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Playlist: 'Griot'

Compiled By: StoryCorps

StoryCorps Facilitator Lillie Love passed away on June 25, 2010. <a href="http://www.prx.org/pieces/49444-storycorps-griot-lillie-love">Listen here</a>, to her positive persective on life. Credit:
StoryCorps Facilitator Lillie Love passed away on June 25, 2010. Listen here, to her positive persective on life.

StoryCorps' collection of African American stories from all across the country.

StoryCorps Griot: Diane Kenney and Linda Kenney Miller

From StoryCorps | 01:31

Linda Kenney Miller (R) and her sister Diane Kenney (L) remember their grandfather, Dr. John A. Kenney, who founded the first hospital for African Americans in Newark, NJ.

Millerl_small In the 1920s, Dr. John A. Kenney left Tuskegee, Alabama after receiving death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. He moved to Newark, New Jersey, and helped found the city's first hospital for African-Americans.

Here, his granddaughters Linda Kenney Miller and her sister Diane Kenney remember their grandfather, and his dedication to the hospital.

StoryCorps Griot: Carl McNair

From StoryCorps | 02:14

Carl McNair remembers his brother, Ronald McNair, who was one of the astronauts killed aboard the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.

Mcnair_small On the morning of January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lifting off. All seven crew members were killed. Ronald McNair was one of the astronauts aboard the shuttle that day. Here, his older brother, Carl McNair, remembers him.

StoryCorps Griot: Ron and Pepper Miller

From StoryCorps | 02:04

Pepper and Ron Miller talk about what led to their divorce.

Millerp_small Ron and Pepper Miller met 25 years ago. They fell in love and got married, but it didn't work out.

Here, they talk about what went wrong.

StoryCorps Griot: James and Dwight Thompson

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 03:47

James Hanover Thompson tells his brother Dwight about his involvement in the "Kissing Case" of 1958.

Thompson_small In 1958, two African-American children, James Hanover Thompson and David Simpson, were arrested for allegedly kissing a girl who was white.

Here, James Hanover Thompson and his siblings Dwight and Brenda remember their involvement in the now-infamous "Kissing Case."

StoryCorps Griot: William Anthony Cobb

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 05:08

William Anthony Cobb tells his mother, Mary, about the influence she had on him. William Anthony also talks with his sister, Valerie Foster, about their mother.

Cobb1_small William Anthony Cobb came to StoryCorps with his mother, Mary Cobb, and told her about the influence she had on him.

A few months after their interview, Mary passed away of pancreatic cancer at the age of 67. William Anthony then returned to StoryCorps with his sister, Valerie Foster, to remember their mother.

StoryCorps Griot: Mary Johnson

From StoryCorps | 03:03

Mary Johnson speaks with Oshea Israel, who killed her son in 1993.

Johnsonm_small Mary Johnson's son, Laramiun, was shot and killed by Oshea Israel in 1993. Israel served 17 years in prison.

Here, Mary talks with her son's killer.

StoryCorps Griot: Walter Dean and Christopher Myers

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 01:46

Author Walter Dean Myers talks about his father in an interview with his son Christopher Myers.

Myers_small Author Walter Dean Myers grew up in Harlem, the son of a janitor. Myers began writing as a teenager, but always failed to impress his father with his writing.

Here, Myers talks about his father with his own son, Christopher.

StoryCorps Griot: Andrea and Jay McKnight

From StoryCorps | 02:19

Andrea McKnight and her husband, Jay, remember meeting as teenagers in the 1950s.

Mcknight_small James "Jay" McKnight and his wife, Andrea, met as teenagers in Brooklyn, New York. Jay and his friends used to sing on the street corner, and Andrea was an admirer.

Here, Jay and Andrea talk about how their early romance turned into a marriage that has lasted for more than 50 years.

StoryCorps Griot: George and Katie Robinson

From StoryCorps | 02:21

George Robinson tells his daughter, Katie, about meeting his biological father after searching for more than 40 years.

Robinson_small George Robinson grew up not knowing his biological father, but always wondered what he was like. For more than 40 years George searched for his dad and eventually tracked him down on the internet.

Here, George tells his daughter, Katie, about first meeting his dad.

StoryCorps: Warren, Robin and Jason Weems

From StoryCorps | 02:01

Warren Weems (R), who is a teacher's aide in his wife, Robin's, first-grade classroom, is interviewed by his son Jason (L).

Weems_small Warren Weems, a retired Marine, is now a classroom assistant in his wife, Robin's, first-grade class.

Here, Warren talks with Robin and his son Jason, who is a kindergarten teacher in the same school.

StoryCorps Griot: Ellaraino and Baki AnNur

From StoryCorps | 02:22

72-year-old Ellaraino tells her friend Baki AnNur about meeting her great-grandmother for the first time.

Ellaraino_small 72-year-old Ellaraino tells her friend Baki AnNur about being sent away for the summer to a small town in Louisiana, where she met her great-grandmother for the first time.

StoryCorps Griot: Earl and Ashley Reynolds

From StoryCorps | 02:40

Earl Reynolds Jr. tells his daughter, Ashley, about meeting James Brown at his father's barbershop in Roanoke, Virginia.

Reynolds_small When Earl Reynolds Jr. was 11 years old, he shined shoes at his father's barbershop in Roanoke, Va.  Here he tells his daughter, Ashley, about a valuable lesson he learned from a customer -- the late James Brown. 

StoryCorps Griot: Mary Morris

From StoryCorps | 02:16

Mary Morris remembers her husband, Thomas, one of two Washington D.C. postal workers who died from exposure to anthrax in October, 2001.

Morris_small Thomas Morris was a U.S. Postal Service worker for 28 years. He was working in Washington D.C. when anthrax laced letters targeting senators and major media outlets appeared in the mail. He was one of two postal workers who died in October 2001 as a result of these biochemical attacks. His widow, Mary Morris, came to StoryCorps to remember their life together–starting with the day they met at a family funeral.

StoryCorps Griot: John Klein and Bernice Flournoy

From StoryCorps | 01:50

John Klein remembers meeting the love of his life, Mary Ann Allen, with her daughter Bernice Flournoy.

Klein_small John Klein tells Bernice Flournoy about falling in love with her mother, Mary Ann Allen, while he was working as a maintenance man at a senior citizen facility in Oakland, CA.

StoryCorps Griot: A.P. Tureaud Jr. and Steven Walkley

From StoryCorps | 01:58

A.P. Tureaud Jr. tells his friend Steven Walkley about becoming the first African-American undergraduate at Louisiana State University in 1953.

Tureaud_small A.P. Tureaud Jr. tells his friend Steven Walkley about becoming the first African-American undergraduate at Louisiana State University in 1953.

StoryCorps Griot: Queen Jackson and Debra MacKillop

From StoryCorps | 02:16

Queen Jackson tells her case manager, Debra MacKillop, how she became homeless.

Jacksonq_small Queen Jackson tells her case manager, Debra MacKillop, how she became homeless.

StoryCorps NTI: Ayodeji Ogunniyi

From StoryCorps | 02:15

Ayodeji Ogunniyi describes how the death of his father inspired him to become a teacher.

Ogunniyi_small

In 1990, Ayodeji Ogunniyi left Nigeria, along with his mother and brother, to come to the United States. They arrived in Chicago, joining Ayodeji’s father, Abimbola “Yinka” Ogunniyi, who’d arrived a few years earlier, and was working as a cab driver.

Abimbola always wanted Ayodeji to be a doctor.  But while Ayodeji was studying pre-med in college, his father was murdered on the job.

At StoryCorps, Ayodeji talked about how his father’s death changed the course of his life.

StoryCorps Griot: Richard Bennett and Craig Williams

From StoryCorps | 01:53

Iraq War veteran Richard Bennett talks with Craig Williams about how they became unlikely business partners.

Bennett_small Iraq War veteran Richard Bennett talks with Craig Williams about how they became unlikely business partners.

StoryCorps Griot: Karen Slade, Eric "Rico" Reed and Arthur "Sonny" Williams

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:28

Karen Slade, Eric "Rico" Reed, and Arthur "Sonny" Williams of radio station KJLH remember the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

Slade_small In 1992, Los Angeles police officers were charged — then acquitted — of assaulting Rodney King.

The news sparked riots in the city, and no neighborhood was hit harder than South Central LA.

KJLH was an urban R&B station located on Crenshaw Boulevard, at the heart of the riots.

Karen Slade, the general manager, Eric “Rico” Reed, a DJ, and Arthur “Sonny” Williams, KJLH’s driver, remember what happened during those days.

StoryCorps NTI: Tyrese Graham

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:16

Tyrese Graham remembers his first day as a teacher at John Marshall Metropolitan High School in Chicago, IL.

Grahamt_small Tyrese Graham is a second year science teacher at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on the West Side of Chicago. When he started teaching, Marshall was among the worst public schools in the city. At StoryCorps, Tyrese talked about his first day on the job.

StoryCorps Griot: Robert Holmes

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:01

Robert Holmes talks about his family being among the first to integrate a neighborhood in Edison, New Jersey.

Holmes_small

When Robert Holmes was a kid, his family moved to a white section of Edison, New Jersey.

It was 1956, and they were one of the first African American families to integrate the neighborhood.

Today, Robert Holmes is a professor at Rutgers Law School.

StoryCorps: Adrian Hawkins and Horace Atwater Jr.

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:00

Adrian Hawkins talks to his foster father, Horace Atwater Jr.

Hawkins_small

Adrian Hawkins spent his childhood bouncing between foster families.

It wasn’t until 2004, when he was a teenager, that he found a home with Horace Atwater Jr.

The two came to StoryCorps to remember when they first met.

StoryCorps: J.T. Johnson and Al Lingo

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:04

J.T. Johnson and Al Lingo remember having acid thrown on them after jumping into a whites-only swimming pool in St. Augustine, Florida in June of 1964.

Johnsonjt_small

On June 18th, 1964, J.T. Johnson and Al Lingo were two of several black and white protesters who jumped into the whites-only pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida.

At StoryCorps, they talked about how the owner of the hotel tried to force them out by pouring acid into the pool.

StoryCorps: Cheri Lindsay and Phillip Lindsay

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:22

Cheri Lindsay talks with her father, Phillip, about vitiligo, a rare skin condition they share...

Lindsay_small

Cheri Lindsay and her father, Phillip, both have vitiligo, a rare skin condition that runs in their family.

People with vitiligo gradually lose pigment in their skin, often in patches that appear randomly and can grow over time.

Cheri’s condition has spread so dramatically over the past four years that most of her face and body now appear white.

At StoryCorps, Cheri remembered when her vitiligo first started to spread.

StoryCorps: Kai Leigh Harriott and Aja David

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:20

Aja David and her younger sister, Kai Leigh Harriott, remember the night Kai was hit...

Harriott_small

Fourteen-year-old Kai Leigh Harriott is paralyzed from the chest down, the result of a stray bullet that hit her when she was three.

She was sitting outside on her porch in Dorchester, Massachusetts with her older sister Aja David, who was babysitting at the time.

The family is still dealing with the aftermath of the shooting a decade later.

StoryCorps: Alex Landau and Patsy Hathaway

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 03:34

Alex Landau, who is African American, and his adoptive mother, Patsy Hathaway, who is white,...

Landaunpr_small

In 2009, Alex Landau was a student at Community College of Denver. After a traffic stop one night, he was severely beaten by Denver Police officers.

Alex is African-American. He was adopted by a white couple and he grew up in largely white, middle-class suburbs of Denver.

Alex and his mother, Patsy Hathaway, came to StoryCorps to talk about how Alex’s race has influenced his life and what happened that night when police pulled him over.

WARNING–this story contains graphic imagery and language.

In 2011, Alex was awarded a $795,000 settlement by the City of Denver.

Two of the officers involved have since been fired from the Denver Police for other incidents. 

StoryCorps: Darnell Moore and Bryan Epps

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 03:43

Darnell Moore (R) tells his friend Bryan Epps (L) about an incident that shaped his...

Moore_small

When Darnell Moore (R) was a teenager in Camden, New Jersey, he didn’t know he was gay, but he did know he was an outcast.

It was the late 1980s and Darnell was a mild-mannered A-student in a city where kids were expected to be tough.

He told his longtime friend Brian Epps (L) about growing up in his neighborhood–and about an incident that shaped his youth.

StoryCorps: Alton Yates and Toni Yates

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 04:24

Alton Yates tells his daughter, Toni, about being part of a small group of Air...

Yatesta_small

As a teenager, Alton Yates (L) did a job that helped send people into space.

In the mid-1950s, before NASA existed, Yates was part of a small group of Air Force volunteers who tested the effects of high speeds on the body. They were strapped to rocket-propelled sleds that hurtled down a track at more 600 miles per hour and stopped in a matter of seconds. These experiments helped prove that space travel was safe for humans.

At StoryCorps, Yates told his daughter, Toni, that — for him — the story starts in high school, shortly after his mother died.

After leaving the Air Force in 1959, Alton Yates became involved with the Civil Rights Movement in his hometown of Jacksonville, FL. On August 27, 1960, he attended a sit-in that turned violent, and became known as Ax Handle Day. 

StoryCorps: Darius Clark Monroe and David Ned

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:41

Seventeen years after Darius Clark Monroe robbed a bank at gunpoint, he came to StoryCorps...

Monroe_small

In 1997, Darius Clark Monroe (L) was a high school honor student who had never been in serious trouble.

But soon after his 16th birthday, he robbed a bank in Stafford, Texas at gunpoint with two of his friends.

Seventeen years later, he sat down at StoryCorps with David Ned, a customer who was in the bank during the robbery.

David and Darius became acquainted while Darius was a film student making a documentary about the robbery called Evolution of a Criminal.

 

StoryCorps Griot: Mario Loiseau and Mabou Loiseau

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 01:48

Mario Loiseau talks with his 9-year-old daughter, Mabou, about why he works so hard to provide for her education.

Loiseaunpr_small

Mario Loiseau is a Haitian immigrant who works two jobs, including long hours as a parking lot attendant in New York City.

He does this to help pay for his 9-year-old daughter, Mabou’s, tutoring. She is a science and language prodigy, and is already studying college-level algebra.

The two of them sat down together for StoryCorps, so Mabou could ask him some questions.

StoryCorps: Walter Naegle and Ericka Naegle

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:33

Walter Naegle tells his niece, Ericka, about the unconventional decision that he and his partner, Bayard Rustin, made to protect their union.

Naeglenpr_small

On the heels of a historic Supreme Court ruling that upholds the right of LGBTQ people to marry, we look to the late 1970s--a time where this week’s ruling on marriage equality was unimaginable.

Back then, the iconic civil rights leader Bayard Rustin and his partner, Walter Naegle, a man decades his junior, fell in love. They were together for many years.

As Bayard was getting older, they decided to formalize their relationship in the only way that was possible for gay people at the time--Rustin adopted Walter Naegle.

Here, Walter tells his niece, Ericka, what it was like to fall in love with Bayard, and the unconventional decision they made to protect their union.

StoryCorps: Monica Harwell and Andrea Cleveland

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 01:59

Monica Harwell, talks to her daughter, Andrea Cleveland, about being the first woman to climb electric utility poles for ConEd in New York.

Harwellnpr_small

In 1991, Monica Harwell became the first woman to climb electric utility poles for ConEdison in New York.

As a line constructor, her job was to install power lines dozens of feet in the air.

She worked alongside men whose families had been working on the lines for generations.

At StoryCorps, she tells her daughter, Andrea Cleveland -- who now also works for ConEdison -- that many of them never thought she’d make it.

StoryCorps Griot: Burnell Cotlon and Lillie Cotlon

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:11

Burnell Cotlon owns and operates the only grocery store in the Lower Ninth Ward. When it opened in 2014, it was the first grocery store to serve that neighborhood since Hurricane Katrina. Here, he speaks with his mother, Lillie.

Cotlonhomepage1_small

For New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the section of the city hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed, recovery has been slow.

Nearly ten years after the storm, the neighborhood still did not have a single grocery store. But Ninth Ward resident Burnell Cotlon set out to change that.

Using money saved while working at fast food restaurants and dollar stores, he bought a dilapidated building on an empty block.

And in 2014 he opened the Lower Ninth Ward’s first grocery store since the storm.

At StoryCorps, he sat down with his mother, Lillie, to remember the days after the flood.

StoryCorps 9/11: Isaac Feliciano

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:39

Isaac Feliciano, a longtime worker at Brooklyn's historic Green-Wood Cemetery, remembers being at his job on September 11, 2001, when his wife, Rosa Maria Feliciano, was killed while working in the World Trade Center.

Felicianonpr_small

Isaac Feliciano has been working at Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood cemetery for 21 years. He has done many jobs there and is currently a field foreman, supervising landscape and maintenance workers on the grounds.

On September 11, 2001 he dropped his wife off at the subway so she could get to her job at Marsh & McLennan in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. He then headed to work at Green-Wood.

StoryCorps: Erik Booker and Jenna Power

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:36

Eighth grader Jenna Power talks with her seventh grade social studies teacher, Erik Booker, about his military service and his deployment to Iraq.

Bookernpr_small

Erik Booker is a seventh grade social studies teacher at Bates Middle School in Sumter, South Carolina. He served more than 20 years in the United States Army, including two deployments to Iraq.

Last year Jenna Power was a student in Mr. Booker’s class. Like Mr. Booker, her father also served in Iraq as a member of the Army. Without it ever having been spoken, Jenna immediately recognized traits in Mr. Booker that connected him to her father and their shared service.

The two of them sat down at StoryCorps so Jenna could interview her teacher about his time at war.

StoryCorps Griot: Willie Harris and Alex Brown

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:30

Willie Harris and Alex Brown remember the prejudice they faced as African American stuntmen while breaking into the film industry in the 1960s.

Harriswnpr1_small

Since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced the nominees for the 2016 Oscars, there has been outrage both online and in the press. For the second year in a row, all 20 individuals nominated in the acting categories are white. The outcry has been so great that the Academy’s governing board voted to add new members in order to increase diversity in the coming years.
 
For some African Americans who have spent decades around the film industry, this continues to spotlight an age-old problem.
Willie Harris and Alex Brown came to Hollywood in the 1960s dreaming of breaking into the movies as stuntmen. Both were athletic and strong, but despite their qualifications, stunt coordinators repeatedly turned them away.
 
Realizing that movie studios had little interest in hiring black stuntmen—many wouldn’t even open stages and gyms for them to practice in—they continued to hone their skills training and practicing in public parks around Los Angeles. They would leap from bleachers onto donated mattresses and practice elaborate driving maneuvers using rented cars.
 
Eventually, Willie and Alex were able to break into the industry. They became original members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association spending decades in Hollywood taking and throwing punches in films like The Color Purple and the James Bond classic Live and Let Die.
 
Willie and Alex came to StoryCorps to remember how they broke into the movies.

StoryCorps OutLoud: Carole Smiley with Seth and Octavius Smiley-Humphries

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 03:23

Seth Smiley and Octavius Humphries had their first date on Christmas Eve. They discuss that and other memorable holiday events they have shared.

Smiley-humphriesnpr_small

Hoping to meet someone special, in 2010 Seth Smiley decided to give online dating a try. Soon after posting his profile, Octavius Humphries reached out to him and they began an email correspondence.

Despite their age difference—Seth is 19 years older than Octavius—they immediately hit it off, bonding over their shared search for “commitment, consistency, and (a) connection.”

Eventually they met in person, going on their first date on Christmas Eve. Unsure of Octavius’ plans for the holiday, Seth invited him to dinner the next night at his family’s Atlanta home. Octavius, who was still grieving the deaths of his parents, had, unbeknownst to Seth, planned on spending the holiday alone. Instead, he reluctantly accepted Seth’s invitation.

At StoryCorps, Octavius (above left) and Seth (above right), along with Seth’s mother, Carole Smiley, sat down to remember their first Christmas together, as well as a more recent memorable holiday event.

StoryCorps: Clarence “Clancy” Haskett and Jerry Collier

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:09

Clarence ”Clancy” Haskett talks with his friend and former coworker about his long and successful career as a beer vendor for the Baltimore Orioles.

Haskettnpr5_small

This past weekend marked the official opening of the 2016 Major League Baseball season. And while the games now count in the standings, it won’t be until the weather warms up that the competition on the field will really heat up. But in the stands, there is a battle taking place that won’t wait until summer: the fight to be top vendor.
 
As anyone who has ever been to a baseball game knows, vendors roam the stands offering anything from hot dogs and peanuts, to scorecards and foam fingers. They are in a head-to-head competition with each other to sell the most of whatever product they are assigned, and one of the all-time greats is a man known as “Fancy Clancy.”
 
As a teenager, Clarence Haskett began selling soda at Baltimore Orioles games back when they played their home games at Memorial Stadium (the team moved to their current home, Camden Yards, in 1992). Over the years, he worked his way up to the vendor’s most prized offering—beer.
 
During his 43-year long career, Clancy has used his quickness and his gift of gab to sell more than a million beers to baseball fans—a number we believe makes him Hall of Fame worthy.
 
Clancy came to StoryCorps with his friend and former coworker, Jerry Collier, to talk about their work and how he got started.
Clancy’s story is one of 53 work stories featured in our new book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.
 
Click here to pre-order Callings before April 19, 2016, and get great gifts from StoryCorps.

StoryCorps: Jamal Faison and Born Blackwell

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:39

Jamal Faison talks with his uncle, Born Blackwell, about his release from Rikers Island and the support he received through the challenges of re-entry.

Faisonnpr_small

In February of 2012, Jamal Faison was a 20-year-old college sophomore home on school break in New York City when he, along with two others, were arrested for attempting to steal mobile devices from a subway rider.

Transit police arrested Jamal and he spent the next eight months on Rikers Island--New York City’s massive main jail complex that can house as many as 15,000 people at one time.

While incarcerated, Jamal struggled with the difficult conditions on Rikers and turned to his uncle, Born Blackwell, for support. Throughout his teens, Jamal had been close with Born, and during those eight months, almost weekly, Born made the arduous trip from his home in Brooklyn to visit his nephew. His uncle’s support, telling him to “keep his head” and reminding him, “just because they treat you like an animal doesn’t mean you have to act like one,” soothed Jamal and helped him maintain a sense of worth while knowing that one day he would again be free.

In September 2012, Jamal pleaded guilty to grand larceny and attempted robbery charges and a month later was released from custody. Dropped off in Queens around 2:00 AM, he immediately understood the challenges that would await him outside jail knowing that his conviction would haunt him and his opportunities would be limited.

One year after his re-entry, Jamal became a father and is now raising his son as a single parent, and he hopes to someday return to college and resume his studies. He works at The Osborne Association--a New York-based nonprofit that helps people who have been in conflict with the law change their lives--mentoring youth and helping people who have been incarcerated find employment.

Jamal came to StoryCorps with Born to remember the night he was released from Rikers, and to discuss how their relationship supported Jamal through the conditions of his incarceration.

Originally aired June 3, 2016 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

StoryCorps Griot: Alice Mitchell and Ibukun Owolabi

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:45

Alice Mitchell and her 10-year-old brother, Ibukun, came to StoryCorps to talk for the first time about their mother who died just weeks after his birth.

Owolabinpr_small Growing up, Alice Mitchell was always very close with her mother Rosemary Owolabi. A Nigerian immigrant as proud of her heritage as she was of her children, Rosemary would pick Alice up from school dressed in vibrantly colored garments and head-wraps.

When Alice was 14, her mother died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest just two weeks after giving birth to her youngest child, a boy she named Ibukunoluwa, which translates to “Blessing from God.”

Alice was immediately forced to become both sister and mother to her new brother, who they call Ibukun, and took the lead in raising him the way she believed her mother would have wanted him brought up.

Now 10 years old, Ibukun lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his father and stepmother. Over the years he has seen pictures and heard stories about his mother, but came to StoryCorps with Alice to talk for the first time about losing their mother.

Originally aired July 1, 2016 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

StoryCorps Griot: Anthony Merkerson and Charles Jones

From StoryCorps | 02:57

Two fathers of children on the autistic spectrum talk about the concerns they have for their sons — two young black men growing up with autism.

Jonesnpr1_small 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, Charles 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, began 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, 7--who are both on the autistic spectrum. After meeting Charles, Anthony joined the support group and they have since become close friends.

Charles, a filmmaker, came to StoryCorps with Anthony, 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.

StoryCorps Griot: Carlos Walton and Jim Saint Germain

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:45

Jim Saint Germain and his former middle school dean discuss pivotal moments in their relationship and lessons Jim learned from his mentor.

Saintgermainnpr_small Jim Saint Germain’s family moved to New York City from Haiti in 2000. They left with the hope of having a better life than the one they left behind, but for 10-year-old Jim, the adjustment was difficult.

His family moved into a small Brooklyn apartment where the quarters were so tight that Jim was forced to sleep in a closet, and at one point, 15 people were living in the home at once. By the time he was in eighth grade, Jim’s behavior had worsened and he was struggling in school. He was frequently in fights and his teachers began singling him out as a troublemaker.

Around that time, Carlos Walton, then the dean of Jim’s middle school, stepped in.

Carlos was known as an educator with the rare ability to connect with harder-to-reach kids. He had grown up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood and used straight talk, a firm handshake, and big hugs to reach students.

Carlos saw himself in Jim and when Jim got kicked out of his apartment, Carlos took him into his own home to help give him time to figure things out. And while their relationship has had its moments, Jim is currently studying for his master’s degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and this past weekend he served as a groomsman at Carlos’ wedding.

Jim and Carlos came to StoryCorps to remember some of the pivotal moments in their relationship.

Originally aired July 22, 2016 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

StoryCorps Griot: Melva Washington Toomer and John Washington

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:34

John Washington, 95, who is blind and deaf, recently recorded a StoryCorps interview with his eldest child, Melva, using a TeleBraille machine.

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John Washington was born blind and with a severe loss of hearing that has become more extreme over time. Just before he turned 30, he met his future wife, Fannie Ruth, who was also blind and deaf. In 1950 they got married, and remained together for 55 years having three children together--Melva, Warren, and Canady--before Fannie Ruth passed away in 2005.
John, who did not finish high school, began reading books in braille “to learn the ways of life,” and went on to teach others to read braille as well. He spent years working as a massage therapist, and in 1952, in what he considers one of his proudest achievements, he helped found the first braille magazine in the United States focused solely on issues important to the African American community—The Negro Braille Magazine.
Now 95 years old, John recently recorded a StoryCorps interview with his eldest child, Melva Washington Toomer, using a TeleBraille machine, a device that requires Melva to type her questions on a keyboard which are then translated to a braille touchpad for her father to read.
At StoryCorps, he shared some of his favorite stories about raising his children, and asked his daughter an important question about what she plans to do with him as he continues to move closer to being 100 years old.
Besides using a TeleBraille machine, John also speaks with others through fingerspelling–a method of communication where words are spelled out directly into his hand by another person using the American Sign Language alphabet.
Originally aired August 19, 2016 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

StoryCorps: Ellie Dahmer and Bettie Dahmer

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:30

Vernon Dahmer was a successful farmer who fought for voting rights in the mid-1960s. His family recalls the night he was killed by the KKK.

Storycorps_small Vernon Dahmer was a successful black farmer and businessman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who fought for voting rights in the mid-1960s. He was killed January 10, 1966, after the Ku Klux Klan firebombed his home. At StoryCorps, his widow, Ellie Dahmer, and daughter Bettie Dahmer, remember that night.

StoryCorps: Ed Roy and Mary Johnson-Roy

From StoryCorps | Part of the StoryCorps series | 02:00

Mary Johnson-Roy first came to StoryCorps in 2011 to talk about her bond with the young man who killed her son. Years later, she married a man who lives with a similar tragedy. StoryCorps brings an update to her story.

Roynpr_small Mary Johnson-Roy first came to StoryCorps in 2011 to talk about her bond with the young man who killed her son. Years later, she married a man who lives with a similar tragedy. StoryCorps brings an update to her story.