Melissa Gerr | WYPR

Melissa Gerr

Producer

Melissa Gerr is a producer for On the Record.  She started in public media at Twin Cities Public Television in St. Paul, Minn., where she is from, and then worked as a field producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland. She made the jump to audio-lover in Baltimore as a digital media editor at Mid-Atlantic Media and Laureate Education, Inc. and as a field producer for "Out of the Blocks."  Her beat is typically the off-beat with an emphasis on science, culture and things that make you say, 'Wait, what?'

Here’s a Stoop Story -- or rather a confession -- from Katy K., about her life lesson in marching-band hierarchy, and her brush with the dark side of her psyche. You can hear her story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com.

Jamyla Krempel

Food insecurity -- the inability to provide, or have access to adequate nutritional meals -- has been a decades long challenge in Maryland, and in fact 1 in 9 people in the state report as food insecure, according to the Maryland Food Bank. We talk with Lynne Kahn, founder of the Baltimore Hunger Project--a non-profit dedicated to making sure school kids have enough to eat on weekends. Seniors are a target of healthy food iniatives too, and we meet Laura Flamm, director of healthy eating and active living for Baltimore City’s Health Department, who oversees Baltimarket, a suite of food programs to assist in healthy eating and Glenn Smith, a neighborhood food advocate at his senior residence in West Baltimore and a volunteer for a ‘virtual supermarket’ program.

Courtesy Ivy Bookshop

It was a tragedy that Chester Arthur became president. Not only the tragedy of his predecessor’s assassination in 1881, but the perceived tragedy by many that Vice President Arthur, a Republican party hack from New York, would bring his machine politics into the Oval Office. He had consistently opposed cleaning up the corrupt spoils system of federal jobs. But Arthur was inspired ... by letters of conscience from a stranger. We learn about those letters and Arthur's surprising legacy from biographer Scott Greenberger, who asserts Chester Arthur is worth remembering. 

Courtesy The Peale Center

The historic building near City Hall that houses the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture has a rich and varied past. It was once a fine arts space, a temporary City Hall, the first African American school, and even housed the water bureau. So it’s no surprise The Peale is being re-imagined as a production center for storytelling. We talk with Nancy Proctor, the Peale's director, and Michael Burns, founder of the The Omnimuseum Project, about their upcoming collaborative effort, Be Here: EDU, a storytelling workshop all are invited to attend.

Tim Bouwer, Flickr - Creative Commons

Thousands of children in Maryland--including about one of every six kids in Baltimore--are being raised by their grandparents. The opioid epidemic, crime and incarceration are reshaping many families. We talk with the city’s deputy commissioner for aging Heong Tan about the supports offered by the Grandparents as Parents program. We also meet one of its participants, Donnaniece Carroll, who is raising her 11-year-old grandson. Also on the program is multimedia specialist Rich Polt, owner of acKNOWledge MEdia, who shares tips for a meaningful conversation this Sunday, Grandparents’ Day!

Adelante Latina FaceBook page

What does it take to keep a girl in high school from being sidelined by financial challenges, language barriers or distractions? We focus on mentors making a difference and talk with Leonor Blum, founder of Adelante Latina in Baltimore City, and Debbi Weinberg founder of the Girls Empowerment Mission (GEM) in the county. We also meet two participants from the programs, Ashley Ruano and Shakira Bradshaw, who is now giving back as a mentor herself.

We meet author and illustrator Jonathan Scott Fuqua, who watched scores of students graduate with college degrees in art -- along with so much debt that paying it down crippled their ability to start art careers. Fuqua and his co-founders, Alex Fine and Greg Houston, set out to offer a much cheaper school alternative, = offering classes more like an apprenticeship, instead of degree-based. Thus, The Baltimore Academy of Illustration opened in 2015. It’s taught about 250 students, including Jim Zimmerman, a full-time electrician -- he tells us how he's reviving his artistic skills and interests, making a dream come true.

Bill Barry

Before there were Labor Day barbecues and Labor Day sales, there was Labor--workers in the 19th century pushing for an eight-hour day and safe conditions as the U.S. economy was transforming itself from one of small enterprises to one dominated by industrial corporations. Labor historian Bill Barry tells us the roots of the holiday, still reflected when people gather for Labor Day picnics and parades. Follow this link to information about Labor Day events in Maryland, and watch this History Channel video for another quick lesson about US worker history.

Stoop Story teller Megann Shutt talks about moving back to Baltimore, and her job that began as a labor of love, then took a turn for the worse. Such is life ... as a duck! You can hear her story and others at stoopstorytelling.com

Courtesy BrainFutures

The human brain and new ways to understand, support and work with it will be the focus when scores of researchers, clinicians and entrepreneurs gather in Maryland next week for the second BrainFutures conference. Today we’ll speak with researcher and entrepreneur Cori Lathan, co-founder and CEO of AnthroTronix, whose app helps medics track the brain health of deployed soldiers and Dr. Naomi Steiner, a clinical associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine who uses neurofeedback to help students overcome attention challenges. Plus, we ask Professor Michelle Carlson of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health about her studies of senior citizens who tutor young kids. 

Courtesy CHANA website

There are more senior citizens every year, and more are victims of elder abuse -- last year 6, 300 cases were investigated in Maryland. The abuse can be financial, physical, sexual, emotional--or just neglect. We talk to Valarie Colmore, of Adult Protective Services are the Maryland Department of Human Resources and Nancy Aiken, executive director of the domestic-violence resource CHANA about who commits elder abuse, who should report it and how and what might prevent it. The toll-free state hotline to report elder abuse is 1-800-917-7323 and CHANA’s number is 410-234-0030. This program originally aired 6/12/17.

Courtesy Joseph Young

Have you ever wandered through a place and thought, if these walls could talk … ? Artist and author Joseph Young has given life-- fictional life at least--to this concept, with his latest installation, “Microfiction Rowhouse.” We talk to him about the stories he's written that will cover the walls, doors, and ceilings of his home, invoked by the spirits of a fictional family living there. Young would like visitors to come away with a sense of who the characters are, but he also leaves room for imagination ...

Transplant coordinator Kate Pratt shares her Stoop Story about experiencing the power of spirit during a night at the morgue that she'll never forget. You can hear her story and others at stoopstorytelling.com.

Courtesy Baltimore/Washington Cricket Crawl

Armed with curiosity, patience, and all the right apps loaded onto a smartphone, anyone can become a citizen scientist. We talk with Anna Scott, a climate scientist who’s counting on Baltimoreans to help her measure air quality throughout the city with her project, Baltimore Open Air. And we also hear from USGS wildlife biologist Sam Droege, who tells us about the annual Baltimore/Washington Cricket Crawl count and how anyone can be a powerful asset in helping science collect big data.

The tiniest creature with the deadliest of bites … Professor Chris Potter's lab at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is working to understand why mosquitoes are attracted to humans, in order to quell diseases such as malaria and Zika, both transmitted by mosquito bite. By studying its sense of smell, Potter hopes to alter the way mosquitoes perceive human scent and flavor--in an effort to make us less appealing as a meal. Want to see what happens when a mosquito stops for a bite? Watch this. To see all that Potter's lab is up to visit his site. This is a rebroadcast, original airdate was 6/27/17.

Stoop Storyteller Joel Green, astronomy scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, shares how his obsession with science fiction led him to study the formation, birth and destruction of planets. You can hear more stories at stoopstorytelling.com.

Courtesy ProPublica website

Even advocates of removing Baltimore’s four Confederate statues didn’t expect them all to disappear so swiftly. They were symbols of an ideology now repudiated by most Americans. We ask Baltimore Bloc organizer and Morgan State University Professor Lawrence Brown what forces he thinks speeded their departure … and what difference it makes now. Plus we talk to Rachel Glickhouse, a journalist at Pro Publica, the online investigative news source, about their efforts to aggregate hate crimes being reported, in order to develop a database with a clearer picture of how widespread they are. It’s called “Documenting Hate.” And if you've experienced or witnessed a hate crime in Maryland, please document it here to add your information to the national database.

We're joined by Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, (C) a Johns Hopkins Bayview doctor who co-founded Medicine for the Greater Good -- the organization partners with communities and extends medical personnel into communities to share health literacy and make medical information and resources more available. We also speak with Reverend Ernest King (L) and Imam Hassan Amin, (R) two community leaders who have helped forged the non-profit’s deep connections with people in neighborhoods so they can better understand how medicine works and doctors can understand how their lives work. 

Mystery writer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Laura Lippman shares a bittersweet tale of how failure played out--and paid out--in her professional life. You can listen to more stories and learn about Stoop shows here.

Courtesy NASA website

For decades, the public has been anticipating the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. Millions of people are expected to travel to the Path of Totality -- a 70 mile wide swath across the U.S. -- hoping to witness it.  We ask NASA Research Space Scientist Noah Petro, James Webb telescope engineer Nikita Gokhale and local street astronomy #popscope  group organizer Ariel Hicks why it's such a big deal --  and how an event so brief can inspire such awe. Here are some links to view safely and to watch it live above the clouds on the day of the eclipse, as well as how to participate in collecting and sharing data!

We talk with award-winning journalist Mary Otto about her new book “Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.” It chronicles the rise of cosmetic dentistry and the marketing of the coveted ‘Hollywood Smile,’ contrasted with decades of deficient access to oral healthcare for many Americans--a gap that still pervades and challenges the system. Otto’s book was spurred by the tragedy of Deamonte Driver in Prince George’s County, who died at age 12 from infection from an abscessed tooth. Otto will be speaking about her book and signing copies for sale at the Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, an event co-sponsored with the Public Justice Center and Health Care for the Homeless. You can find out more about the event here, and you can purchase the book here. This is a rebroadcast of the original program from May 22, 2017.

Listen to a Stoop Story from Richard Messick about his matrimonial trip to Niagara Falls that had an unexpected 'dark' ending. You can hear more stories at Stoopstorytelling.com.

Just Married!

Aug 7, 2017
Courtesy Jewish Museum of Maryland

A wedding ceremony may be the union of two souls, but the day represents so much more--encompassing families, cultures and communities. Tracie Guy-Decker, Jewish Museum of Maryland associate director talks about what we can read into dresses, documents, chuppas and cake-toppers -- some of what's featured in the new JMM exhibit, "Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland." This is a rebroadcast of the original program, which aired on June 22, 2017.

Courtesy NY Public Library collection

During decades of Jim Crow, African-American travelers couldn’t be sure what they’d face at a strange restaurant, a hotel, even a gas station. Would the door be slammed in their face, or worse? The Green Book, an annual listing of establishments welcoming black customers, started in the late ‘30s. We speak with Anne Bruder, a State Highway Administration historian who is researching Green Book businesses in Maryland. We also talk with Traci Wright of the Park School, who discusses the Green Book with students from several high schools on an annual Civil Rights trip and also with civil-rights icon Dr. Helena Hicks, who recalls using the guide when she traveled for her work. 

Anne Bruder will speak about her research Aug. 5 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. You can find more information on her talk here.

Actress Maria Broom sharing a story at the Stoop Storytelling event, “The Show Must Go On,” which took place at Everyman Theater in May. She shared some of the wisdom learned on set filming the HBO series,“The Corner,” here in Baltimore. You can find more stories like this, as well as information about live Stoop events, here.

Fluid Movement's Facebook page

Imagine a tour of Shakespeare’s greatest works, given by the Bard himself, except that he is a shark. Hard to wrap your mind around? Never fear: Fluid Movement, a performance-art group in Baltimore, will bring this wacky tale to life with singing, dancing, and costumes in “Sharkespeare - the water ballet”. It’s powered by goggles, face paint, and lots of sunscreen. Co-producer Rachel Kassman tells us about the group’s synchronized swimming talents.

Dennis Wong / Flickr via Creative Commons

Why do some smells repel us more than others … and why do some immediately trigger a memory? How does our sense of smell interact with other senses, like hearing and sight? Why does an older woman, if her sense of smell grows less acute, have a smaller social circle -- but the same is not true of older men? We talk about all that and more with Johan Lundstrom, a cognitive psychologist who does research at the Monell Chemical Sense Center in Philadelphia and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Think again if you’ve been assuming curiosity is constant, like gravity. We talk to astrophysicist Mario Livio about his new book, "Why: What Makes us Curious". Not only are some people more curious than others, and curious about different questions, but homo sapiens’ capacity for curiosity grew as its brain evolved. For all its variations, Livio deems curiosity an unstoppable drive.

The impact a crime has upon a victim can be pervasive -- the trauma can affect children, parents, other loved ones and friends. Comprehending the victim’s point of view and the depth of that widespread impact can be a powerful healing tool for both the perpetrator and the victim. We meet Wayne Brewton, convicted of murder at age 17 with a life sentence, and paroled after 38 years, who championed victim awareness efforts inside prison, and Mark Vernarelli, Director of Community Engagement in the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, who witnessed the powerful effects of the efforts first hand.

For 90 years, The League for People with Disabilities has worked to foster independence for those living with physical, cognitive or neurological handicaps. Annually, more than 2-thousand individuals get resources, care and rehabilitation at its multiple facilities. We’ll speak with Peris Bennett, about his experiences as a participant in the League’s workforce development program and David Greenberg, the League's president and CEO. He offers insight behind the enthusiastic response to their monthly nightclub for people with disabilities, Club 1111.

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