‘Sometimes Humanity Is What We Need’: Two Women Reflect On Their Unlikely Friendship
One night, in October 2015, Asma Jama went out for dinner with her family at an Applebee’s restaurant in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Asma, who is Somali American and Muslim, was wearing a hijab, as she always does.
While Asma was talking with her cousin in Swahili, a woman named Jodie Bruchard-Risch, who was seated nearby, told her to speak English or go back to her country. When Asma responded to say that she was a U.S. citizen, the woman smashed a beer mug across Asma’s face. Asma was then rushed to the hospital and required 17 stitches in her face, hands and chest.
Jodie Bruchard-Risch pleaded guilty to felony assault charges and served time in jail for the crime. Jodie’s sister, Dawn Sahr, spoke out publicly against the attack and reached out to Asma.
In 2016, Asma and Dawn met for the first time at their StoryCorps interview. Since then, they’ve remained friends and recently came back for a second recording to tell us how they’re doing now.
They were also featured on the StoryCorps podcast, where you can hear more.
Top photo: Dawn Sahr with Asma Jama in 2016, when they met for the first time at their StoryCorps interview in Minneapolis, MN. By Roselyn Almonte for StoryCorps.
Originally aired December 27, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
A Student Remembers Her School’s “Lunch Man,” Philando Castile
On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over by police near Saint Paul, Minnesota after being misidentified as a robbery suspect. He was then shot and killed by an officer during the traffic stop.
To most of the world, he became a name in a major news story, but to over 400 kids at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, Castile was their “lunch man.” He managed the cafeteria, where the students called him Mr. Phil.
For black parents at the school — and across America — this brought up all too familiar conversations about safety and race. But for some white parents, like Chad Eisen-Ramgren, it wasn’t a conversation they’d ever been confronted with before. At StoryCorps, he sat down with his 10-year-old daughter, Leila, who was in the third grade when Castile was killed. She had known Mr. Phil since kindergarten.
Top photo: Leila Ramgren with her father, Chad Eisen-Ramgren in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Courtesy of Chad Eisen-Ramgren.
Middle photo: People gathered outside the St. Anthony police department on August 19, 2016 to protest their decision to have Jeronimo Yanez return to work. The protesters called for criminal prosecution of Yanez for killing Philando Castile. Officer Yanez fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop in nearby Falcon Heights on July 6. Photo by Fibonacci Blue.
Bottom photo: A letter that Leila Ramgren wrote as a third-grader to Philando Castile, who she knew as Mr. Phil, after he was killed by a police officer in 2016. Courtesy of Chad Eisen-Ramgren.
Originally aired July 6, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
A Mother on the Challenges of Becoming a Teenage Parent
April Gibson and her teenage son, Gregory Bess, love talking to each other. Gregory says they can talk for hours, and that he feels he learns more from his mom than from school. But there was one subject that they hadn’t really explored.
So when the StoryCorps MobileBooth traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota recently, April invited her son to sit down with her for a recorded conversation.
Gregory asked about his mom’s childhood and their family’s past. He learned that his mom was a quiet kid who liked to write, and that his grandfather was a party DJ before becoming a pastor.
But April knew her 16-year-old had something more he wanted to talk about.
Bottom photo: April Gibson and Gregory Bess in 2001. Courtesy of April Gibson.
Originally aired January 19, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Hector Matascastillo and Trista Matascastillo
In 1998, Trista Matascastillo was in the Navy, when she was sexually assaulted by someone she had served with.
Trista told no one about the attack. She had a son as a result and raised him by herself.
Five years later, she met her husband, Army 1st Sergeant Hector Matascastillo. They recently talked about what Trista lived through.
Originally aired November 1, 2014, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.