Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

The John Robinson Homes opened in 1943 as a segregated apartment complex for black families in East St. Louis.
William Widmer | Special to ProPublica

The door is off its hinges in Farlon Wilson’s bathroom. Wilson said that’s an improvement from when she first moved in, when there was no bathroom door at all. She said she’s putting in work orders to fix the problems nearly every week.

“The tub won’t stop leaking and the floor is about to fall,” Wilson said while demonstrating how the floor bends under the pressure of her foot. “I have no access to my bathroom water, period. I’ve had to turn it off because it’s leaking in my kitchen.”

Downstairs in the kitchen, she motioned to a patch in the ceiling where water once leaked through and later talked about how she and her family’s breathing has been affected by mold. She pays less than $100 a month in rent.

Daria Finley took her sudden onset of blindness as an opportunity to get into acting.  8/16/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis native Daria Finley was focused on her career, working in the information technology department of the Department of Defense, when one day she woke up blind. She'd been diagnosed with glaucoma the year before, but her sudden onset of blindness was a shock for her and her doctors.

Finley used this life-changing experience as an opportunity to pursue things she had only daydreamed about doing before. They include modeling, acting in a short film and writing and performing a one-woman play about her experiences.

Joe Weissmann, left, takes a smell test with Wash U medical resident Pawina Jiramongkolchai after completing smell training on August 1, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Recovering your sense of smell doesn’t happen overnight.

Since March, St. Louis Public Radio has been following a research study at Washington University designed to understand whether you can train the brain how to smell again. Using a technique known as “smell training,” researchers hope to reverse permanent smell loss.


Physicist Pablo Sobron uses a spectrometer to examine the terrain of a site in the Canadian High Arctic, where a hot spring existed in the distant past.
Dale Anderson, provided by Pablo Sobron

For years, scientists have picked apart data transmitted from Mars probes to find signs of life on the red planet. But since the Martian landscape is too harsh to support most kinds of life, some scientists in St. Louis travel to remote places to study life that thrives in extreme environments.

If life exists on Mars, scientists think it’s likely in the form of tiny organisms that live underground, because the surface receives large amounts of radiation. Mars missions have also revealed that the planet has large concentrations of a toxic, salty substance called perchlorate. Life on Mars would likely be able to tolerate dry, salty environments, so researchers have looked for similar places on Earth.

The albums "Straight Outta Compton and "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," are shown with other albums at Vintage Vinyl. The two albums have inspired a wider variety of hip-hop artists for three decades.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Two seminal hip-hop albums are now 30 years old.

"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy and "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A. ushered in a new direction for the genre with lyrics that exposed conditions in black communities to white audiences.

The St. Louis region has a long history with hip-hop. An East St. Louis radio station was one of the first to broadcast the first mainstream hip-hop song, “Rapper’s Delight.” And of course, the city has its own stars, Nelly and Chingy. But the death of Michael Brown, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and incidents of police misconduct have brought the lyrics and themes of the two albums back to the forefront.

Pesticides are all over, from backyard gardens to cornfields. While their use doesn’t appear to be slowing, concern over drift and the resulting effects on health is driving research — and more worries.

Those concerns are bringing pesticides to a different venue: courtrooms. 

Jacob Shacko, who performs as Lilschacko, performs an original song in the St. Louis Public Radio studios. 8/9/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

A teenager from Democratic Republic of the Congo  finds himself on the other side of the world, starting a new life in St. Louis. A young Bosnian woman whose family fled their country when she was little more than a toddler now finds herself looking for ways to connect to her past.

Their stories, while shaped by the particulars of war and of history, are like single voices in a larger chorus: refugees who re-settled in the United States and now use music as a way to understand the past and make their way forward.

Women meet at Sharpshooters Pit & Grill to learn about guns and practice shooting on the range.
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio

Tamyka Brown was perfecting her shot. Her target sheet, riddled with bullet holes, showed she knows what she’s doing. When asked about her time on the gun range, Brown responded with a smile.

“Great. It went great,” she said. “Like, I want to go again, but I think I’ma pass and come back next Thursday.”

Brown comes to the range with her husband often. But on a recent Thursday in July she was bonding with other women of color at Sharpshooter's Pit and Grill over guns and targets.

Workers set up for the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in Town and Country in June.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Bellerive Country Club in Town and Country is the center of the golf world this week with the 100th PGA Championship set to begin Thursday. Organizers are expecting 80,000 people to come in for the event.

They will get to see a championship course in all its glory. Precisely mowed greens, protected by deep sandy bunkers and fairways stretching for hundreds of yards lined by trees reaching for the sky.

The person tasked with getting everything ready — and making it all look good — is Carlos Arraya.

Psychologists say racial profiling can cause physical and mental health issues including anxiety attacks, insomnia and nightmares.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

When Washington University student Teddy Washington and nine other black incoming freshmen were stopped by Clayton police officers in early July, the group followed the officers’ orders to prove they were not the perpetrators of a recent “dine and dash” at the nearby IHOP.

Several of the students presented their receipts to the officers before they walked back to the restaurant around midnight on July 7, with police vehicles alongside them. The manager of the IHOP confirmed to the officers they were not the suspects and the students were free to leave.

RhonniRose Mantilla, wearing a red dress, rehearses Thursday night for an upcoming community production of West Side Story in July.
Monica Mileur | COCA

A few weeks ago, St. Louis provided a flashpoint in a national conversation about theater casting and cultural heritage.

A group of visiting theater artists booed a Muny performance with a white actor playing an Asian role, before walking out. They also objected to Caucasian actors playing Puerto Ricans in a segment from “West Side Story.”

This weekend, COCA is performing “West Side Story” at the Edison Theatre at Washington University. Half the characters in the story are Puerto Rican. But with a few exceptions, they’ve historically been played on stage and in film by white actors.  That bothers some of the young people in the COCA production.

Incoming Rep artistic director Hana Sharif will spend a year shadowing retiring director Steve Woolf and connecting with various communities.
The Rep

The incoming artistic director of Repertory Theatre of St. Louis believes that growing audiences involves much more than simply issuing one-time invitations.

Director, playwright and producer Hana Sharif will spend a year getting to know the area and The Rep before stepping into the post after longtime artistic director Steven Woolf retires in 2019. She comes to St. Louis from Baltimore Center Stage, where she worked as associate artistic director.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Nancy Fowler talked with Sharif about the work ahead and the experience she’ll bring to The Rep.

Shayba Muhammad crafted a 12-week course to help artists and artisans start or grow a small business. 7/26/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

A few years ago Shayba Muhammad started making jewelry for herself, and was inspired to start a business, Mahnal, to sell her work.

Now she wants to help other artists and artisans who would like to do the same. The Makers Program, which she started with help from a $10,000 prize from Arts and Education Council, will offer guidance to help participants navigate the business end of their craft.

Lacy Clay, left, and Cori Bush, right, face each other in an Aug. 7 Democratic primary for Missouri's 1st Congressional District.
File photos | Carolina Hidalgo and Kelly Moffitt I St. Louis Public Radio

Congressman Lacy Clay may be the Missouri equivalent of professional-wrestling great Mr. Perfect.

That’s because the St. Louis Democrat has never lost an election for the Missouri Legislature or Congress. In fact, his father, former Congressman Bill Clay, won every aldermanic and congressional race during his long tenure in public service. Many attribute this electoral success to a stout political organization — and decades of loyalty.

Former Homer G. Phillips physician Earle U. Robinson Jr. and his daughter, Rebecca Robinson-Williiams worked together to create a documentary about Robinson's time at the historic black-run hospital in the Ville.
Doug Jaggers | WFYI News

In the mid-20th century, St. Louis was home to one of the only hospitals where African-Americans could train as doctors. In segregated St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was built to cater to the city’s black population, which was barred from the city’s white hospitals.

“This is a hospital that was all black. From the very lowest job to the medical director,” said Earle U. Robinson Jr., an OB-GYN who completed his internship and residency at the hospital from 1958 to 1963. “Since the hospitals in St. Louis were segregated, Homer G. Phillips was built for the black population.”

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Four Republicans are set to face off in the Aug. 7 primary for Missouri auditor, hoping to unseat Democrat Nicole Galloway in November. 

The four contenders are Paul Curtman of Pacific, Saundra McDowell of Jefferson City, Kevin Roach of Ballwin, and David Wasinger of St. Louis County.

Logan and his sister, Ireland, swim at Manchester Aquatic Center on July 16.
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio

Ava Battelle leans into her camp counselor at the back of a big cafeteria called Miller Hall at Wonderland Camp. Parents, including Ava's mom, are registering their kids for another week there. Ava’s counselor, Sydney Dungan, dangles her arm across the girl’s shoulders.

“You don’t get any other experience like this than to live with someone with disabilities for a whole week, getting really close with them, and then just seeing them as a real person and not just as their disability,” Dungan said later.

Kevin and Danielle McCoy, seen here with their daughter, Elle, posed an artistic response to their own experiences with colorism. 7/20/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Married couple Danielle and Kevin McCoy are used to being treated differently based on the color of their skin — not only because they are each African-American, but because her skin tone is lighter than his.

“Dani being fairer-skinned, wavier-textured hair,” Kevin McCoy said, “and me darker, more coarse, as we say nappier hair — I was not the ‘safe’ black person.”

He said people they encounter, both “in the black community and outside of the black community,” appear comfortable with Danielle but view him as “aggresive.”

This led them to create the work in “Color-ism,” an exhibition that opens at the Gallery at the Kranzberg Arts Center on Friday and remains on view through Sept. 3. Put simply, colorism is the preference for lighter-colored skin, even within communities of color.

Ganga Mongar, left, and Sancha Subba, right, receive help from Mongar's daughter Anjali while practicing for the writing portion of the naturalization test. Both women have learned how to read and write to prepare for the test.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Ganga Mongar’s pencil is covered in hearts and a pink eraser cap. She taps it on the table as she reels off the names of the Supreme Court justices. She’s is in her mid-40s, a mother of five, and a student at the St. Louis International Institute, where she’s enrolled in the Literacy Citizenship Preparation course. She comes three times a week for two hours, where, in addition to being drilled on U.S. civics, she’s learning how to read and write in English.

CEO Bob Chapman, right, talks to an employee at a Barry-Wehmiller factory.
Provided by Barry-Wehmiller

Barry-Wehmiller’s leadership philosophy is spelled out on a wall outside the company’s parking garage in Clayton. Employees and visitors see it, coming and going:

“We imagine a society in which people care about each other first.”

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