StoryCorps preserving local histories for future generations

Sep 23, 2016

Habiba Mohamed was born in a refugee camp in Kenya to parents from Somalia. She nows lives in Buffalo and is excited to record her family's story at the StoryCorps Buffalo mobile tour stop. Mohamed was among a studio full of people who attended a special StoryCorps listening event Thursday night at WNED|WBFO.

It was an opportunity to listen to some of the best stories recorded at nationwide and at Buffalo's Canalside this month for StoryCorps. Also shared with the audience was some special animation, followed by a lively question-and-answer session.

Heard every Friday on NPR and WBFO, StoryCorps is America's largest oral history project. It's mobile tour booth travels the country recording personal histories and insights. The stories recorded in Buffalo will join more than 66,000 others at the American Folk Life Center in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. for current and future generations to listen to.

Mohamed said most of her family history comes from oral folklore, because her ancestors did not have a written language. If she goes online, she cannot find any of them.

"Because there's nothing. There's no birth certificate, there's no marriage certificate, there's no death certificate. So for me to tell, it's something that I'm used to," Mohamed said. "There was just no recorder before and now I have that."

"It's going to be so different for the next generation of Mohameds that are coming up from me," she continued. "So that's pretty cool."

Kathy Spillman, now living in Buffalo, works with Mohamed at Journey's End Refugee Services, one of the many community organizations invited to record their story at Canalside. Spillman said became familiar with StoryCorps while working for a not-for-profit in Philadelphia that teamed up with them.

"I told my executive director and my boss, it's like, 'We have to do this because we have stories that I think would be phenomenal for StoryCorps,'" said Spillman.

Emily Zielinski is also a dedicated StoryCorps listener. The North Tonawanda resident said she listens every Friday because it is important to hear a combination of local and national stories.

"I feel like as a country we’re more divided than ever and it’s important to realize how similar we are - different types of people," she said. "For me, at least, it helps me understand what connects everyone.”

StoryCorps stories recorded locally will be heard throughout the year on WBFO.

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The Clean Streets animated recording was featured at the StoryCorps event at WNED|WBFO.

The story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel is part of StoryCorps' #WhoWeAre initiative with media organization Upworthy.