Beginning later this week, WFPL will air the first story in a new series: “Tough and Universal: Stories of Grit.”

These stories — produced in partnership with IDEAS xLab — are first-person accounts from people in your community who’ve overcome some significant challenge and thrived despite the odds. They’re hopeful stories, in a world that’s often full of the opposite.

The series name is inspired by a James Baldwin quote from his book “The Fire Next Time.”

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within,” Baldwin wrote. “I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace — not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

The experiences our subjects talk about are tough — and like the love Baldwin describes, many are also universal. You’ll hear stories about growing up with parents challenged by addiction and incarceration, difficulties conceiving a child, failure, racism, gun violence and poverty. But you’ll also hear about love, triumph, success and hope.

Over the coming weeks, WFPL will bring you stories from:

  • Nikkia Rhodes, a young cooking instructor;
  • Carlos Hernandez, a newly-minted lawyer and Navy veteran who came to the U.S. from Cuba when he was a child;
  • Paige Harlow and Sally Evans, who married and had twin girls despite struggles with fertility;
  • Herb Henry, who runs his own sports apparel company and plays on a wheelchair basketball league;
  • Catherine Talbott, an octogenarian and retired educator; and
  • Asia Ford, who has embraced running and lost more than 200 pounds over the past few years.

You’ll hear snippets of these conversations on Fridays during All Things Considered on 89.3 WFPL; the full pieces, told by the subjects themselves in their own words, will be available for download at wfpl.org or wherever you get your podcasts.

To cap it off, WFPL and IDEAS xLab will hold an event inspired by the series on Nov. 15, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. You’re invited into Louisville Public Media’s performance studio for an evening of discussion and artistic performances around the theme of “Identity.”

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.