Stories From California

Sometimes I want to write more than just journalistically about my experiences as a reporter. That is why I started to write down my thoughts, observations and emotions beyond scripts for radio, print and TV. This experiment is a lot of fun and scary at the same time. But, as they say, you have to get out of your comfort zone.

Identity, Beauty and Prison - Students' Stories

"You sit there, sleepy eyes and sour coffee breath."
"Have you ever had someone tell you, you are ugly, you are not pretty? Lies."
"Next door there will be a church and the face of The Joker will be outside the church to scare zombie and creeper away."
"Blue nail polish is ignoring what other people think and staying true to yourself." 

For a while I have been feeling the urge to "do something" instead of just reporting about people who do something. Finally the urge became too strong and I started volunteering at two non profit organizations only a bike ride away from my home. 826LA encourages students age 6 to 18 to write. The Mar Vista Art Walk creates a space for artists and community to celebrate creativity, love and respect for each other and the planet.

When I learned that the next Art Walk's theme was VOICES, I knew I was right at the seam of a match made in heaven:

Tim Robbins: Do Not Provoke The Rattlesnake

 
"We all have to understand, what was it in our own actions and culture that created Trump.
There was something wrong, something sick in our society.
My suspicion is, that we have lost a sense of moral code. It is a big problem and it has to do with us, all of us."
Tim Robbins, director, writer, actor, musician, founder and artistic director of the Actors' Gang in an interview with soundslikerstin

The Actors' Gang has been a beacon for social justice since Tim Robbins founded the small theater in Culver City 35 years ago. Just a week before Donald Trump's inauguration as new president of the United States, Robbins and his team started their new "Axis Mundi" series to foster civic engagement and social justice within the community.

The first evening was a dialogue between Tim Robbins and Sister Helen Prejean. She wrote the book "Dead Man Walking" describing her own experience with Death Row inmates. Robbins turned this book into a script and a movie with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn as leading actors. This evening was about how we can create social justice in the current political landscape.

I had the chance to talk to Tim Robbins and Sister Prejean before they sat down on the stage. Asking Robbins about the tough questions we have to ask ourselves, like they asked tough questions in their movie 20 years ago, he answered, that we have to ask ourselves, how we contributed to a society that elects a man

Blizzards, Road Blocks and Water Protectors

StandingRockPanoramaSmall 

"Create those spaces and explore those questions:
What it means to have a dwindling amount of resources to exploit, and an ever growing population that has more needs and are learning to expect those needs to be met, when we know this is not possible"
Johnnie Aseron, Lakota Elder at Standing Rock Camp, protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, DAPL

This year one of the highlights of my reporter life came late - with the assignment to go to Standing Rock in North Dakota to tell stories from the camp of water protectors on a Sioux reservation. I landed in a blizzard and almost lost hope to ever make it to the tents along the Cannonball and Missouri rivers. It took the selfless help of several strangers to make this story happen. From the guys getting my car out of the snow and the lady sharing her hand warmers with me to Mixay Lay Vongnarath, a gentle soul who took me under his wings and to the camp. He also 

Changing Perspectives - A Skid Row Cop

 

"We are changing. Put down your computers and talk with a cop.
You will find: we don't hate you."

Deon Joseph is an LAPD officer on Skid Row. In his early years he was known as 'Robocop' for his muscles and because he was arresting lots of people seemingly without a heart for the community. When the officer realized things did not change a lot, he "figuratively put down badge and gun" and started to talk more with the men and women he was there to serve and protect. I met him first at a vigil for 'Africa', an unarmed black man who had ben shot on Skid Row. My perspective was: this man's life could have been saved. Mingling at ease with homeless, church leaders and demonstraters, officer Joseph seemed to have an interesting point of view, but I never had the chance to talk with him. I went back to ask about police brutality and

Diversity - The Richness of Life

"Lately everybody is talking about a black and a white America. Everytime racism raises its ugly head we have to stand up.
It's such bullshit. ... Diversity is the richness of life"  

Seamus Conlen, photographer #WeAreOneVoice in an interview with soundslikerstin September 2016. Conlen started his 25 city-project of showing America's diversity in Venice Beach California. That's where I met him hard at work in his pop up outdoor photo studio.