remember where he came from, the dire uncertainty of Afghanistan’s future and the love he has for its people.

Ajmal Achekzai with his mother, in July of 2001, at the Salt Lake International Airport. Courtesy of the Achekzai family.
Top Photo: Ajmal Achekzai at his StoryCorps interview in Costa Mesa, CA, on August 19th, 2016. By Liyna Anwar for StoryCorps.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices and Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired September 03, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Optimism Never Failed Me:” Former Child Actor and Cuban Refugee Tells Grandson to Keep Dreaming

Growing up in Havana, Cuba, Mario García was a child actor who was featured in commercials, telenovelas, and the 1961 film El Joven Rebelde.

Mario García on the set of the Cuban telenovela, Esta Es Tu Vida. Courtesy of Mario García.

That all changed when he had to flee as a refugee during the Castro regime, along with 14,000 Cuban children under Operation Peter Pan. In February 1962, he boarded a plane to live with his aunt and uncle in Miami, where he went from learning his lines to learning English.

Mario went on to start a family and become a successful journalist and though he had to put his acting career aside, he never gave up on returning to the screen. Now in his early 70s, Mario continues to audition and was an extra in the film In the Heights. Mario’s grandson, Maximilian García, has inherited his grandfather’s passion for acting.

At StoryCorps, Max asked his grandfather about how he got his start on screen.

Top Photo: Dr. Mario García and his grandson, Maximilian García. Courtesy of Mario García.

This interview is part of the Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired July 30th, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“You’re My Forever Love”: Reflections On Over 30 Years Of Friendship

In the late 1980s, Julaina Glass had moved from her childhood home in Washington Heights, NY, to a small studio in Harlem. Julaina was 19 and living alone, but she found a fast friend in her upstairs neighbor, Beau McCall.

Beau was an artist and older than Julaina by about 10 years. His apartment became like a second home to her and they soon became inseparable.

Nearly 35 years after they first met, Beau and Julaina came to StoryCorps to reminisce about some of their happiest memories together, and to look back on how it all began.

Top Photo: Beau McCall and Julaina Glass at their StoryCorps interview in New York, NY on June 3, 2017. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps.

This interview was recorded in partnership with the I, Too Arts Collective. It is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired May 14, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

For the Love of Books: One Librarian Makes All the Difference

As a young father in Brooklyn, NY, Rich Jean wasn’t always sure how to keep his three year old daughter, Abigail, busy and happy. He decided to start taking her to their local library. Abigail was soon enrolled in one of their programs for young learners. That is where they met an aspiring librarian, Hasina Islam. Hasina was still an intern at that time, but immediately did everything she could to encourage Abigail in her love of books.

Four years after that first encounter, Rich, Abigail and Hasina came to StoryCorps to talk about how that chance meeting set them on a path to friendship.

Hasina Islam and Abigail Jean after their StoryCorps recording on April 25, 2021. Courtesy of Hasina Islam and Rich Jean. 

Five years later, while separated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hasina and Abigail came back to StoryCorps to reconnect remotely with a second recording in 2021.

Top Photo: Rich Jean, Abigail Jean and Hasina Islam at their StoryCorps interview in Brooklyn, NY on November 5, 2016. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps.
The 2016 interview was recorded in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and IMLS National Medal winner, Brooklyn Public Library.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 30, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Divided By Immigration Status: Brothers Reflect On Their Bond

Growing up in Bakersfield, California, Randy Villegas and his older brother Angel lived under the same roof, but in separate realities: Randy was a U.S. citizen, but Angel was undocumented.

Randy (left) and Angel (right)  at the California Speedway car show, in Fontana, CA. in 1999

In 2012, Angel became a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a government program that protects nearly 700,000 immigrants brought into the United States as children from deportation. It also grants them a range of benefits, such as work permits and health insurance from employers who offer it. Despite this, every decision Angel makes is still influenced by the uncertainty of his residency status.

The two siblings came to StoryCorps in 2020, when they were in their twenties, to talk for the first time about the moment Angel realized he was undocumented, and how that affected their relationship.

Top Photo: Angel and Randy Villegas at Angel’s graduation ceremony from the New School of Architecture & Design in San Diego in 2018. Courtesy of the participants.

This interview is part of the Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 23rd, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.