Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

Eli Chen

Inside a huge warehouse at Boeing’s headquarters in St. Charles, a table-shaped drone rose from the middle of the floor.

As intern Edwin Mercado-Colon sat at a computer typing commands, the drone began to move around the room and an unmanned vehicle automatically followed.  But Mercado-Colon wasn’t using a controller to direct the drone. Instead, he picked a destination for the drone without telling it how to get there.

“He’s picking a spot in the lab to fly to,” said Mike Abraham, manager of Boeing’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory. “That command goes to the vehicle. The vehicle knows where it is because of the motion capture system. It’s determining how to get to the next point, on its own.”

Developing unmanned vehicles that can work together on their own represents the latest in drone technology, a global industry that analysts predict could be worth $127 billion by 2020.

Members of Black Pride march in the Pride St. Louis parade in June.
Pride St. Louis

A group of people in St. Louis face a one-two punch of adversity every day.

As members of the LGBT population, they can legally be denied housing or fired on a whim. As African-Americans, they’re already more likely to be homeless or unemployed.

A small, local LGBT organization called Black Pride  embraces all these challenges. But as members prepare for their annual celebration this weekend in The Grove area, members still have to justify the group’s very existence.

Members of "The Palpations," a band started by second-year medical students, try to fix a broken guitar string during practice.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

During her first year of medical school, Katherine Hu struggled with the feeling that she didn’t measure up.

“You end up becoming, actually, pretty cynical. I’d be sitting in class, the professor’s speaking a million miles an hour, and I don’t know what’s going on,” Hu said. “It just becomes heavier and heavier … kind of hopeless sometimes.” 

Kenrich Henderson gazes at a portrait of her daughter Jamyla Bolden. The painting is a gift from St. Louis artist Jane Martin and an organization called Faces Not Forgotten that produces portraits of children killed by gun violence.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Kendric Henderson was lying on the bed with her daughter Jamyla Bolden, doing homework, when bullets burst through the window of their Ferguson home. The gunshots killed the 9-year-old and wounded her mother.

Nearly a year later, the pain is still agonizing. But local artists are trying to help keep the good memories alive for Jamyla’s loved ones. They're also helping dozens of other families around the country.

The Witherspoon family

Most of us, at some point, will know someone who is struggling with a life-threatening illness. More than one in three U.S. residents are diagnosed with a form of cancer in their lifetime, and one in nine adults over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

But when a close friend or loved one shares that they have a serious health issue, we’re often left not knowing what to do or what to say.

Danielle Washington of the Wyman Center walks Ozzie Furlow through financial aid literacy training at St. Louis Graduates' High School to College Center. Furlow plans to enroll as a freshman at Arkansas Baptist in August 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

When Ozzie Furlow graduated from Hazelwood East High School in June, he planned to attend Missouri Western State University in the fall.

But there was a problem.

“They wanted me to be part time, and I have nobody to stay (with) down there,” Furlow said.

Treasure Shields Redmond and her book, “Chop: A Collection of Kwansabas for Fannie Lou Hamer"
Kim Love / Shields Redmond headshot

As a child in Meridian, Miss., Treasure Shields Redmond donned special shoes nearly every Sunday — a black patent leather pair that skipped after her mother as they walked to the Baptist church.

By high school, she’d traded her Mary Janes for Nikes, and hymns like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” for Public Enemy's “Party for Your Right to Fight.”

The daughter of East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond is now a poet and performing artist, and an English professor at Southwestern Illinois College.  In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Shields Redmond about using language and song as tools for social justice and illuminating women’s lives.

Marty Murray, a candidate for 7th Ward committeeman, talks to Stacy Kistler while knocking doors in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of St. Louis on June 10, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated July 21 with additional Mobilize Missouri endorsements. — The biggest races in August are getting all the attention. But a group of seats on the St. Louis Democratic Central Committee could prove to be just as important in the long run.

Candidates from across the city have their sights on being committeemen and committeewomen, in an effort to push for change in the party now and at future elections.

A scene from "Menudo Pops," a spoofy  commercial for popsicles created from a traditional Mexican dish that's made from the stomachs of animals.
Mike Snodderley

This month, St. Louisans can experience something they’ve likely never seen or heard before: 90 minutes of local theater focused on Latino themes and characters.

Theatre Nuevo is staging a series of one-act plays in English, Spanish and a sprinkling of Spanglish, from the touching tale of a struggling family restaurant to a new take on “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The presentation is the brainchild of Anna Skidis Vargas, a local theater professional who wants to honor her heritage. Skidis Vargas, who's from Southern Illinois, has Mexican-American roots. She said the project gives all Latinos a chance for visibility.

Come January, there will be a new prosecutor in the city of St. Louis for the first time in 16 years.

The election to replace Jennifer Joyce as circuit attorney comes as the city is struggling to get homicides and other violent crime under control. Relations between law enforcement and some communities remain strained as well, with Joyce herself having been the target of protests.

Jack Grelle (left) poses with Patrick Haggerty, who wrote and performed Lavender Country
Jess Luther | St. Louis Public Radio

The first song off Patrick Haggerty’s 1973 album “Lavender Country" proudly proclaimed the recording’s intentions. It’s gay. It’s country. And it makes no apologies. 

“We were making it for ourselves, which allowed a certain freedom of expression because we weren’t cow-towing to anybody,” said Haggerty, who performs Friday in St. Louis.

Four decades ago, the country-music industry greeted the album with hostility. Haggerty’s recording career came to an end. But his seminal work is finding a receptive country music audience today. Two years after a small Philadelphia label re-released the album to critical acclaim, Haggerty is on his first-ever tour.

(Updated) Three weeks to go before the Aug. 2 primary, Missouri’s GOP candidates are hitting the road — and doubling down on the negatives.

State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and Congressman Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay and state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal don’t have a lot of commonalities. But they’re both good at winning elections.

Inspired and fueled by their successful mentors, Clay and Chappelle-Nadal have withstood strong challenges to survive and advance through Missouri politics. Now, the two University City Democrats are putting their unblemished electoral records on the line in a battle to represent the 1st Congressional District.

A crowd gathered at Ferguson police headquarters Wednesday night to stand in solidarity with Alton Sterling's community in Baton Rouge and continue to demand racial equality and police reform.
Lawrence Bryant | The St. Louis American

Near a Save-A-Lot in south St. Louis, two young men stood on Jefferson Avenue on Thursday, selling DVD’s and discussing two other men who died many miles away.

Ikane Smith, a wiry man who wore a large blue T-shirt and jeans, bounced from foot to foot. Derrek Haggins wore a white button down shirt and a black bowtie.  Both were painfully aware of the thin line separating their lives from the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Theresa Payne performs.
Provided by Theresa Payne

St. Louis singer Theresa Payne has been through a lot since 2014. She went through a devastating breakup. She lost her job. And she lost confidence in her voice after competing briefly in the reality TV show "The Voice."

But Payne regained her musical footing while working on a new project. When she thought about recording her album, she abandoned the inspirational, gospel-infused style of her past recordings. The result is “Get My Heart Back,” an album Payne says is raw and honest. 

On the floor: Lindsay Gingrich (Meredith). Back, left to right: Sarajane Alverson (Trisha), Eileen Engel (Frances), Frankie Ferrari (Mindy), Shannon Nara (Georgeanne). The sashes were changed from pink to white in the final rendition of the costume.
Justin Been | Stray Dog Theatre

A Stray Dog Theatre play opening Thursday immerses us into a June tradition: the pressure cooker of a perfect wedding.

One of the characters isn’t a person  but a teal-blue bridesmaid’s dress with a wide white satin sash. Thus the name: “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” The wedding party is attired in matching perfection. And the bedroom in a Knoxville, Tenn. mansion where the play is set is also “just so,” with its ornate wall decorations, lace curtains and crown molding.

But soon, audiences discover that while the set and the wedding party look made-to-order, things are much messier underneath, according to Stray Dog founder and director Gary Bell.

Andwele Jolly best donut
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Andwele Jolly is a trained physical therapist, an administrator at Washington University’s School of Medicine and an all-around doughnut connoisseur. In high school he could eat 12 doughnuts in a sitting. (Good thing that he ran track at the time.) Jolly has lived on two continents and in numerous states and has sampled doughnuts throughout the land. He says St. Louis’ love for the deep-fried delicacy stands out.

Quinton Reed eats a home cooked lunch and watches TV at his Garfield Commons Apartment. Reed was diagnosed with schizophrenia after years of struggling with homelessness.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Quinton Reed is one of the lucky ones. After struggling with homelessness for four years, he was diagnosed with  a mental illness and set up with treatment and a one-bedroom apartment in south St. Louis.

“I used to couldn’t watch TV or see my daughter or see my family or just relax. I was just out all day carrying big bags, going from shelter to shelter and sleeping outside,” said Reed, showing off the couch in his living room where he goes to relax and get away from the world.

Provided by family

On Memorial Day, Beth (Clover) Vincent of Warrenton, Mo., will honor the father she never knew: an Air Force pilot who went missing during the Korean War. 

But Vincent will find some solace this year in knowing that the people of South Korea appreciate the sacrifice her family made six decades ago. She was among the families of American Korean War veterans who spent last week visiting Seoul as guests of South Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.

Tonya Sherry, right, goes over paper work with Mary Kay Fink at the MS Center of St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A new Medicare proposal would cut the link between the cost of many medications that are given in an outpatient clinic and how much doctors are paid to administer them.

Under current Medicare rules, drugs that have to be administered in an outpatient setting — such as chemotherapy, injections or drugs taken after an organ transplant — are reimbursed for the cost of the drug, plus six percent of the drug's price to pay for storage and handling.

Medicare has proposed cutting the reimbursement rate to 2.5 percent more than the drug's sale price, plus a flat fee of $16.80 per dose. But because of automatic federal budget cuts, for a few years doctors would be reimbursed less.

One dancer removes her mask to pluck something from her eye in a mirror while other dancers form a line behind her.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

When choreographer and performance artist Audrey Simes decided to dance to address years of radioactive contamination and the health concerns of people who live near Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County, she knew she had a big challenge.

Dance can be a powerful and expressive art form. But could she use it to cover such complex territory? Her piece, “Tributary,” has been several months in the making. Simes wants the choreography to make environmental issues accessible to a broad audience.

Priscilla Miller, who has been coming to Artists First for about a year, colors in one of her drawings.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When it comes to supporting people with developmental disabilities through art-making, the activities are much more than just a pastime.

For some in St. Louis, being creative helps them buy food, or get a job. Those are goals – and outcomes – of a St. Louis-area organization called Artists First. But budget cuts are jeopardizing the nonprofit, forcing some hard decisions.

Michael Lato, right, Harold Taylor and John Scates rehearse for a scene.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For six performances next month in Grand Center, military veterans – and one military spouse – will present the Telling Project, a stage play designed to help the public understand what it’s like to be in the armed forces, then return to civilian life.

It uses the actual words from area veterans recruited through the University of Missouri-St. Louis. But no one should attend the production thinking it will be a straight, factual rendition of life in uniform.

This isn’t the Truth Project. This is the Telling Project.

Documentation of Reclamation 3
Provided by LBPhotography

When visual artist Basil Kincaid looked for a way to complete the Reclamation Project, a 4-year effort that creates art by remaking elements of St. Louis' black heritage, he turned to his grandmother for inspiration.

A quilter who passed her knowledge to her children, Eugenia Kincaid taught her grandson a lot about preserving cultural traditions. He decided to put the same focus into his work.

Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly a year ago, a new sheriff of sorts arrived in town. The city of Vinita Park announced that it was taking over policing duties for Wellston, its larger neighbor, and changing its name to the North County Police Cooperative.

Now, the Cooperative patrols five cities in north-central St. Louis County. And residents say they have noticed big changes.

Shaun Tamprateep of Fenton wants to explore St. Louis' cultural diversity. He studied Tourism and Hospitality in his father's home country of Thailand, and works as a driver for Metro Transit’s Call-A-Ride service.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Shaun Tamprateep grew up in Fenton, playing in the woods with a gang of neighborhood boys and sometimes landing at a friend’s house for dinner.

He noticed other families ate more hamburgers and fewer spicy dishes. But he didn’t pay much attention to the differences in his home — until he was almost a teenager.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

State and federal law prohibits businesses from discriminating against people based on race, religion, sex, ancestry, or disability. But, denying service based on age is fair game and the St. Louis area boasts dozens of bars and lounges where the minimum for entry is at least 30 years old.

Sen. David Pearce answers questions from reporters on the last day of the legislative session.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If there’s one constant about the last week of the Missouri General Assembly’s session, it’s that nobody in the Capitol has to search very hard to find delicious pie.

For several decades, senators have served up rhubarb pies, French silk pies, and even gooseberry pies to hungry legislators and staff. The uncontroversial and widely celebrated “Pie Day” event provides a big boost to proprietors like the Rolling Pin in Glasgow, and a bit of levity within the General Assembly's intense final days.

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives throw their papers in the air to mark the end of the legislative session on Friday in Jefferson City.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

With Missouri legislators heading home, the focus in Jefferson City now shifts to Gov. Jay Nixon – who will decide what to sign and what to veto among close to 140 bills now sitting on his desk.

And despite what the governor called “stark differences’’ of opinion, Nixon sounded more conciliatory in his post-session address than he has in recent years. The governor’s implied message Friday was that, from his perspective, this 4 and ½-month session could have been worse.

A series of Stratocaster style guitars rendered in dark purples and bright greens splashes across the page.
Laura Heidotten | St. Louis Public Radio

It can be hard to keep guitars sounding fresh in the face of so much experimentation in contemporary music. Guitars are often paired with electronics or heavily processed when they appear in pop music, if they appear at all. Yet, three St. Louis groups have released excellent songs in the past month that place the guitar front and center.

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