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.
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.
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.
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Ramadan: Couple Reflects On Their New Holiday Tradition
Suzanne Jaber grew up in Lebanon, and while her family is Muslim, they were surrounded by many Christian neighbors and their holiday traditions. After moving to the United States and raising a family of her own, she wanted to create her own traditions that melded the celebrations of both cultures. With the help of her husband, Ali Jaber, Suzanne ended up creating something new entirely: a moon tree.
Suzanne’s creation is shaped like a crescent moon — a symbol of Islam — and it’s covered in Christmas tree branches. Now, Suzanne makes moon trees for people all over the world, who are celebrating all types of holidays, including Ramadan.
In 2019, Suzanne and Ali came to StoryCorps to talk about what originally inspired Suzanne to make her first moon tree, the process of it all coming together, and what the month for Ramadan symbolizes for them.
Published on May 7, 2021.
A COVID Love Story: Detroit Couple Reflect on How a Difficult Year Brought Them Closer Together
When they first met, it didn’t take long for Namira and Omar Anani to fall in love. For Omar it was instant, but for Namira, it was Omar’s small acts of kindness that made her realize he was the one.
They got married in November of 2019, but just four months into their marriage, their busy lives changed as Namira, a non-profit lawyer and Omar, a restaurateur, were faced with a slew of challenges brought on by the arrival of COVID-19.
They came to StoryCorps to reflect on a difficult year and how it ultimately brought them closer together.
Photo: Namira and Omar Anani at their wedding in 2019. Courtesy of Namira Islam Anani.
Top Photo: Namira and Omar Anani in 2020. Courtesy of Namira Islam Anani.
This interview was recorded in partnership with the Arab American National Museum. 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 February 19th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
For Old Friends, Hospital Work Brings New Challenges During COVID-19
Josh Belser and Sam Dow have always had a way of looking out for each other. The longtime friends first met in the early 80s, when they were young kids growing up in a suburb outside Tampa, Florida.
As adults, they each pursued a career in medicine: Josh as a nurse in Syracuse, New York, and Sam as a health technician in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
When COVID-19 hit, they both found their work lives dramatically altered by one of the most deadly global pandemics in a century.
With almost 400 miles between them, Josh and Sam used StoryCorps’ new remote recording platform, StoryCorps Connect, to talk about their decades-long friendship, and how they continue to support each other, especially during this difficult time.
Top photo: Sam Dow at his job in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his friend Josh Belser at work in Syracuse, NY in 2020. Courtesy of Josh Belser.
Second photo: Josh Belser in 1985 with his best friend, Sam Dow, in Brandon, FL where they grew up together. Courtesy of Josh Belser.
Originally aired April 17, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Gary Koivu and Kim Koivu
Vincent Chin was a 27-year-old draftsman living near Detroit. On a June night in 1982, he and a group of friends went out to celebrate his wedding, which was just few days away.
At a bar he crossed paths with Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, two auto workers angry about recent layoffs, which were widely blamed on Japanese imports. That encounter lead to Vincent’s death.
Gary Koivu was with Vincent that night, and he recently came to StoryCorps with his wife, Kim, to remember his childhood friend.
The federal case against Vincent Chin’s killers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, marked the first time the Civil Rights Act was used to prosecute a crime against an Asian American person. It sparked a rallying cry for stronger federal hate crime legislation.
Originally aired June 23, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Bottom Photo: An undated photo of Vincent Chin. Courtesy of American Citizens for Justice/Asian American Center for Justice.
The Unedited StoryCorps Interview: Grace Lee Boggs, 1915-2015
Did you know that the broadcast pieces you hear on NPR and our podcast are excerpts of longer conversations stored in the StoryCorps Archive? Participants are invited to visit one of our recording locations with a friend or family member to record a 40-minute interview with the help of a trained facilitator. As of 2017, we’ve added nearly 70,000 interviews to the StoryCorps Archive.
On October 5, 2015, Grace Lee Boggs died at the age of 100. An iconic activist, she was remembered by the New York Times as a woman who “waged a war of inspiration for civil rights, labor, feminism, the environment and other causes…with an unflagging faith that revolutionary justice was just around the corner.” A daughter of Chinese immigrants, she married African American activist James Boggs in 1953. Together they played a prominent role in the black power movement of the 1960s while organizing alongside and befriending Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
In June 2007, just weeks before she turned 92, Boggs sat for a StoryCorps interview with her old friend Ronald Scott. The conversation, which took place at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, was recorded as part of our Griot initiative, which aims to ensure that the voices, experiences, and life stories of African Americans will be preserved and presented with dignity. During their interview, Boggs and Scott discussed the importance of political activism, her life with her husband — who passed away in 1993 — and what she still hoped to accomplish during her remaining years. Listen below, and access a full transcript here.
All StoryCorps Griot interviews are shared with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. To hear more unedited interviews from the StoryCorps Archive, make an appointment at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
All material within the StoryCorps collection is copyrighted by StoryCorps. StoryCorps encourages use of material on this site by educators and students without prior permission, provided appropriate credit is given. This interview has not been fact-checked, and may contain sensitive personal information about living persons.
Arab American Voices: Dearborn, MI
Back in 2012, after spending time in downtown Detroit, the StoryCorps MobileBooth headed west to visit nearby Dearborn, Michigan. In partnership with the Islamic Center of America, the Arab American National Museum, and the Yemeni American News, we recorded stories during the holy month of Ramadan in this diverse Arab American community.
Best friends Ali Nasrallah and Jaber Saad, both 21, grew up in Dearborn — where about 40% of the population is Arab American — and are students at the University of Michigan. They came to the MobileBooth to discuss their friendship and their identities as Muslims and Arab Americans in the United States. They also discussed about what a turning point September 11th was for them. A fifth grader at the time, Ali described a specific memory from that day: “The look on my mother’s face… She knew what was next, she knew it was going to be hard for us as Muslims in America.”
Ali described going on a trip to visit relatives in Lebanon when he was 12 and being stopped while going through airport security by officers looking for someone with a similar name. Though they quickly realized he was not the person they were looking for, this had an impact on him. “I was scared — I didn’t know what this man wanted from me. No child should have to go through that.” Thinking about the ways representations of his community have changed since September 11th, he said: “The media used to portray Arabs in an exotic way, with harems, kings, women and gold…now it has shifted to terrorists with planes and bombs.”
Jaber discussed an experience in a college classroom when a professor made a remark assuming that because he was Arab he came from a socially conservative Muslim family. “My identity shouldn’t be put in the spotlight… I shouldn’t be assumed to be Muslim or conservative because I’m Arab.”
Both men have turned to civic engagement; Ali now leads summer youth dialogues on race and ethnicity for high school students while Jaber has worked as a high school tutor in southwest Detroit discussing media representations of Latinos. They have found hope in the work that they do and both believe that making time to listen to people who are different from ourselves is key to eliminating stereotypes and fostering a just society. Said Ali, “If we all listened to each other’s stories…there would be no hate in this society.”
Many thanks to the Dearborn community for giving us the opportunity to sit down and listen. The stories we recorded there are archived at Dearborn’s Arab American National Museum.
Barbara Handelsman and Aaron Handelsman
Growing up, Barbara Handelsman often felt out of sync with her family.
At StoryCorps, Barbara, 80, talks with her grandson Aaron, 20, about how the two of them have always had a special relationship that includes unconditionally accepting each other for who they are, and finding adventures to go on together.
Barbara passed away two years after this interview was recorded.
Originally aired October 11, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Gordon Bolar and Dave Isay
StoryCorps founder Dave Isay recorded a
National Day of Listening interview with his friend Gordon Bolar, who is also the General Manager of public radio station WMUK in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
They talked about Gordon’s son, Matthew, who was in the Army and served two tours in Iraq.
Matthew was killed by a roadside bomb in 2007.
Gordon also shared a favorite memory of his son from a few months before his death.
Originally aired November 23, 2012 on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Ralph Catania and Colbert Williams
Colbert Williams (R) talks with Ralph Catania (L), his fifth grade math teacher who later became his legal guardian, about going to live with Ralph at the age of 15.