KRWG

Jonaki Mehta

At the moment, Tammy and Benny Alexie are staying in a cream-colored house that overlooks the Mississippi River delta. The house survived the flooding of Hurricane Ida with minimal damage because it stands on stilts. An expansive deck in the back is covered with an insect net on all four sides, a long wooden table in the middle, and a propane grill in the corner where the Alexies have been making their meals for the past six weeks. Their three children and two grandchildren are staying with them.

In the wee hours of a Saturday morning this past June, Mary Waters pulled into a grocery store parking lot in St. Louis. It was where she had been working for more than a year, stocking the freezer section.

"I sat in the parking lot, and I tried to will myself to go in, and it wasn't happening. So I just drove away," Waters said.

And she never looked back.

Waters is one of a growing number of Americans who have walked away from their jobs in 2021 — a record-setting year for job quits in the United States.

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The day before a federal judge blocked enforcement of Texas' restrictive new abortion law, the parking lot of Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La., was filled with Texas license plates. Women held the door open as the line spilled out onto the sidewalk and into the grass.

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Next, we're going to tell you the story of a dream almost deferred. It begins with a little girl raised in the segregated South of the '30s and '40s.

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Rodrigo Amarante is full of bird facts.

When we meet him at his home, sitting out on his wooden deck that overlooks northeast LA, his doors and windows are all open, sunshine cascading through them. Amarante sits cross-legged underneath a patio umbrella that he's fashioned wheels on so that it can move easily with the sun. Despite making shade, he wears round, turtle-shell sunglasses as he fiddles with a bottle-top, pondering what inspired the genesis of his second solo album.

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If there's anything the past year has put at the forefront, it's our mortality.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "70 OVER 70")

MAX LINSKY: You seem very convinced that you've gotten very old.

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Updated June 7, 2021 at 5:00 PM ET

In the early months of India's coronavirus pandemic, Manisha Pande recalls watching the evening news tell the public to go outside and bang pots and pans in solidarity with healthcare workers. She says that the energy was very "we're going to fight this thing together," encouraged by Prime Minister Narenda Modi.

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Rock, pop, punk and fun - these are some of the flavors Japanese band CHAI captures in their genre-fluid music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PING PONG!")

CHAI: (Singing) You and me, racket and ball.

This story is part of an NPR series, We Hold These Truths, on American democracy.

Last summer, DonnaLee Norrington had a dream about owning a home. Not the figurative kind, but a literal dream, as she slept in the rental studio apartment in South Los Angeles that she was sharing with a friend.

At around 2 a.m., Norrington remembers, "God said to me, 'Why don't you get a mortgage that doesn't move?' And in my head I knew that meant a fixed mortgage."

For Simranjit Singh, spending time in his family's almond and raisin fields is "the most therapeutic thing I could ever ask for." He says it's something he could never give up.

Singh is a 28-year-old farmer in a town 15 miles west of Fresno, Calif., called Kerman.

His extended family gathered on the farm last weekend to celebrate Vaisakhi, a farming holiday celebrated annually on April 13 or 14, and throughout the month.

Fatima Khazi is having a hard time at school — she's in a new country, in a new city, her classmates make fun of how she speaks, they wrinkle their noses at the way her food smells, and on top of all that, she isn't doing well in her classes. But Fatima is thrilled to escape for the weekend and go camping with her family.

Home: It's where a lot of us have been spending our time since March 2020. For Mike Milosh, leader of the R&B music collective Rhye, the word has taken on new meaning — he's gone from life on the road to a more permanent idea of home at his house outside Los Angeles, where he created his latest studio album. But the sound of this record was conceived well before the pandemic: It began with the idea of wanting to include a choir, which led to Milosh inviting the Danish National Girls' Choir to come to the U.S.

The year of large racial justice protests led to an unprecedented number of Confederate symbols being removed around the country.

More than 100 Confederate symbols have been removed from public spaces or renamed since George Floyd was killed, according to a count by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Are you figuring out how to modify that annual cookie-exchange party with your friends this winter? Does caroling around the neighborhood feel unsafe, even at a social distance? Does 2020 have you feeling differently about making a New Year's resolution for next year? Or maybe it's just the tradition of visiting your grandparents that will just have to happen over Zoom this year. As with everything else in 2020, the holidays feel a little different amid a global pandemic.

Photographer Janna Ireland aims to capture intimacy and relationships in her work, which she says focuses primarily on Black life in America.

For the Los Angeles-based photographer, that has included photographing staged scenes as well as self-portraits and portraits of her family — including, most recently, of her two sons during the pandemic.

"In my work, I'm happy when all different kinds of people appreciate it, but I feel as though I'm making it for Black people," she says.

Across the country, students of color have been demanding change from their schools. At one Denver school, the push for a more inclusive and diverse curriculum came last year, from a group of African American high school students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College.

Pirette McKamey is fighting for anti-racist education.

Over her more than 30 years as an educator, the principal at Mission High School in San Francisco spent a decade leading an anti-racism committee.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The decision is often framed as a landmark decision that transformed education for Black students, allowing them equal access to integrated classrooms.

June 2020 was a pride month that looked different from past years, and not just because people were socially distancing and wearing masks: Demonstrations for LGBTQ equality overlapped with protests against violence and systemic racism against Black people.

At the intersection of these two fights for equality are Black transgender people.

Imara Jones, an independent journalist and founder of TransLash media, told NPR's All Things Considered, that this moment has been "a crucible."

Between the pandemic, the economic crisis and now protests, 2020 has already been a lot. Yo-Yo Ma has been coping, and trying to help the rest of us cope, with music. The cellist has been posting videos of himself playing what he calls "Songs of Comfort."

"I do believe that everything that we do," he says, "people in every profession — medical workers, the delivery people, the politicians — we all are there to serve. We only exist because someone has a need. I know that music fulfills that kind of need."

In the weeks since police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, people around the U.S. and the world have flooded the streets in rage and protest against police violence toward African Americans.

When Luc Jasmin III took over Parkview Early Learning Center six years ago, he wanted to create a safe space where young children could not only be cared for but also get an educational foundation to prepare them for a lifetime of learning.

During normal times, the center in Spokane, Wash., serves about 100 children who range in age from 4 weeks old to 13 years. The center didn't close down during the coronavirus pandemic, except for a couple of days to retrain staff on social distancing and cleaning guidelines.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night — nor coronavirus — stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

The mail is still coming. And one 11-year-old girl in Sioux Falls, S.D., wanted to show her appreciation.

How else, but by writing a letter.