In many ways, the seed for the creation of StoryCorps can be traced back to two young men, Lloyd Newman and LeAlan Jones, who interviewed their families and friends for a radio documentary we produced together in late 1992, Ghetto Life 101. Lloyd and LeAlan were 13 then at the time, and later went on to become the youngest broadcasters to win a Peabody Award. You can read about their partnership in this New York Times piece by the great journalist Don Terry.
Since that story, Lloyd’s two older sisters, Sophia and Precious, succumbed to complications from sickle cell anemia, and on Wednesday, December 7th, Lloyd also passed away from sickle cell after falling into a coma seven months ago and seven days before.
Lloyd was a member of my family, and Lloyd loved his own family, the Newman family, with unmatched ferocity. He was whip-smart and street-smart, with a huge heart and a shy smile. He lived through more in his first dozen years than most people live through in a lifetime. Before he fell into his coma, Lloyd was working at the DeKalb Public Library, a place I think he never expected to find himself. Last year, when he was home from work due to his sickle cell, he sent me this email about the library. The note, at age 43, along with the radio documentary at age 13, gives a glimpse into Lloyd’s luminous, gentle soul.
- At the beginning, I had doubts about my longevity at the library because of the physical labor. But I wanted to test myself and that convinced me to keep working. However, each day I was still debating, should I leave or should I stay.. But each day my load became lighter and it became lighter with every staff member who took time to speak with me. When the patrons asked me for a specific book at first I was super nervous. But then it was starting not to seem like a job anymore, but something to a part of…a service that needed to be provided to the community. A week or two ago a female staff member and I were talking, and she said, “Someone asked me if I won a million dollars tomorrow, would I quit?”. Her joyful reply was, “I’m going to retire here!” I thought I was going crazy because, deep down inside, I felt the same way. DKPL is a special place, distinct from any other job in my experience. With that being said, I won’t be back until I’m healed, hopefully within 30 days. Hopefully there’s still a job available, I only wrote this email because life works in mysterious ways and we can’t guarantee our path, and I wanted you and DKPL to know how I feel.
It was never easy, but he never gave up. His spirit and kindness, and light will live on in generation after generation of the Newman family to come and through the work of StoryCorps. Rest In Peace, Lloyd.
Dave Isay, Founder & President of StoryCorps
Learn more and listen to Lloyd and LeAlan’s documentary, Ghetto Life 101.