Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Provided by The May Day Orchestra

A Missouri musician and his band are making music that challenges listeners to confront their own complicity in exploitative labor practices and foreign policy while celebrating those who would change things for the better.

Tim Rakel launched The May Day Orchestra in 2008. The band creates self-described folk operas that aim to honor histories of social change. This month, the band returns with its third album, “Wake,” which melds together the story of a 17th century sultan turned pirate in what is now Kenya and Rakel’s knowledge and experience in modern-day Kenya .

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger take questions after announcing their support for a task force to examine government spending.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

With the Missouri General Assembly slated to convene in a few weeks, the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis is scrambling in case state lawmakers decide to intervene in the region’s long-standing debate over a possible merger of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

At least 50 area municipalities are planning to ask the St. Louis County Council Tuesday to oppose any sort of  statewide vote on the matter. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen could face a similar request shortly.

Missouri Botanical Garden researcher Ashley Glenn learning to cook in Bosnia from a homemaker named Dunja.
Ashley Glenn | Missouri Botanical Garden

On a recent Saturday, four middle-aged Bosnian women bustled in a warmly lit kitchen at Fontbonne University. Bags of flour and sugar, metal mixing bowls and trays of flaky pastries filled, called pitas, were spread across an island. The air smelled strongly of bread, butter and cheese.

Ashley Glenn, a botanist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, stood next to the women, providing commentary about the food for an audience of about two dozen people. Glenn has spent the last year and a half interviewing more than 100 Bosnians in St. Louis and in Bosnia about their cuisine and food rituals.

About 1,000 people die in U.S. jails every year. Half of deaths are due to illness, according to federal statistics.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Shirletta Chambly has lost two family members in St. Louis jails: First her brother, and then her 21-year-old son.

Maleek Coleman-Chambly died after a seizure in his bed at the St. Louis City Justice Center on Jan. 31, 2017. Family members claim he told them over the phone that jail personnel had refused to give him his epilepsy medication the night before.

Provided | Anthony Volkman

For seven years, Ackerman School music teacher Anthony Volkman has spent his summers creating the school's annual holiday program on a budget likely to make The Grinch flinch.

“We had $400,” Volkman said. “We had basic costuming; we made sets out of cardboard and paper.”

But this year, the program will be more elaborate, thanks to a $3,000 grant from the Maritz marketing company. It's not a huge amount — enough for props for kids in wheelchairs, professional lighting and more microphones — but the impact on the kids in this K-8 Special School District building in Florissant is incalculable.

People gather inside a giant inflatable bubble to listen to presentations about art
Provided by Gavin Kroeber

As the sun sets, several people circle around giant plastic disk laid out behind the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. The disk inflates and attendees are invited to walk back and forth as it grows into a massive bubble.

Adults giggle as performers run around the inflated orb before inviting people inside for an installment of “At the Edge of Everything Else,” a creative soiree hosted by artist and organizer Gavin Kroeber. It’s part of a project to highlight art rooted in the urban fabric of St. Louis.

David Wise feeds his 9-month-old son, Pablo, at their home in St. Louis' Tower Grove East neighborhood. Wise quit his part-time job at a coffee shop instead of paying for day care.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

David Wise does the diaper changes and feedings for his 9-month-old son, Pablo. Wise is a stay-at-home dad and they've read hundreds of books together.

There’s a federally-funded Head Start child care center just a few blocks away in St. Louis’ Tower Grove East neighborhood that could care for Pablo. But Wise’s family earns too much to qualify and day care centers that charge money are too expensive for them.

Saint Louis University biologist Gerardo Camilo telling a story live on stage at The Story Collider event at The Ready Room on Oct. 5, 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The night began with a story told by a science journalist who tried to cure her autoimmune disease by swallowing parasitic worms. It finished with the story of a young primate researcher who nearly died after being attacked by two chimpanzees. 

On Oct. 5, St. Louis Public Radio and The Story Collider podcast collaborated for the second time to present five personal science stories live, on stage, at The Ready Room. It was the first time I hosted a show with local comedian Zack Stovall since we joined The Story Collider's team of producers last summer. The theme of the night was "Resilience." Some of these stories showed how resilience is necessary to scientific research. Others showed how they used scientific knowledge to overcome major challenges in their lives.

Lamya Orr tries to greet a friend who is inside the Workhouse while standing outside the gate with his children and their mother.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Since Thomas Harvey helped start ArchCity Defenders in 2009, he has delivered legal representation to homeless and working poor people throughout St. Louis. But now, Harvey is taking part in a nationwide effort that could get tens of thousands of people out of jail while they await a trial.

Harvey is relocating to Los Angeles to take a position with the Bail Project, which is seeking to pay the bails of roughly 160,000 people over the next few years. The organization plans to set up operations in 40 cities, including St. Louis. Harvey says the work will change lives and communities — and provide momentum to an existing activist movement to end cash bail.

James Fisher, a professor of marketing at Saint Louis University, said economic boycotts can be effective.  Nov. 21, 2017
Marissanne Lewis-Thompson | St. Louis Public Radio

While protests continue since the Sept. 15 verdict in the Jason Stockley case, activists have also launched an economic boycott in St. Louis. They said it’s in response to the treatment of African-Americans, who they believe are disproportionately experiencing economic and social disparities.

Several suits made of different fabric types, including plastic and cloth, hang over individual florescent lights.
Provided by Michael DeFilippo

As you walk down the street, you might not realize that you’re on a giant rock hurtling through the galaxy at amazing speeds. That is to say, you’re standing in space. An show at Projects+Gallery, 4733 McPherson Ave., could help viewers confront this reality.

“Where you’re standing right now, you are not separated from outer space,” artist Christine Corday, said with a laugh. “You are absolutely positively in outer space.”

Although the payday loan industry has come under fire for high interest rates and other business practices, supporters say the operations fill a need for people who might not have easy access to money to help pay bills and cover other expenses.
taberandrew | Flickr

The recommendations of the Ferguson Commission are being touted as a potential roadmap to move forward in the St. Louis region after this year's protests stemming from the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of a former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer.  Some of the proposals deal with predatory lending, which often traps low-income earners with very high-interest loans.

Jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant
Mark Fitton | Courtesy of the artist

When jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant takes the stage Saturday at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis, she won't be trying to sing as her storied predecessors might have.

Though the virtuoso performer has been hailed as a successor to such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter, she is very much a contemporary singer. Salvant, a Haitian-American who grew up in Miami, has grown to love jazz standards, show tunes and songs many might miss, like the Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes piece "Somehow I Could Never Believe."

But the 28-year-old also writes original compositions and through her singing wants to make her own statement about the music's past, present and future.

Protesters stand together on Kingshighway Friday night as police officers in riot gear move toward them.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A common refrain among protesters who took to the streets of St. Louis in recent weeks has been “I know that we will win!”

Many are confident that the demonstrations that took place following a judge’s decision to find former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley not guilty in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith will help win the fight to stop police from killing black people.

Silver tiles can be scene beneith the Space Shuttle at Kennedy Space Center.
Provided by St. Louis Art Museum

The St. Louis Art Museum opens three different shows this month that use technology as a jumping point to explore politics or history.

Among the exhibits is one by world-renowned German photographer Thomas Struth, whose photographs include of wires, robot parts, and industrial machines. For him, researchers and scientists have managed to bring humanity together even while political crisis after political crisis unfolds.

Arianna Soldati,  a postdoctoral candidate in volcanology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, presents a basaltic rock, which she collected from a volcano for her research.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

One night at an airport in Syracuse, New York, Arianna Soldati, a postdoctoral candidate in volcanology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, found herself waiting on a continually delayed flight. To pass the time, she opened her suitcase and fished out a bag of volcanic rocks she had collected on a recent trip. Then, she started showing them to people at her gate. 

"Everyone was really excited. Most people have never seen lava before and they had a ton of questions and the delay went by faster than usual," Soldati said. 

Soldati has always found joy in sharing her research with the public, which is why she created a science outreach program this fall to bring science presentations to rural towns in Missouri.

State Rep. Bruce Franks answers reporter questions outside City Hall on Sept. 29, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A diverse crowd of Democrats packed a recent party meeting in Richmond Heights to hear from state Rep. Bruce Franks, a St. Louis Democrat who’s become a prominent voice for police accountability amid protests throughout the St. Louis region.

You could hear a pin drop when Franks bluntly asked his audience, “Can somebody tell me how black folks are supposed to vote for Claire McCaskill?”

This is a portion of the cover of the new "Standing Up for Civil Rights" book for children.
Provided | Missouri History Museum

How do you condense more than 150 years of civil rights history in to a single book — and make it understandable and meaningful to a fifth grader?

St. Louisan Amanda Doyle and co-author Melanie Adams recently attempted to do just that, for their children's book, “Standing Up for Civil Rights in St. Louis.”  It starts in the 1800s with the stories of people who were enslaved, and ends with the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson. But its message looks to the future, asking kids what they can do to change enduring problems facing African-Americans.

These photos were salvaged from a condemned home in the former Wendell-Phillips community in Kansas City.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Lois Conley was a teenager when her parents lost their Mill Creek neighborhood home to eminent domain. A portion of her former backyard became Market Street after the city leveled the area in the name of progress.

Conley is the founder of St. Louis' Griot Museum of Black History, which sits across the street from the site of the future National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency, in a demolished area that was part of the  St. Louis Place neighborhood.

Through Dec. 15, the north St. Louis museum is hosting an exhibition exploring how the government’s power to condemn mostly black neighborhoods has affected people in St. Louis and Kansas City. Conley and photographer Matt Rahner co-curated the display.

Conley talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Nancy Fowler about the exhibition, “Eminent Domain/Displaced,” as well as her personal experiences of more than 50 years ago.

charter schools tha racially diverse in recent years.
Camille Phillips I St. Louis Public Radio

If you walk into most public schools in the city of St. Louis, you’d never know that five black parents won a federal desegregation lawsuit in 1975, or that years of appeals resulted in the creation of a much lauded voluntary intra-district transfer program in 1983.

According to a St. Louis Public Radio analysis of state data, the percentage of racially segregated public schools in the city of St. Louis rose over the past 26 years, from 54 percent to 78 percent. Today, most of the students in the St. Louis public school district attend schools where all, or nearly all, of their classmates are African-American.

Charter schools used to be even more segregated than the district. But, in recent years, a handful have succeeded in attracting both white and black families. The choices of past and current parents at City Garden Montessori, in the Botanical Heights neighborhood, illustrate how one charter school achieved integration, and the barriers to replicating that model.

Students at Adams Elementary in St. Louis Sept 2016
File | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Schools’ elected board of education has continued to hold elections and conduct meetings, even though it’s had no authority over the district for a decade.

The task belongs to a Special Administrative Board, or SAB, which is appointed. As the district moves back to improved academic performance, the three-person SAB has said its time of rule is nearing an end. The governor of Missouri, the mayor of St. Louis and the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen each get to select one of the board members. 

Missouri Dept. of Agriculture

Chris Chinn’s first year on the job has not been boring.

Her tenure as director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture began with flooding in the spring that’s now causing delays in crop harvests. Along the way, Chinn’s office had to deal with contamination in southeastern Missouri that triggered a temporary ban of the herbicide Dicamba. It's an issue that caught the attention of the Missouri General Assembly and farmers across the state.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin caught up with Chinn to talk about those challenges and her department’s major priorities.

Protesters walk down Olive Street in downtown St. Louis after the People's Town Hall event. Sept. 28, 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mary Ann Tisdale’s 20s lined up with the peak of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the struggle for black empowerment.

Tisdale didn’t participate. She said she was scared of getting hurt, but she followed the movement closely — reading “everything there was to read.”

“You could say physically, I’m a coward, but I know what’s going on,” she said.

LaShell Eikerenkoetter addresses police officers after protesters saw them use a Taser on a demonstrator.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The search for a new chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department — underway since Sam Dotson retired in April — is into its sixth month.  Applications were due on Thursday, and a new chief should be in place by January.

The final steps of the process are taking place with the department under a bright spotlight from protesters demanding more police accountability, and the scrutiny could impact the way the rest of the search plays out.

Movie poster image. Melissa Leo and Margaret Qualley star in "Novitiate," set to open in Los Angeles and New York Friday, Oct. 27.
Provided | Sony Pictures

Contemporary classical music fans all over the country have enjoyed original compositions by St. Louis' own Chris Stark. But he may have found his biggest audience, ever, in a new group: moviegoers.

Stark, a composer and a professor of composition at Washington University, recently finished scoring his first film, a Sony Pictures release, “Novitiate.” It’s the story of a woman who joins a convent.  Margaret Qualley plays the aspiring nun and Melissa Leo, the mother superior, in the film directed by Maggie Betts.

In our latest Cut & Paste podcast episode, Willis Ryder Arnold and Nancy Fowler talk with Stark about his work for a major motion picture.

LaShell Eikerenkoetter and Rev. Darryl Gray have each been arrested during the Stockley protests.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Rev. Darryl Gray marched alongside iconic civil rights figures, including Ralph Abernathy, who succeeded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Missouri candidates for statewide and legislative offices are having to learn the ropes of Amendment 2, which imposes campaign-donation restrictions.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Just over a year away from what could be a crucial 2018 election, Missouri candidates are grappling with the new restrictions to campaign donations mandated by the voter-approved measure known as Amendment 2.

Close to 70 percent of Missouri voters approved the constitutional amendment in 2016, putting an end to the state’s 10-year status as one of only a handful of states without donation limits. But flaws in the new system are prompting the General Assembly and political activists to seek more changes.  

Special education teacher Tiffany Andrews teaches a fourth grader about possessive nouns on Oct. 17, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a limited pool of people certified to teach special education in the St. Louis metro area, putting districts from St. Charles County to the Metro East in intense competition for qualified candidates.

Even more well-off schools feel the impact of the shortage, but schools with higher needs and less money often have the most trouble filling positions.

An illustration of prescription drugs.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Though Republicans in Congress have not passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump has used a series of executive orders and directives in an attempt to peel back parts of the law.

Last week, the administration announced it would stop paying cost-sharing reductions to insurance companies for individual plans purchased through Healthcare.gov, sparking fears of insurance rate hikes just before enrollment season.  

Official estimates show that losing cost-sharing payments could push some premiums up by 20 percent in states like Missouri. In the meantime, open enrollment for individual plans opens Nov. 1.  

A student works on an assignment in an introductory English language course at the International Institute of St. Louis. About 1,100 immigrants and refugees take English courses at the institute.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Maryam Bakhtari trained to be a doctor in Afghanistan. She never thought there would be a time when she couldn't practice gynecology. But as a new immigrant to the United States, her chosen field is beyond her. These days, she's focusing on a different kind of learning.

Bakhtari takes English classes at the International Institute of St. Louis. She’s among the approximate 1,100 adults who take the classes every year. The International Institute has the largest English for Speakers of Other Languages program in the St. Louis region. 

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