As you may know, I love podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts. And I wanted to share a few of my favorite episodes from last year with you.
This is a story about a forgotten part of civil-rights history that is still very much alive. In 1965, a group of black men in Louisiana called the Deacons for Defense and Justice took up arms against the Klan. Now a daughter of the Deacons wants to start a museum in their honor, but not everyone in town wants their story told.
A 1921 riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows how many people died, no one was ever convicted and no one really talked about it until a decade ago. This is the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it’s important that you know it.
On this week’s episode of Human Race, we meet Randy Shepherd, one very unlikely runner. Randy is 42 now, and he never enjoyed running very much. He was more of a team sports guy. But beyond that, he had a rock-solid excuse for staying on the couch.
Back when he was in his 30s, Shepherd’s already compromised heart rapidly began to fail. There was no time to match him with a transplant donor. Certain that Shepherd could die at any moment, surgeons removed his heart and replaced it with a machine called a total artificial heart. Right out of the surgery, he faced difficult questions: What happens when you lose such an essential part of yourself? What can you physically do (and not do) when a machine powers your body?
His choice ultimately transformed his life.
Sylvia Weiner is a prolific runner. She’s 85 years old, and she estimates that, during the course of her running career, she’s completed nearly 2,000 races—and she’s got an extensive collection of race medals and trophies to prove it. In 1975, Sylvia even claimed a very special spot in Boston Marathon history.\
But her most significant legacy has nothing to do with race accolades. When Sylvia runs, she shows others what’s possible. Her long-term dedication to the sport is impressive. “I have to stick to [running] for dear life,” she says. That’s because running is more than a passion; it’s a way of dealing with her traumatic past.
In this week’s episode, Sylvia shares her incredible story. Let’s just say, there’s a reason Sylvia’s longtime running buddy greets her with an enthusiastic, “Sylvia! She’s our hero!”
Buzz and Sheldon are brothers in their eighties who have been estranged for decades. Buzz visits Sheldon to see if there’s still a relationship left to salvage.
In 1972, five-year-old Adrien McNaughton vanished while on a family fishing trip in Eastern Ontario. Despite an intensive search and investigation, no sign of Adrien was found, no clue as to where he might be. The case has hung over the area like a dark mass ever since, especially in the small town of Arnprior, where the McNaughton family lived.
In season one of the podcast Someone Knows Something, host David Ridgen, who grew up in Arnprior, goes back to investigate. Ridgen, a independent filmmaker with a proven record of solving cold cases, asks the questions that have been waiting for answers for over 40 years. He speaks to family, friends and other members of the community, discovering new leads and evidence, trying to put the ghosts of the past to rest.
In November of 1988, Robin Woods was sentenced to sixteen years in the notoriously harsh Maryland Correctional Institution. In prison, Robin found himself using a dictionary to work his way through a book for the first time in his life. It was a Mario Puzo novel. While many inmates become highly educated during their incarceration, Robin became such a voracious and careful reader he was able to locate a factual error in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. He wrote a letter to the encyclopedia’s editor, beginning an intricate friendship that changed the lives of both men.
When Axton Betz-Hamilton was 11 years old, her parents’ identities were stolen, but at that time consumer protection services for identity theft victims were basically non-existent. So the family dealt with the consequences as best they could. But when Axton got to college, she realized that her identity had been stolen as well. Her credit score was in the lowest 2%. As she was working to restore her credit, she inadvertently discovered who had stolen the family’s identity. It would change everything forever.
* All blurbs are from the linked websites.
So there you have it. A few of my favorite episodes from 2016. Do you have any podcasts I need to check out?