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

3600 Falls Road, part 3

14 hours ago
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?

1100 Ward Street, Part 2

Aug 1, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

This episode is an unlikely triptych of redemption stories from the 1100 block of Ward Street.  We meet Paul’s Place Peer Recovery Coach Dolly Miller, who’s been clean for nine years now after spending more than half her life addicted to drugs.  We visit with Paul’s Place Ambassador Volunteer Coordinator Will Thomas, who overcame addiction and homelessness and uses his experience to guide others with similar struggles.  And we get to know Paul’s Place volunteer Paul Schurick, whose life changed profoundly when he was sentenced to community service after being disgraced in a political scandal.

1100 Ward Street, Part 1

Jul 17, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

Back in the 1800’s, they literally herded pigs through the streets of Southwest Baltimore’s Washington Village, from the terminus of the B & O Railroad to the neighborhood’s meat packing plants and butcher shops.  The nickname, ‘Pigtown,’ has stuck, but the industry is long gone from this part of the city.  These days, the neighborhood is known for unemployment, homelessness, and drug addiction.

Courtesy of Reuters

Today, we examine the realities of being an immigrant in Baltimore in the Trump Era.  President Trump has called for the immediate deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, commonly known as illegal aliens.  Mr. Trump and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, have made immigration enforcement a priority. Plans continue for a wall of unprecedented scale all along the U.S.-Mexico border.  And the Department of Justice has threatened to withhold federal funds from so-called "sanctuary cities" -- municipalities where local police authorities do not check the immigration status of people who are stopped for other reasons, or who are seeking public services.

7200 Harford Road

Jul 3, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

7200 Harford Road is about as far north and east as you can get and still be in Baltimore City.  It’s tucked just inside the county line, and downtown feels far-off when you’re out here.  On this block, MMA fighters train at American Muy Thai, customers get perms at Umberto’s Hair Salon, folks line up for Italian and German specialties at the counters of Mastellone’s Deli and Mueller’s Delicatessen, and the 112-year-old Fenwick Bakery sells homemade marshmallow donuts.  Field producer Adam Droneburg is our guide as we visit these spots and more on the 7200 block of Harford Road.

600 Cherry Hill Road, Part II

Jun 20, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

We have our own community here. It's like no other neighborhood.  We're R.I.C.H. Raised in Cherry Hill.

600 Cherry Hill Road, Part I

Jun 5, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

This place, people counted it out to drown.  But Cherry Hill is literally that.  We are a hill.  I don’t care how much water you surround us by.  We are a hill that will always stand and will always be bold.

Today, guest host Aaron Henkin (producer of WYPR's Out of the Blocks series) spends the hour examining how well the Baltimore City Public School System's "school choice" program is working, twelve years after its launch.

The program was created to give all students (and their parents) a chance to participate in the selection of the middle schools and high schools they wish to attend. 

The annual high-school choice program starts each fall, it goes on through each spring, and it gives late middle-schoolers an opportunity to identify their top five preferred high schools.  Kids make these selections based on a range of criteria:  they look at student population, gender mix, sports programs and, special academic offerings like advanced placement courses and college-credit curricular tracks.

2100 Edmondson

Jan 4, 2017
all images by Wendel Patrick

The corner diner, Soul Source, is the hub of the 2100 block  of Edmondson Avenue. The manager, Joyce, has been serving breakfast to the locals for 30 years. Her restaurant looks out onto a West Baltimore block scarred by gunshots and stabbings. But the block is more than its scars. It’s a block where a Pentecostal pastor keeps her faith in the face of suffering, where a reformed drug dealer works as a kitchen appliance repairman, and where a political reporter from Kashmir has found sanctuary working behind the counter at a sandwich shop. It’s a block where a former Nigerian soccer star operates an auto repair shop. In his car lot, he lets a homeless man sleep in a van. Next door is an army veteran who issued air-strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And across the street is a tire repairman who’s trying to beat a 30-year heroin addiction. Crystal, who works in the kitchen at Soul Source, sums it up like this: It’s not always peaches and cream, but this is a place that you know is always going to be real.  

Out of the Blocks Podcast - 600 Deepdene Rd

Oct 3, 2016
all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 2016 season finale episode of Out of the Blocks takes a twist, as we travel to the 600 block of Deepdene Road in North Baltimore’s Tuxedo Park neighborhood.  The sounds of city traffic give way to the natural harmony of cicadas, birds, and frogs on this tree-lined residential block, nestled up against the city’s Stony Run Trail.

600 Deepdene Rd

Sep 18, 2016
all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 2016 season finale episode of Out of the Blocks takes a twist, as we travel to the 600 block of Deepdene Road in North Baltimore’s Tuxedo Park neighborhood.  The sounds of city traffic give way to the natural harmony of cicadas, birds, and frogs on this tree-lined residential block, nestled up against the city’s Stony Run Trail.  The stories here are a study of families in all their varieties: families with same-sex parents, interracial parents, single parents, and adoptive parents, as well as empty-nesters, divorcees, and newlyweds.  The twist?  For the Out of the Blocks producers, this episode is personal.  Wendel Patrick used to live here, and Aaron Henkin lives here now.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 2100 block of Monument Street is anchored by the Baltimore’s Northeast Market, a honeycomb of vendors selling fish, meat, fried chicken, barbeque, bulgogi, deli sandwiches, and baked goods.

The commerce spills onto the surrounding sidewalks, where open-air peddlers hawk sunglasses and socks, CDs & DVDs, umbrellas and pepper spray.  Unemployed entrepreneurs polish headlights, sell loose cigarettes, and do whatever else they can to make ends meet.  It all happens in the shadow of the looming Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, an institution at pains to restore relations with the neighborhood in the wake of longstanding ill will.

2100 E Monument

Jul 1, 2016
all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 2100 block of Monument Street is anchored by the Baltimore’s Northeast Market, a honeycomb of vendors selling fish, meat, fried chicken, barbeque, bulgogi, deli sandwiches, and baked goods.  The commerce spills onto the surrounding sidewalks, where open-air peddlers hawk sunglasses and socks, CDs & DVDs, umbrellas and pepper spray.  Unemployed entrepreneurs polish headlights, sell loose cigarettes, and do whatever else they can to make ends meet.  It all happens in the shadow of the looming Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, an institution at pains to restore relations with the neighborhood in the wake of longstanding ill will.

All photos by Wendel Patrick

Church bells ring in a duet with the clanging Light Rail, city buses rattle and hiss, and loud sidewalk conversations compete with the din.  These are the sounds that reverberate through a block peppered with Bengali body oil shops, barbershops and salons, a magic candle store, and the shoe-repair shop of a Russian cobbler.  A vanguard of artists populates a five-story building on the block, a honeycomb of musicians, painters, fashion designers, and jewelers.  As a sum of its parts, 200 West Saratoga is an ecstatic cacophony of optimism, ambition, anxiety, and resilience.

200 W Saratoga

May 13, 2016
All photos by Wendel Patrick

The 200 block of West Saratoga Street is nestled in the frenetic bustle of downtown Baltimore.  Church bells ring in a duet with the clanging Light Rail, city buses rattle and hiss, and loud sidewalk conversations compete with the din.  These are the sounds that reverberate through a block peppered with Bengali body oil shops, barbershops and salons, a magic candle store, and the shoe-repair shop of a Russian cobbler.  A vanguard of artists populates a five-story building on the block, a honeycomb of musicians, painters, fashion designers, and jewelers.  As a sum of its parts, 200 West Saratoga is an ecstatic cacophony of optimism, ambition, anxiety, and resilience.

Derek Blanks/For The Washington Post

Here’s a hypothetical for you . . . You’re walking down the street and you see a woman standing there, crying. What do you do? Ask her if she’s OK? Try to comfort her? Now, what if that person standing there, crying, is a man? Is your reaction the same? Our guest this hour is a guy who cries. He cries without shame, in public, and when it happens, he’ll look you in the eye, and you’ll look away before he does. Andrew Reiner is a Towson University professor. He teaches a class on masculinity - and he wrote an article for The Washington Post titled, “The Tracks of My Tears: One man’s quest to have male crying be socially acceptable.” It made him a lightning rod for some vitriolic backlash, but he welcomes the debate. A conversation about men and emotional honesty.

Andrew Copeland / Maryland Historical Society

Crowdsourcing is a new term but it’s not a new idea. In the 19th century, thousands of volunteers submitted entries to the Oxford English Dictionary, for instance. But if you’ve ever used Wikipedia, you know the internet has made crowdsourcing possible on a much larger scale. Historians are among those taking advantage of the internet’s broad reach. How is our increased connectivity changing the way we tell stories about the past? We’ll talk with Denise Meringolo, a historian at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Joe Tropea, digital projects coordinator at the Maryland Historical Society, about how they’re collecting and archiving materials from the Baltimore Uprising of 2015.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 6300 block of Reisterstown Road is tucked just inside the Northwest Baltimore city limit.

Orthodox Jews from Russia and Iran operate kosher eateries, and NepaliHindus run carry-outs and gas stations. Add to the mix a public library branch, a used-car dealership, and a home-security expert who specializes in cracking safes, and you get an idiosyncratic cast of characters who all manage to share a stage in the theater of city life.

6300 Reisterstown Road

Mar 14, 2016
all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 6300 block of Reisterstown Road is tucked just inside the Northwest Baltimore city limit.  Orthodox Jews from Russia and Iran operate kosher eateries, and Nepali Hindus run carry-outs and gas stations. Add to the mix a public library branch, a used-car dealership, and a home-security expert who specializes in cracking safes, and you get an idiosyncratic cast of characters who all manage to share a stage in the theater of city life. 

Out of the Blocks Podcast - 4700 Eastern Avenue

Dec 22, 2015
Wendel Patrick

4700 Eastern Avenue is in Southeast Baltimore's Highlandtown neighborhood. Over the past fifty years, the story of the American Dream has been written and rewritten in this community, as two distinct waves of immigrants have taken their turns settling in and opening up shop.

4700 Eastern Avenue

Dec 18, 2015
Wendel Patrick

4700 Eastern Avenue is in Southeast Baltimore's Highlandtown neighborhood.  Over the past fifty years, the story of the American Dream has been written and rewritten in this community, as two distinct waves of immigrants have taken their turns settling in and opening up shop.  In the 1960's & 70's, Greek immigrants arrived in droves, and the neighborhood came to be known as Greektown.  More recently, Latino immigrants have followed in those footsteps, establishing a strong local presence of their own.  Today, this block is a cultural checkerboard, as the names of the restaurants attest:  Acropolis, El Merengue, Zorbas, Papuseria Mama Tana, and Greektown Grill.  The voices on this block have foreign accents, but their stories are quintessentially American.

Wendel Patrick

The 4700 block of Liberty Heights Avenue is a portrait of survival and adaptability. It's a self-governed, informal economy where the currency is respect.  Space is shared by merchants, churches, longtime residents, and drug dealers. Immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, West Africa, and Korea have set up shops alongside a dwindling number of African American-owned businesses.  Trust is earned here, not given lightly.

Student Activism, Race & Free Speech

Nov 18, 2015
Nick Schnelle/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP

The University of Missouri, Yale University, University of South Carolina, Occidental College, University of Kansas, Claremont McKenna College. The list goes on. College students across the country are leading protests and demonstrations to call attention to the issue of racial tolerance, diversity, and in some cases, the resignation of professors and high-ranking administrators. In this hour of Midday we'll view this topic through national and local lenses, and hear the points of view of academic reporters, students, a college administrator and a free speech advocate. 

Our guests: Scott Jaschik,editor and one of the founders of Inside Higher Ed; Julia Joseph, a sophomore and student journalist at Loyola University; Lisa Gray, assistant director of Student Life for Cultural and Spiritual Diversity at UMBC; Tyana Warren, a junior at Johns Hopkins University; and Robert Shibley, the executive director of Foundation of Individual Rights in Education. 

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