Struggle Archives - StoryCorps
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A Father And Imam Records a Love Letter to His Family

Sohaib Sultan was an Imam and Chaplain at Princeton University when he and his wife, Arshe Ahmed, learned that they were about to become parents. After more than a decade struggling to conceive, the couple decided to adopt. 

Arshe Ahmed, Radiyya and Sohaib Sultan, celebrating their first Eid together on Sept 1, 2017, in Hamilton, NJ. Photo Courtesy of Arshe Ahmed.

Their dreams of building a family came true when they learned their daughter, Radiyya, would be arriving from Pakistan. But when Radiyya was 3 years old, Sohaib was diagnosed with cancer. He and Arshe came to StoryCorps to reflect on that time.

Arshe Ahmed and Radiyya at Sohaib’s graveside on the anniversary of his death, April 16, 2023 at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton NJ. Photo courtesy of Arshe Ahmed.

Top Photo: Arshe Ahmed, Radiyya, and Sohaib Sultan at Spring Lake Beach, New Jersey on August 30, 2020. Photo Courtesy of Arshe Ahmed. 

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.

This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices and Tapestry of Voices Collection 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, 14, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Father and Doctor Reflect on a Life Cut Short by Cancer

Robert Robinson and Dr. John Fortunato met under incredibly difficult circumstances.

When Robert’s daughter, Angel, started rapidly losing weight, doctors incorrectly believed an eating disorder was to blame.

But on one visit to the hospital, Dr. Fortunato discovered a rare stomach tumor.

Angel, Robert and Serenity Robinson in Hawaii on January 22, 2023. Courtesy of Robert Robinson. 

Despite multiple rounds of treatment, Angel died at the age of 15 in August, 2023. One of their final wishes was that their story serve to help other patients be heard when seeking treatment. 

Serenity, Robert and Angel Robinson in Chicago, Illinois in September 2019. By Kylie Kreations, courtesy of Robert Robinson.

Robert and Dr. Fortunato have forged a lasting bond and continue to support each other in their efforts to honor Angel’s legacy.

They came to StoryCorps to reflect on the impact the experience had on both of them. 

Top Photo: Robert Robinson and Dr. John Fortunato at their StoryCorps interview in Chicago, Illinois on October 30, 2023. By Jeb Backe 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 February 2, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Try to be happy.” : A Father Shares his Wisdom

Tchin, an artist and metalsmith, has built a distinguished career. He’s an established Indigenous artist, even creating pieces for brands like Cartier.  

Tchin and Xiao Hui Star in Santa Fe, NM in 1985. Photo courtesy of Xiao Hui Star.

Growing up in foster homes across Virginia and Rhode Island, Tchin was often one of the few Indigenous people in his community. But he made a life as an artist while raising four daughters in New York City.

At StoryCorps Tchin sat down with his daughter Xiao Hui Star Chin to reflect on all he’s learned.

Xiao Hui with her parents Tchin and WanWoo Chin in Brooklyn, NY in 1988. Photo courtesy of Xiao Hui Star
Top Photo: Xiao Hui Star and Tchin at their StoryCorps interview in Philadelphia, PA on September 16, 2023. By Kayla Lattimore 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 January 12, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

How a Teacher’s Act of Kindness Bound her Student and Family Together

In 1958, John’s Cruitt’s mother fell ill and passed away shortly before Christmas. His third grade teacher, Cecile Doyle, gave him a kiss on the forehead after class, and told him he didn’t have to be alone.

John never forgot that moment, and 54 years later wrote a heartfelt letter telling her how much she meant to him. Not long after, they came to StoryCorps to reflect on how they became so close.


The letter John Cruitt wrote to his former third grade teacher, Cecile Doyle, in 2012.
Photo by Julia Kirschenbaum for StoryCorps.

 

Cecile passed away in 2019. But John had also grown close to her daughter, Allison Doyle. At StoryCorps, they discussed how John’s reunion with his teacher brought them together.


John Cruitt and Allison Doyle looking through Cecile Doyle’s  scrapbook on December 10, 2023.
Photo by Julia Kirschenbaum for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: John Cruitt and his third grade teacher, Cecile Doyle, reuniting for the first time in 54 years in 2012. Courtesy of Allison Doyle. 

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.

Original broadcast aired December 28, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Update aired December 22, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

At The Lesbian Switchboard, Empathy Was On The Other End of the Line

The Lesbian Switchboard was a helpline for queer women that operated from 1972 to 1997. Denise Tuite volunteered to spend hours at night sitting in the cramped offices of the Switchboard, taking calls from women with no one else to talk to about their sexuality.

Some of these calls were casual, asking where to meet women in NYC. Others were from people in need of advice and consolation.

But through all of them, Denise could recognize the same emotions she’d once felt..

At StoryCorps, Denise shared what brought her to the Lesbian Switchboard.

Originally aired December 15, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Top Photo: Denise Tuite at her StoryCorps interview in Tinton City, NJ on November 1, 2023. By James Eustace for StoryCorps.

Nearing The End Of Her Life, They Sat Down For One Last StoryCorps Conversation

In the early 1970s Jackie Miller and her husband adopted their son, Scott.

Thirty-seven years later — in 2008 — Scott came to StoryCorps with Jackie to talk about their relationship and to find out more about the history behind his adoption. 

Scott Miller with his parents, Jackie and Percy Miller, in Barbados, in the mid 1970s. Photo courtesy of Scott Miller.

 

A cut of that recording aired June 11, 2010, on NPR’s Morning Edition. You can listen to it here.

Fifteen years after that initial conversation, Jackie’s health started to decline. Realizing his mom was nearing the end of life, Scott wanted to do one more interview, and share an update on their relationship.

Scott Miller and Jackie Miller at their StoryCorps interview in New York City, NY, on May 30, 2008. By Mike Rauch for StoryCorps.

Click here to watch “Me & You,” an animation of Scott and Jackie’s first story.

 

Top Photo: Jackie Miller and Scott Miller at their StoryCorps interview in Tarrytown, NY, on October 27, 2023. By Julia Kirschenbaum 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 Nov. 17, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Amor Eterno: Remembering Ana Guissel Palma on Día de los Muertos

Cesar Viveros in front of his altar in Philadelphia in 2022.
Photo by Neal Santos, courtesy of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

In 2016, Cesar Viveros and his wife Ana Guissel Palma set out to document Day of the Dead altars in South Philadelphia—a thriving Mexican and Central American community.  The pair went door-to-door, recording stories across their neighborhood in the hopes of creating a large community altar for people to visit and remember their loved ones. 

But two years into the project, Ana became sick, and passed away just before Day of the Dead, leaving Cesar to finish the project on his own. 

He came to StoryCorps with his niece, Kathy Lopez, to honor her.

A framed photo of Ana Guissel Palma at an altar created by Cesar Viveros. October 21, 2023 at FDR Park in Philadelphia. By Kayla Lattimore 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 October 27, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Mother And Daughter Remember How A Thunderstorm Transformed Their Lives

The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year is less than one in a million, according to the CDC.

But that’s exactly what happened to Donna Salemink the summer of 2014.

Donna was solo parenting her two teenagers in Colorado, when a freak accident altered her life forever. 

She came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Melissa, to remember the split second when everything changed. 

Melissa Salemink and Donna Salemink in Lafayette, Colorado in 2018. Photo courtesy of Donna Salemink.

 

Top Photo: Donna Salemink and Melissa Salemink at their StoryCorps interview in Loveland, Colorado on September 19, 2023. By Zanna McKay 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 October 20, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“I Didn’t Know If I Really Belonged”: A Chickasaw Woman Finds Her Way Back to Oklahoma

Shelby Rowe works in suicide prevention and has dedicated her life to helping people struggling with mental health. But she came to StoryCorps with her best friend, Johnna James, to share her own story of overcoming hardship, and how she found belonging in her Chickasaw roots.

Shelby Rowe working on a commission piece in her home in Oklahoma City, OK, around June of 2018. Courtesy of Shelby Rowe.
Loom-stitched artwork by Shelby Rowe: 21st Century Chickasaw Hatchet Woman, 2020. Used with permission from Shelby Rowe.

 

Top Photo: Shelby Rowe and Johnna James at their StoryCorps interview in Oklahoma City, OK. on July 13, 2023. By Julia Kirschenbaum 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 October 13, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

As Her Memory Dims, One Remarkable Mother Remains A “Beacon of Light”

To mark StoryCorps’ 20th Anniversary we are revisiting classic conversations from the past two decades with updates from the participants.

We end this special series by catching up with one remarkable mother in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mary Johnson-Roy and her son, Laramiun Byrd. Courtesy of Mary Johnson-Roy.

Mary Johnson-Roy lost her only child, Laramiun Byrd, to gun violence in 1993.

One night while at a party, Laramiun got into a fight with another teenager named Oshea Israel. The fight ended when Oshea shot and killed Laramiun.

A dozen years later, Mary went to the penitentiary to visit the man who murdered her son.

Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson-Roy in 2011 and in 2023. By Gaspar Caro and Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

Soon after Oshea finished serving a prison sentence for murder, Mary brought him to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship. We’ll also hear from them 12 years later.

Mary founded From Death to Life, an organization to help families who have lost children to gun violence, and has spent decades running support groups. But she’s had to step back a bit from her life’s work, after being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a disease with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Mary Johnson-Roy and her husband, Ed Roy, in Minneapolis, Minnesota  in 2023. By Brian Mogren for StoryCorps.

Since her diagnosis in 2021, Mary’s husband, Ed Roy, has been her main caretaker. Ed also had a son who was murdered, in fact that’s how he and Mary met. Here, they share more about Mary’s illness.

Mary’s community is rallying to help cover her medical expenses through a GoFundMe, which can be found here.

Top Photo: Oshea Israel, Mary Johnson-Roy and Ed Roy in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2023. By Brian Mogren 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 29, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

First story aired on May 20, 2011 on NPR’s Morning Edition.