2016 StoryCorps Gala

StoryCorps participants, supporters, and staff celebrated a series of remarkable stories and storytellers at our annual gala Wednesday at Capitale in New York City. The evening, themed “Who We Are: A Celebration of American Stories,” explored our shared and positive humanity through animated shorts and personal stories.

“Who We Are is a little ripple of hope to remind us of our best and truest selves,” said StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay, in his remarks to the crowd of more than 300 guests. Through the outstanding leadership and generosity of our supporters, the event raised more than $750,000 for StoryCorps’ continuing work preserving and sharing humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people, and create a more just and compassionate world.

Hosted by two-time Tony Award-winning actor, singer, and musician, Michael Cerveris (pictured above), the program featured recent StoryCorps participants whose personal stories defy intolerance and hate. Among the featured participants were Alex Landau, whose encounter with Denver police in 2009 was the subject of the animated short, “Traffic Stop,” which has been viewed more than 20 million times and received a 2016 Emmy Award.

“StoryCorps creates a platform for narratives that exist in our communities and gives us opportunities to be heard and provides us with the ability to make change,” said Alex Landau, in remarks from the stage following a screening of “Traffic Stop.” He was joined at the event by his mother, Patsy Hathaway.

unspecified2Chris and Gabe López (pictured above) spoke about the importance of their StoryCorps conversation, in which 8-year-old Gabe discussed coming out as transgender to his mom. Albert Sykes also reflected on the conversation with his son, Aidan, and the opportunity that StoryCorps provided for him to share his hopes and dreams for his son as a Black boy growing up in Mississippi. Mussarut Jabeen talked about being able to share what it means to be a Muslim American and to honor her students who were killed in February 2015 in what has become known as the Chapel Hill shooting.

unspecified5The event also recognized two honorees: the Ford Foundation, one of StoryCorps’ longest-running and most generous supporters (represented by chair of the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees Kofi Appenteng,pictured above left with his wife, Stephanie), and StoryCorps’ Board of Directors Secretary, Dane E. Homes, and his wife, Barbara (pictured below), who together provide outstanding support and leadership for StoryCorps.unspecified5

As has become a tradition at StoryCorps events, each table was equipped with a generous supply of tissues, which came in handy as guests listened to heartfelt personal testimonials and viewed animations throughout the evening.

StoryCorps Wins Emmy Award for “Traffic Stop”

This month, StoryCorps won a News & Documentary Emmy Award for the animated short, “Traffic Stop”—the story of Alex Landau, an African American man adopted by white parents who was severely beaten by Denver police after what he believed was going to be little more than a routine traffic stop.

At the time of the assault, Alex was a 19-year-old Community College of Denver student driving with a white friend when police pulled him over for allegedly making an illegal turn. His friend, who had marijuana on him, was cuffed. After Alex asked police to see a warrant, officers began beating him while claiming he had a gun and drawing their own weapons: “I could feel the gun pressed against my head, and I expected to be shot. And at that point I lost consciousness. And it took 45 stitches to close up the lacerations in my face alone.”

In 2011, Alex was awarded a $795,000 settlement from the City of Denver. Two of the officers involved have since been fired from the Denver Police Department for other incidents.

Released online in June 2015, “Traffic Stop” originated as a StoryCorps interview between Alex and his mother, Patsy Hathaway. It was recorded in May 2014 and produced by Jud Esty-Kendall, facilitated by Daniel Sitts, and broadcast nationally on NPR in August 2014. In 2015, StoryCorps animation producers Rachel Hartman and Lizzie Jacobs worked with indie animators Gina Kamentsky and Julie Zammarchi to bring Alex’s story to life, and “Traffic Stop” was broadcast on POV in September 2015. (Watch below as Rachel and Alex accept the award.)

Alex has since returned to college and expects to graduate with a degree in Communications and Social Justice. He still lives in Denver and works on law enforcement and criminal justice reform issues with two organizations, the Colorado Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform and the Denver Justice Project which he founded. When Alex recorded his StoryCorps interview, he and his partner, Helina, were expecting their first child, a daughter. Maya is now two years old and Patsy helps care for her during the day when Alex and Helina are at work.

Following the Emmy Award ceremony, Alex came to the StoryCorps offices in Brooklyn and recorded a follow-up interview with Jud discussing current events, how his life has changed since 2009, and parenthood. That conversation will be the subject of the next episode of the StoryCorps podcast.

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Top photo: Jud Esty-Kendall, Alex Landau, and Rachel Hartman at the StoryCorps offices in September 2016.

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