It Happened Here: human trafficking and other stories from 2023
We've picked some memorable stories from the last year to highlight as we remember 2023 and prepare for 2024
In 2023 we reported on what was happening in government, education, business, the arts and more. As we move from 2023 to 2024, we take a look back at the past year.
WMUK presented a five-part series on human trafficking. It Happens Here aired in September and October, and presented the story of Stacy Chambliss, who says she was trafficked in Kalamazoo in 2019. The series reported by Leona Larson examined how Stacy came to be a whistleblower after trying to get help and protection from her traffickers. In 2024, look for a one-hour documentary with more about Stacy’s case.
Technology continues to advance in many fields including higher education. In December, Kalloli Bhatt reported on how instructors at Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College are working to use artificial intelligence and chatbots for learning, not cheating.
Students who covered Western Michigan University for an anti-war, countercultural newspaper in the 1960s now have their work preserved. The Western Activist, as it was known, was digitized. The paper’s work covering the Black Panther movement and protests against the Vietnam War is now available in a digital archive.
Why’s That? continued to take questions from WMUK’s audience and look for the answers. In 2023, that included questions about the sick leave policy at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, as well as the case with Russian memorabilia at the Kalamazoo train station and whether the war in Ukraine affected Kalamazoo’s sister-city relationship with Pushkin, Russia. The Why’s That? segment that generated the most social media response came when Jessi Phillips answered a question about whether there are still plans for a Hard Rock Café in Kalamazoo.
Business and the economy met the field of entertainment in 2023 when Barbie and Oppenheimer were both released. WMUK’s Michael Symonds spoke with theater managers around West Michigan to find out if the summer blockbusters were saviors for cinema following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Symonds came to WMUK in 2023 through the Report for America program. He also reported on the passing of Kalamazoo artist and collector Murphy Darden. His collection focused on Black history and the American West. Darden died November 5th; he was 95 years old. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is working on acquiring Darden’s collection.
Michael also reported on the growth of pride and other events supporting LGBTQ people in rural communities in Southwest Michigan. Organizers say it’s a sign of progress in rural communities.
Michael’s beat, rural meets metro, took him to the Brandywine school district near Niles to report on a controversy over students’ access to some books in the school library. Conservatives elected to the school board in 2022 acted to remove books they called “pornographic.”
One book caused a controversy for the Galesburg-Augusta School Board. Trustees voted in May to remove the book Gender Queer from the high school library, saying it isn’t appropriate for high school students.
Spring time brings plenty of maple seeds, known as samaras and informally known as “helicopters.” This year, many of those seeds were a deep pink color. Leona Larson reported on the conditions that led to more pink seeds and whether climate change will create more in the future.
Leona also reported on the Action Trackchair, an all-terrain electric wheelchair at Warren Dunes State Park. It’s designed to give greater accessibility to state park trails.
Accessibility was also an issue in Kalamazoo Township where one resident told WMUK that the sidewalks are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. WMUK’s Jessi Phillips looked into what the law and previous court rulings say about who is responsible for maintaining and repairing sidewalks.
WMUK also took listeners to some tourist attractions this year. Over the summer, Brian O’Keefe presented “half tank holidays.” He visited the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, the Gilmore Car Museum, the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary and the Leila Arboretum.
Flyswatters came to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in 2023. Iza van Riemsdijk brought 1,000 pieces from her flyswatter collection in the Netherlands to Kalamazoo. They come in leather, metal and plastic, and a variety of shapes and sizes.
In the summer of 2023, WMUK welcomed the StoryCorps Mobile Tour to Kalamazoo. It gave people the chance to share their stories and record oral histories with family and/or friends.
Patrese Griffin and her husband Ed Genesis remembered meeting 22 years ago working at a Taco Bell. How they struggled and helped each other and how their life changed over the years.
Jim Kruse and Bertha Bullen said one constant of their 40 year marriage was Alzheimer’s disease.Both had family members that required care.
Melody Woods shared her story of drug and alcohol addiction with her friend Ashley Choker. Woods described how her life changed when she met her husband, and they launched their own business. Then she had to find a new path when her husband was paralyzed after a fall.
Other stories from the StoryCorps mobile tour in Kalamazoocan be found here.