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

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?

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.

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