Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

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

Joshua Williams is serving an eight-year prison sentence for actions during a 2014 protest in Berkeley.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Joshua Williams always stood out in a crowd. Even during the tense and chaotic 2014 Ferguson protests, Williams could easily be spotted in the signature red hoodie that he rarely went without.

Williams was 18 years old at the time, the same age as Michael Brown when he was shot and killed by police — and old enough to leave home against his mother’s wishes to join the front lines to protest Brown’s death.

The West Lake Landfill, in the distance, sits adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill, right.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 12:10 p.m. Sept. 28 — The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to remove radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill Superfund site.

The chosen solution will remove about 70 percent of the site’s radioactivity and dispose of the waste at an out-of-state facility. The $205 million plan is similar, though less expensive, to what officials proposed in February.

Johnny, played by Michael McClelland, wipes his head and tries to gather his thoughts as he wife Celia, played by Patience Davis, sits nearby, in the Slaying Dragons production of "A Hatful of Rain."
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis theater troupe is using a play that highlights drug addiction in the mid-1950s to combat the opioid crisis of today.

This weekend, the Slaying Dragons company will present “A Hatful of Rain” at The Chapel theater. The play, about a Korean War veteran addicted to morphine, examines secrecy, shame and family dynamics.

The production draws on moments from everyday life to show that no family is safe from addiction, director Brad Slavik said in an interview.

Bonne Terre resident Steven Anderson sits in a kayak in the Big River next to a beach covered in legacy mine waste.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

About 55 miles southwest of St. Louis, Steven Anderson — who owns an outfitter called Cherokee Landing in Bonne Terre — routinely takes his customers to St. Francois State Park.

To a trained observer like Anderson, the beach where he launches his kayak trips offers clear signs of lead contamination. Before taking off recently, he scooped up a handful of gravel.

“See these gray and black specks?” he said, pointing at the tiny dark rocks in his hand. “There’s a lot of heavy tailings on this beach.”

The tailings are discarded mine waste from the lead mining that long took place in St. Francois County. The Environmental Protection Agency has a plan to clean up the waste along the Big River, which runs through the heart of Missouri's Old Lead Belt.

Laura and Patrick Banks September 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Laura Banks was all smiles as she showed a guest around the split-level home in south St. Louis County that she and her and husband bought a year ago, days after returning from their honeymoon.

Built in the 1970s, the house has a lower level they’ve furnished with a big-screen TV and a vintage bar for entertaining. She grows herbs, tomatoes and sweet potatoes in the backyard.

Homeownership marks a major financial milestone for Banks, who graduated from college in 2009 when the unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent. It’s a sign that, like many millennials, she’s recovering financially after struggling to survive the Great Recession.

Unauthorized immigrants in rural areas who seek legal representation can often face roadblocks when trying to find credible lawyers.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:10 p.m. to reflect response from the Missouri Attorney General's Office to questions about notario fraud. — Angie Gomez has seen and heard plenty of stories about how hard it is for unauthorized immigrants and migrant farmworkers to find lawyers to help them apply for, or change their legal status.

Gomez, family services coordinator for Su Casa Head Start in Cobden, Illinois, immigrated from Mexico in the 1960s and became a naturalized citizen. She says she sees more challenges facing migrant farmworkers and unauthorized immigrants seeking legal representation than ever before.

Logan Chrislaw heards cattle on Monday, September 3, 2018 at his farm in Howard County, Mo. Chrislaw began farming with his father about eight years ago.
Jennifer Mosbrucker | special to St. Louis Public Radio

Despite recent rainfall, more than half of Missouri is still in a drought, hitting hard at one of the state’s key economic engines: agriculture.

Missouri hay — the primary feed for livestock — has hit its lowest production levels in 30 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ideally, each acre of pasture produces two tons of hay a year, which would be two of those large circular rolls often seen in farm fields. In 1988, the average acre in Missouri only yielded 1.2 tons, and this year it’s been 1.5 tons.

Astronaut Bob Behnken is a Pattonville High School graduate. He has physics and mechanical engineering degreees from Washington University. He earned advanced degrees from the California Institute of Technology.
NASA Kennedy | Flickr

Bob Behnken is helping NASA usher in a new era.

The astronaut, who grew up in St. Ann, has nearly 40 hours walking in the vacuum of space. Now he is part of the crew that will conduct the first human test flights for the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

Hundreds of people participate in a die-in at police headquarters in downtown St. Louis during the fall 2017 protests against the Stockley verdict.
Eric Pan

Updated at 4:12 p.m. with clarification — When early photos of the 2014 Ferguson protests flashed across photographer Eric Pan’s phone and computer screen, he mainly saw active confrontation — and wondered if there was more to the story.­

Pan brought his camera to Ferguson, where protesters took to the streets after then-officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot and killed Michael Brown, a black man. Three years later, he joined marches against a judge’s acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, who is white, in the death of a black man, Anthony Lamar Smith.

Pan’s perspective on both protests is the subject of an exhibition opening Saturday at the Griot Museum of Black History and Culture called “Civil Unrest in Review.”

Amanda Moller prepares her formula in her home in University City. The formula is vital to treat a rare condition, but her insurer doesn't cover it.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Every day, Amanda Moller scoops powdered formula out of a can and shakes it up with water from her kitchen sink. It's like mixing a cocktail, she said, "but not that much fun."

The formula doesn’t taste great – like watery pudding with a biting, cheesy aftertaste. But it’s something Amanda needs to treat a rare metabolic condition she’s had since she was born. After 30 years, she’s gotten used to it.

Amanda’s employer-based insurance plan (through her husband’s employer) doesn’t cover it. Like many treatments for rare diseases, the lack of well-funded research and the tendency of insurers to focus on the bottom line mean sometimes patients can’t afford necessary medical supplies. Many of the 16,000 people in the United States who need the formula spend close to $1,000 a month to buy it.

Carmen and Isabel Garcia with a Clydesdale, on location in September 2017 at Grant's Farm for a promotional St. Louis Blues video.
Carmen Garcia

Updated Sept. 13, 2018 - Since we originally published this story, the mother-daughter duo of Carmen and Isabel Garcia have continued performing in musical theater separately and together.

In June they played a grandmother and granddaughter in Mustard Seed Theater’s “Luchadora”, a drama about Mexican wrestling.

Cami Thomas, producer of the Smoke Screen documentary series with fellow filmmaker Calvin Tigre.
Cami Thomas

St. Louis activist and filmmaker Cami Thomas moved back to St. Louis from college a year after Michael Brown’s death. While news of the 2014 shooting and the protests that followed grabbed national attention, she was miles away at school — grappling with the developments and fallout.

When she returned to St. Louis, Thomas said people told her she was fortunate to move back “after the smoke cleared.” In talking with neighbors and friends, however, she wondered if locals weren’t still wrestling with age-old problems — namely segregation and discrimination.

The Avett Brothers at LouFest 2015
File photo | Jess Luther | St. Louis Public Radio

When the organizers of LouFest canceled the event, the news came as a shock to many, though signs of the festival’s distress had been apparent. The festival’s promoter, Listen Live Entertainment, insisted that everything was fine until the moment it pulled the plug.

The announcement identified several causes including the loss of key sponsors, debt and expected rain. Organizers insisted the festival had been on target “until a bit of unfortunately timed media coverage caused many of our vendors and artists to demand up-front payment.”

DeRay Mckesson poses in the trademark blue vest that he first wore in the early days of the Ferguson protests.
Adam Mayer

An educator who quit his job to join the Ferguson protests, and then became a nationally known activist is coming back to St. Louis on Thursday.

DeRay Mckesson will appear at Union Avenue Christian Church to talk about his book, “On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope.”

The Bail Project plans to bail out tens of thousands of people in dozens of cities. Since January, its St. Louis team has bailed out 756 people.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The first time Michael Milton helped buy somebody’s freedom, he didn’t expect it would be so simple.

He filed some paperwork, handed over cash and waited. Several hours later, the 19-year-old for whom Milton posted bail walked out of the St. Louis City Justice Center. The teenager had spent three months behind bars because he didn’t have $750 to make bail.

The Women's Bakery opened three years ago in Kigali, Rwanda. Founded by St. Louis native Markey Culver, it's a social-enterprise business focused on training and employing women.
Provided | The Women's Bakery

A St. Louisan starts a bakery. It’s a plotline that may make some think instantly of St. Louis Bread Co.

But Markey Culver’s chain of bakeries doesn’t mark suburban shopping centers throughout the region. Hers is much farther away.

Onlookers watch as Air Force One lands at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in March 2018.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

There’s one person who will affect Missouri’s U.S. Senate race more than a pointed attack ad or dumptrucks full of money: President Donald Trump.

Both U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Attorney General Josh Hawley believe he’ll make an impact in their nationally-watched contest.

The question, though, is who will benefit?

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire lifts his 10-year-old son, Matt, after hitting his 62nd home run of the 1998 season on Sept. 8, 1998, breaking Roger Maris' record.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

On Sept. 8, 1998, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire sent a low line drive over Busch Stadium’s left field wall to break Roger Maris’ 37-year-old home run record.

McGwire’s 62nd home run of the season sent the sellout crowd and the city into a frenzy. But for some fans, McGwire’s eventual admission that he used steroids has taken the shine off the record-breaking summer.

In 2015, LouFest brought a record 50,000 people to Forest Park. 2018 will be a different story.
Jess Luther | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Sept. 5 at 5:30 p.m. — Music fans, vendors and service providers startled by the cancellation of this weekend’s LouFest in Forest Park are shifting from disappointment to worry as they try to figure out how to recoup the cost of tickets, fees and other expenses.

Festival organizers early Wednesday called off the ninth annual event, three days before it was set to begin. Last year the two-day festival was at full capacity, drawing 32,000 fans each day.

Jean-Michel Basquiat poses in front of some of his work in the apartment he and Alexis Adler shared.
Alexis Adler

When Alexis Adler lived with New York painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in an East Village apartment, she never knew what she might wake up to.

Where most people saw walls, floors and even refrigerators, the emerging master of social commentary saw canvas. Basquiat often painted throughout the night, the ideas in his head spilling out onto almost every surface in the run-down space.

St. Louisans will soon have a rare glimpse into the life and early work of Basquiat, a one-time New York street artist whose paintings eventually sold for more than $100 million. “Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980” opens Friday at the Contemporary Art Musem and runs through Dec. 30. It displays the nascent creations of the artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican roots, who died in 1988 at 27, reportedly of a heroin overdose.

Beverly Nance and Mary Walsh pose for a portrait at their home in Shrewsbury on Aug. 28, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After Mary Walsh and Beverly Nance were married in 2009, they thought their right to live together as a couple was secure.

Now the two women are at the center of a landmark legal case against a St. Louis County retirement community. The same-sex couple was denied housing at Friendship Village in 2016 on the basis of a “Cohabitation Policy” that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, “as marriage is understood in the Bible.”

Lois Jackson, who lives in the Villa Lago housing complex in Spanish Lake, sits outside her apartment. Public housing residents have recently been banned from smoking inside their homes.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

James Parker has been smoking for more than six decades. But to keep his habit, he's had to make changes. Every time he smokes, he has to go outside his home in the Badenfest apartment complex on North Broadway in St. Louis.

Parker is one of the hundreds of smokers in St. Louis who can no longer light up in their homes. Residents and housing agencies are adjusting to a new rule from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development which bars residents from smoking within 25 feet of their apartments. Residents and housing advocates have criticized the policy and are worried it will result in more evictions.

The Clarence Cannon Wildlife Refuge in Annada, Mo.
Randall Hyman

About 70 miles north of St. Louis, a serene, 3,750-acre area covered in prairie grasses, forests and wetlands serves as a crucial habitat for migratory birds.

The Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge in Annada sits next to the Mississippi River, surrounded by farmland. Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a $29-million project to improve wildlife habitats in the refuge.

The agencies aim to bring back historic flood cycles that support native plants. They provide food and habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Jen Kerner plays a Bird Girl in Christ Memorial's 2016 production of Seussical.
Cindy Tiefenbrunn

St. Louis actor Jen Kerner has played dozens of characters, but in recent years she’s taken on a new role: making the theater experience enjoyable for people who are overwhelmed by loud sounds and bright lights that are part of the typical theatrical experience.

Kerner works in job placement for people with developmental disabilities who often have sensory issues. Four years ago, she began to pay more attention to her own sensitivities during rehearsals for “The Music Man," in which the orchestra seemed noisy and abrasive. Shortly thereafter, a doctor diagnosed her with autism.

Sally Gacheru, center, tosses a ball to a child in Sakutiek, Kenya. Gacheru, who was born in Kenya but moved to St. Louis four years ago, was part of a service trip back home for fellow immigrant teens this month.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

It hit them that they were back home as soon as they were off they off the plane and in the crowded Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

“And there was a long queue [at customs], a long, long queue. And I just knew I was in Kenya right there,” Victor Rotich said, days later and hours away from the capital, in the small village of Sakutiek.

Developer Paul McKee owns much of the land in this picture, looking north from the intersection of Cass and Jefferson avenues. After nearly 10 years, the city of St. Louis wants to cut ties with McKee and his NorthSide Regeneration initiative.
File Photo | Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2009, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved developer Paul McKee’s $8-billion plan to transform nearly two square miles of north St. Louis. In exchange for $390 million in tax incentives, McKee promised new housing, parks, schools, churches and major employment centers.

Nearly a decade later, with very little work completed, the city tried to cut ties with McKee. But a 2016 agreement, struck with very little public input, could complicate that effort, and has already led to litigation.

Tihara Mari rehearses with Grupo Atlantico at the home of founder Carmen Dence.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

When Carmen Dence was growing up in the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, she danced to cumbia, porros, gaitas and other traditional sounds of her country.

Dence left Colombia in 1969 to attend graduate school at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Nine years later, she and her husband moved to St. Louis, where she became a radiology professor at Washington University. But she never lost her passion for the music and dances of her homeland.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s incarceration rate for women is among the highest in the country. 

The majority of these women have children, yet little research has examined the effects of incarceration on mothers specifically.

A nurse at St. Louis Children's Hospital attending to an infant that was born premature.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, doctors and nurses bustled in and out of rooms with small beds and brightly-colored construction paper taped to windows.

Four doctors stood with their wheeled computer desks outside the room of a premature baby boy who was admitted two weeks earlier. There was a lot to discuss, since the young patient has a hole in his heart, liver problems and multiple infections. They talked about what antibiotics he was on and noted the number of days the infant has been taking them.

Brandon Bieber played a number of different roles in the recent touring production of "Something Rotten."
Brandon Bieber

When Brandon Bieber was a toddler, his parents took him to his older sisters’ dance recitals.

Soon, he was riveted to the sight of their sequins and sashays. When a call went out for children to be part of a Westport Playhouse production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” his sister tried out.

“They said, ‘We like her — and we’ll take the boy, too,’” Bieber said.

For more than a decade, Bieber has worked as a Broadway and touring dancer and actor. He’s back in St. Louis to direct a St. Lou Fringe Festival play about a stock-car racer challenging traditional female stereotypes, called “Race Cars and Romance.”

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