Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

Claudia Graham and Cassidy Stokes, both age 15, pose for a portrait at Normandy High School.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Cassidy Stokes thought it would be him, not his younger brother, who’d be the first to encounter a bullet.

“It just scared me, traumatized me,” the 15-year-old said about the time his brother accidentally wounded himself with a gun he’d picked up.

Claudia Graham, also 15, relies on prayer to get home safely every night. Her sister was shot and injured by an upset boyfriend “basically for no reason.” Guns scare her. People shoot before thinking, she said, but as a young woman, she’d carry one for protection.

Brian Wallace, of Florissant, runs drills during a St. Louis BattleHawks practice at the Rams' former training facility. Jan. 30, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The region’s new XFL team will play its home opener Sunday in downtown St. Louis at the Dome at America’s Center.

The St. Louis BattleHawks have already split two games on the road, but fans are enthusiastic and ready to see their team take the home field after months of planning.

In 2018, St. Louis was announced as one of the XFL cities, and shortly after, Kurt Hunzeker was named team president. His mission: to sell professional football in a market that two National Football League teams have left. 

Brian McKinley, left, and Drummond Crenshaw rehearse a scene from 'Spell #7' at the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre at Washington University.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The street-smart black friend of a white protagonist. The menacing black man. The sassy black woman. 

These stereotypical depictions of black people have filled television, movies and theater productions for years. 

Where do they come from? 

The Black Rep’s production of Ntozake Shange’s “Spell #7” at Washington University’s A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre makes the case that the one-dimensional, demeaning character types of 19th- and 20th-century minstrel shows still haunt the entertainment industry. 

Medical professionals at Johns Hopkins University are studying therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms. Independent of that clinical work, some St. Louisans are using psychedelic drugs to self-medicate depression, stress and other mental health concerns.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

When 76-year-old Mary Sennewald of St. Louis was a young woman, she was profoundly depressed and suffered from migraines. Therapy and medication weren’t working, and she decided to try LSD.

It was a time when Americans saw psychedelics as part of an emerging culture that questioned authority and sought deeper meaning. Today, psychedelic substances like LSD and “magic” psilocybin mushrooms are often still seen as a vestige of that hippie culture or even a dangerous threat.

But a growing number of recent studies at Johns Hopkins University and other institutions show psilocybin can treat depression, addiction, PTSD and other mental health concerns.

Under a plan circulating through the Missouri General Assembly, appellate judges would once again take part in the state legislative redistricting process.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

As the Missouri General Assembly is poised to give voters another chance to decide how to draw state House and Senate maps, one of the lesser-discussed parts of the debate is how judges will gain expansive power if voters scrap the Clean Missouri system.

Under a ballot measure that recently passed the Senate and will likely be approved in the House, bipartisan commissions will have first crack at redistricting instead of a demographer. But the truth is the commissions have been historically irrelevant because they tend to deadlock along party lines and then turn over authority to appellate judges. 

There’s been little insight into how the judges actually came up with House and Senate districts — until now.

For Steger Sixth Grade Center social studies teacher Tracey Mack, being one of a few black male teachers in the classroom can be isolating, but it benefits children of all races.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Darryl Diggs Jr. only had two African American male educators in his school years.

He met the first one, a physical education teacher, in grade school — and then another, a physiology teacher, in high school. At college, he only had one black male professor. 

Today, Diggs, 37, finds himself in a similar position. An assistant principal in Manchester at Parkway South High School for eight years, he’s the only black male administrator in his district. 

Donald Hutson died after taking synthetic cannabinoids, or K2, at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in 2018. An internal investigation by the Missouri Department of Corrections revealed officers did not follow departmental policy while restraining him.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Donald Hutson’s family had been waiting for his release from prison for decades.

But in September 2018, Hutson died at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center after taking the illegal drug K2.

St. Louis Public Radio first reported on his death last year as part of a long-term investigation examining overdoses in Missouri prisons. Our reporting uncovered disturbing details about the night Hutson died, spurring more questions. 

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Communities across the Metro East are ramping up their efforts to get an accurate count when the U.S. Census Bureau begins collecting responses in less than two months. 

The once-a-decade headcount determines congressional representation and how billions of dollars in federal and state funding is distributed. Locally, critical revenue for cities and some communities' home rule status are at stake.

Angelique Kidjo recently won her fourth Grammy Award, for 'Celia,' an Afrocentric reimagining of the music of legendary salsa queen Celia Cruz. [2/14]
Lauren Serroussi

Musician Angélique Kidjo fled to Paris from her homeland of Benin in 1983, several years after a Soviet-aligned dictatorship seized power in the West African nation.

She has since built a career as one of the biggest stars of African music. She’d already won three Grammy Awards before earning this year’s award for best world music album. “Celia” is Kidjo’s tribute to and rethinking of the music of Celia Cruz, the Afro-Cuban singer and queen of salsa. Kidjo’s interpretations emphasize the African roots of Cruz’s music. 

She launches an international tour at the Sheldon Concert Hall tonight.

Katarra Parson released 'Cocoa Voyage' last November.
Tyler Small

If St. Louis singer and songwriter Katarra Parson had to pick one of her songs to describe her life, it would be “Phoenix Rising.”

She appreciates the song because it's about flight, freedom and rebirth — the story of how she learned to take care of herself.

“'Phoenix Rising' is literally my journey of finding myself, of finding my power, stepping into that power, being comfortable with that power,” Parson said. “Now I'm at a point where I realized I got responsibility with that power.”

Drummer Montez Coleman, bassist Bob DeBoo, guitarist Travis Lewis and pianist Adaron 'Pops' Jackson dig into a groove from 'Bitches Brew,' the classic Miles Davis album.
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

When Miles Davis gathered an expanded group for recording sessions in August 1969, the trumpeter and bandleader had already revolutionized jazz several times — from key bebop recordings in the 1940s through the gravity-defying post-bop of his mid-to-late '60s quintet. 

Across three days in a New York City studio, he did it again. 

Tonight, Jazz St. Louis celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of “Bitches Brew,” an album that pushed jazz further into the realm of rock 'n' roll, pleasing and angering fans on either side of that divide. 

Megan Setter (left) speaks during a roundtable discussion at Fort Leonard Wood on professional license reciprocity for military spouses.
Office of the Governor

Spouses of military members are used to moving every few years, and they often have to put their careers on hold when they need a professional license to work in their new state.

A proposal in Missouri’s Legislature would ease that problem by having the state honor professional licenses held by military spouses who are transferred from other states. 

“If we can do this to show our support for our military families and getting our military spouses jobs quickly and easily, that not only benefits that spouse, it benefits the whole family,” said state Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville.

Orthopedic specialist Dr. Patricia Hurford was originally skeptical of cannabis' medical benefits. After she saw how it changed her patients' quality of life, she began to change her mind.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

At the Green Health Docs medical marijuana certification clinic in Florissant, the walls are painted bright green, and a television show called “Munchies” plays on a loop in the waiting room. 

Marijuana is new for 68-year-old Brenda Lane, who is trying to balance on a dorm room-style saucer chair while she fills out medical forms. Lane, of St. Peters, has a packet of papers in her hand outlining many ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma and kidney failure. She’s in constant pain.

“That’s how I tell I’m alive,” she said. “I wake up, I’m in pain. Yep! I’m alive.”

Educators like Jameca Falconer believe it's up to families and communities to help bring black history alive for children of all races, not just schools.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Every February, schools around the nation commemorate the accomplishments of African Americans by highlighting them through Black History Month lessons and programs. Some celebrate with school plays, guest speakers or hallway exhibits of locally and nationally known black figures.

Educators like Jameca Falconer, adjunct professor and director of Webster University’s Applied Educational Psychology and School Psychology program, believe it is the duty of parents of all races — as well as the community — to not limit interest in black culture to February.

Katie, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Kairos Academies, works on an English assignment on a recent school day.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Running a new school is not all that different from any other startup business. There are surprises, pivots and changes.

Kairos Academies, an independent public charter school, is navigating its first year with two young, ambitious co-founders and an education philosophy unlike any other in St. Louis public school offerings.

Shannon Nickless, owner of Claddagh Carriage Company, slips a peppermint to his draft horse, Harvey on January 28, 2020. The four horses live on a farm in East Carondelet, Illinois and travel back and forth to the city of St. Louis to pull carriages.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Zach Stafford has never taken a carriage horse ride in St. Louis — but he's spent a lot of time thinking about these animals.

“I’ve always wondered, is it OK for them to be out here in such different conditions than a normal horse?” Stafford said. “If it isn’t, do they have that time to experience the normal horse lifestyle?”

He decided to submit his questions to our Curious Louis reporting series: Where do the horses go after they get done pulling the carriages? Is there a stable downtown? Are the horses okay living in such a cityscape?

Kasey Fowler-Finn, a St. Louis University biologist, puts the finishing touches on part of the "Too Hot to Sing" exhibit at the SLU Museum of Art. Jan 9 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Kasey Fowler-Finn wants people to hear how climate change could alter the lives of a sap-feeding insect that’s smaller than a fingernail. 

The St. Louis University biologist studies how rising temperatures could affect the mating calls of treehoppers. Fowler-Finn and Virginia-based sound artist Stephen Vitiello used that research to produce an exhibit, called “Too Hot To Sing,” that opens today at the SLU Museum of Art

President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed and current members of the Board of Freeholders listen as former Alderman Terry Kennedy welcomes the group.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After the Board of Freeholders formed in September 2019, some supporters of the process were bullish that the 19-member panel could recommend significant changes to city and county government.

There’s just one big problem: The board hasn’t been able to do anything, thanks to a prolonged deadlock to approve the St. Louis appointees. It’s an outcome that’s left city policymakers frustrated — and vulnerable to costly consequences. 

Multiple armed guards patrol outside New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in Jennings during Sunday service. Jan. 12, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

New Northside Missionary Baptist Church — a predominantly black Jennings church — is a welcoming space on the inside. 

But on the outside, it’s fortified.

Armed security guards monitor the perimeter from the church’s parking lot, while there are several security cameras along the building's exterior.

Kaitlin Taylor from Senn-Thomas Middle School puts the finishing touches on her team's model city for the Future City Competition. 1-25-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Twenty teams of Missouri junior high students took a crack at solving a big problem: What will cities of the future look like as they try to address clean water shortages?

Future City is an annual competition challenging sixth through eighth graders to design and build a model of a city and present it to a group of judges. This year’s theme was “Clean Water: Tap Into Tomorrow.”

The teams gathered at Missouri University of Science and Technology over the past weekend to present their ideas and compete for a chance to represent the state at a national competition in Washington, D.C.

Missouri lawmakers will likely place a measure on the 2020 ballot to replace a state legislative redistricting system that voters approved in 2018.
Marta Payne I Special To St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri voters will almost certainly have another say this year on how state Senate and House districts are drawn.

They’ll choose between keeping a system they voted for in 2018, in which a demographer holds much of the power to draw maps, and a modified version of the old system.

It’s a debate that’s elicited national attention from redistricting enthusiasts and political parties, especially since the complex and wonky subject of mapmaking has an immense impact on how citizens are represented in government. 

"Dress the Part," a hip-hop adaption of Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona" opens at the Ready Room on Wednesday. (Jan. 23, 2020)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On a recent afternoon at the Ready Room, a rock club in the Grove, a small team was at work rehearsing an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” 

There’s a brief delay as a crew member solves a problem with the digital turntable. She gets the hip-hop beats flowing again, and the action continues.

Dress the Part," which opens at the Ready Room Wednesday, is not so much an adaptation of Shakespeare’s original as a mutation. Written by Chicago-based duo Q Brothers, it transports Shakespeare’s story into a modern-day American high school — and all the dialogue is rapped. 

Kimmie Kidd Booker plays brothel owner and philanthropist, Eliza Haycraft in Madam.
Caroline Guffey

Most people in St. Louis likely have never heard of Eliza Haycraft, one of the city's wealthiest citizens in the late 1800s. But a new musical could change that. 

Fly North Theatricals' latest musical, “Madam,” is based on the last few years of Haycraft’s life. At her peak, she ran five brothels, earning a fortune of about $28 million in today’s dollars. And she used that fortune and power to make her own rules and wielded them over men.

Oprah Winfrey selected "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins for her popular book club in January 2020.
Left Bank Books

Updated Jan. 25 with the event cancellation

Left Bank Books has canceled Sunday’s scheduled discussion and book signing with "American Dirt" author Jeanine Cummins, citing strong opposition toward the book from the Latino community. 

Cummins’ latest novel tells the story of a Mexican woman and her son migrating to the U.S. border. The book has been skewered by some critics who say the nationally hyped release leans on stereotypes damaging to Latinos. It was released this week.

Colin McLaughlin, Larry Sheldon and Kevin FitzGerald rehearse a scene from "Workers' Opera." Jan. 19, 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On a recent Sunday afternoon, about a dozen people gathered at the otherwise-quiet headquarters of the Service Employees International Union in Clifton Heights to rehearse an opera.

Granted, they were using the term opera a little loosely. “Workers’ Opera" is an original compilation of vignettes — mostly dramatic sketches and songs — addressing a variety of issues facing working people today. 

Bread and Roses Missouri, an activist group with a pro-labor stance that addresses social issues through the arts, is behind the production. The fifth annual incarnation of “Workers’ Opera,” updated for 2020, makes its debut in a free performance at Missouri History Museum on Sunday.

Dicamba graphic
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Five years ago, the owner of Missouri’s largest peach farm started noticing damage to his orchard. A year later, Bader Farms estimated a loss of more than 30,000 trees. 

A lawsuit filed by the farm in 2016 alleges Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, and herbicide maker BASF Corp. are to blame because the weed killer drifted from other fields. Both companies deny the allegations.

That suit, which seeks $21 million in damages, will be heard in federal court starting Monday in Cape Girardeau. It will be the first of several dicamba-related suits against the corporations to go to trial.

Dressbarn is one of the latest traditional retailers to close up shop at the Quincy Mall, as seen in this photo from Dec. 2019. Property owners are looking to tenants such as clinics and spas to fill the vacant spaces.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

In August 2018, the Quincy Mall was in crisis. A few years earlier, JCPenney, one of the mall’s three large department store anchors, had closed. That month, the two remaining stores, Sears and Bergner’s, closed within weeks of each other.

“It left us with just this huge big-box vacancy,” said Mike Jenkins, the property manager at the 500,000-square-foot mall in Quincy, Illinois. 

The loss of such major tenants has been a death sentence for many malls. But the shopping center had a stroke of luck. The same time the department stores closed, one of the small city’s two large medical providers was looking for a space to house a planned outpatient surgery clinic.

Katie Bartels and her emotional support cat Hank, who was certified as an ESA by a therapist, not an online service. 01-20-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

If you have a little bit of money and can answer a 10-question online survey, you can get an official-looking certificate stating that you need an emotional support animal. 

You don’t have to talk to anyone or go through an assessment.

Because it’s so easy to obtain the documentation and the laws on accommodations for emotional support animals are murky, some people are using the certification to get out of paying pet deposits and monthly fees to keep an animal in an apartment.

Lumber collected from a building in the Vandeventer neighborhood on Nov. 21, 2019.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

For years, an empty three-story warehouse on the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Whittier Street was just another eyesore in north St. Louis. 

But last summer, workers began to dismantle the 136-year-old building and saved about $250,000 worth of brick, lumber and other materials. The city had selected the former moving and storage warehouse as its first project to deconstruct, or take apart, a building to salvage its components. 

Unlike demolition, deconstruction saves valuable materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It also doesn’t emit harmful pollutants into the surrounding community and provides more jobs because it requires more workers. 

As the National Park Service's Regional Program Manager for Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion, Nichole McHenry's plan is to make all national parks and sites inclusive and diverse.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As a child, Nichole McHenry envisioned herself broadcasting the news, just like famed St. Louis anchor Robin Smith.

Although her dreams of becoming a reporter did not come to fruition, she found a different way to tell stories.

For the past 28 years, McHenry has been sharing the stories of national parks and other connected sites for the National Park Service. McHenry began working full time with the park service right after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.