Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

Lacy Seward, social services coordinator for the Monroe City Manor. Medicaid cuts proposed by Senate Republicans could hit hard in this small town, that helped vote them into office.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

MONROE CITY, MO. — The closest emergency room is 20 miles east on the highway. That’s why it isn’t unusual for people experiencing heart attacks, blood clots and strokes to show up at Dr. Rodney Yager’s clinic on Main Street in Monroe City.

Yager, who grew up in the area, can handle the fast pace of a small-town clinic. What worries him more is how federal health care policies being shaped in Washington, D.C., could affect his patients.

Saint John's United Church vigil gun violence Kenneth McKoy
FIle photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet repeatedly have promised to help get violent crime in cities like St. Louis, which is on pace to have 180-plus homicides for the third year in a row, under control.

The administration has promised an additional $200 million to combat the problem, with most of the money targeted to boosting enforcement. Though St. Louis is guaranteed none of that money, the budget is praised by local law enforcement and criticized by those who daily try to fight crime on the ground.

Confetti hangs in an open window reminiscent of a snowglobe in Bunny Burson's sculpture
Bruno David Gallery

Early on election night last November, artist Bunny Burson looked to New York City’s Javits Center ceiling, expecting confetti to fall to celebrate Hillary Clinton becoming the nation's first woman president. But the confetti never fell.

Crushed by Clinton’s loss to President Donald Trump, Burson began an almost two-week journey to track down the confetti, which she thought would make great material for artwork.

Kendric Carlock describes the layout of Wyman Center in Eureka, where he's interning this summer at a teen leadership program. The college senior wants to work at a nonprofit that aims to increase college access after he graduates.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Kendric Carlock graduated from St. Louis Public Schools in 2014 with a 2.0 GPA. His parents never went to college. His family didn’t have a lot of money. His odds of attending college were, by all measures, not great.

But the magnet-school grad was determined. With the help of his guidance counselor, Carlock found a space at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. In the fall, he’ll be a senior in the communications department.

Nika Marble is an artist, musician and head bartender at Elaia and Olio. (June 23, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Nika Marble’s artistic toolbox holds an eclectic mix: A shot of tonic, a staccato note and a sharp pair of scissors.

Each tool is in service of one of her artistic endeavors: music, mixology and collage making. But as she dons one hat after another, how does Marble define herself? In this reboot of our Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Marble about an identity crisis that plagues many creative people.

“Am I am I an artist who waits tables? Or am I a waiter who occasionally makes art?” Marble said. “This is a thing that has worried myself and a lot of my friends in their lives.”

Ella Jones, left, and Diane Stevenson hug goodbye after a meeting. Their group, which is run by The Breakfast Club, offers support and friendship to women diagnosed with breast cancer. (June 13, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A new friend was scheduled for a mastectomy, but was now determined to get out of bed and cancel the surgery. So Ella Jones’ mothering instincts kicked in.

“I went over to the bed, and I rubbed her and talked to her, and explained in general terms what was going to happen,” said Jones, 71. “If she had gotten up out of that bed and left, she would have never done any treatment.”

Jones, a nine-year breast cancer survivor, is one of several women who coach others through their treatment in St. Louis. The program is run by The Breakfast Club, a local nonprofit that supports African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer.

A drawing of St. Louis resident Mychal Vorhees hearing an animal inside her chimney.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

About a month ago, Mychal Voorhees heard a strange noise near her apartment.

“I was just sitting at home watching TV and I heard what sounded like a bird outside,” said Voorhees, who lives in the Saint Louis Hills neighborhood. “Then I realized it was much closer to me, that is was in the chimney, in the fireplace.”

Initially, she thought the animal was stuck in her fireplace, so she opened the damper and attempted to remove it with a broom. Then, she called her landlord, who sent a wildlife control expert to her home. The expert told her that the bird had built a nest above her fireplace. But he couldn’t remove it because it was a chimney swift, a species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Planning for this year’s St. Louis Pride has been marked by some disagremeents.
Provided | St. Louis Pride

Over the decades, St. Louis’ PrideFest has grown from a few dozen people daring to come out for a day, to 200,000 community members and supporters gathering to celebrate.

Now, as St. Louis gets ready for its 36th PrideFest, the annual event is experiencing some growing pains. Planning for this year’s gathering has been marked by conflict. For Pride St. Louis President Matt Harper, it’s been a period of trying to balance the contradictory opinions of a disparate community.

“You just can’t please everyone,” Harper said.

Patrons sit on Iowa Street outside Yaquis on Cherokee.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On April 30, Francis Rodriguez, the owner of Yaquis on Cherokee, was drawn to his apartment window by a commotion outside on Cherokee Street. Rodriguez lives above the pizza parlor and, as shots rang out, he and his wife dropped to the floor. After a pause, he ran downstairs to check on the restaurant, where people didn’t immediately recognize the sound of gunfire.

“They're still playing music in here. They didn't hear the shots upstairs that are right outside the door,” he said. “But just as I open up the back door from our apartment and hear people start raising the alarm in here [Yaquis] and so people started screaming and falling onto the floor.”

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Next year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City will leave the individual health care marketplace in Missouri that was set up under the Affordable Care Act. And when it does, about 18,000 patients in 25 western Missouri counties will lose their health insurance. If those enrollees sign on to Healthcare.gov this fall to buy a replacement plan, they may have no options to choose from.

That's because those 25 counties could become "bare."

June 12, 2017 photo. Patty Prewitt (right) and Amy Sherrill perform a scene from "Run-On Sentence" in the Prison Performing Arts production at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center
Provided | Prison Performing Arts

A St. Louis-based organization called Prison Performing Arts (PPA) is taking a fresh approach in its 27-year-old effort to turn inmates into actors.

The program is known for the “thees,” “thous” and “forswears” of Shakespeare’s scripts. But a contemporary play on stage Thursday at the Women’s Eastern, Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia expands PPA beyond The Bard.

“Run-On Sentence” is based on interviews done with those inside the institution. Inmate Patty Prewitt said the playwright Stacie Lents took time to really understand their world.

Under the new law, registered voters can bring one of four IDs to the polling place: a state-issued driver’s license, a state-issued non-driver’s license, a U.S. passport or a military ID.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

June’s arrival heralded a new era for elections in Missouri, one in which voters are expected to show identification before filling out a ballot.

Any new law stirs up questions — especially when similar measures in other states make headlines again and again.

Maplewood city attorney Craig Biesterfeld and city manager Marty Corcoran look through the city code during a meeting with a reporter at Maplewood City Hall.
Jenny Simeone-Cases | St. Louis Public Radio

Nuisance ordinances have been commonplace across the U.S. for at least a century. They are used to crack down on everything from overgrown grass to large-scale drug dealing. In the city of Maplewood, that extends to excessive calls to the police.

Maplewood's nuisance ordinance, last updated in October 2006, is the subject of two lawsuits, which allege the policy and its enforcement are discriminatory. How the city handles nuisance complaints is hailed by some as a way to keep the community safe, and reviled by others who believe it’s a way to regulate residents’ behavior and push out people of color, people with disabilities and survivors of domestic violence.

Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri.
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The new leaders of the Missouri Department of Corrections say they’re working to shake off the negative image due to numerous lawsuits filed in the last five years by current and former corrections officers, who alleged widespread harassment, intimidation and retaliation.

Gov. Eric Greitens made a brief call to reform the agency after he took office and brought in a new director, Anne Precythe. And last month, a House subcommittee released a list of recommendations to address the agency’s issues. But some corrections officers say things won’t change until some of the current supervisors and high-ranking officers are fired.  

A 100-foot sculpture  made from fibers and plastic sheets hangs from the ceiling at St. Louis Lambert International Airport over the heads of Southwest Airlines passengers waiting to pass through security.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Amid the hustle and bustle of morning rush at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, a man in a red baseball hat, blue sportswear shirt, and flip flops chats with a woman in jeans and T-shirt and an adolescent girl in tie-dye.

Much of their exchange is lost to the cacophony of people asking agents for directions, complaining to airport workers about the long security line and making bland observations about arrivals and departures. Yet one comment slips through the noise.

“Wow, it looks like a lake,” the man said, nodding up at the new sculpture hanging from the ceiling, before turning to head through the security checkpoint.

Darnell Loyd, of Northwest Academy of Law High School, is one of 50 students enrolled in Washington University's summer College Prep Program.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University is a top-tier college, attracting both the nation’s smartest and richest students. That often puts the private university on the wrong end of rankings for socioeconomic diversity.

To reverse that distinction, Wash U is halfway through an effort to have at least 13 percent of its students be from low-income backgrounds or be the first in their family to attend college. But proponents of college access say the goal isn’t ambitious enough — and won’t help foster a different atmosphere on campus.

Charles Berry, Jr. stands behind a podium with a giant image of Chuck Berry behind.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than 40 years, bassist Jim Marsala toured with Chuck Berry. They played together in the Kremlin in Moscow, on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and at Berry’s regular Duck Room show at Blueberry Hill in the Loop.

In the early 2000s, Berry’s son Charles Berry Jr. joined the band. Berry then began music, writing piano lines, lyrics and guitar parts for what would be his final work — tapping Marsala and his son on guitar.

Those recordings will be released today in the rock icon’s final album, “CHUCK.” The younger Berry says it’s a classic, and shows that late in life his father remained a gifted songwriter with a knack for making people dance.

Poet Jane Ellen Ibur, seen here in a May 1, 2017 photo, has enjoyed a storied career. For nearly 20 years, she co-produced and co-hosted the local radio show "Poet for the Halibut."
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis poet Jane Ellen Ibur is certainly a character. She's appeared before a class of children wearing a cape and carrying a magic wand. She sometimes wears two pairs of glasses at a time — one for distance, a second for close-up.

Southeast Missouri State University graduate student Kathy Hixson prepares to draw blood from a male bluebird at the Madison County Mines Superfund Site in Fredericktown, Missouri
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In Fredericktown, Missouri, three women walked towards what looked like a Martian landscape.

Mya Petty poses for a portrait before graduation last week.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Since second grade, Mya Petty has taken an hour-long bus ride from Baden, her mostly-black north St. Louis neighborhood, to Chesterfield – where most of her classmates were white.

The recently graduated 18-year-old is one of thousands of students in St. Louis’ long-running school desegregation program, Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation. Last year, administrators voted to bring the decades-long program to a close.

Barb Fleming of Bel-Nor enrolled in Missouri's high-risk pool after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. Today, she pays much less for a plan through the Affordable Care Act.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Barb Fleming had built a small business selling tableware and wedding gifts. But that career nearly came crashing down around her in 2008, when her doctor found a lump in her breast. 

Months later, Fleming, of Bel-Nor, in St. Louis County, would find herself in Missouri's high-risk pool: a pricey, state-managed insurance plan that covered people with pre-existing conditions. The programs were phased out by the Affordable Care Act, but could return in the sweeping health care proposal passed this month by House Republicans.

In this May 24, 2017 photo, Robert Orth as Uncle John and Katharine Goeldner as Ma Joad tangle with each other in "The Grapes of Wrath."
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre St. Louis

St. Louisans can experience a musical makeover of the classic Depression-era tale of a poor Oklahoma family when Opera Theatre of St. Louis debuts a new rendition of “The Grapes of Wrath” on Saturday.

Drought and desperation drive the Joad family of tenant farmers off the plains to California for the promise of a better life. It’s a story of good intentions and bad outcomes that resonates today, said Katharine Goeldner, who sings the role of Ma Joad.

“All they were trying to do was feed their families,” Goeldner said.

Sue Spencer surveys what remains of her home on County Road 806 in Perryville. A tornado tore through the area in late February, destroying the home she lived in for three decades.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The sirens started a little before 8 p.m. on the last night of February. Residents of Perry County, in southeastern Missouri,  retreated to their basements — many of them not expecting the incoming tornado with a 14-mile-long and half-mile-wide path. Within an hour, the tornado had killed one man, damaged more than 100 homes and leveled dozens more.  

Three months later, there are signs that rebuilding is underway. Structures now stand where fallen trees, busted up car frames, and mangled bits of homes were scattered before. Perryville’s residents are recovering, hiring contractors, negotiating with insurance companies, and even managing the aftermath of severe flooding in April.

Jared Leppert, a graduate student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, conducts a learning test with a student at St. Louis College Prep on Monday, May 8, 2017. The charter school hired Leppert as an intern.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers assigned higher education institutions primary oversight of charter schools when authorizing them 20 years ago. Universities know a thing or two about schools, after all.

It’s not the norm when it comes to charter schools in the United States, though, as a majority of the 42 states (and Washington, D.C.) put the independent schools’ governance in the hands of a local school board.

Ongoing rain and the threat of more flooding kept downtown Eureka business owners from removing piles of sandbags Thursday morning, as planned. (May 4, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sharon Wasson, a Eureka resident and retired high school physical education teacher, treats her basement as her sanctuary. It’s where her office is, where she watches the news and where she decompresses after a long day.

But severe flooding this week along the lower Meramec River has transformed her basement into a source of stress. 

You know what they say: You can’t spell Cut & Paste without “u.”

OK, go ahead: groan. We're groaning with you. We know that no one says that.

But seriously, we want to know what you want to hear in Cut & Paste, our arts and culture podcast. Not necessarily “who,” but what kinds of conversations and experiences do you want to be in on?

6 North in the Central West End.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Jane Jones was overwhelmed when she first visited the 6 North Apartments building in the Central West End.

Built in 2004, it’s the nation’s first building constructed entirely under the universal design concept, which incorporates features that allow people with disabilities to live in the space. It can be defined as "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design."

Jones, who is blind, moved there in 2012. She couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

A pharmacist at Crider Health Center in Wentzville.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, Missouri transferred the state-run health coverage of about 240,000 low-income adults and children to managed care plans run by three companies: WellCare, Centene Corporation and United Health Group.

The move is part of an increasing privatization of Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. Legislators call it a cost-saving measure that improves efficiency in health care. Critics say the transfer happened too quickly, putting patient health at risk.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville biology professor Danielle Lee examines a deer mouse with undergraduate student Jacquelyn Isom.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a humid, mid-April morning, nearly a dozen students were scattered around a small field across the street from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. They planted pink flags, strung measuring tape up and down the field and used machetes to clear their way through tall, prickly prairie grasses.

“Did I tell you about the fox? A fox just ran past Danielle’s foot. Like, really!” exclaimed their professor, Danielle Lee, an animal biologist at SIUE.

The fox sighting is important, as Lee and her students are trying to find out what rodents and other animals live near the campus. Lee and other scientists who study urban ecology are just starting to discover the ways in which human development affects wildlife.

Members of the SFJAZZ Collective
Photo by Jay Blakesberg

When jazz trumpeter Sean Jones took on the job of interpreting tunes by Miles Davis, he didn’t try to recreate the famed musician’s notes.

Instead, Jones set about pushing the music forward.

He’s part of the SFJAZZ Collective, a San Francisco-based group of musicians that is booked through Saturday at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis. The group, which each year honors a big name in jazz, is now focusing on Davis, a trumpeter who helped give birth to the cool but stylistically never stayed in one place.

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