Tyree Hicks and Jamel Massey

Jamel Massey (below right) and Tyree Hicks (below left) met at the Institute for Transformative Mentoring at The New School. They were both first arrested when they were teenagers, and they now mentor people from their own neighborhoods, including those who were formerly incarcerated. While serving a sentence for manslaughter, Jamel met a mentor who he credits with helping change the direction of his life.

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Jamel and Tyree’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with the Institute for Transformative Mentoring, a professional training program focused on the development of Credible Messengers working in the social services fields throughout New York City.

Released May 11, 2017.

Terry Banies and Darryl Cooke

Terry Banies (below left), a violence prevention counselor, met Darryl Cooke (below right), a radio host and advocate, when they were students at Governor’s State University in the Chicago region. As they pursued their education, they bonded over a shared commitment to healing and their past experiences with incarceration.

Terry and Darryl came to StoryCorps to reflect on their understanding of historical trauma and discuss how their brotherhood has supported them through the challenges of re-entry.

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Terry and Darryl’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark FoundationThis conversation was recorded through our community partnership with JustLeadershipUSA, an organization and training program that empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. It was produced in partnership with WBEZ 91.FM Chicago.

Released May May 10, 2017.

Miguel Delgado and Jack Russell

While Jack Russell (below left) was growing up in New York City, he went in and out of foster care and spent time in jail and prison for attempted robbery. He came to StoryCorps with his friend Miguel Delgado (below right) to talk about his childhood and what led to his incarceration. Jack is now 29 years old and a stay-at-home dad.

DelgadoJack and Miguel’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. This conversation was recorded through our community partnership with the Osborne Association, a nonprofit that offers opportunities for individuals who have been in conflict with the law to transform their lives.

Released May 9, 2017.

Jane Vance and Lucinda Roy

On the morning of April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho—a student at Virginia Tech—shot and killed 32 students and teachers, wounding 17 others. Until the 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, it was the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Artist Jane Vance and Professor Lucinda Roy were teaching at Virginia Tech that semester, although neither were present on the morning of the shooting.

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They returned to campus a week after the shooting when classes resumed for students who wanted to complete the term.

At StoryCorps, Jane Vance describes the inspiring way her class came together after the tragedy.


One of Jane’s former students, Kristen Wickham, was a freshman at the time of the shooting. Her friend Caitlin Hammaren was the only other student at Virginia Tech from Kristen’s home town of Westtown, NY, and was one of the 32 victims.

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At StoryCorps, Kristen sat down with her husband Andrew Baginski to remember Caitlin.

Originally aired April 14, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Virginia Tech students sing “Amazing Grace” at the conclusion of a candle light vigil on the drill field Tuesday, April 17, 2007, in Blacksburg, Va.  (AP Photo/Roanoke Times, Josh Meltzer)
Center photo: Lucina Roy and Jane Vance on the Virginia Tech campus. (StoryCorps/Erica Yoon)
Bottom photo: Kristen Wickham and her husband, Andrew Baginski in New York City. (StoryCorps)

Judy Charest and Harold Hogue

On December 24, 1956, Marguerite Hunt drove with her 3-month-old daughter, Judy, to the Shelby Street Bridge (now called the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge) in Nashville, Tennessee, got out of her car, and with her baby in her arms, jumped 90 feet into the cold waters of the Cumberland River.

charest3Harold Hogue, an engineer with the Nashville Bridge Company was at work in a nearby building and happened to see the incident unfold through an office window. Immediately, he and his colleague, Jack Knox, ran to the river and saw Marguerite in the water holding onto a piece of rebar pleading for someone to save her baby. Jack jumped into the water and grabbed Judy, swam back to shore, handed her to Harold, and headed back into the river in an attempt to now save Marguerite. Harold rushed Judy to the first aid station in the Nashville Bridge Company building and left the infant in the care of a nurse; with help from others, including Harold, Marguerite was saved as well.

When Judy Charest was 21 years old, Marguerite was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was also the first time Judy learned of the Christmas Eve incident on the bridge. Jack passed away in 2005, and Marguerite died in 2015. Recently, Harold told his grandson about the rescue and he was able to track down Judy allowing them to meet again almost 60 years after Harold helped save her life.

At StoryCorps, Judy and Harold discuss both of their meetings.

Originally aired December 23, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above: Rescuers pull Marguerite Hunt onto the shore of the Cumberland River. Harold Hogue is in the foreground in a white shirt, dark pants, and wearing a watch. Originally published Christmas Eve 1956, photo courtesy of Mike Hudgins/The Nashville Retrospect.

Fred Davie and Robert Sanchez

Robert Sanchez is a social worker who helps people coming out of prison find work and get the support they need. He has a unique understanding of his clients’ struggles because in 2001, Robert was released from New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility after serving 15 years for a nonviolent drug offense.

Robert has also recorded StoryCorps interviews with those who have helped him over the years. In March 2010, his conversation with Felix Aponte was broadcast on NPR. More recently, he sat down with Fred Davie, a long-time mentor and friend, to thank him for the spiritual support he has provided.

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A Presbyterian minister who heads the Union Theological Seminary, Fred met Robert in 1998 when he was visiting Sing Sing and Robert was working towards his master’s degree in Theology. They struck up a conversation and made an instant connection, and after Robert’s release, Fred helped him navigate the difficult process of navigating work, interpersonal relationships, and fatherhood.

Both men have remained outspoken about the importance of providing guidance and support to individuals following their incarceration, and together they developed the Ready4Work reentry program, which provides mentoring and job counseling to former prisoners to help with their transition and avoid reincarceration.

At StoryCorps, Robert and Fred remember their first meeting, and discuss how their relationship has grown since.

Robert and Fred’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Originally aired December 2, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Duery Felton and Rick Weidman

Every day since it officially opened in November 1982, visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. have left tributes to those whose names are engraved on The Wall: medals, dog tags, clothing, and other objects they associate with friends, loved ones, and fellow service members.

The Memorial Wall is under the supervision of the National Park Service, feltonand when Duery Felton learned that park rangers were collecting and storing this huge collection of items, he became a volunteer in order to see them for himself. Eventually he was offered a full-time position as the first curator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, a job he held for 28 years before retiring in 2014.

Duery, who served in Vietnam, came to StoryCorps with his friend and fellow war veteran, Rick Weidman (pictured together above), to discuss what drew him to the wall, and to talk about his service during the Vietnam War.

Click here to view a gallery of some of the more than 400,000 items left by visitors to The Wall.

Originally aired November 12, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Lou Olivera and Joe Serna

In 2013, Green Beret Sergeant Joe Serna retired from the Army after more than 18 years of service that included three tours of duty in Afghanistan and numerous awards including two Purple Hearts. Returning to North Carolina to be with his wife and children, he found adjusting to civilian life difficult.

oliveraextraIn 2014, following a DWI arrest, Joe’s case was assigned to the Cumberland County Veterans Treatment Court. After a probation violation, District Court Judge Lou Olivera (above left), an Army veteran who served during the Gulf War, sentenced Joe to a night in jail.

Joe was with three other soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008 when their armored truck flipped over and landed in a river. It quickly filled with water and Joe was the only survivor. Knowing Joe’s history and how difficult it would be for him to spend an evening confined, Judge Olivera decided to spend the night with Joe in his jail cell.

At StoryCorps, they reflect upon the night they spent together, the difficult memories that being sentenced brought back, and the relationship they have formed since.

Originally aired October 14, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above photo courtesy of Joe Serna.

Idella Hansen and Sandi Talbott

Idella Hansen(top left) started driving big rig trucks in 1968 when she was just 18 years old. At the time, she was pregnant and hungry for independence so she filled a tanker with gasoline, took to the road, and to this day has not looked back. Now 66 years old, Idella (pictured below in 1996) has been driving for more than four decades, and her best friend is fellow trucker Sandi Talbott (top right).

idella_truckSandi, 75, began driving alongside her husband, Jim, in 1979. They drove as partners for years until Jim’s health began to decline and Sandi took over most of the driving. After Jim’s death in 2000, Sandi continued on the road without him, and has now been behind the wheel for over three decades.

Together, Idella and Sandi have driven over 9 million miles hauling everything from missiles to tadpoles. At StoryCorps they discuss their friendship, their adventures, and why they’ll never retire.

Originally aired September 23, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo of Idella in 1996 courtesy of Idella Hansen.

Anthony Merkerson and Charles Jones

Charles Jones was already a father to three daughters when he found out his fourth child was going to be a boy. He was so excited by the news that even before Malik was born, 10407180_913119715367349_289766518776441198_nCharles began plotting ways he would get the new baby into playing and loving sports—the same way his own father had done with him—even joking to others that he had already bought him New York Knicks season tickets.

When Malik was two and a half years old, he was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Like many parents of children on the autistic spectrum, Charles and his wife struggled to adjust to their son’s unexpected needs, but over time, they worked together to better understand autism and Malik. Early on, Charles feared his son would be non-verbal, unable to even speak his own name or say, “I love you,” but eventually Malik, now 12 (pictured with his father at left), merkersonbegan talking, and according to his father, once he did, “He wouldn’t shut up.”

Charles decided to start a support group for fathers like himself to provide a space for them to feel safe sharing their feelings. Five years ago, at a New York Mets game on Autism Awareness Day, Charles met Anthony Merkerson. Anthony has two children—Elijah, 10, and Amaya, 8 (pictured with his family at left)—who are both on the autistic spectrum. After meeting Charles, Anthony joined the support group and they have since become close friends.

Charles (above right), a filmmaker, came to StoryCorps with Anthony (above left), a New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority police officer, to talk about what they have learned from one another, and the concerns they have for their sons as young black men growing up in a society where they are at constant risk of being targeted and misunderstood because they are autistic.

Originally aired July 15, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo of Charles and Malik Jones courtesy of the Jones family.
Photo of Evelyn, Anthony, Elijah, and Amaya Merkerson courtesy of the Merkerson family.

Each week, the StoryCorps podcast shares these unscripted conversations, revealing the wisdom, courage, and poetry in the words of people you might not notice walking down the street.