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New Work By Gill Sotu Explores Disparities In American Independence

 July 7, 2020 at 12:17 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Many Americans, perhaps for the first time over this 4th of July holiday, realize that independence day does not mean the same thing to all of us. The history of black Americans challenges, the myths we have about freedom and demands that our nation live up to its promise for all Americans and keeping with that spirit, San Diego poet, Gil. So too, who is an award winning grand slam poet and three time TEDx San Diego presenter composed a poem called I pledge allegiance. It's about our nation, our past and our future. It's also about strengthening the American dream of building wealth for African American families and entrepreneurs. So here's, I pledge allegiance. I don't remember much about my early schooling, but I do remember being fed information about our country's independence is one of the many American historical events that I was duty bound to memorize be graded on and tested with. Speaker 1: 01:01 I remember pledging allegiance even before I knew what that word meant before I knew any other $5 words. I remember no more than $2 in my pockets, long lines for free school meals. You could always tell which kids had money by the condition of their character themed lunch boxes and the individually wrapped contents of their grade. A snackage. Those were generational Twinkies. They were flaunting black folks for the most part had to learn how to be happy with off-brand meals, schools, housing neighborhoods, opportunity stolen from our drums, stripped of our tongues, our relatives, our religion, and taught by the founding settlers. How to settle in silence, forget our country's skeletons. Forget the double standards. Accept the denied reparations. Accept the red lining the red tape being caught red handed. Even if our palms were as pink and as innocent as theirs agreed to the allegiance before we were even permitted to read Mary or even walk through this country freely. Speaker 1: 02:16 I know that the 4th of July is a time that we look to the sky, but put down your potato salad for a second and understand what is going on around you. You may have been distracted by the barbecue, but the wick has been lit and sizzling since 1776. Ever since our founding fathers proclaimed that every soul in this country has the right to be free, except ours many believed that a civil war would solve the unrest in our bodies. But that is simply not how fire works. I know, I know who needs a history lesson when COVID and outlaw cops have taken away people's ability to breathe, but it's all connected. Don't you see wealth, my school lunch, race opportunity bias our independence day, all come with strings attached to afraid flag that people still in 2020 are afraid to emit needs to be fixed. Betsy Ross was not done. Speaker 1: 03:21 Washington was not done. Don't you get it? We are a country, unfinished black people and businesses were hit hardest during this crisis. And 95% nationally of those who apply for payroll protection, supposedly available to us all. We're denied our country's assistance. Again, our flag, your great grandmother's quilts and systematic racism. All have two things in common. They all follow a pattern and they provide comfort, but only for those whom they were intended. So if you read the document crafted at the birth of this nation and magnify its trail all the way to my son, you will see that even in San Diego, the city that I absolutely love the majority of these documents that create generational wealth. We're not really meant for everyone do not mistake our exceptions for the propensity of those in power to change their unspoken rules. There are nearly 22,000 black owned businesses in San Diego County. Speaker 1: 04:33 If our lives truly matter to you, then allow us the chance to keep our livelihood alive. More than equality. We starved for equity, a seat at your table, the opportunity for the same organic GMO free brands that your barbecue has. I mean, we may flavor it a little differently, but that's not the point. Those are generational Twinkies that you were flaunting. If you believe that our lives matter, then you agree that our wellbeing matters. This bandwagon that you have now decided to jump on, have some rough roads ahead, but the beautiful people inside are beaming with hope, with direction, with love. We will not allow our crisis to determine our vision. If you were going to take this ride with us, and I hope that you do place whatever color hand you have over your heart and pledge allegiance to balance pledge allegiance, to black owned businesses. We are not asking you to denounce our flag or our collective nation. We are simply asking for you to love our country better. And joining me now is the writer of I pledge allegiance, San Diego, poet, and Gail. So choo and Gail, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me and Donna Dewberry is and CEO Speaker 2: 05:58 Of central San Diego black chamber of commerce, and she joins us as well. Donna, welcome. Thank you. Glad to be here, Gail, tell us what you wanted your audience to understand or feel when hearing that poem first, I wanted to take it back way back in when we first were, uh, aware of this place as a country, um, and, and our us pledging allegiance. So I have a four year old son and a two year old daughter. My four year old son doesn't know the difference right now, of course, between what's a United States. What's a San Diego. What's a, but pretty soon when he goes into school, he'll he'll soon learn. I remember as early as elementary, you know, pledging allegiance to this flag before I knew what it meant before I knew what the word allegiance, or even how to spell it. Ma uh, and, and now looking back, I was seeing what I was, uh, really pledging to, and then I move it forward as to what I, and a lot of African Americans experienced. Speaker 2: 07:04 Um, if, if you were pledging allegiance, like it's almost like we're, we're, we're in contract with this country. And what we got on the other side of that contract in exchange for our allegiance, in my opinion, was not on the same level and it still is not. And so that's why, and I brought it to today just to where, you know, us pledging allegiance, us celebrating the 4th of July. It's not that we don't love this country. It's this, that we we're wanting the people in it to, to care about us more, to love us more, to, to be fair in fairs and other word of equity. This is not an angry poem, but it could have been. So what kind of reaction have you been getting? It's very easy for a poet or anybody to get on, on, on a public forum and say, this is how you need to change. Speaker 2: 08:05 This is how you need to do it. Um, and, and a lot of people will feel like they're being talked at instead of, uh, in a genuine conversation. And I think when you approach it as a genuine conversation and you challenge people, uh, then they're going to come up with their own answers. And, um, when I I'm pushing people towards the towards love, and when you really love people and you look at it as all of us, uh, one of the lines in the poem is, uh, and I had to think about this when I, before I wrote it is, um, I'm not asking you to denounce our flag. I could have said easily, I'm not asking you to denounce your flag or your collect or your country, right? But I said our, to let you to, again, that little nudge that this is all of our country, I'm saying to love our country better and look at us as part of our country. So if you're looking at us as part of our country, then it is your responsibility. If you're going to pledge allegiance, if you're going to say that you love this country and your flag throwing these, the flag up saying, I love this country. We're a part of that. Recognize us, see what we're doing. Speaker 3: 09:16 We're going through. Let me bring Don into the conversation. Let's talk about businesses in the black community. What are some of the difficulties that they are facing during the COVID-19 crisis? Speaker 4: 09:29 No, the, the black community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, from unemployment to significant food, insecurities technology, and specifically our businesses. Um, we've been the black businesses have been disproportionate left out or denied stimulus money. Uh, there's so many different, uh, research and studies on like 95% of black owned businesses have been denied, a PPP personal protection program, and many businesses and nonprofits have been shut out of the process for loans and grants. Even with the city of San Diego. We know that there's been historical practices and policies and inequities that are negatively impacting our businesses from receiving financial help. And so here we are talking about flattening the COBIT curve. What we've got to work on right now is to flatten the economic disparity curve. Speaker 3: 10:25 And now we're into a second shutdown of dine in restaurants. And what impact do you think that's going to have Donna, Speaker 4: 10:32 That's going to send us over the top. We were already, um, disproportionately denied money and financial help to reopen and recover our businesses. And so by shutting it down again, we are at the brink of literally almost losing our community. The business is our community. Our businesses are there. They are a community. Speaker 3: 10:57 So with the help of the poem, I pledge allegiance. The black chamber of commerce of San Diego has, is well on its way, actually, to raising a million dollars in 60 days for black owned businesses. Donna, I, how can small business owners apply for these grants and how do people donate Speaker 4: 11:17 The black business relief fund? If you're interested in donating, please go to SD black You can donate, or you can apply those, those of you who are out there hurting and need money, black businesses who need money right now, please apply for these grants. We're looking for donations. We're halfway there. We're excited. Corporations, individuals, private donors have donated so much money because they understand the need for economic stimulus, but not only the black community, but for the community Speaker 3: 11:54 At large for San Diego County. Well, I'm so glad both of you had the time to talk to us today. I've been speaking with Donna Dewberry, president and CEO of the central San Diego black chamber of commerce and San Diego poet Gil. So to Gil, that was a beautiful poem. I'm so glad we got a chance to play it and to speak with you. Thank you both. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thank you.

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"I Pledge Allegiance," is a new poem by San Diego poet and artist Gill Sotu, released for the Fourth of July holiday through a partnership with the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce.
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