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.

Bernadette W. South L.A., CA

"My grandmother was born in Belize. She came here when she was in her 20s. I appreciate her, because if it weren't for her decisions, I probably would not be here."

I met Bernadette through the story telling of her grandson J., a high school student in South Los Angeles. For a book project we collect memories he shares with her, and compare his life with Bernadette's. The way J. talks about her, I can tell, he loves his grandmother a lot. She likes to laugh and to shop, works hard and tells him about times when she was able to walk the streets of his neighborhood without a care in the world.

She came here from Belize, where she spoke Garifuna, a language - and a culture - I had never heard of, and almost nobody understands in the USA. It is the language of a proud people. Bernadette left her mother and her young daughter behind looking for education and a job in California. She built a new life, her daughter joined. J. was born in Los Angeles. 

One thing he vividly remembers is, how one day when his grandma and his mother picked him up from school, they  started speaking this language he did not understand:

Frances Sch. - Hollywood, CA

"Das Dorf hatte eine große Wirkung auf mich,
und ich wusste immer: wenn meine Mutter stirbt,
dann geh ich nie mehr dort hin."
 
"The village made a big impression on me. I always knew: when my mother dies, I will never return."

Frances Schönberger interviewed them all: Hollywood stars, TV celebreties, Rock'n' Roll legends and teenage heart-throbs. She got wet in Woodstock, made out with David Bowie, put KISS on a cover for the first time, and watched Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nastassja Kinski splash about in her pool. The highlight of her reporter career was a day with John Lennon in New York.

But it all started in a small Bavarian village ...

Josh - South Los Angeles, CA

I met Josh in a classroom in South LA. It was the third session of a writing work shop. The students had interviewed elders of their families and were supposed to write stories about the elders' challenges and triumphs, memories they shared, what they had in common and what made them different. Volunteers like me were supposed to help.

Piece of cake - I am a reporter. Getting the story out of people is my bread and butter business.

Josh was hiding his face under a hoodie. Headphones over his ears and a tired smile made it obvious, that this was going to be a challange. Josh did never type a word into his computer, but he told me his and his grandfather's story. I was typing as fast as I could ...

Mildred S. - Watts, CA

Mildred is smart, beautiful, ambitious, kind and passionate. Mildred came to California to learn.

In her country, it was too dangerous for her to go to school. In her country, her oldest brother got shot in front of the family's house. In her country, the family received death threats.

She was born in Honduras. The family fled to Guatemala first. There was no way to go to school there for Mildred. When she was eight, the family decided to go farther North. The US. Smugglers separated Mildred and her three younger siblings from their mother.