Aaron Henkin | WYPR

Aaron Henkin

Producer of "Out of the Blocks" and Director of New Local Programming

Aaron creates and produces original radio programs for WYPR. His current project is the neighborhood documentary series, Out of the Blocks.  His past work includes the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, and the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings series, Tapestry of the Times.  Aaron's stories have aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, PRI’s Studio 360, & The World.

Ways to Connect

all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, we meet the founder of the Detroit Artists’ Test Lab, the head of an African American podcast network called Audiowave, neighborhood activists young and old, a closet poet, and the woman who taught The Slide to a generation of skaters at Royal Skateland roller rink.

On this episode, we’re going to be taking you inside a boxing gym in East Baltimore. This gym is very unique – it’s one of the only places in the neighborhood that offers any extracurricular activity for local kids. It was founded by a man named Alex Long. Alex had a difficult childhood, being separated from siblings and parents in foster care… and he’s faced even more challenges since then, including the recent murder of his sister. He credits his athletic coaches with helping him remain positive and stable, and he wants to make sure the boys in his neighborhood receive the same care and guidance. Alex is now a community activist and a member of Safe Streets, an anti-violence prevention in Baltimore. He sees the boxing gym as a safe space for kids to get strong both physically and emotionally. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

On the east side of Detroit, the streets of MorningSide are lined with stately, brick Tudor-style houses.  But today, one in four of those houses is abandoned, boarded up, gutted, or burned out.  The foreclosure crisis of 2008 hit MorningSide like a tidal wave, and the neighborhood is struggling to sprout again from the rubble. There’s a lot of buzz about a new Renaissance in downtown Detroit, but the locals in this corner of town are wondering when – and if – the revival is going to make its way to them.  In the meantime, they’re holding their own and looking out for each other.  In this special episode, Out of the Blocks teams up with Michigan Radio’s MorningSide 48224 podcast to share voices from MorningSide.

Ever build one of those snap-together model kits when you were a kid? Think of this episode as a sort of snap-together podcast kit. It includes a demo of a fully mixed and produced Out of the Blocks audio feature, followed by the original interview it was cut from, the accompanying musical score, and lots of bonus interviewing tips.  This episode is a fun tool for anyone who’s interested in learning about podcast production techniques. Listen along, then take apart this episode to build your own version! 

Special thanks to our interviewee, Nate Couser, of The Artist Exchange Radio Show, and check out this story-making toolkit at The Peale Center.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The owner of a falafel stand gives a lesson in gratitude, a minimalist overcomes cerebral palsy by sheer force of will, a female boss takes the helm at a men’s barbershop, an apparel entrepreneur reflects on a family tragedy with a silver lining, and a friendly neighborhood barista whips up chai lattes and plays experimental doom metal.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Mike Gerlach wasn’t born legally blind – he’s experienced a slow  deterioration of his vision over decades – but that hasn’t stopped him from leading the life he wants to lead:

We’ll learn how Mike, along with Kate Anderson at Disability Rights Maryland, is putting power in the hands of disabled citizens here in Baltimore to address transportation issues.

We’ll also meet the folks at Open Society Institute Baltimore who are championing the idea that an individual has the power to make a big change here in our community.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The bartender at The Drinkery tells the history of 'the gayborhood,’ a handyman-turned-comedian reflects on comedy as a flashlight in the dark, a pizza-maker from Pakistan shares words from the Koran about living with good intentions, a master clock-maker ponders the passage of time, and two shop owners share an address and a mutual admiration.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 200 block of W Read Street was Baltimore’s ground zero for hippies, head shops, gay nightlife, and wild fashion.  In this episode, we explore the past and present of the neighborhood with a vintage clothier, a husband-and-husband duo that runs a hair salon, a father and son who operate a 70-year-old key shop, and a guy who loves to smoke a good cigar.

Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Opioids are a classification of drugs that include prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl. The misuse of these drugs has become an epidemic across the country, and in the state of Maryland, in 2016, 2,089 overdose deaths occurred – with 1,119 of those deaths being related to the opioid drug fentanyl. As a declared public health crisis – what’s being done to combat and address the proliferation of and addiction to opioids?

Chinatown ID, Seattle, part 2

Mar 26, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

Devotion to family.  That’s the overarching theme in this episode, as we return to Seattle’s Chinatown International District once more to visit with sons and daughters who are committed to honoring and preserving their families’ legacies. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Seattle’s Chinatown International District is a bustling, pan-Asian neighborhood of immigrants from China, Japan, Vietnam, and The Philippines.  It’s also a mix of generations, where Americanized children navigate a complex family dynamic with their non-English speaking elders.  Tradition is in a tug-of-war with modernity on the streets of Chinatown ID, where multi-generational family businesses stand side-by-side with the startups of young, artistic entrepreneurs. It all amounts to a beautiful, mutable monument to the American Dream.  This episode was produced in collaboration with KUOW and made possible by a generous grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

Wiki Commons

On this episode, we turn our attention to the epidemic of gun violence in Baltimore. Baltimore suffered 342 homicides last year.  And that’s up 17 percent from the year before. If you do the math, this means that about 56 of every 100,000 people in the city are murdered.  While mass shootings often make the headlines, the slow burn murder rate in cities like Baltimore usually aren't fully addressed. On this episode, we meet a shock trauma surgeon, a journalist uncovering the illegal gun trade across state lines, and a young man who miraculously survived being shot twenty-three times. 

Wendel Patrick is the composer, producer and performer of the musical score for every episode of Out of the Blocks. In this special installment, he talks about some of his favorite compositions from the show and delves into how (and why) he makes the music.  Wendel can span musical genres from classical to hip hop with compositions that take the listener on an emotional journey full of surprises:  A cell-phone ringtone symphony? Check. A hair-clipper fugue? Check.  This is a must-listen for aspiring music producers or anyone who wants to hear extended music cuts from Out of the Blocks.

100 S Broadway, part 3

Feb 12, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

If we’re truthful about it, most of us will admit it:  There’s a gap between who we are and who we yearn to be.  In this episode, people confront the sting of getting honest with themselves.  In the end, some find redemption, and some just stare into the abyss.  There’s darkness in this episode, yes, but rays of hope have a way of shining in through the cracks.  As you’ll hear Francesca say, “Life is too short, the world is too cruel. Just love one another.”

There are a surprisingly high number of grandparents raising grandchildren here in Baltimore City. What persistent societal problems have contributed to the rise of this family situation, and what unique challenges do grandparent guardians face? In Baltimore, 20% of older adults are living below or at poverty level, and in communities of color that number is doubled. Raising kids for a second time, often on a much tighter budget and with a whole new array of emotional burdens, can seem like a nearly impossible task. We talk with a grandparent guardian about the reality of this situation and what the city needs to do in order to help families like hers.

100 S Broadway, part 2

Jan 29, 2018

This episode begins with a recovering addict who’s found peace, purpose, and a modest income folding paper flowers and peddling them to passersby on the street corner.  The episode ends with a Salvadorian immigrant who spends 50 hours a week on an assembly line in a chicken processing plant.  In between are more stories of entrepreneurs and day-laborers, people trying to make a living and trying to live life along the way.

100 S Broadway, part 1

Jan 16, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

Baltimore became a second home to members of North Carolina’s Lumbee tribe when they immigrated to the city after World War II, trading in farm work for factory and construction jobs.  Since then, the Baltimore American Indian Center on the 100 block of S Broadway has been a cultural hub for the transplanted Lumbee people and other Native Americans in the city.  In this episode: Conversations with Urban Indians about family, spirituality, and identity.

Wide Angle Youth Media

Joelle is a seventeen year old high schooler and a pretty typical teenager in most ways. She enjoys being with her friends, downloading apps on her phone, and is looking forward to pursuing a career as a film maker… But she’s experienced clinical depression – an illness that is now affecting 20% of teenagers in the United States. Adolescents are in the midst of a mental-health crisis: this is the most anxious and depressed generation on record, but despite the ubiquitous nature of depression it’s still largely misunderstood. This month on the show, Joelle's story and the power of art to transform dark experiences into transformative ones. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

A spectrum of stories exploring the creative impulse: from an emcee, a sculptor, a muralist, a florist, and others in Baltimore’s Station North neighborhood. This special episode was originally commissioned as a sound installation for the 2014 MICA exhibition, Locally Sourced.  

all photos by Wendel Patrick

This episode kicks off with a barber who’s been cutting hair in The Ville for 60 years, and it ends with the story of a woman who just recently became a proud homeowner in the neighborhood.  In between are beautiful, personal stories from mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, war veterans, preachers, urban gardeners, and more. Produced in collaboration with the podcast We Live Here and the neighborhood organization 4 The Ville, and made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Healthcare for the Homeless

Jeff Garrett had a nice life.  Married, two kids, he and his wife both worked, and his job gave him the flexibility to be at home with his children. Hardly the portrait of a man on the brink of homelessness.  And yet, in remarkably short order, Jeff found himself divorced, separated from his kids, penniless, evicted, mentally unstable, and contemplating suicide.  Jeff’s story opens the door on a conversation about mental health and homelessness.  What are the safety nets, and what happens when they fail?  What’s the emotional and physical toll of homelessness?  And what’s our collective responsibility as a society when it comes to helping the most vulnerable among us? This month on Life in the Balance, understanding, and coping with, homelessness. 

Out of the Ville, part 1

Dec 5, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

We’re all taught that housing desegregation was a good thing, right? But if you talk to the old-timers in The Ville, they’ll give you a more nuanced story:  They’ll tell you it was a gift that came with a curse. In its heyday, The Ville was the beating heart of black Saint Louis, with historic African American institutions like Sumner High School and Homer G Phillips Hospital.  Desegregation opened the floodgates for a mass-exodus from The Ville, and now the neighborhood is more than 60 percent vacant.  Out of the Blocks travels to the Ville for this special episode, produced in collaboration with the Saint Louis Public Radio podcast We Live Here and the neighborhood organization 4 The Ville.  This episode was made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

3600 Falls Road, part 3

Nov 20, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, a group home is a haven for residents with mental and psychological challenges; a web-design CEO reveals his second life as an experimental musician; a pizzeria owner shares a lesson in pride and humility; a rock drummer trades in his sticks for a career in corporate voice-overs; a recovering heroin addict struggles to stay clean for her 2-year-old daughter; and the boss of a branding agency second-guesses his own brand of leadership.

photos by Wendel Patrick

This is quite possibly the first time ever that a musical score for a podcast was written for, and performed by, a full symphony orchestra.   Here’s how it happened:  Out of the Blocks collaborated with the BSO for a special concert series called, “Baltimore Voices.” The concerts featured recordings of four Baltimore City teenagers sharing beautiful and honest stories about their lives.  Wendel Patrick composed an original score for each story.  And The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed Wendel’s scores live, while the stories aired on the sound system in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

AP Photo/David Goldman

This month on "Life in the Balance," gangs and street violence in Baltimore is an epidemic. But what happens to those people who want to get out of gangs, what struggles do they meet on the way? We’ll meet Gardnel Carter, a former gang member who’s now helping others to avoid his past mistakes.  We’ll also talk with Media Chief T.J. Smith of the Baltimore City Police about the department’s efforts to stem gang violence, and we’ll hear the remarkable story of a 17 year old boy who’s trying to walk away from his own past with gangs.  The problem is his old associates are not happy about his decision. This hour, the uphill climb out of gang violence, the organizations trying to combat it, and the people whose lives hang in the balance. 

3600 Falls Road, part 1

Oct 10, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

“I think the word we’re dancing around is ‘gentrification.’” So says Benn Ray of Atomic Books at the outset of this episode. What follows is a multidimensional portrait of a neighborhood in flux.  The 3600 block of Falls Road is a mix of longtime rowhome residents, recovering opiate addicts, and a new wave of business owners whose trendy boutiques have come to redefine a neighborhood that’s been in long economic decline.  Who does Hampden belong to?  The answer depends who you ask.

Ludovic Bertron

This month, we’re going to hear the story of someone who made a big personal decision, but quite late in life.  Autumn is a 61 year old trans-woman who transitioned just recently, after quietly struggling with her identity for decades…  We’ll hear how Autumn’s transition has impacted her work-life, her family relations, and her marriage.  Autumn’s personal story will also be the springboard for our larger conversation this hour about the unique, and often overlooked, challenges facing LGBT elders.

2400 Saint Paul St, Part 3

Sep 26, 2017

Super-saturated sound-portraits of entrepreneurs and artists at work on the 2400 block of Saint Paul Street:  Whirring blenders, whispering crochet needles, bubbling deep-fryers, clanking screen-presses, snipping scissors, and whooshing hair dryers comprise the soundscapes at Style Lab, Ajna Printing, American Wings & Pizza, Lauryn Byrd’s Yarn Bombs, and Grind House Juice Bar & Café.

2400 Saint Paul St, Part 2

Sep 12, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, portraits of irrepressible drive and determination:  A self-made cosmetics mogul opens up a school of makeup artistry, a local fashion entrepreneur delivers a searing sociopolitical critique, a hair stylist runs a one-man business and wears his heart on his sleeve, and a sanitation worker trades in his drug-dealing past for a career cleaning the streets.

On the pilot episode of Life in the Balance, we meet Danny Miller, a man sentenced to thirty years in prison at the age of seventeen after a fight with a friend turned deadly. When he gets out early on parol, he struggles to find a job in a society that seems more determined than ever to keep him on the sidelines. Host Aaron Henkin listens to Danny's life story - along with a panel of experts on post-incarceration - and asks, how and why does a man find himself in this situation, and what can we do to help?

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