Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

"Barn Quilt" is a handcut piece made out of a collection of maps. Fidencio Fifield-Perez said the piece is a snpashot visualizing terms used to describe immigration such as a "flood" or "wave."
Fidencio Fifield Perez

Fidencio Fifield-Perez’s art details moments in time. He uses paintings and paper cuttings that reflect his early life in Oaxaca, Mexico, his childhood in North Carolina, and his struggle as a young adult who applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The Obama administration program gave temporary relief to young adults who entered the United States without authorization as children and have grown up in this country. 

Fifield-Perez works on art in Columbia, Missouri, but his affinity for using cuts of paper began as a child. Now, he uses those techniques to pay homage to Oaxacan traditions and as a commentary on the current state of immigration.

Regina Hartfield speaks with her daughters Khia, 14, and Destinee, 12 , as they eat dinner. Hartfield's children were dropped from Missouri's Medicaid program.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Aug. 9, Holly Uchtman and her 7-year-old son Zyler headed to their weekly appointment at Mercy Hospital in Springfield. Zyler has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare, terminal disease that causes muscles to weaken and eventually stop working. For two years, Zyler had been receiving eteplirsen, gene therapy that helped his muscles keep their shape.

But that day, there was a surprise on the other side of their journey. The state had removed Zyler from Medicaid, which pays for his nearly $40,000-a-week treatment. They were turned away, and he missed his appointment.

This cannon made by Missouri S&T faculty and students is being used to test mine seals.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA - Sometimes, the best way to see how strong something is means shooting it with a cannon loaded up with stuff found in a coal mine.

While this may sound like a TV comedy bit, it’s part of serious research at the Missouri University of Science and Technology that could make coal mines safer for workers.

Marilyn Leistner stands on the "town mound" at Route 66 State Park, where the homes, businesses and churches of Times Beach were buried.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Marilyn Leistner, the last mayor of Times Beach, gazed at a grass-covered mound, the size of four football fields, where the remains of her town are buried. 

“Everything that was near and dear to the people in this community. All the houses and the city equipment. Everything that they didn't take with them that was left in their homes is buried here,” she said, softly.

The “town mound” isn’t in the brochures, but it is the most unusual landmark at Route 66 State Park, which opened 20 years ago on the site of Times Beach.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway speaks at the Truman Dinner on August 17, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

As Jean Peters Baker spoke to a packed room at the Missouri Democratic Party’s Truman Dinner last weekend, she acknowledged the obvious: The past few years have been bruising for a party that used to dominate state politics.

Republicans up and down the ballot generally prevailed in the past three election cycles — leaving Democrats on the outside looking in when it comes to policy and leadership. But Baker, chairwoman of the Missouri Democratic Party, said this isn’t a time to sulk. Instead, Democrats should use the 2020 election cycle as a prime opportunity for a comeback.

According to researchers, In August 1619, about 350 Africans were torn from their families and homes in Angola and forced on a Portuguese slave ship. While chained aboard the ship, which was headed to Vera Cruz, Mexico, a group of Dutch pirates captured t
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

During Anthony Ross’ formative years, his family moved around St. Louis and St. Louis County several times. The one constant in his life was education. His mother encouraged him to do well in school, relying on public schools to teach him about African American history. 

Ross said that didn’t happen. His extensive knowledge about St. Louis’ black history and his African ancestors grew out of his own curiosity and his passion for black history. 

Visitors to North Main Street in St. Charles start to head home after bars close on a Friday night in early August. The street has seen smaller crowds on weekends recently, and bar owners say a new liquor ordinance isn't helping. (Aug. 2 2019)
File Photo | Nicolas Telep | St. Louis Public Radio

Friday and Saturday nights don’t draw nearly as many people to St. Charles’ North Main Street as they did a year or so ago.

Eric Sohn, general manager of Quintessential Dining and Nightlife, said he used to have two DJs on weekends, one for each of the building’s floors. On a Friday night in August, there was only one DJ at work. Also, five bartenders were covering on that evening; last summer, he needed eight on weekends.

Horses cross the finish line at Fairmount Park Racetrack on July 23. The number of live races at the track will likely increase to 100 because of the gambling expansion bill passed earlier this year.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Fairmount Park Racetrack is filled with spectators on most Tuesdays and Saturdays, eager to watch horses fly down the dirt track.

But with just 41 live racing days this year, the stands at the Collinsville track remain empty far more days than they’re filled.

A recent gambling-expansion law in Illinois could change the track’s fortunes. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill in June, which was long-sought by the horse racing industry. Racetracks can now apply for licenses to host table games like blackjack and roulette, slots, video gaming and sports betting. 

Joshua Danrich is the founder and CEO of Mr. Fresh., which is an air freshener and deodorizer company in St. Louis.
Marissanne Lewis-Thompson | St. Louis Public Radio

Joshua Danrich is like most kids his age. He’s energetic, has a big personality and loves cars.

“I always loved Hot Wheels,” Joshua said. “I love Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bugattis, Ferraris — all the sports cars.”

Last October, the 11-year-old turned his interest in cars into an air freshener and deodorizer business called Mr. Fresh. Joshua said his product can make anything fresh, including the inside of a car and fabrics at home. For $7 a pop, each portable glass spray bottle has its own unique scent and color from Black Ice and Cool Breeze to Yellow Rose and Baby Powder.

A worker at Kruta's Bakery selects a bear claw for a customer's order on Aug. 13. The bakery celebrates a century of serving the Metro East and St. Louis region.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Jennifer Hammond knows exactly what to do when there’s a birthday at her office. She immediately picks up a cake from Kruta’s Bakery in Collinsville.

For the last century, the family-owned business has lured customers with kolaches, danishes and a wide variety of other baked goods.

“They’re just so tasty — the doughnuts, the cakes, the cupcakes, everything. It’s really good,” said Hammond, who lives near the bakery. 

On Sunday, Kruta’s Bakery will celebrate its 100th year as a family-owned business.

"Where The Pavement Ends" sheds light on the decline of the city of Kinloch and how the roadblock contributed to the fall of the city and the killing of Michael Brown Jr.
Jane Gillooly

As a child, filmmaker and artist Jane Gillooly was oblivious to the fact that Ferguson was an all-white town during the Jim Crow era. Gillooly did not realize this until the day she went home with her babysitter. 

Her sitter lived in Kinloch — Missouri's first incorporated black city. It borders Ferguson. 

At the age of 5, her parents had yet to discuss why blacks and whites were segregated, but she recalls asking the sitter, 'Why does everyone look the same in Kinloch?' and her babysitter said, 'Because all these people are Negroes.'"

Seema Kasthuri and Todd Mosby rehearse for the debut show of World Fusion Ensemble, a quartet of musicians who had relationships with the late Ustad Imrat Khan, guru of classical Indian music. [8/14/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

When internationally renowned sitar master Ustad Imrat Khan died in St. Louis in November 2018, he left behind musical disciples who are determined to carry on the guru’s legacy. 

Four musicians who’ve applied Khan’s teachings to different styles of music from around the world will perform in a new ensemble Saturday at First Congregational Church of Webster Groves

Bandleader Todd Mosby steers the group into an innovative blend of eastern and western musical forms — a style so unusual, he needed to invent an instrument to play it.

A taxidermied feral hog was on display at an open house in Rolla to get comment about hunting them in the Mark Twain National Forest.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Feral hogs are causing major damage to the Mark Twain National Forest.

The animals dig up grasslands and crops, they eat eggs and baby wildlife, and scratching an itch on their backs can literally strip the bark off a tree.

Hunters want a chance to help out with this menace that can weigh over 200 pounds and produce 40 to 50 offspring a year. But the National Forest Service is considering outlawing feral hog hunts on public land in the Mark Twain.

Donald Hutson is one of hundreds of people who have overdosed while in state prisons since May 2017, according to Missouri Department of Corrections records.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Destini Hutson spent much of her childhood picturing what life would be like when her dad came home.

Over time, her plans turned to the practical: teach him how to use an iPhone, help him find a job, go to Chick-fil-A together.

“‘It’s a lot that you’re going to have to learn,’” Hutson told her dad, Donald, who went to prison in 1997 when she was still a baby.

Those plans came to a halt last September, when Donald Hutson died of a drug overdose at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific. He’s one of more than 430 inmates who have overdosed in state prisons since May 2017, according to internal data from the Missouri Department of Corrections. While there are many ways drugs are smuggled into prisons, DOC employees say internal corruption is a key part of the problem.

Artist and wellness advocate Dail Chambers and daughter. [8/8/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Five years ago, Kevin and Danielle McCoy were making art that wasn’t particularly political.

“We made a lot of safe work,” Kevin McCoy said, “but it didn’t have a lot of meaning. It didn’t get to the crux of the issues.”

Then white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown Jr., an unarmed, 18-year-old black man. Brown's death sparked weeks of protests in Ferguson, unrest that reverberated in the local arts community. Black artists formed new alliances and reached new platforms, but also bumped up against enduring divides over race in this community.

Robert Cardillo poses for photo taken at St. Louis University
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Cardillo has spent much of the past 25 years in St. Louis, though he’s never lived here.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is what first brought him to the city, where more than 3,000 NGA employees work on a campus south of downtown. But it’s the budding geospatial industry that’s kept him involved on a broader level after stepping down from the agency earlier this year. 

Members of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment conduct a silent protest during a public hearing on municipal court reform on Nov. 12, 2015.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Michael Brown’s 2014 death at the hands of a Ferguson police officer painted a clear picture of the troubled relationship between the police and the community, and also abusive municipal court practices that disregarded defendants’ rights.

Defendants were held in jail for weeks or months because they couldn’t afford excessive bonds. Others were arrested because they couldn’t pay the fines and fees, some of which were illegal. Some courts were little more than cash cows for their cities.

Jonathan Tremaine Thomas poses for a portrait inside the former Corner Coffee House space, which he plans to renovate and reopen.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Jonathan Tremaine Thomas is not originally from Ferguson. He’s not even from the St. Louis region or Missouri. Thomas, a North Carolina native, moved here from Indianapolis in 2014, in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing and the ensuing unrest. 

The pastor and entrepreneur says he came to Ferguson not in spite of Ferguson’s troubles, but because of them. Thomas, 38, who has long been involved in activism and community work in other cities, wanted to put his skills and experience to use in the healing process. He didn’t expect that he, his wife and their daughter would find a warm welcome.

Democrat Kelli Dunaway and Republican Amy Poelker are squaring off in next Tuesday's election for the 2nd County Council District.
Provided photos

Special elections Tuesday in two St. Louis County Council districts will be critical in steering key legislative priorities through the 2020 election cycle.

While former state Sen. Rita Days is widely expected to capture the 1st District seat, neither party is taking any chances in the race for the 2nd District. Democrat Kelli Dunaway and Republican Amy Poelker are making a hard push for the north St. Louis County district that will determine which party controls the council. Republicans now hold a 3-2 advantage.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said he needs a lot more money to run his office properly.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Many people around the country saw Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson as the catalyst behind a new civil rights movement.

But, even with the Ferguson protest movement going from the streets to the halls of government, political change in the St. Louis region was slow, as activist-preferred candidates lost elections and some policy demands went unmet.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell has a message for people who believe little has been accomplished or gained here in five years.

“I would say with all due respect, me sitting in this office now would be evidence of change,” Bell said. “And in my opinion obviously positive change.”

Members of the REAL Cannabis Co. ownership team (from left) Justin Gage, Cheryl Watkins-Moore and Derek Mays stand in what they hope will be their flagship medical marijuana dispensary. They are one of few minority-owned businesses seeking a license. 7/29
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Cheryl Watkins-Moore has a vision.

Even though the building she’s standing in is empty, she points to spots where she can see a trendy coffee bar beneath a vaulted ceiling, retail shopping in the window front ⁠— and a medical marijuana dispensary in the back.

“People can come into the dispensary, take care of what they need to take care of and then be able to go on about their business,” said Watkins-Moore, the chief strategy and marketing officer of REAL Cannabis Co.

Richard Luttrell, owner of North Shore Marina in St. Charles, leases two parcels of flood-prone land from the county. Local officials demolished homes on the land through FEMA's voluntary buyout program.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

At the edge of an open lot in St. Charles, tiny blades of grass are beginning to sprout.

A neighborhood once stood here — but the homes are long gone.

They were among the more than 5,100 homes demolished in Missouri since 1990 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s voluntary buyout program, which removes buildings from flood-prone land. After the homes are demolished, local governments are responsible for ensuring that no one rebuilds on the properties.

Alana Marie's grandfather settled in Kinloch in 1948, and the family lived there until 1988. In this mid-1970s photo, her uncle, pictured in a white T-shirt, kneels on the sidewalk near the left side.
Provided | Alana Marie

When Alana Marie was growing up in Hazelwood, she listened to stories of her father’s happy childhood in nearby Kinloch during the 1970s and '80s. 

By the time she was born in 1990, Kinloch had deteriorated. Now, the African American city that formerly boasted thousands of residents is home to just a few hundred.  

Marie’s curiosity about the family’s roots drove her to make a documentary about the once-vibrant city. Its demise came after schools were desegregated in the 1970s and the Kinloch school system closed.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

She started using drugs at 16. After moving around the country and trying to quit several times, she came back to St. Louis four years later, hoping for a fresh start. 

After a few months, B. started using again. She has borderline personality disorder, a mental illness that makes it difficult to regulate emotions. She used drugs, mostly illegal opioids, to deal with the mental pain. 

Last winter, she had a chest cold and went to an urgent care center to get a steroid shot. After an exam, a nurse called her over and explained she couldn’t get the medicine, because it might harm her baby. Soon, she would need help with prenatal care and overcoming her addiction, the kind of treatment a Washington University clinic provides.

A group of summertime visitors take a break from swimming in the Meramec River to pose for a photo. The area now home to Castlewood State Park was once a bustling summer resort destination in the early 1900s.
Castlewood State Park

If you look closely, you’ll notice something odd tucked into the hills of Castlewood State Park: crumbling concrete ruins.

Listener Joel Verhagen had an inkling that the area might have an interesting past, so he decided to ask our Curious Louis series: What was Castlewood State Park before it was a park?

That’s how the two of us end up hiking along a gravel path at Castlewood on a blazing hot afternoon. We're making our way along the bluff overlooking the Meramec River when we spot something hidden in plain sight — a moss-covered staircase to nowhere.

RukaNade founder Nermana Huskic came to St. Louis in the late 1990s, arriving with family members as refugees after the Bosnian war.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For Nermana Huskić, the seeds of her future as a resource and service provider for homeless people were planted young. 

At the age of 5, Huskić witnessed terror and violent intimidation by Serbian soldiers who barged into her home looking for her father and other male figures. 

It was 1992 and the start of the Bosnian war. The Bosnian Serbs set out to rid the country of its Muslim population and gain desired land. 

A batter swings at a softball equipped with an electronic beeper at the Ultimate Beepball Championship Tournament.  July 13, 2019
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The sun was fierce — and so was the competition — on a recent Saturday in South St. Louis County as visually impaired athletes from around the region took to the baseball field alongside players with normal vision.

The balls beeped, the bases buzzed, and the players all wore blindfolds — except for the pitchers and catchers. 

The annual event is known as the Ultimate Beepball Championship Tournament. It’s organized by MindsEye Radio, a nonprofit in Belleville that provides programming for people with vision loss. Beepball — also called beep baseball — is a form of the sport invented in the 1960s for people with impaired vision.

St. Louisan De Nichols will spend a year at Harvard University looking at how to enhance and sustain the Griot Museum of Black History.
Provided | De Nichols

Five years after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, a black man, there is no permanent, local display of the art sparked by the protests. 

Designer and activist De Nichols wants to change that. Through a Harvard University fellowship, she will study how to transform the Griot Museum of Black History in north St. Louis into such a space.

Nichols is known for the sculpture the Mirror Casket, a reflective casket-shaped piece she created with six other artists. It won such acclaim that it is now exhibited at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. 

The School Nutrition Association showcased vendors with various food products that are being introduced to school districts across the country on July 15, 2019.
Chad Davis and Nicolas Telep | St. Louis Public Radio

About 6,000 nutrition professionals gathered at the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis. They came from all over the country to sample ramen noodle, Parmesan-crusted Alaskan pollock nuggets and low-sodium seasonings that can be used on a variety of meats.

But these foods won’t be served to adults. They’ll be consumed by kids in many of the country’s school cafeterias.

Kemet Ajanaku, right, spots an egret near the Audubon Center at Riverlands on July 1, 2019. Teens learn the basics of environmental conservation, then lead a series of summer camps for elementary schoolers.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

White, upper-middle-class Americans have held the reins of the mainstream conservation movement for decades — and some say change is long overdue.

A small group of biologists and educators in West Alton are working to jump-start that change through a series of outdoor camps. The Audubon Center at Riverlands’ Flight Crew program aims to help more young people of color connect with nature. 

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