Struggle – StoryCorps
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After Half A Century Apart, These Siblings Forged an Unbreakable Bond

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, has been widely misunderstood and stigmatized for millennia. During the 19th and 20th centuries, thousands of people believed to have leprosy were ripped away from their families and sentenced to live in isolation in Kalaupapa, a remote peninsula on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

At the time, many wrongly believed you could catch it from a casual interaction such as a handshake, when in fact close, prolonged contact with an untreated person is needed to contract the disease. A cure was developed in the 1940s, but before then people sent to Kalaupapa had little chance of survival. 

Ninety percent of the people forcibly relocated to Kalaupapa were Native Hawaiian, and the separation policy disrupted and erased thousands of family ties. Doug Carillo and Linda Mae Lawelawe are both connected to this history. They came to StoryCorps to talk about how their lives were shaped by the disease, and the policy of family separation. 

Linda Mae Lawelawe, aged 10, during a visit to the Big Island in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Linda Mae Lawelawe. 
Top Photo: Doug Carillo and Linda Mae Lawelawe at their StoryCorps interview in Las Vegas, NV on Oct. 5, 2022. By Jo Corona for 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 Oct. 28, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

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A Couple Determined to Marry: How Jack Baker and Michael McConnell Became Husbands in 1971

In 1966, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker were introduced to one another by a friend at a Halloween barn party in Norman, Oklahoma. They quickly fell in love and decided to get married, despite the fact that it was illegal at the time.  

In the Spring of 1970, they walked into a government center in downtown Minneapolis, dressed in suits and ties, and applied for a marriage license. A few days later, they received a letter saying that their license had been denied. But they didn’t give up. 

Close-up of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell holding hands, featuring their wedding rings, in Minneapolis, Minn., March 2017. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps.

They filed an appeal that went up to the United States Supreme Court. And even though their appeal was dismissed, in 1971 they found a way to become husbands. Jack and Michael came to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship, and how they made the law work in their favor. 

Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) in their backyard in Minneapolis, Minn., July 2015.

 

Top Photo: Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) with their wedding cake, featuring a two-groom topper, in Minneapolis, Minn. on September 3, 1971. By Paul Hagen. 

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 14, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

From the Oscars Stage, She Sacrificed Her Career To Make Way For Indigenous Voices

From a young age, Sacheen Littlefeather knew racism through experience. Her mother was white and her father was of White Mountain Apache and Yaqui heritage. When she was born in Arizona in 1946, mixed-race couples were still illegal there. Raised by her white grandparents, it wasn’t until she went to university that she says she met people she could identify with. 

She began her activism there and continued pressing for equal rights and representation while pursuing a career in the arts.

Her career was forever changed in 1973, when she used what would have been Marlon Brando’s Oscar acceptance speech to call out the treatment of Native Americans and their depiction in Hollywood.

She came to StoryCorps in 2019 to talk about how that historic night changed her life and paved the way for those who came after.

Top Photo: Sacheen Littlefeather at her StoryCorps interview in Novato, California on October 2, 2019. By Rochelle Kwan for StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: Sacheen Littlefeather at the Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, 1973. By the Associated Press.

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 7, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Without Memory: A Love Story From Two Veterans

Matthew Perry wanted to be a Marine since he was 6-years old. He enlisted around 2005, and by 2008 he was serving in Afghanistan. 

One day, while on duty, he was hit by three IEDs in the course of a single day. But the lasting impacts of his traumatic brain injuries wouldn’t be felt until years later.

In 2010, while on leave from the Marines, a friend would introduce him to a college student named Helen. The two became inseparable after that, and would marry a couple of years later. 

But in 2014, Helen got a call from Kings Bay Naval Base – where Matthew was stationed at the time – with news that something was terribly wrong.

The hands of Helen and Matthew on July 15, 2014, while Matt was in the hospital in Brunswick, GA after his seizures started. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 

Capt. Helen Perry and Sgt. Matthew Perry came to StoryCorps to talk about what happened next.

Helen, Ethan, and Matthew on Jan 5, 2022 at Fort Clinch State park in Florida. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 
Top Photo: Helen and Matthew Perry after Helen’s promotion to Captain in July of 2015, at the Brooke Army Medical Center. Courtesy of Helen Perry. 

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 1st, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

The Chief of a Louisiana Tribe Reflects on Being Displaced by Climate Change

Members of the Jean Charles Choctaw Nation are slowly leaving the land they’ve lived and farmed on for generations… as stronger and more frequent storms hit the Louisiana coastline. 

Chief Albert Naquin remembers growing up on Isle de Jean Charles, LA in the 1950s. He came to StoryCorps with his nephew, Démé Naquin Jr., who also grew up on the island. 

Middle Photo: Démé Naquin Jr., looking out on the Jean Charles tribe’s ancestral burial ground on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. By Von Diaz for StoryCorps.

Hurricanes are common across the region, but climate change has increased the frequency and destructiveness of these storms, leading to flooding and coastal erosion, and destroying homes and local infrastructure. 

Chief Naquin believes relocation is crucial for his community to keep them safe and preserve their history and culture. Since 2002 he’s made multiple attempts to acquire the funds and support needed to move the remaining families off the island and reunite the tribe in a new community on higher ground. But his efforts have been stunted by numerous factors, including the inability to reach consensus within their tribal council, and a planned move that was halted when community members in neighboring Bourg, Louisiana protested the tribe’s relocation there. 

 At StoryCorps, he spoke with his nephew about their memories of the island, and their shared hope for their entire community to be together again.

Top Photo: Chief Albert Naquin and Démé Naquin Jr. at their StoryCorps interview in Montegut, Louisiana on September 17, 2022. By Zanna McKay for StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: An abandoned home on Isle de Jean Charles, with a sign reading, “Isle de Charles is not dead. Climate change sucks.” By Von Diaz for 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 September 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Why He Was Unknown Is A Mystery”: Remembering One Gay Man Who Sued For The Right To Work

In the 1970s, Faygele ben Miriam returned from serving overseas in the Army during the Vietnam war, and he settled in Seattle, Washington. Born John Singer, he changed his name to Faygele – meaning “little bird’ in Yiddish – to reclaim its derogatory use for “effeminate gay men.” And to honor his mother, he added “ben Miriam,” literally meaning “Little Bird, son of Miriam.” 

Faygele was an explosive character, and he often challenged his friends and colleagues to think of freedom in everything from how they dressed to who they stood up for, and at what cost. He was willing to put everything on the line – even his own safety – if it meant making the world a better place to live. And he earned the trust of his peers for taking bold, direct action. In 1971, Faygele applied for a marriage license with his friend and lover, Paul Barwick, an act that was unthinkable at the time.

Being so open, he was known for often wearing dresses in public because he was unafraid to proclaim his sexuality, no matter what room he was in. And in 1974, his frankness set the stage for a discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), when they unjustly fired him for his sexuality.

Ronni Gilboa and Patrick Haggerty at their StoryCorps interview in Bremerton, Washington on August 13, 2022. By Bella Gonzalez for StoryCorps.

Faygele died in 2000, at the age of 55. And recently, Faygele’s friends, Patrick Haggerty and Ronni Gilboa, came to StoryCorps to remember the man who left an indelible mark on their lives. 

Top Photo: Faygele ben Miriam at his last Seder before his death in 2000. Courtesy of the University of Washington Library, Geoff Manasse special collection.

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 September 16, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Sister Shares A Cherished Memory That Carried Her Through Childhood

Sisters Amy McNally and Emily Fortner grew up in the 1980s in rural Ohio.

They were raised by a single mom in an old farmhouse, where they didn’t cross paths with many neighbors. Whenever someone did come knocking on their door, it would be a hunter asking if they could track their deer onto their property. 

In July of 2022, Amy came to StoryCorps to share one special childhood memory, and why it stood out to her.

Amy McNally and Emily Fortner (center and right) with their mother, Nan Barnebey (left), in the early 1990s in Ft Lauderdale, FL.
Top Photo: Emily Fortner and Amy McNally. Photos courtesy of the participants.

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 Sept. 2, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

After 82 Years, A Grandfather Inspires His Grandson To Live Full Of Honesty And Love

When Jeffrey Perri was growing up in Rochester, New York, his grandfather, Tony Perri, came out to him as gay. Jeffrey was only 9 years old. Years later, Jeffrey also came out, and what was already a close relationship became something even more meaningful for both of them.

They originally came to StoryCorps to reflect on their stories and relationship in 2009

Tony had remained friends with Jeffrey’s grandmother, Shirley Perri, after they divorced, and Tony went on to have two more long term relationships. These men were “uncles” to Jeffrey, and Tony modeled loving relationships throughout Jeffrey’s childhood.

Now, in 2022, Jeffrey and Tony returned to StoryCorps to reflect on their shared connection — and Tony’s feelings about aging and family.

 

Top Photo:
Jeffrey Perri and Tony Perri on May 7th, 2022 at a family wedding. Courtesy of Jeffery Perri. (L) 
Jeffrey Perri and Tony Perri at their StoryCorps interview in Rochester, NY on July 11, 2009. By Jeremy Helton for StoryCorps. (R)

Originally aired July 22, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

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.

Ten Years Later: Remembering Aurora Shooting Victim Alex Sullivan

On July 20, 2012, a gunman shot and killed 12 people in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. One of the victims was Alex Sullivan. He was celebrating his birthday that night — something he had done since he was a small child. Alex and a group of friends planned to see a midnight showing of the latest Batman film, just as he turned 27.

His parents, Tom and Terry Sullivan, came to StoryCorps five years after his murder, and then again near the 10th anniversary of his death, to remember Alex, and share how they honor him and other victims of gun violence in the country.

Terry Sullivan holds a photo of her son, Alex. 
Top Photo: Tom and Terry Sullivan at their StoryCorps interview in Centennial, CO on July 9, 2022. By Annie Russell for 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 July 15, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Remembering Dr. Tiller: 10 Years After His Murder, A Couple Reflects on His Abortion Care

On May 31, 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered at his church in Wichita, Kansas. He was one of only a handful of doctors in the United States to perform late-term abortions.

Rabbi David Young and Cantor Natalie Young had gone to see Dr. Tiller in 2006. They’d been expecting their second son, Elijah, only to learn that he’d developed a brain condition that would make it impossible for him to survive on his own.

Ten years after Dr. Tiller’s death, Natalie and David sat down at StoryCorps to remember how he helped them through the darkest time in their lives.

Dr. George Tiller addresses invited members of the Kansas legislature, at his abortion clinic, Monday, Oct. 6, 1997, in Wichita, Kan. Tiller, who was shot in both arms by a protestor in 1993, and whose clinic was bombed in 1986, as well as the site of massive demonstrations in 1991, led clinic tours for the lawmakers and the press Monday, in an effort to enable the them to understand his practice. (AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Rich Sugg)

Top photo: Natalie and David Young at their StoryCorps interview in May of 2019. By Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Dr. George Tiller speaking at his clinic in 1997. Credit: AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Rich Sugg.

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 Friday, June 24, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.