Los Angeles Archives - StoryCorps

“She Had Dreams In Life”: A Remembrance Of Latasha Harlins

We should note that the audio version of this story contains a graphic description of violence.

On April 29th, 1992, the city of Los Angeles erupted into 6 days of uprisings. Over 60 people died, over 2,000 were injured, there was widespread theft and property damage to the area, and thousands of residents took to the streets in protest — the cause widely known to be the acquittal of the four police officers who brutally assaulted Rodney King.

But there was another case that also grabbed the attention of Los Angeles at that time; the killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins. On March 16, 1991, Harlins was shot and killed by a store clerk who accused her of stealing. 

Even though Latasha’s killer was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter, a judge allowed her to avoid jail time. It was among the catalysts for the Los Angeles Riots.

Latasha’s sister, Dr. Christina Rogers, and her brother, Vester Acoff, were 8 and 10 years old, respectively, when she was killed. The three children were being raised by their grandmother, Ruth Harlins. 

Latasha’s cousin, Shinese Harlins-Kilgore (left), with Latasha Harlins (right) in 1983. Courtesy of Christina Rogers.

Vester, Ruth, and Christina sat down for StoryCorps, more than 30 years later, to remember Latasha. 

In 1992, the family started the Latasha Harlins Foundation in her name. They aim to make lasting change for low-income and Black families and children in the Los Angeles area.

Latasha Harlins as an early teen. Courtesy of Christina Rogers. 

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.

30 Years After Carrying Her Out Of A Burning Building, A Firefighter Tells The Woman He Saved: “You’ve Carried Me Through Tough Times.”

Los Angeles County firefighter Derek Bart first came to StoryCorps in 2020, just hours after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.

He stepped into the MobileBooth to reflect on his 33 years of public service and how he wanted to be remembered. But there, he thought of someone else, an 8-year-old girl he’d met early in his career, when he responded to a house fire.

Los Angeles County fire captain Derek Bart at his firehouse. Courtesy of Derek Bart.

Shortly after his first recording, Derek found out he’d been misdiagnosed, and that he was going to live. So he came back to sit down for another StoryCorps conversation, this time with Myeshia Oates, the woman who he saved nearly three decades ago.

Top Photo: Myeshia Oates and Derek Bart at their StoryCorps interview in Santa Clarita, CA on August 23, 2021.

Originally aired September 24, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Daughter Pays Tribute To The “Mom Every Other Kid Wanted”

Mary Mills grew up as an only child in the 1960s, in a quiet neighborhood near Santa Monica, California. 

Mary Mills, 4, with her mother, Joyce Carter Mills, in front of their family car, in 1967.  Photo courtesy of Mary Mills.

Although Mary didn’t have siblings to play with, she was never lonely. There were plenty of children nearby and they all seemed to want to be at her house. More specifically, they wanted to hang out with Mary’s mother, Joyce Carter Mills.

Mary Mills and Joyce Carter Mills at their StoryCorps interview in Santa Monica, CA on February 7, 2020.
By Mia Raquel for StoryCorps.

In 2020, Mary brought her mom to StoryCorps to tell her why she was “the mom every other kid wanted.” Joyce, who was 89 at the time of their interview, starts their conversation.

Top Photo: A young Mary Mills with her mother, Joyce, in 1963. Photo courtesy of Mary Mills

Originally aired April 9, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

2 Sisters on Enjoying Life: “Instead of a Drama or a Novela, Make It a Sitcom”

Brenda Ulloa Martinez and her sister, Corina Ulloa, grew up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Both of their parents worked. Prior to opening a bridal shop together, Irma worked as a seamstress in a factory and Arnulfo as a delivery truck driver. So the young sisters would often rely on public transportation to get to school. This also meant they’d return home to an empty house.

Left to right: Brenda Ulloa Martinez, at age 4,  and Corina Ulloa, at age 2, in their family apartment in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

In 2010, they came to StoryCorps to share some of their hard-earned wisdom with the next generation: Brenda’s daughters, Camila Martinez and Isabela Martinez.

Top Photo (left to right): Corina Ulloa, Brenda Ulloa Martinez, Camila Martinez, and Isabela Martinez at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, California on March 6, 2010. By Alejandro De La Cruz for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 29, 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. 

They Called Him Papu: The Life of a Beloved Grandfather

During World War II, Ricardo Ovilla came from Chiapas, Mexico as part of the Bracero Program, the largest guest worker program in U.S. history. He went where the work took him, travelling across the country to pick fruits and lay railways. It was hard labor, but Ricardo hoped to build his family a home in a new country. Eventually he did just that, bringing his wife and kids to the United States. 

In those early days, things were tough. Ricardo’s whole family worked alongside him in the fields picking fruits amidst thorny branches. But no matter how hard things got, Ricardo refused to be demoralized. He’s remembered by his granddaughters Martha Escutia and Marina Jimenez as an eternal optimist — a man “whose mission was just to bring joy to his family and his kids.”

At StoryCorps in July of 2020, Martha and Marina took time to reflect on Ricardo’s incredible journey. He was born of the Zoque People in Southern Mexico, and joined the Mexican Navy at 18. He crossed the border in El Paso, Texas and picked fruit in fields where Disneyland stands today. 

A young Ricardo Ovilla, who served in the Mexican Navy when he was just 18. Courtesy of Martha Escutia.

Ricardo passed away in 1999, shortly after naturalizing as a U.S. citizen. But he lives on in his granddaughters’ stories. To them, he will always be the tender hearted, marimba-loving, menudo aficionado who stopped at nothing to see his children laugh. They knew him simply as “Papu.”

Ricardo “Papu” Ovilla with his wife Marina “Mamina,” surrounded by their grandchildren. Courtesy of Marina Jimenez.

This story was recorded as part of American Pathways, StoryCorps’ new initiative to record, preserve, and share the stories and experiences of immigrants, refugees, asylees, and Muslims living in the United States. Learn more here.

Top Photo: (L) Ricardo “Papu” Ovilla with daughter (R) Martha Sandoval and their family’s first car. Seated inside are Ricardo’s children Aurelia and Rodolfo Sandoval. Photo taken in 1949 at a labor camp in Escondido, CA. Courtesy of Marina Jimenez.

Originally aired August 21, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Road Trip And Lost Time: A Father And Son Reconnect After 30 Years

For many of us, living through this pandemic is a reminder of the importance of strengthening our connections with loved ones. Now, reflections from a father and son who did just that.

When T. Chick McClure was growing up, they were really close to their dad, Chas McClure. They spent time fishing, sledding, and swinging a bat in the backyard. But when Chick was 14 years old their parents divorced and their dad moved away for his job in the Navy. They spent the next 30 years having a distant relationship, speaking only occasionally.

 Chas McClure and T. Chick McClure in McClure Pass, Colorado. Photo Courtesy of  T. Chick McClure.

But after 30 years Chick decided to change that. Not long after, Chas responded by inviting them on a two week road trip through the Southwest. They used StoryCorps Connect to remember the trip that brought them back together. 

Originally aired August 14, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo: T. Chick McClure and Chas McClure in Los Angeles, California. Courtesy of  T. Chick McClure.

From Internment to Disney, a Japanese American Artist Draws Strength Through His Work

Willie Ito was a wide-eyed little boy when he first saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in technicolor at his neighborhood movie theater in San Francisco.

That’s the moment he realized he wanted to be an animator.

But Willie’s dreams were interrupted in 1942, when his family was sent to a Japanese American internment camp in Topaz, Utah. He was eight years old at the time.

At 85, Willie came to StoryCorps with his son, Vince, to remember.

Top photo: Willie Ito at his home studio in Los Angeles, CA in the late ‘70s. Courtesy of Willie Ito.
Middle photo: Willie Ito holding a toy Dopey bank. His father bought it for him at a five and dime store when he was a child, before his family was interned in Topaz, UT from 1942 to 1945. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Vince Ito and Willie Ito at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, CA in September 2019. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps.

Originally aired October 4th, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Remembering a Gay Icon in Mother Bryant

Alexei Romanoff is a Ukrainian immigrant who grew up as an only child in New York City. As a kid in the 1950s, Alexei knew he was gay — but it wasn’t something he spoke about openly.

Now 82 years old, Alexei came to StoryCorps with his husband, David Farah, to remember the person who taught him to be proud of who he is.

We’re sharing this story as part of Stonewall OutLoud, our national effort to look back on life before the Stonewall riots in 1969, and to ask people to use the StoryCorps App to help preserve the stories of LGBTQ elders before they’re lost to history.

Photo: David Farah (L) and Alexei Romanoff (R) at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, California in June 2015. By Jill Glaser for StoryCorps.

Originally aired June 7th, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.