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

  In Southwest Baltimore’s Hollins Market neighborhood, a barber survives a shooting and goes back to work the next day; two young artists support each other in life, love, and business; a clothing entrepreneur talks about the power of style; a puppeteer ponders his relationship to his audience; and a CPR instructor recalls the first time she needed to use her life-saving skills. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Neighborhood elders take it upon themselves to step between warring gang members, a mother-daughter duo produces a DIY feature film about gun violence, a restorative justice mediator helps lawbreakers to repair the harm they’ve caused, and a bee-keeper goes from homelessness to running his own business. Plus, conversations with local politicians past and present, an activist science teacher, and a young motivational speaker with an inspiring voice.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived in North Lawndale on Chicago’s West Side in 1966, and he galvanized the neighborhood in a campaign against redlining and housing discrimination. Two years later, he was assassinated. In the wake of his death, riots erupted in North Lawndale. Local industries abandoned the neighborhood, population plummeted, unemployment ballooned, and today the area is still trying to rebuild from the ashes of ‘68.  In this episode, we meet elders who remember the turmoil of that era, and we hear from a younger generation that’s seeking to breathe new life into North Lawndale. 

Introducing Theo

Mar 25, 2019

Theo Hill drives a truck for a living. On the job, he often catches Out of the Blocks on his radio. One day, he got inspired to call us with an idea. He asked, “Would you guys would like to help me make a podcast of my own, a podcast about addiction and recovery?' Theo brings an interesting background to the table. He's been in recovery himself for 19 years now, after struggling with a heroin addiction for much of his life. Theo’s podcast idea has now come to fruition. He’s spent the past several months hosting candid, personal conversations about the lure of addiction, the toll it takes, and the strength required to overcome its grip. This week, we launch the first four episodes of his new podcast, One Day at a Time, in Recovery in Baltimore. We want to introduce you to Theo on this special episode of Out of the Blocks.

700 Fallsway: Masterpiece in the Mire

Mar 12, 2019
all photos by Wendel Patrick

One man spent more than half his life in prison. Another fled his country to avoid religious persecution and ended up on the street. One was left to live alone at age 12. One relapsed after 18 years clean. And one carries the burden of a lost sister. These men live together in a long-term residential program called Christopher Place Employment Academy on the 700 block of Fallsway, one block south of the Baltimore Jail. In this episode, we listen to their stories, and we meet the staff supporting them as they attempt to redefine their lives.

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Baltimore's Shock Trauma Center is the busiest in the country – this is where the Air Force sends medical professionals to train before deploying. In other words, the conditions in Baltimore City aren’t so different from a war zone.

What are we doing to address this ongoing crisis? Some say it’s time to start looking at gun violence as a public health issue. That’s the angle we’re taking on this show. And we’re talking with the folks who are at the front lines – working in Shock Trauma – in Annapolis – and at John Hopkins’ renowned School of public health.

If you heard the last episode of the podcast, you’ll remember we spent some time on the block where the release door of the Baltimore Jail lets out onto the street. We met some guys who’d been locked up in the jail multiple times, we talked a lot about the jail, but we didn’t talk with anyone who actually works in there. Well, that’s what this episode is about: Conversations about work and life with the warden, two correctional officers, and the commissioner of pretrial detention and services at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The release door of the Baltimore City Jail opens out onto this otherwise abandoned block, empty except for the presence of a mobile medical office that posts up there 5 days a week. The PCARE Van, as it’s known, is operated by the non-profit Behavioral Health Leadership Institute, and it’s there to prescribe the opioid addiction medication Buprenorphine (Suboxone) for those in need. Oftentimes, people will walk directly out of the jail and directly onto the van. In this episode, we meet the staff of the van and the clients they serve.

Lacey Benton

Have you ever had a mentor? Have you ever been a mentor?  In either case, mentorship can be a powerful experience for everyone involved.

Today on the show we’re going to be looking at the impact of mentorship – professionally, personally, and academically.  Having a mentor can be a total game-changer for a young person who doesn’t have a lot of other resources.  It’s also a really effective way for an older person with resources to make a major and direct difference.

We'll meet a mentor-mentee pair, talk about Baltimore City's YouthWorks program (and how you can apply), and speak broadly about how we can change our assumptions about mentorship when it comes to age, race, and socioeconomic status. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Our collaboration with Arlo Iron Cloud & KILI Radio continues this episode, as we travel through the Pine Ridge Reservation and visit with an Oglala Sioux Tribal Vice President, an historian at Oglala Lakota College, a pair of Pine Ridge Highway Safety Officers, a man who reflects on the trauma of the Wounded Knee Occupation, and an embittered son who returned to the reservation to reconcile with his father. We also get to spend some time hanging out with Arlo’s family: his dad, Richard, his wife, Lisa, and his son, LeRoy.

Pine Ridge Reservation, part 1: Meeting a Prayer Halfway

Jan 14, 2019
all photos by Wendel Patrick

We team up with Arlo Iron Cloud of KILI Radio, Voice of the Lakota Nation, for this listening tour of The Pine Ridge Reservation, a 50 by 100 mile stretch of land in South Dakota that's home to the Oglala Lakota people. In this episode, we meet a radio producer, a hip hop artist, a medicine man, a home builder, a tribal government leader, a powwow organizer, a painter, and a philosopher who’s chosen to live alone in a house with no electricity and no running water.

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5.6% of people in Baltimore City find themselves unemployed. A few years ago, Diane was one of them. She had a series of personal struggles that left her feeling like finding a job was next-to-impossible. We’ll spend the first part of our show getting to know Diane – and then we’ll zoom out and learn more about the non-profit that helped get her back on her feet. We’ll also ask questions about how and why a person finds themselves unemployed – and just how difficult it can be to find stable employment after a personal setback.

In its prime, Pennsylvania Avenue was the black entertainment hub of Baltimore, but there’s a whole generation that doesn’t know about that heyday. The Jubilee Arts program aims to bridge the gap. We meet Jade Davis of Jubilee Arts, who teaches a children’s ballet class on the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and Presstman Street, and we get a historical perspective from community organizers Todd Marcus and Amelia Harris of Intersection of Change. We also get two takes on opiate addiction, one from a pharmacy that has to watch out for counterfeit prescriptions, and one from a former drug counselor who’s currently battling his own addiction.

Pennsylvania Avenue, part 2: Born in a Tornado

Dec 18, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, businesses survive against the economic odds on the 1800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, where local entrepreneurs have established their niches with fashion boutiques, discount variety stores, jewelry shops, hair salons, and carry-out restaurants. These are the places where money changes hands and meaningful relationships are nurtured every day. In the words of Sache Jones of No Boundaries Coalition: We do not give up on each other in this neighborhood, even if it feels like outsiders have given up on us

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Baltimore's nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $606 million industry supporting more than 15,000 full-time jobs and generating $54.5 million in local and state revenue.

But just how accessible are these artistic jobs? Who is benefiting from our thriving cultural sector – are the arts equitable? These are some of the questions we’ll be discussing today.

We’ll also be discussing how the arts – especially poetry – can be a tool for activism. We’ll be speaking with a number of local poets and performers who are using their art specifically for the purposes of social engagement and activism.

Pennsylvania Avenue, part 1: Resurrection Intersection

Dec 4, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In 2015, circling helicopter footage showed West Baltimore in chaos. In the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, buildings burned, protesters and looters alike filled the streets, and entire neighborhoods were cordoned off by armored police and the National Guard. Today, the riot police are gone, and so is the media frenzy, but the neighborhood remains, scarred by the story of what happened.  Local activist Ray Kelly says, “To be frank, the unrest started long before the riots, and the unrest is still happening today.” In this episode, we meet Mr. Kelly, along with his neighbors on a two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue where the community is determined to redefine itself in the aftermath of a narrative shaped by outsiders.

Love Stories

Nov 19, 2018

A man returns from prison to renew his vows with his wife. Young fiancés try to convince immigration that their marriage plans are legit. Old acquaintances cross paths and get flirty. A woman pines for her ex, even though he leaves her fearing for her life. Two women fall in love and raise a son. A hairstylist shares advice for women whose men aren’t doing right. A couple falls in love on the dance floor and opens a restaurant called, El Merengue. A Japanese woman and her Caucasian husband celebrate ‘hapa’ culture. And two men share what it meant for them to get their marriage license.

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On this episode of Life in the Balance, we meet Ausar Daniels, a Baltimore activist who believes that the way we interact with food can change everything. 

With 228,000 households in Maryland considered food insecure, the risk of chronic disease is high. We’ll talk with health policy officials and advisors to better understand the detrimental effects of poor nutrition. 

Faith

Nov 5, 2018

A street preacher pleads with passersby to heed the word of God, a Pentecostal pastor struggles with her calling, a Muslim father and son confront anti-Islamic sentiment, a man behind bars reinvents himself through Islam, an Orthodox Jew flees religious oppression in Iran, a Mennonite couple opens an urban school, and a Native American man decolonizes his spiritual self.  

Stories about hope, sacrifice, home, and what happens when you come to America, as told by immigrants from Egypt, Nepal, Korea, Eritrea, Vietnam, El Salvador, Afghanistan, China, and Jordan.

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.

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