Griot – StoryCorps

“Charlottesville Shouldn’t Be Discussed”: But This Local Refused to Forget

On August 12, 2017, hundreds of white nationalists converged on Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Confederate monument. The “Unite the Right” rally became deadly when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others.

Charlottesville resident, 52-year-old Lisa Woolfork was in that crowd, and she was at the intersection where the car attack took place. The shock from that violent day remains with her. But as she told Kendall King-Sellars, who was also in the crowd that day, not everyone wants to talk about it.

Counter-protest to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. Courtesy of Lisa Woolfork.

Today, Lisa is an associate professor at the University of Virginia, and she now runs her own sewing group, “Black Women Stitch,” and podcast, “Stitch Please.”

Lisa and Kendall’s conversation is brought to you by One Small Step at the University of Virginia’s Karsh Institute of Democracy, with support from the Memory Project at UVA and WTJU.

Top Photo: Lisa Woolfork (Left) and Kendall King-Sellars (Right). Courtesy of Lisa Woolfork and Kendall King-Sellars.

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 August 12, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Our Father Taught Us To Love Ourself”: Remembering The Man Who Brought Juneteenth To San Diego

Long before Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in the U.S., Sidney Cooper had been celebrating the hallowed day for decades.

Sidney grew up in a predominantly Black town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Juneteenth celebrations were a common part of his upbringing.

In the early 1950s, Sidney settled down in Southern California, and he became an early Black business owner in a predominantly white area.

Sidney Cooper (center) with his daughter, Lana (left), and his wife, Thelma (right), in front of the Cooper family barbershop and produce stand on Imperial Avenue. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

Sidney taught his children many lessons on family and community, but he also taught them the importance of celebrating Juneteenth — even when no one else in his community was acknowledging the holiday.

Marla Cooper celebrating at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration in San Diego. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

A banner honoring the memory of Sidney Cooper at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration.
Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.

His daughters, Marla and Lana, came to StoryCorps to remember their dad and the legacy he left in his community.

Top Photo: Lana Cooper-Jones and Marla Cooper at their StoryCorps interview in San Diego, CA on May 11, 2022 for StoryCorps.

Originally aired Friday, June 17, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“We Are Needed”: A Counselor At Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Shares Her Story

In the mid-1990s, Miss Betty Thompson retired from her job in state government, and started a second career working at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization as a counselor. By 2004, it was the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.

Often faced with incredibly long distances to travel, and protesters on the ground upon their arrival, Betty helped all those who walked through the doors. 

In 2022, the clinic would become the center of the pending U.S. Supreme Court case challenging Roe v. Wade.

Betty worked there at the clinic for almost 25 years, but it was her own experiences as a teenager that brought her to the work. 

In 2016, she came to StoryCorps to share her story.

Betty Thompson on April 14th, 2016, in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Natalia Fidelholtz for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Betty Thompson on April 14th, 2016, in front of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Natalia Fidelholtz for StoryCorps.

Originally aired May 20th, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Bringing Hope and a Love of Horses to L.A. Streets

Ghuan Featherstone grew up in South Central Los Angeles. He has one clear memory of riding a horse for the first time, in Griffith Park, when he was eight years old. It was a feeling that he never forgot, and a lifelong passion was born.

When Ghuan left the military and returned to L.A. years later, he began to immerse himself in the craft of riding and caring for horses. After a tragic fire destroyed his neighborhood stable, Ghuan saw a hole torn into his community. Instead of standing by, Ghuan decided to step forward to found a new stable: Urban Saddles.

Jordan Humphreys riding his horse Winter at the Urban Saddles Stables, in South Gate, California.

He came to StoryCorps with his mentee Jordan Humphreys. At just 13 years old Jordan has become a cornerstone of Urban Saddles.

Top photo: Ghuan Featherstone and Jordan Humphreys at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, California on December 15th, 2021. By Maja Sazdic for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 28th, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“You Are Your Brother’s Keeper”: A Marine Opens Up To His Son About 9/11

In August 2000, former Marine Sgt. Jason Thomas was discharged from active duty. One year later, on September 11, 2001, he was compelled to step forward as two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, just miles from where he lived. 

Jason grabbed his Marine uniform and sped to Ground Zero, where he spent almost three weeks working as a first responder looking for survivors buried under the debris. 

Jason Thomas at Ground Zero on 9/11. This is one of the images developed by the firefighter who found Jason’s camera at Ground Zero. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Jason — now a Master Sgt. with the Air Force Reserve — came to StoryCorps with his youngest son, Jason Christian Thomas, to talk about the lasting impact that experience had on him. 

This was the first time they spoke about the details of that day.

Jason Thomas and Jason Christian Thomas in Florida, July of 2020. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.
Top Photo: Jason Thomas at Ground Zero after 9/11. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.

Originally aired Sept. 11, 2021, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Dr. Charles Drew: Remembering “The Father of Blood Banks” And His Fatherhood

In the 1940s, Dr. Charles Drew was a prominent surgeon, living with his wife and four children in Washington, D.C. He was a multifaceted man who trained surgeons and physicians, and who also studied and tested the storage of blood and plasma.

Dr. Charles Drew working with his residents at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis.

During World War II, Dr. Drew was recruited to head the Blood for Britain Project. His goal was to discover the safe storage and transport of blood needed on the battlefield. His efforts were successful, and his breakthrough helped preserve the lives of thousands of soldiers.

After the war, Dr. Drew continued his life-saving research, even while the Red Cross maintained a segregation of blood based on race. Dr. Drew fervently argued against the segregation of blood, but he would not live to see the reversal of this policy. He died in a car accident on April 1, 1950, but later that year the Red Cross ended the discriminatory practice.

Ernest Jarvis and Charlene Drew Jarvis in recent years. Courtesy of Ernest Jarvis.

Dr. Drew’s daughter, Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, came to StoryCorps with her son, Ernest Jarvis, to remember the man who paved the way for today’s blood banks.

Top Photo: Dr. Charles Drew in his lab. Courtesy of Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis.

Originally aired August 6, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“I Want This To Not Be Normal”: After Giving Birth Prematurely, Two Moms Are Working To End The Cycle

Sabrina Beavers and Shantay Davies-Balch have spent their careers fighting for Black maternal and infant health. 

When both women had their babies weeks before their due dates, they found themselves at the center of that very issue.

Sabrina came to StoryCorps in 2019, just five weeks after giving birth to her daughter Destiny. She talked with her friend and colleague Shantay about their firsthand experiences with preterm birth, and their shared hope that conversations like theirs will become more common.

Top Photo: Sabrina Beavers and Shantay Davies-Balch at their StoryCorps interview in Sanger, CA on May 3, 2019. By Nicolas Cadenat for StoryCorps.

This interview was recorded in partnership with Independent Lens and Valley PBS as part of a project to record stories about health and access to care in rural communities.

Originally aired July 2, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Room In My Heart: How One Woman Found Forgiveness After Her Brother’s Murder

On January 21st, 1995, 20-year-old Tariq Khamisa, a student at San Diego State University, was out delivering a pizza, when a gang tried to rob him. Things escalated, and at the urging of an older gang member, 14-year-old Tony Hicks shot and killed Tariq.

Tariq Khamisa as a high school senior. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

Tony became the youngest person in California to be charged as an adult, and spent the majority of his sentence at maximum-security prisons.

As the Khamisa family was grieving, Tariq’s father, Azim, leaned on his spiritual practice as a Sufi Muslim. 

In 2000, five years after Tariq’s death, Azim went to Folsom State Prison to meet Tony for the first time (you can hear them in conversation here). 15 years later, Tariq’s older sister, Tasreen, did the same. The friendships forged between the Khamisa family and Tony directly contributed to Tony’s release from prison in 2019.

To hear more from the Khamisa family and Tony, check out this episode of the StoryCorps podcast.

Top Photo: Tasreen Khamisa and Tony Hicks. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.

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 March 5th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Sylvia’s Legacy

Ellaraino, 72, grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950s. When was 16 she had one thing on her mind: boys. Her parents thought that was trouble, so they sent her to Louisiana to live with her great-grandmother Silvia for the summer. They’d never met before and Ellaraino didn’t want to spend her time with a senile old woman. But as she tells her friend Baki AnNur, she was soon enthralled by Silvia’s stories. She came to StoryCorps in Los Angeles to talk about what she learned that summer.

Watch an animated version of Ellaraino’s story:

Originally aired September 16, 2011, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Rebroadcast on November 6, 2020, on the same program. 

From The School Bus To The Hospital, A Doctor’s Experiences With Racism

As nationwide protests in the United States continue, conversations about racial inequity have come into the forefront. And many are reminded of experiences from our not-so-distant past — like Dr. Ayim Darkeh and his mother, Shirley, who moved to Westbury on Long Island, New York in the 1970s. 

When Ayim started attending elementary school, he was one of a handful of Black students in a predominantly white school. 

Ayim and his mother had a conversation over StoryCorps Connect to talk about the discrimination Ayim faced as a child, and how that’s shaped his approach to parenting.

Content Warning: this story contains some offensive language.

Top Photo: Shirly Darkeh and Ayim Darkeh at Shirly’s 85th birthday celebration at a church on Long Island, NY in 2019. Courtesy of Ayim Darkeh.
Bottom Photo: Ayim Darkeh and his children at their Brooklyn home in 2019. Courtesy of Ayim Darkeh.

Originally aired August 28, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.