Diane Birch's Youthful Voice Echoes the Soul and Pop of the '70s



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. This week on our program, we play some new music by Diane Birch ...

And answer a question about a well known children's doctor ..

But first, we report about how young people across the United States are going green.



Young people across the United States are taking part in the "Go Green" revolution. From Wisconsin to Washington, D.C., they are helping to make the world a more environmentally friendly place. Some young people are taking care of local parks. Others are helping to build green housing. Barbara Klein has more.


More than eight hundred young people in Washington, D.C., spent the summer learning about their environment. They were part of the city's Green Summer Job Corps, a project of the District Department of the Environment.

Students in the Green Summer Job Corps remove invasive plants from the Anacostia River area
Students in the Green Summer Job Corps remove invasive plants along the Anacostia River
The Green Summer program provided young people with hands-on experience and education on issues of environmental importance. They were able to choose from a number of different projects. Some helped to rid the city of troublesome invasive plants, or cared for trees at city parks and schools. Others carried out energy studies of city school buildings to make sure the equipment and systems work effectively. Still others performed community outreach services to help educate people on the importance of going green.

Officials said it was a "win-win" situation. The communities were improved by the work. The young people got a chance to make a difference in their communities. And they got meaningful on-the-job training for what is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing careers of the future. This was the second year of the Green Summer Job Corps in Washington. There were twice as many students taking part as last year.

There are similar programs in states around the country. Many American lawmakers, including President Obama, believe the green industry will become a way out of poverty for economically troubled communities. The demand for employees with green skills will continue to grow as the world seeks to become more earth friendly. And, programs like D.C.'s Green Summer Job Corps will help to fill the need.


Our listener question this week comes from Abdullahi Farah, who wants to know about the life and work of Doctor Benjamin Carson.

Doctor Carson discusses an operation to separate twins joined at the head in 2003
Ben Carson discusses an operation to separate twins joined at the head in 2003
Doctor Carson is an internationally recognized neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been the director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the hospital for twenty-five years. At the age of thirty-three, he became one of the youngest doctors in the United States to hold that position. And he was the first African-American to have that position at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Ben Carson is known for his extraordinary work as a brain surgeon for children. He has created operating methods used by other surgeons and performed historic brain operations.

For example, in nineteen eighty-seven, he led a team of seventy doctors and nurses in an operation to separate two babies joined at the head. Earlier attempts by other surgeons on other babies had failed. Doctor Carson successfully performed the operation. Both babies were able to survive independently.

Doctor Carson is also known for performing other complex operations on children, including one called a hemispherectomy. He removes part of the brain to stop severe, uncontrollable seizures. A seizure is like an electrical storm in the brain.

Doctor Carson has written four books. His first book, "Gifted Hands," tells the story of his life. Benjamin Carson was born in nineteen fifty-one in Detroit, Michigan. His parents ended their marriage when he was eight years old. His mother, Sonya Carson, raised Ben and his older brother on her own. She had very little education. She could not read well. And she worked at two or three jobs to support her family. The family was poor and lived in a neighborhood of crime and violence.

Doctor Carson receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush last year
Doctor Carson receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush last year
As a boy, Ben was not a good student. In fact, he was the worst in his class. When his mother learned of his failing grades she required her sons to read two library books every week. She limited the amount of time they watched television. And she told them to reject racial discrimination.

Ben Carson soon became the top student in his class. He went on to study at Yale University, one of the best universities in the country, and later to medical school at the University of Michigan.

Doctor Carson has received many awards and honors. Last year he received the nation's highest civilian honor. Former President George W. Bush presented Benjamin Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony at the White House.


Diane Birch is a young singer whose music takes listeners back to the soul and pop music of the nineteen seventies. Born in the United States, she grew up in Africa and Australia with her family. Critics say her first album, "Bible Belt," shows she has a very promising career ahead of her. Mario Ritter tells us more.



Diane Birch
Diane Birch
That was the song "Valentino." Diane Birch writes all of her songs and plays the piano and organ. She started learning to play the piano when she was about seven years old.

Diane Birch's father was a religious worker. She grew up in a very restrictive religious community. When she moved back to the United States, she did not know much about popular culture. She only knew classical music and religious songs. She learned all kinds of music, including jazz, rock and folk.

And she taught herself to play these kinds of music. Here is the song "Fire Escape."


Diane Birch moved to Los Angeles, California when she was old enough to live independently. She found work as a pianist and played in hotels. She later decided to take a singing class so she could perform the music she had been writing. The songs she posted on her MySpace page caught the attention of the music industry and led to a record deal.

We leave you with "Nothing but a Miracle" from the album "Bible Belt."



I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Dana Demange, Lawan Davis and June Simms. Mario Ritter was our producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to 51voa.com. You can also comment on our programs.

Do you have a question about people, places or things in America? You can send it to mosaic@voanews.comand we may answer it on this show.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.