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?'

The International Rescue Committee works with refugees and other immigrants with low incomes who want to put down roots here by buying a home.  We speak with Nahlah Melaih, (center),  who coordinates Individual Development Accounts at the IRC. She explains what immigrants learn about financial terminology, building a credit score, setting up a budget to amass a downpayment and qualifying for matching funds. Then we meet two refugees who have done all that work -- Hamida Ebadi (left) from Afghanistan and Adote Akwei (right),  an asylee and community organizer from Togo, on Africa’s west coast.

Courtesy Autumn Burton "Mirrors" Facebook page

It’s a rare accomplishment to publish a book before completing high school. Autumn Burton, a new graduate of the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, has done just that, and people are noticing. We speak with her about her book, “Mirrors,” which is a combination of short stories and nonfiction that center on issues of social justice -- topics about which Burton is passionate, and which she believes need more exposure.

Courtesy Johns Hopkins Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience

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.

Photo by Amy Berbert

Two years ago Baltimore City homicides soared to nearly one a day -- the city’s deadliest per capita on record. The statistic grabbed national attention and the focus of Amy Berbert, a student at UMBC. To her, the number represented the tragic anonymity of lives lost. In response Berbert conceived her final senior project, “Stains on the Sidewalk,” for which she’s documenting the 318 homicides of 2016. She returns on the one-year anniversary, at the exact time and location where the violence occurred, to make a photograph, and then shares it on social media.

Just Married!

Jun 21, 2017
Photo by Will Kirk

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."

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. CHANA is sponsoring a program, on Tuesday June 13 at 8:15 a.m., featuring keynote speaker Dr. Leana Wen. Find out more here. You may register (free) for the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day conference here. The toll-free state hotline to report elder abuse is 1-800-917-7323 and CHANA’s number is 410-234-0030.

Photo by Edwin Remsberg Photographs

The folk arts weave a culture together, but can get lost in a fast moving digital world. The Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award helps preserve them. Ahead of Saturday’s Folklife Festival, we speak with two Apprenticeship Award winners: Jazz bass clarinetist Todd Marcus and waterman Captain Ted Daniels. We also talk to the director of Folk and Traditional Arts at the Maryland State Arts Council, Chad Buterbaugh, about why it’s important to conserve a craft.

Courtesy University of Maryland Medical Center website

Most teen car crashes occur because of driver inexperience. Research shows that clocking hours behind the wheel, with an experienced driver present, increases a teenager’s confidence and capability to react in an emergency. We speak with two advocates for the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital “Practice Driving with Your Teen” sticker campaign: emergency pediatric-medicine resident Dr. Lahila-Carina Ojeda, and Cliff Tompkins, whose 7-year-old son died in a crash involving a teenager’s inexperience. Learn more about the campaign here and connect to an emergency driving course here.

Courtesy United Way website

We speak with two working moms who know all too well what United Way learned when it analyzed, county by county, what workers make and what it takes to pay basic monthly bills. About one-third of Maryland households are seriously struggling to make ends meet. Victoria Cox, an administrative coordinator and mother of two young sons, and Heather Housand, a dental office manager and mother of three, share details of their daily lives, and the successes and challenges that have come their way. You can also read about the ALICE report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) here.

Monday is Memorial Day, when the nation remembers those who sacrificed their lives for the security of our country. In that spirit, we speak with Dario DiBattista, a writer, educator, and veteran-Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. DiBattista describes his military experience and teaching writing to combat veterans as a form of post-trauma therapy. He says the stories of veterans are transformative not only for them … but for other Americans to understand what democracy costs. You can purchase Retire the Colors, an anthology of those stories, here.

Veteran Catharine Dietch tells her Stoop Story about enlisting in World War II and the travels that ensued. You can find her story and others at stoopstorytelling.com. If you'd like to pledge to #GoSilent, a digital campaign to remember and honor fallen troops with a moment of silence on Monday, Memorial Day, at 3pm local, you can find more information here.

Courtesy A Workshop of Our Own website

The phrase ‘women’s work’ rarely conjures images of a woman wielding a mallet and chisel, navigating a jigsaw or gliding a power sander as she puts the finishing touches on a dining table or dresser. But two woodworking professionals are planning to make that image more commonplace. We meet Sarah Marriage, founder of Baltimore's new “A Workshop of Our Own," a cooperative space for women and gender non-conforming furniture makers. We also hear from Nancy Hiller, a nationally known cabinet and furniture maker who has been subverting male dominance of the woodworking field for more than three decades. She recently published a  humorous memoir, “Making Things Work.”   She speaks at A Workshop of Our Own on Friday, May 26 and you can learn more about that event here.

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.

Loring Cornish shares a Stoop Story about divine messages he received upon his arrival in Baltimore, that led his art to take on a life of its own. The next live Stoop show is Monday, May 22, with the theme “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!” -- it’s a collaboration with Everyman Theatre. Get tickets here andvisit the Stoop Storytelling site for more stories!

Design Matters

May 19, 2017
Courtesy BMI website

Artist Chris Bathgate wants people to look at everyday objects with a sense of wonder. He believes we often take for granted the iterations of design and the thought process required in the manufacturing of a simple power tool, electronics device, or even a pocket knife. Bathgate, well-known for his precise, elegant industrial-feel sculptures spoke with us about his exhibit at Baltimore Museum of Industry, which is up through March, 2018. He leads a tour of his work May 21. You can find more information about the tour here and about Bathgate's exhibit here

In the spirit of Bike to Work Day, we get a bikeable Baltimore status update from to Liz Cornish, executive director of Bikemore, which advocates for roads that are safer and more accessible for cyclists as well as pedestrians. In the second half of the show, founder and program director Chavi Rhodes and longtime mechanics mentor Lee, from BYKE - Baltimore Youth Kinetic Energy collective, talk about how its teen participants learn personal and professional development through bicycle mechanics and mentoring. For more information about BYKE visit the site here and to learn more about Bike to Work Day and other biking events, check those out at Bikemore.

Courtesy Stoop Storytelling

At a Stoop Storytelling event in October, 2015, Kaye Whitehead talks about how she’s learned to be a devoted mother and Black Mommy Activist for her two fierce, young sons. You can find it along with other stories and the Stoop podcast at Stoopstorytelling.com.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Mother’s Day, to a woman who has finally found refuge for herself and her children in a domestic abuse shelter, can be a very emotional time. Bouquets from JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project translate into emotional support for women in domestic abuse shelters. Today we speak with JWI vice president Meredith Jacobs, and Naomi Taffet, from CHANA, which provides resources for victims of domestic abuse, shares the stories of some of her clients. To support the flower project visit the JWI website here.

The map is not the territory, photo by Ayden L.M. Grout

Have you ever been at a theater, music or dance performance and been unable to connect to the storyline? Odyssey Works, a performance group that creates “Immersive, durational experiences for an audience of one” invokes the exact opposite response. In fact, when you’re the audience for an Odyssey, it’s all about you ... We spoke with co-founder Abraham Burickson and assistant-director, Ayden LeRoux to learn more about the Odyssey Works experience and their new book.

Roland Park Elementary Middle School/Twitter

The Roland Park Elementary/Middle School Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, was started to ensure that every student of Roland Park has the best school experience possible. Its mission is to provide a safe and inclusive space for all genders and sexual orientations. The group recently won the national “GSA of the Year” award from (glisten) GLSEN, a national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ students. We talk to several students from the GSA and their  advisor, Kimberly Mooney about how the GSA has positively impacted the school's atmosphere.

Katy Caldwell tells her story about coming out to her devout Christian parents and it's an unexpected surprise for everyone involved. You can listen to more stories, and learn about Stoop shows and The Stoop podcast, all at stoopstorytelling.com.

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