Out of the Blocks | WYPR

Out of the Blocks

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Stories from a Dominican barbershop, a tattoo parlor, a lawyer’s office, a coffee counter, and a collaborative arts hub, all neighbors in the melting pot that is Eastern Avenue in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood.   

We visit Baltimore Clayworks, where artist Sam Wallace teaches a pottery technique he learned as a kid in Jamaica. We talk with the crew at The Mount Washington Tavern about romance, oyster shucking, and a major fire that put the place out of business for a year. And we drop in at The Village Vet, where the staff cares for ailing animals and the worried humans that come along with them.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

This North Baltimore neighborhood is just inside the city line, but it’s got the cloistered feel of an affluent suburban hamlet.  High-end consignment boutiques, beauty salons, and restaurants bring well-heeled locals to Sulgrave Avenue in Mount Washington Village, a quiet world away from the traffic and sirens of downtown. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Our listening tour of West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms continues as we meet the volunteers at a local food pantry, a street ball legend known as ‘the greatest player never to make the NBA,’ a transplant from Compton who’s become a wilderness survival instructor, a former Tesla engineer who’s developing an affordable co-housing living space, a US Army veteran determined to help others get their military benefits, and a pastor who relies on the power of prayer to effect social change.

West Oakland, Lower Bottoms, Part 1: Self-Determination

Aug 14, 2019
all photos by Wendel Patrick

West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood is home to the historical headquarters of the Black Panther Party. It’s also one train stop away from San Francisco, and escalating real-estate prices are quickly changing the character of the neighborhood.  This episode, we meet locals who find themselves living at the intersection of heritage and gentrification.

One of the great bonuses of documenting Baltimore is that we happen across lots of incredible kitchens. This episode is our love letter to all the hard-working cooks behind the pots and pans and fryers and grills in those kitchens, to the food they make, and to the personality they put into every dish. 

Parenthood

Jul 16, 2019

An older couple inherits two unexpected sons, an ex-offender regains custody of his daughter, an entrepreneurial mom teaches business smarts to her child, recovering addicts try to stay clean for their kids, and a son takes over for his father at the family restaurant.

all photos by Melissa Gerr

Do you have any privacy when you live on a sailboat with another couple? What happens when you try to raise kids on a motor yacht? How does it test a marriage when you share a small space? What do you sacrifice to live on a boat? What do you gain? And is it worth the trade-off? Field producer Melissa Gerr brings us more stories from the eccentric live-aboards of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

From minimalist millennials to well-off retirees, some 300 people live year-round on floating homes in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Their vessels range from small sailboats to luxury motor yachts, and their offbeat stories are captured beautifully in this episode by Out of the Blocks field producer Melissa Gerr.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

  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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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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