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

Fast Friends

Oct 8, 2018

Two childhood friends go in on a shared dream and open up a beauty salon. At a tire shop, a tall guy and a short guy know how to make each other laugh. A crew of octogenarian pigeon racers trade tall tales. Two cousins move in and learn how to be roommates. An isolated shopkeeper finds trust and compassion in one of his regular customers. Two immigrants manage the multicultural staff at American Wings & Pizza. An unlikely friendship blossoms between a pair of residents at a halfway house. And two exes-turned-business-partners manage to stay friends through it all. 

Civic Works

Today on the show, we meet Shakia Dawkins – a young Mom who was feeling a little lost – until she found Civic Works Green Career Center.

We'll learn how the green economy is offering new opportunities to city residents and how a focus on job training and resiliency can truly change a person’s life.

We’ll also discuss the future of sustainability and conservationism in our state – and how a focus on Green Careers can be a benefit for both our economy and our environment. 

Stories about surprising second acts, from the owner of a pinball museum, a Kashmiri journalist exiled to a snack counter, a washer repairman with a checkered past, a funeral director who stumbled into the job after he married into the business, a former gang member who now runs a religious radio station, a guy who turned his rock n roll music studio into a corporate voiceover business, a woman who left an abusive man and found herself in the process, and a handyman who moonlights as a standup comic.

Strong Women

Sep 10, 2018

Stories from a mixed-martial-arts fighter, the manager of a diner, a trainer of Doberman Pinschers, a child-abuse survivor, a fashion entrepreneur, a recovering drug addict, a performance artist, a mom who avoided suicide, and the woman who convinced Baltimore to build a skate park.

Learning is for Tomorrow

It's September – back to school time for a lot of kids, and for some adults, including Mrs. Anna Harris, a 73-year-old woman in pursuit of her GED. On this episode, we confront some of the sobering statistics surrounding education in Baltimore and learn more about Learning is for Tomorrow, or LIFT, an organization that believes in the limitless potential of adult learners. 

Odd Jobs

Aug 27, 2018

Conversations about work, with a fishmonger, a repo man, a fortune cookie maker, a cobbler, a spiritualist, a tag & title bureaucrat, a master clock-maker, a safe cracker, a day laborer, a man who polishes headlights, and a guy who sells loose cigarettes.

Photo Courtesy Joy Buolamwini from the Coded Gaze

On, today's program a discusion about the basic unit of Artificial Intelligence – The Algorithm.  What does it do? Who creates an algorithm? Who’s served by it? Who’s ill-treated by it? And why?

Sci-fi movies and books give us dramatic scenarios about possible dystopian futures,  impending singularities, and computers overthrowing their human creators and spelling the destruction of our species, but the reality is that Artificial Intelligence is already here, and we already trust it with some really important decisions.  But even in its infancy, AI is already veering off in seriously problematic directions.

Guest host Aaron Henkin sits in for Tom Hall today for a conversation about racial and gender bias in AI. Joining Aaron on the line from California is Dr. Safiya Noble, Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, and author of the book, “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.”

And from WBUR studios in Boston, we are joined by Joy Buolamwini, the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League to fight coded bias, and a researcher at the MIT Media Lab where she is also working on her PhD. 

Atlanta, West End, Part 2: The Crossroads

Aug 14, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

This episode begins on the historic spot where two dirt roads intersected and consequently gave rise to the city of Atlanta. Today, that crossroads is a busy intersection, and it anchors a residential neighborhood that’s since experienced chapters of segregation, integration, devaluation, and gentrification. Hear more stories from the locals who make Atlanta’s West End what it is today.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

There’s a room hidden behind a curtain at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center and Bookstore that houses shackles and hand-written slave documents.  Down the block is the historical home of Joel Chandler Harris, who gained fame and fortune as the publisher of the tales of Uncle Remus.  Across the street is a funeral director with a bridge named in his honor and a fleet of custom limousines.  We visit these sites and talk with residents new and old in an Atlanta neighborhood that’s been around longer than Atlanta itself.

Curious about how the original seed got planted for Out of the Blocks? This week marks the ten-year anniversary of Aaron Henkin & Wendel Patrick’s audio bro-mance, and on this episode the two friends unearth archival audio from when they first crossed paths. They originally met in 2008, when Wendel was Aaron’s musical guest on WYPR’s old radio show, The Signal. Aaron liked Wendel’s music, Wendel liked Aaron’s interviewing style, they hit it off, and the rest is history. Plus: Did you know that ‘Wendel Patrick’ isn’t Wendel Patrick’s real name? Take a trip down memory lane with the guys and enjoy the back-story!

Funny thing about making a podcast:  You never know who’s listening.  Turns out, Baltimore’s mayor, Catherine Pugh, is a fan of Out of the Blocks, and she invited producer Aaron Henkin to join her in front of a live audience for a conversation about the show.  (Aaron got to ask her some questions, too.)  This episode is a recording of the event, which happened Monday evening, June 25th, at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s theater in downtown Baltimore.  

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. 

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