Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

David Burks mans the Salvation Army's red kettle outside the Walmart store in Granite City.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Salvation Army bell-ringer David Burks was making a joyful noise in front of the Granite City Walmart on a recent Friday morning. He greeted everyone who passed his red kettle, whether they dropped in pennies or a folded dollar bill or hurried by without a glance.

“You have a good day now. Thank you, and God bless you.”

The fundraising goal for the Granite City Salvation Army is $88,000 this Christmas season, and it will take thousands of drops in the buckets to get there. The Salvation Army says its trademark red kettle campaign is as important as ever because many have been left behind by the nation's rebounding economy.

The old Berkeley High School, and the area now, which is owned by St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
Calvin Usery, via Facebook and Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Ferguson-Florissant Board of Education weighed a plan to redraw boundaries and consolidate the district’s footprint this fall, residents in Berkeley heard a familiar threat in the undertow: a further washing away of their community identity and erosion of the city’s population.

Ferguson-Florissant School District plans to close two elementary schools — one of which is in Berkeley — and transform the high school Berkeley teenagers attend into a selective magnet school.

NASA engineers celebrating the successful landing of the Mars Insight spacecraft at the Mission Support Area in Pasadena, California on Nov. 26, 2018.
NASA/B. Ingalls

Engineer Brooke Harper has spent the last four and a half years making sure that the Mars lander InSight would make a graceful descent on the red planet. When the day finally came on Nov. 26 for InSight to land, she recalled feeling “extremely tense” in Mission Control.

When the announcer declared that InSight had landed, engineers and scientists celebrated. Harper and her colleague, Gene Bonfiglio, performed a touchdown dance, which was caught on NASA’s livestream camera. The elaborate routine has drawn widespread public attention to the mission.

Harrington’s lynching was remembered in a ceremony on Dec. 1, with the placement of a memorial marker.
Michelle Tyrene Johnson | KCUR

Updated on Jan. 8 to clarify that there is an earlier plaque honoring another lynching victim in Missouri.

Levi Harrington was lynched on April 3, 1882, in the West Bottoms neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri.

That may seem like a long time ago, but after 136 years, the racial terror of lynchings reverberates today. That's why lynchings — and Harrington — are being remembered in Kansas City with a new memorial.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay talks with supporters Tuesday night at a Pasta House restaurant in University City. Clay easily defeated his 1st District Republican challenger Robert Vroman.
File photo I David Kovaluk I St. Louis Public Radio

It’s fair to say this past election cycle was bad for Missouri Democrats.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill lost re-election. Democrats made no gains in either the Missouri House or Senate. And the party’s dismal showing in rural Missouri doesn’t bode well for future contests.

Election night felt different, though, for Congressman Lacy Clay. Not only was the St. Louis Democrat celebrating another term in the U.S. House, but his party is poised to take control of Congress’ lower chamber — giving the veteran University City Democrat more power and responsibility.

The "tip room" at Republic Services' processing plant in Hazelwood, where trucks bring in recycling.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The stuff we’re throwing into recycling bins is getting so dirty that it’s driving up costs and forcing recycling companies to shut down.

In St. Louis, several municipal governments began sending their recycling to other processing plants. O’Fallon officials told residents they were no longer going to pick up paper and cardboard.

China, which has long accepted a large portion of paper and plastics from western countries, last year started rejecting paper and plastic from the United States. That’s because single-stream recycling contains too much contamination, such as food residue and rain-soaked paper.

Opening of the Metrolink station in the Cortex Innovation Center marked the first time for a privately funded transit project.
Bi-State Development

John Nations is stepping down after eight years as president and CEO of Bi-State Development — the agency that operates the Metrolink public transit system among other regional services.

Taulby Roach, a longtime transportation consultant for St. Clair County, is expected to succeed Nations as Bi-State’s next president and CEO, although the board has not made an official announcement.

Maxi Glamour hosts a polka-themed drag and burlesque show at Das Bevo Underground on a recent Friday night. Nov. 11, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Once a month, 90-year-old John Chaney dons a blond wig, dressy suit and heels — and transforms into a Tammy Wynette look-alike who lip-syncs to country music.

Several times a week, 28-year-old Maxi Glamour also puts on makeup and a skirt. But Glamour forsakes the falsies and is proud to show a flat chest through the opening of a sparkly vest.

The two performers — more than 60 years apart in age — use the same word for their brand of performance: drag. But while Chaney’s act celebrates so-called femininity, Glamour’s show pierces the notion that male and female are two distinct categories. The perspective is increasingly being embraced by wider culture as more people identify as non-binary, or neither male nor female.  It’s also reshaping an art form rooted in gay culture.

Signs with Fabiano Caruana's head are for the taking at the St. Louis Chess Club. The St. Louis resident is playing the reigning champion, Magnus Carlsen, for the World Chess Championship in London.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Fabiano Caruana is the first American to play in the World Chess Championship match since Bobby Fischer back in 1972.

If he wins against defending champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway this week, it won’t just be a big deal for the U.S.; it could cement St. Louis as a center for chess.

Nov. 19, 2018 at Operation Food Search: Andrew Glantz, CEO GiftAMeal and food bank manager Mark Taylor check bags for weekend meal program.
Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio

As many families prepare for the annual Thanksgiving feast, not everyone has the opportunity to sit down to a traditional meal on Thursday, or any other day of the week. The statistics about food insecurity — hunger — in our region are stark.

“Missouri is one of the hungriest states in the country,” said Mark Taylor at Operation Food Search, a food bank that distributes 200,000 meals a month in St. Louis and 31 surrounding counties in Missouri and Illinois.

Residents at Park Ridge in Ferguson received some form of notice about either an impending eviction because of St. Louis County Housing Authority or because of late rent payments.
Holly Edgell | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 19 at 4:20 p.m. with response from T.E.H. management. 

Hundreds of residents in Park Ridge Apartments in Ferguson are concerned about where they will live next month because of mass-eviction notices sent to them by the landlord in November.

Housing advocates say people who live in nearly 400 units in the low-income housing complex received letters from the company T.E.H. Realty asking them to be out of their apartments by Nov. 14. Some tenants say they were asked to leave by the end of the month.

A drone photo taken November 14, 2018 of the two north city water towers. The Grand Avenue Water Tower is shown in the forefront and the Bissell Street Water Tower is in the background.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

Hilary Sedovic used to drive past a peculiar structure on East Grand Avenue during her commute.

Each time, she wondered: What’s that massive white column doing in the middle of the traffic circle?

"Did it used to hold up a building and something happened to that, but they kept it as a memorial of some sort?” Sedovic asked.

Missouri state Treasurer Eric Schmitt. Dec. 7, 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As he prepares to change jobs, state Treasurer Eric Schmitt talked to St. Louis Public Radio’s Jo Mannies about two of the major influences on his life:

  • His Jesuit education at DeSmet High School and St. Louis University Law School.
  • His son, Stephen, who has autism and other health issues.

Schmitt says he was at the Jesuit-run White House Retreat, in south St. Louis County, last Sunday, when he got the call from Gov. Mike Parson to tell him he had been chosen to be Missouri’s next attorney general.

Iris Jackson works with first-graders at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy in St. Louis on a reading comprehension assignment. Jackson is a resident teacher at the school.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A group of middle-aged adults is back in school this fall. This time, though, they’re at the front of the classroom learning how to be teachers.

St. Louis Teacher Residency, launched over the summer, is recruiting adults to change careers to work in education, hoping their life experience and maturity will lead to less burnout and longer tenures among urban educators.

This video still is from Yvonne Osei’s 2018 "She Wears Me As Her Armor. Watch Me Watch You. See Through Me." She is obscuring a painting called "Nymph at the Fountain" as an extension of her "Africa Clothe Me Bare" series.
Yvonne Osei

When performance and video artist Yvonne Osei arrived in St. Louis from Ghana in 2009, she noticed that everyone seemed concerned with physical appearance.

What seemed to matter was a person’s size, race and clothing, she observed, a focus unlike anything she’d experienced growing up in the Ashanti tribe. Osei, who was born in Germany, began thinking about how to use clothing to explore such issues in her work. Recently, an organization called Critical Mass for the Visual Arts gave her a Creative Stimulus award, and the Visionary Awards named her as its 2018 Emerging Artist.

Missourian John Lewis Barkley was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions he took Oct. 7, 1918. This image of him is from a painting done by Howard Chandler Christy in 1930.
National World War I Museum and Memorial

It’s likely you’ve never heard of John Lewis Barkley.

The Missouri native fought in World War I, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor and later writing a book about his experience. Yet his book, “No Hard Feelings!” and his name remain in relative obscurity, even as the nation marks the 100th anniversary of World War I’s end.

That surprises Steven Trout, who helped get the book reprinted under the title “Scarlet Fields” in 2014.

“I’m astonished, in fact, and I don’t really know the reason,” he told St. Louis Public Radio.

World War II veteran Ralph Goldsticker at his home in Creve Coeur.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Ralph Goldsticker doesn't consider himself a hero.

The 97-year-old World War II veteran says he was just a guy was doing his job like everyone else at the height of the war in 1944.

But his story, which he continues to share as Veterans' Day approaches, is the stuff of which heroes are made.

The Creve Coeur resident was flying bombing missions over Europe when he was 22. Goldsticker was the bombardier in a B-17 bomber. That's the person who sat in the plexiglass bubble in the nose of the plane, to get the best view of the targets.

Dave Grelle has been one of the most sought-after keyboard players in St. Louis for years. But two years ago, his life — and his music — were upended. A hit-and-run driver struck him on South Grand Boulevard and caused him major injuries, from which he’s still recovering.

Grelle has been easing back into his musical life, sitting in with various groups around town. Now comes a big milestone: For the first time since the accident, Grelle will make his way back to the stage as a bandleader this weekend, when he leads a group of local all-stars, Friday and Saturday at Ferring Jazz Bistro.

 To help kids deal with the trauma of bullying, 9-year-old Mikaylah Norfolk started We Rise Up 4 Kids with her mom, Monique Norfolk. November 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the surface, Mikaylah Norfolk is like most kids her age. She likes to play with her three-story Barbie Dreamhouse, dress up her dolls, hang out with her friends and do arts and crafts.

But the 9-year-old Florissant resident is also the founder of an anti-bullying organization.

We Rise Up 4 Kids aims to help kids deal with the trauma of bullying, while also providing mental health resources.

Families gather at the Fairmont City libary to play, read books and take classes.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It's a common sight at the Fairmont City Library Center: Students discussing the grammar and syntax of English sentences in small groups.

On a recent night, the teacher wanted to know what another word for “per” is. The word got lost in translation. Some students suggested “for,” but in the sentence the teacher gave the correct answer is “each.” It was a confusing answer for one student who offered the Spanish word for “each” instead. It’s “cada.”

The class is just one of the night English language classes the library offers adult native Spanish speakers in the area who want to perfect their second language.

Evita Caldwell is a graduate of Vashon High School and St. Louis University. Her story is the first of several in St. Louis Public Radio's collaboration with the initiative "Before Ferguson, Beyond Ferguson."
Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio

When Evita Caldwell arrived at St. Louis University as a freshman, she quickly understood a couple of things: First, that she lacked the professional mentors and personal networks that play a major role in upward mobility. Second, that her choice of high school may not have been the right one.

Caldwell, 29, grew up in north St. Louis and attended Vashon High School, in the St. Louis Public Schools system and her father’s alma mater. According to the story "Finding Our Way," James Caldwell had insisted that Evita forego an opportunity to participate in the areawide desegregation program that would have landed her in a higher performing school in the region. Instead, she attended Vashon, a city high school with a poor academic track record and few extracurricular opportunities.

Legal medical marijuana
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Marie DeBor of Webster Groves is front and center in the longstanding debate in Missouri over medical marijuana.  

DeBor, who has multiple sclerosis, is hoping that the drug changes her life.

“I have tried it in legal recreational states and have had benefits,” said DeBor. “My friends with MS in other states tell me how beneficial it is to them.”

The Loop Trolley during a test drive on June 13, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials of the Loop Trolley Company say there will be a “soft opening” of the Delmar Loop Trolley soon with a big celebration and official launch to follow.

Sound familiar?

The 2.2 mile project has been delayed repeatedly by lack of equipment, lack of training and lack of money.

Ron Lane works in the heat shield area of the GM Wentzville Assembly Center. Lane is one of about 350 veterans that work at the plant.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of cheering well-wishers lined the streets of downtown St. Louis on Jan. 28, 2012, to welcome home veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The “Welcome Home the Heroes” parade — a rousing patriotic party with floats and marching bands — made national headlines because it was the first of its kind in the nation.

But many of the veterans honored on that crisp Saturday afternoon were unemployed. Their transition to civilian life was bogged down by an economy still trying to shake its hangover from the Great Recession — a struggle that continues for some veterans.

Carondelet Leadership Academy middle schoolers rehearse for their upcoming performance of "Still Rascals" at the Ivory Theatre.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As the kids at Carondelet Academy learn their lines and lyrics in theater and music class, they’re also learning life skills such as being comfortable in front of a crowd.

In 2017, developer Pete Rothschild gave the theater to the Carondelet Leadership Academy charter school, allowing it to expand. Rothschild bought the 158-year-old building and transformed it into a theater 10 years earlier.

"Three Girls in a Wood" is based on the painting by German artist Otto Müller. 10/29/18
Kehinde Wiley and Roberts Projects

Kehinde Wiley has vivid memories of the first time he felt at home in the world of fine art. Growing up in 1980’s South Central Los Angeles, he’d occasionally go with his mother to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was there that he first saw one of Kerry James Marshall’s paintings of everyday African-American life.

He remembers being “completely blown away” by seeing black subjects painted by a black artist on a large canvas. It gave him “the sense that anything is possible.”

Wiley aims with his latest show to create the same sort of experience for St. Louisans.

Entrepreneur and author Rebecca Clark started a company to self-publish her children's book series.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Despite shrinking income and education gaps between white and non-white families, black families in the United States still trail others in wealth accumulation, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said in a recent report.

Although black wealth increased at a faster rate than white wealth in 2016, blacks still owned less than 10 percent of whites’ wealth, according to the Fed.

Some black women entrepreneurs in St. Louis see starting their own businesses as an avenue to closing the wealth gap within their families and communities.

LaShana Lewis tells her story at a live taping of The Story Collider podcast in Oct. 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As a gay black woman with working-class roots, LaShana Lewis doesn’t look like a typical computer programmer.

Lewis spent the better part of two decades trying to achieve her dreams of working with computers. And she did, after being one of the first students to graduate from LaunchCode, a St. Louis nonprofit that trains and places people without a traditional computer-science background in the tech sector.

But only a couple years after she scored a systems engineer job at Mastercard, she quit to start her own consulting business. She draws on her experiences as a minority in her field to help companies hire and retain women and people of color.

Normandy High School teacher Duane Foster said it was a luxury to spend seven weeks of this school year in the off-Broadway production of "Angtigone in Ferguson."
Gregg Richards | Theater of War Productions

Normandy teacher Duane Foster recently returned from an unusual sabbatical: a role in an off-Broadway production of “Antigone in Ferguson.”

Foster made his New York debut in “Ragtime” 20 years ago, then came home to St. Louis in 2006 and became the theater and music teacher at Normandy High School. Performing in the chorus and as a soloist in “Antigone” for seven weeks in August and September provided a long-awaited chance to return to the stage.

Now, in his second week back in St. Louis, Foster is working to translate his recent New York experience into projects that will benefit his students.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, faces Democratic challenger Cort VanOstran in the November election.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Although their policy differences are stark, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner and her Democratic rival, Cort VanOstran, frame their 2nd District contest in similar terms.

Said Republican Wagner, who is seeking her fourth term:

“Missouri 2nd Congressional District is personal to me. This is where I was born and raised. This is where I raised my family. It’s where I’ve worked. It’s where I volunteer. And it’s home.”

Said VanOstran, who’s making his first bid for public office:

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