1 million children 5-11 received COVID-19 shots so far
Speaker 1: (00:01)
A progress check on kids and COVID vaccinations.
Speaker 2: (00:04)
It's a good start. 1 million down 27 million to go. We really want to get these kids vaccinated,
Speaker 1: (00:12)
Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid-day edition. What happened to San Diego unified mental health day?
Speaker 3: (00:28)
What it looks like ultimately is the idea maybe was a good one, but the execution just failed
Speaker 1: (00:35)
Border businesses are hopeful. After travel restrictions are lifted and a look at what's showing at the Jewish film festival that's ahead on day edition,
Speaker 1: (01:02)
Just yesterday and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced they're seeking emergency approval for booster doses of their vaccine for people 18 and older. In addition, the white house is expected to announce today that 900,000 children have gotten their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine while the latest national milestone is encouraging. Concern is growing here in California, as COVID hospitalizations are rising and regions with lower vaccination rates, the potentially ominous spike in cases ahead of the holiday season, combined with the ongoing issue of waning efficacy continues to give residents pause about how the fight against COVID-19 is going and what's ahead joining me now with the answers to some of your most pressing COVID questions is Dr. Eric Topol director of the Scripps research translational Institute in LA Jolla. Dr. Topol, welcome back to the
Speaker 2: (01:55)
Program. Thanks Jay. Great to be with you. Can
Speaker 1: (01:58)
You explain Pfizer's latest request for emergency use booster authorization from the FDA and how does this differ from prior steps in the authorization process?
Speaker 2: (02:09)
Well, the only authorization they received so far are for people over 65 and those who have immunocompromised or comorbidity vulnerable status. Now they're trying to widen that and expanding it to everyone. 18 years of age and older other countries have given authorization as such for example, Canada, New Zealand, many others, but the us has not come down in the age criteria as low as 18. And Pfizer has data now to support them,
Speaker 1: (02:40)
Should people go and seek out their booster shots and how should they determine how to go about getting additional doses?
Speaker 2: (02:47)
Well, the booster shot does give edit protection. If you're more than five, six months out from getting the second shot, it's time to think about a booster as you go older in age from 40 to 50 60 plots, you just keep having more risks without the booster. So whether it's necessary in even younger age groups like in the twenties and thirties, that's where it gets to be a little less clear, but I think ideally it would be best if all people consider getting it. It's really a personal choice, particularly in young people, but not really in people who are.
Speaker 1: (03:22)
And as you mentioned right now, the booster shot is available for people who have underlying conditions and comorbidities, but there are many common underlying conditions here that are often missed. Can you talk about those a bit,
Speaker 2: (03:35)
Right, Jane? Well, there are, uh, no shortage of chronic conditions. Uh, getting down to things like obesity, certainly diabetes, hypertension. There are the, the list of coexisting conditions is quite extensive, but even people who have no coexisting conditions, particularly as they get past age, 50 and 60, they really ought to go and get a booster right now, what we've seen is that there's been some reluctance for people to get that. And I understand that if you've gone through a flu like illness from your second shot, who wants to get a third one, but there's a lot of protection and it's possible that that third shot could take us a long way. It's not just another six months. So I really, I think we should encourage these.
Speaker 1: (04:17)
What does data show in terms of how well boosters protect versus severe disease across age groups,
Speaker 2: (04:24)
Hospitalizations, and severe disease, and almost all the data we have comes from Israel. And there they define severe disease as hospitalization or clear cut signs that there's a oxygen desaturation in the lungs that is, uh, a burgeoning pneumonia, you know, pretty strict criteria. But if you look at the data that's been published now from Israel, hospitalizations and deaths are suppressed with the booster shots, the deaths primarily occur in people who are age 70 and older, but no one wants to go in the hospital with COVID, particularly if you've already had two vaccine shot. So boosters are smart. Uh, and I really think we should be using them more liberally and accepting them. Uh, broadly,
Speaker 1: (05:09)
As we mentioned earlier, the white house is set to announce today that 900,000 children aged five to 11 have received their first dose. Are you encouraged by that number?
Speaker 2: (05:21)
Yes, it's a good start. 1 million down and a 27 million to go. That's how many children ages five to 11. There are in the United States. We'll never get the 28 million, but it sure would help a lot to get control of the pandemic to get these kids protected, not just from themselves, but other kids and teachers and staff in schools and adults, but also protecting kids from long. COVID protecting them from, you know, the whole pandemic duration, no less, uh, the issues of getting rid of mask and school and all the things of signs of progress. So we really want to get these kids, um, vaccinated. And interestingly, the paper that came out yesterday in the new England journal was really impressive. 91% protection with this low dose of the Pfizer vaccine, just 10 micrograms, which, uh, was accompanied by just remarkable safety data. So I think this is a really great, uh, green light to getting children vaccinated. The safety was a concern in teens, but the dose has been lowered to a third and hopefully we won't see any significant side effects in children as we go forward. And time will tell about that, but the trial looked really very solid.
Speaker 1: (06:38)
The impact that COVID can have on children was at all trivialized during efforts to get them back into the classroom.
Speaker 2: (06:45)
Well, yes, I mean, I think the idea that schools were closed for such a long period of time, and there were evident evidence in other countries that they were able to stay open. You know, we've had significant issues here in the U S and certainly in, in California, we haven't had rapid tests on a daily or frequent basis to help to know whether children and staff and teachers were okay to go in that day, which would be idea. We still don't have them in a nearly all schools that would really help. But, you know, I think if we can get the vaccination rates really high, we can get schools to be one of the safest places there are.
Speaker 1: (07:22)
Do you think we will eventually see a plateau in vaccination rates among children due to hesitancy, as we've seen with other groups,
Speaker 2: (07:29)
There's a problem. You know, when you have adults that won't get vaccinated sure is unlikely. They're going to have their children get vaccinated. So we haven't gotten that problem resolved in adults. And that's a serious matter in this country. That's setting us up for trouble. We only have 58% of the population vaccinated, even if we got all the children vaccinated, which is unlikely, we're still left way behind where we need to be to get, uh, this pandemic in our rear view mirror.
Speaker 1: (07:56)
What do you make of the recent increase in hospitalizations here in California?
Speaker 2: (08:01)
Well, we have a few things going on at once. You know, I've already mentioned our vaccination rate is inadequate. It's less in California than in many other states, uh, particularly in new England. And it's just above the national average, but it's just not enough. So those people who are winding up in the hospital are much more likely to be the un-vaccinated, but some are vaccinated who had this week immunity and they would have been much better off if they'd gotten the booster shot, then you have the people who have relaxed the idea, the notion that the pandemic is over, it couldn't be more wrong. So these are the major factors that are contributing to the problem. And I think we're still on the upswing, unfortunately in California and San Diego, because we don't have enough recognition of these three Cardinal issues that are ongoing.
Speaker 1: (08:51)
We are in places in the world where COVID is currently surging Eastern Europe. For example, what's driving the surge there and could the U S see the same as holidays and winter approach
Speaker 2: (09:02)
Eastern and central Europe have very low vaccination rate, but what's even more concerning than the Eastern central Europe's status is that in Western Europe, almost every country has considerably higher vaccination rates and more recent vaccination than the us. So they have less evidence of waning and higher people protected. And we are seeing really high rates of COVID in those countries, countries like Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Norway. I mean, the list goes on. That's a horrible sign because these countries are better off than we are. So we should have a wake up call that we are in for trouble, uh, because we're lower vaccinated. We have more waning with people reluctant to get boosters. We have been thinking that, you know, the mask and mitigation is unnecessary when in fact it's actually quite necessary to get through this. So we, we are not taking heat again. And that's a problem.
Speaker 1: (09:56)
I've been speaking with Dr. Eric Topol, director of the scripts research translational Institute in LA Hoya. Dr. Topol, thank you very much for joining us again.
Speaker 2: (10:04)
Thank you, Jane.
Speaker 4: (10:15)
Tomorrow, San Diego unified school students have the day off for the veterans day holiday. There was never any controversy about that, but a proposal last week to have students take this Friday off as a mental health day for kids and families ran into a lot of pushback. The mental health day idea has been scrapped. School is open on Friday, but the fallout has strained. Some parents trust in whether they're being told the truth about school staffing issues. Joining me is KPBS education reporter M G Perez M G. Welcome.
Speaker 3: (10:50)
Speaker 4: (10:52)
So how was this idea of a mental health day originally proposed by San Diego unified?
Speaker 3: (10:58)
I want to start by saying that what I'm about to share with you comes directly from the interim superintendent, Dr. Lamont Jackson. It was his idea. I actually spoke to him last Friday and he came up with the idea and went to his staff and said, let's see what this might look like. And then there was an email that was sent out to principals, uh, that happened last week. And that's kind of where the message initially got put out. It was incomplete and then came the disconnect and the miscommunication. So
Speaker 4: (11:32)
Why did Lamont Jackson think that a mental health day was needed
Speaker 3: (11:37)
As you mentioned, school is out for veteran's day and it could conceivably be a four day weekend for many families. And so the thinking was, Hey, we traditionally have low attendance on a day that we might be included in a four day weekend. Why don't we take this opportunity? Not only for mental health, but to allow parents to get their kids vaccinated. Remember the mandate that is in place for 16 and up that first deadline is coming up just before Thanksgiving requiring vaccination. So that's really what the plan behind it was and why they decided to call it up mental health day.
Speaker 4: (12:18)
So as you say, a four day weekend is usually a pretty good thing, but some parents objected to the last minute timing. Why is that?
Speaker 3: (12:26)
It's like to be prepared. These are their children that we're talking about. And many of them felt that this was kind of sprung on them with about a week to plan or not plan or whatever it was going to be. And that's what upset a lot of parents. I will tell you this, however, also this week, the Mexican border opened and many families were actually happy about it because it would allow them to travel across the border and visit relatives. So it was a mixed bag, but the ones who were most vocal of course, were those who said, Hey, you know, you're just springing this on us. Why didn't we have more proper warnings so that we could prepare for the day
Speaker 4: (13:06)
And then a social media post suggested there was an ulterior motive for the mental health day. Tell us about that.
Speaker 3: (13:14)
It is no secret that, uh, San Diego unified, like most other districts around the country are short-staffed in just about every job that they, the district has. So the claim then became, oh, they're short on substitute teachers. They can't provide coverage for children. And therefore that's really what is behind that. And that's what started to explode on, uh, many, uh, social media messages.
Speaker 4: (13:42)
How did the district respond to that? I guess we can call it rumor
Speaker 3: (13:46)
Again. I talked directly to Dr. Jackson and he flat out denied it. He said, that is not the case.
Speaker 4: (13:51)
You've reported on the shortage of qualified substitute teachers. How might that factor into the staffing situation at San Diego unified?
Speaker 3: (14:00)
Many of the contracted teachers had asked for the day off. And so when a teacher is out, there needs to be a substitute. And the truth is the substitute pool is not, there is not what the district needs it to be. So the truth is that, um, had they gone forward with this, there definitely would have been a shortage of substitute teachers to fill in those positions. And so that was definitely a factor in deciding to scrub the whole idea.
Speaker 4: (14:30)
Where is the shortage of substitute teachers coming from? Why is there a shortage
Speaker 3: (14:35)
Well are realizing that they are worth more than they're being then they were being paid. And I can tell you that San Diego unified has upped the daily rate that they pay substitutes. In fact, they doubled, it used to be about $125. That is not the case. It's over $200 now. And so the shortage is really people were saying this isn't worth it to me to put my health in danger, to go in and put all this work in and not be compensated. And so the district has had to respond to that as has districts all over the country.
Speaker 4: (15:12)
Ultimately, the district decided to scrap the idea of letting kids take Friday off. How was that decision made public
Speaker 3: (15:20)
Again, through email, after I interviewed the superintendent on Friday, he told me that by the end of day, Friday, they would, uh, let parents know what they had decided. So another email went out and this one was very clear that school is open and students are welcome. And they also have the option to not come to school and they will not be counted absent. Uh, it will be an excused absence and this day will not have to be made up. That was another concern that parents had, that if the day is canceled, it would have to be made up sometime later in the school year. That is not the case. Now
Speaker 4: (15:59)
This whole incident apparently is not sitting well with some parents as it
Speaker 3: (16:03)
All about trust and things have been so chaotic. And there has been so much miss information throughout the schools as COVID has gone through and hurt so many people in so many different ways. So it really is about building trust. And there are a lot of parents who say, wait a minute, how were we not consulted about this decision before you decided to go forward with it? What it looks like ultimately is the idea maybe was a good one, but the execution just failed dramatically. And that's why the superintendent decided we're not even going to take this to the school board. And we'll just go ahead. As it was planned,
Speaker 4: (16:46)
I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter mg Perez, MJ. Thank you. Thank you. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann. After 20 months of COVID travel restrictions, non-essential travelers can finally cross the U S Mexico border. This has particularly welcome news to San Ysidro businesses who make most of their money from Mexican customers, KPBS border reporter, Gustavo Selise tells us what the reopening means to San Ysidro.
Speaker 5: (17:27)
And it was COVID recoveries and full swing bars and restaurants have impact on weekends and tourists are coming back to beach, front hotels, but in San Ysidro it's been a different story. Sure. The state COVID protocols were lifted, but not the one that matters most cross border travel restrictions still kept Tijuana shoppers away from San Ysidro stores. Jason Wells is the CEO of the Ysidro chamber of commerce. He has a funny way of explaining what San Ysidro has been going through.
Speaker 6: (17:54)
Yeah, this is how I explained Santa CDOT. It's as if the governor had told little Italy, you could reopen go back to your normal lives. And then the president of United States came in and said, but the only people that can shop and needed a little little year, those that live in little Italy, they wouldn't have survived. And we barely have
Speaker 5: (18:10)
Well says the restrictions are inherently unfair. They protect large corporations at the expense of small businesses. That's because truckers and workers have been able to cross no problem, but shoppers haven't,
Speaker 6: (18:22)
Uh, the, the, the low-hanging fruit where tourist visas, uh, and unfortunately in binational communities, that's what we depend on for our living and our, in our quality of life. I will say because of our family members that could or could not cross
Speaker 5: (18:35)
San Diego council, woman, Vivian Moreno agrees, she represents San Ysidro and sees this as an equity issue.
Speaker 7: (18:41)
Order communities have long been disproportionately impacted by the closure of the San Ysidro port of entry. The biggest port of entry crossing of the world. Border closures devastated the small businesses in Sandy Ysidro depleted the regional economy and San Diego and weakened the tourism industries ability to make a comeback.
Speaker 5: (19:03)
The numbers speak for themselves.
Speaker 7: (19:05)
This Sandy Seadrill chamber of commerce reports that since 2020 $1 billion in retail sales have been lost. Over 2000 people lost their jobs. And over 200 businesses had to close permanently here in Sandy Seadrill,
Speaker 8: (19:27)
Speaker 5: (19:30)
Olivia Campos owns Caroline's shoes. When the border opened Monday, she opened an hour early and even put goodie bags together for customers she hadn't seen in 20 months, but on day one, the border reopening didn't live up to the hype.
Speaker 5: (19:49)
We expected to see more people. She says one theory behind the low numbers is long border wait times, or at least the fear of it only took about 15 minutes for people to walk across the border on Monday morning. But customs and border protection told the public to expect longer wait times because of the reopening. So maybe people stayed home Monday to see how things play out. Kenya [inaudible] is the executive director of international businesses, fares for the San Diego regional chamber of commerce. Even with ongoing concerns over border wait times reopening the border is a net positive. She says,
Speaker 9: (20:22)
Especially for south county, even with the border, wait times, this is a new opportunity for them to reconnect with their consumer base, reconnect with their cross border workers, and at least keep that low tourism injected into the new economy.
Speaker 10: (20:37)
We've been waiting a very long time for this day. This is a great day for Tijuana for San Diego, for our binational region. Let's give it up for reopening.
Speaker 5: (20:46)
That was San Diego mayor, Todd Gloria. He joined dozens of politicians from both sides of the border to celebrate the reopening. They spent months trying to convince Washington DC to lift the ban. One Ray of hope from this whole ordeal is that local leaders now have a roadmap of how to get the federal government to care about border issues.
Speaker 10: (21:04)
What we have done today should be a template going forward to drive positive change. The border is an asset in Tijuana and San Diego and Baja, California. And in California. This is a difference maker. It gives us an edge in the global economy. It improves our quality of life. It makes us a better region.
Speaker 4: (21:22)
Joining me is KPBS border reporter, Gustavo Soliz, Gustavo. Welcome.
Speaker 5: (21:28)
Thank you, Maureen.
Speaker 4: (21:29)
So Mondays reopening of the border, didn't bring the crowds. Some businesses were hoping for is that expected to pick up?
Speaker 5: (21:38)
Yes. Yes, it is. Especially as we get closer to the holiday shopping season, which in Mexico kicks up on officially November 20th.
Speaker 4: (21:48)
Now you wrote an article recently about how long it's taking for the Mexican government to issue official vaccination documents. Could that be slowing down border travel?
Speaker 5: (22:00)
I think it's, it's better to understand it. If we compare it to what's going on in the U S right in the U S when you got vaccinated, you got a little vaccination card and you kind of kept that. And that's been your confirmation the whole time in Mexico. When you got vaccinated, you got a flimsy piece of paper that you then have to go back to the federal government and more or less digitized. And in that process of converting the original flimsy one to the official one, there's been so many errors that there's now a backlog of, you know, tens of thousands of people in Tijuana who are trying to correct their documents so that they can travel to the U S I think it could be a factor, but I'm not sure how much of a factor. So I think maybe the expectation was, was wrong in the first place, just to have a big rush of people, the real test. I think Maureen will be this weekend, uh, to see how you know that cross border traffic is,
Speaker 4: (22:53)
Is there a concern that maybe after 20 months Mexican consumers have found alternatives to shopping in the U S
Speaker 5: (23:01)
Well, they, they did find alternatives, uh, in Tijuana, just, but I don't think those alternatives are going to stick around there. Right? The, the, the border closure really just presented a good business opportunity for people in Tijuana to target consumers that would normally buy their clothes, their electrical appliances and their food in San Diego, right. They found ways to get all those goods in Mexico, but now that the border is reopening, I think those consumers, those Tijuana consumers are that are used to crossing the border. We'll just come back to San Diego. I think they prefer it to the new alternatives and Tijuana,
Speaker 4: (23:41)
Tell us more about the equity concerns that some business owners and politicians are expressing about keeping border traveled closed for such a long time.
Speaker 5: (23:51)
Right? Well, the, the real equity issue is just the fact that this, this policy came from Washington DC, and it really impacted Sandy Seadrill and really all border communities. So the, the border communities that were feeling the brunt force of the impact, didn't really have much of a say in what was going on. And these are communities, as you'll know, here in San Diego, San Ysidro was among the hardest hit by the pandemic when it first started. And it's just disproportionately affected by these outside factors. There's also the equity issue. When you look at the traditional conversation of wall street versus main street, the local businesses in San Ysidro have been quick to call out that the cross border restrictions didn't apply to manufacturing companies based in Tijuana that use trucks to ship their goods to San Diego. Those trucks were allowed to cross no problem. We're also big employment centers in San Diego. They're employees who live in Tijuana could cross the border and go to work in San Diego. The only businesses that were really affected by it were mom and pop businesses and the outlets who depend on their consumers, who live in Tijuana to cross the border. But all of a sudden,
Speaker 4: (25:02)
Now the numbers in your report, 200 businesses closed 2000 people, lost their jobs in San Ysidro. How does the community planning to recover from that big economic hit?
Speaker 5: (25:14)
Well, these next couple of months will be a big test of how that recovery goes right in signing a Cedar. A lot of these businesses make the entire year's net profit from the holiday shopping period. Uh, so very heavily, you know, service industry dependent, uh, outside of that, there are some calls here locally. I know in San Diego county there been trying to lobby the federal government to provide some sort of COVID business relief specifically for border businesses. I'm not sure how much interest there will be that from the federal government, but there are at least trying.
Speaker 4: (25:49)
What about us citizens travel into Tijuana and Baja that was never officially ended, but it certainly slowed down during the pandemic. Is that expected to bounce back?
Speaker 5: (26:00)
Well, I think in many ways it's already been bouncing back. If you go to a value loopy on the weekends, that's full, and there's a lot of people from San Diego and other parts of California going down there, you know, hotels by the beach and in Sonata in San Ysidro, they they've been open. I know just personally, there's been a lot of surface going down there in recent months. So I think collectively as a region, San Diego and Tijuana, we're going to see, we've already kind of been seeing that, uh, recovery in the tourism sectors,
Speaker 4: (26:33)
Your report says there's a silver lining in all this pandemic disruption, because officials say they now know how to get Washington to care about border issues. What have they learned about how to get that message across?
Speaker 5: (26:46)
I think more than anything, uh, local elected officials, business leaders, advocates, they sort of found their collective voice, right? They came together as one, uh, to lobby for this and not just here in San Diego, right? There are groups of mayors from border cities, San Diego, Tijuana, El Centro, Mexicali, uh, what is, uh, El Paso. They, they sort of realized that their voice is louder together, and they've used this border closure as almost like the rallying point. So I think that organizing the collective voice can be translated to other issues that affect us here locally.
Speaker 4: (27:25)
And I've been speaking with KPBS border reporter, Gustavo Soliz. And thank you so much.
Speaker 5: (27:31)
Well, thank you, Maureen.
Speaker 11: (27:32)
Speaker 1: (27:42)
A book called the black reproductive unfree labor and insurgent motherhood looks at black freedom and the dismantling of oppressive systems through the lens of black reproduction and black feminist theory. It's written by former UCS D professor Sarah Clark Kaplan, who is now the executive director of American universities, anti-racist research and policy center. I interviewed Sarah Clark Kaplan in may when the book first came out. Here's that interview? So first, what was the inspiration for writing this book?
Speaker 12: (28:15)
Well, you know, this book for me, um, was a long-term labor of love, and it actually came out of an attempt for me to understand the history of black women's reproduction that goes back to slavery. But to understand it not simply in the context that we so often hear about, which is, you know, the sort of levels of oppression and the ways in which coerced preproduction happened, but to understand it as a black feminist today, as a site of empowerment, of struggle of contestation and conflict, and to really rethink what it would mean to think about, about black politics in the context of black reproduction and black motherhood
Speaker 1: (29:04)
And the black reproductive, you explore the way slavery relied on the reproduction and other labors of unfree black women. And you make the case that nearly four centuries later black reproduction is still used to meet the demands of white supremacy, capitalism. And heteropatriarchy, uh, in what ways do you see this happening?
Speaker 12: (29:25)
Well, you know, I think we're all very aware on at least some anecdotal level of the centrality of black women's reproduction to us, slavery, you, as you know, the U S is the only slave system that after the end of the Atlantic slave trade continued expand exponentially, precisely because black women gave birth to children who also were by law automatically slaves. So we can really think about the ways in which every single aspect of the us economy, every aspect of U S expansion westward to grow cotton and other crops, all of that relied upon black women's in slave reproduction. But in the book, I try to go beyond those sort of practical and economic aspects to think about the ideologies and the cultural aspects. I think about things like how, the idea of the mammy or the idea that black women would automatically give up raising their own children in order to raise white people's children.
Speaker 12: (30:27)
How that idea is embedded in our notions of bad black mothers. I talk about how everything from the anxiety that black women during slavery were not having enough children and therefore must be somehow they imagined killing their children to today's notion where the eighties notion of black women on welfare were having too many children and we're there for a draining the state. So I really argue that from the beginning of this country, onward, that whether it be slave mothers who were imagined to commit infanticide or welfare Queens, or hyper fertile black women in the south to today's ideas about baby mamas, black matriarchs, or video Vixens, that these ideas about black women's reproduction are part of how we understand race and gender in the us on every level.
Speaker 1: (31:22)
You know, when we talk about black reproduction, um, today we see sharp disparities in maternal and infant health care. What policies are you seeing that perpetuate black infant and maternal death rates and negative outcomes?
Speaker 12: (31:37)
You know, I think it's an interesting question because we can start at the level of policy. Absolutely. And we could talk about things like how hospitals treat patients who come in through the ER, we could talk about the ways in which healthcare policy in this country, as we've been discussing at great length, discriminate against people who have, um, gig labor, less consistent jobs, a difficulty accessing insurance, all of which we know that poor and working class black for black folk have a harder time doing, but I would like to talk even beyond policy to what I think are more core issues. We can talk about things like the idea that black women are still understood by doctors to be less likely to feel pain are still understood, to be more likely to exaggerate their medical condition and are understood to be less likely to be compliant patients.
Speaker 12: (32:33)
And so what we have when we, and these things, again, go back to slavery, they go back to the idea that earliest reproductive medical technologies, the father of gynecology, Marion Sims practice, his technologies has early gynecological technologies on enslaved black women without anesthesia, because the notion was that these poor women who had had multiple children with rough outcomes that had caused, um, problems with their bodies, anatomical problems with their bodies, that they could be operated on without anesthesia, because they didn't feel pain. So if we think back to today, if we think about whether it's a poor black woman, or whether it's Serina Williams, we know that when black women show up and they weren't, in fact, any black person who was giving birth shows up and they say, I think there's something wrong. I think there's a problem. Or they show with less than ideal conditions that they are less likely to be taken seriously. They are less likely to be medicated. They are less likely to receive will interventions. And this is something that goes beyond policy. It goes to actually a retraining of doctors and medical institutions from the ground up.
Speaker 1: (33:47)
How can black women's reproduction be used to dismantle systems of oppression?
Speaker 12: (33:54)
Uh, great question. And this is something that I talk about in a few different ways. So, you know, I'm a literature scholar. So one of the things that I'm interested in are those very subtle kinds of cultural interventions. I look at novels by people like Tony Morrison or Gail Jones, or Barbara Chase, rebel, black feminist authors. And I look at how they invoke this idea of the black mother to really a black reproduction, to really force us, to rethink our ideas about freedom, about kinship, about property in ways that really call into question some of our existing assumptions about how we understand everything from family to work, to love to kin. But I also want to give you a sort of more, two more specific examples. And one example I talk about at great length in the book, which is the story of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's enslaved concubine, and who was later proven to have had up to five children by him, um, through DNA evidence in 2000.
Speaker 12: (35:03)
And I argue in the book that if we actually rethink the history of the United States, not through founding fathers or through women like Betsy Ross, but if we understand somebody like Sally Hemings, a 15 year old enslaved girl who became the concubine and long-term sexual partner of our founding father, who said that slavery was terrible as he owned 603 slaves, um, and said, miscegenation was going to destroy the U S then we actually have a different national origin story that in fact, our founding mother is Sally Hemings and that everything we want to understand about relations of race and intimacy of power and labor can be understood differently. And so that really requires us to challenge how we think about blackness. And anti-blackness in the context of white supremacy in the United States,
Speaker 1: (36:08)
That was Sarah Clark Kaplan. Speaking about her book, the black reproductive unfree labor and insurgent motherhood.
Speaker 4: (36:29)
This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Hyman tonight, San Diego Jewish film festival will host an in-person screening of the new documentary, the adventures of Saul bellow, KPBS, film critic, Beth Huck, Amando discusses the film and the controversial author with filmmaker Assaf Goliath who spoke from his home in Israel.
Speaker 13: (36:53)
Uh, so if you have a new documentary about the author Saul bellow. So just before we start talking about the film, remind people who he was and why he was important as a writer.
Speaker 14: (37:03)
Wow. So bill was the most clever writer in the 20th century. He won the Nobel prize. He won the Pulitzer prize. He was a powerhouse, but already in the eighties, something was going on. They did the atmosphere change and he's, eh, statues is a great writer. The great American writer since really unfuck nerves started to decline.
Speaker 13: (37:32)
So what was it that inspired you to make this documentary right now?
Speaker 14: (37:36)
First, you can hear the time in Israeli, but I was born in Chicago. My father was studied the India university of Chicago, and I was born in 78. And this is the use at soul. Bella was after the novel prize. He was the most prominent intellectual figure in university of Chicago. My father admired him. My grandfather liked him for me. It took time. And until I started to read him, he's not a writer for people that are young. You need to be a little bit with more life experience, wait until age of 35 to start to read him. And then I did. My last film was about Isaac, the Chevy zinger, the English writer also won the Nobel prize and his, a woman translators. He had 48 women translators, but his first ventilator was so below. So I said, okay, it's time to make a movie also about solving all this. So I'm in Chicago. I was very admired Saul bellow in, in my house. And the third was that I, it was a connection from the field about Isaac [inaudible]. No,
Speaker 13: (39:01)
Bella was a challenging writer to do a portrait of in the sense that he wrote about his life and not always in flattering terms about some of the people that he ended up using in his books. So how difficult was it to get people to come on and talk about some of those difficult portraits?
Speaker 14: (39:22)
But first I want to say that just to make a film about a writer is the most challenging in a documentary biography. If you make it feel about it, filmmaker, it's the easiest. You have a lot of fields. If you make it very few about the dancer or theater also about to writer, it's daunted, do a documentary, feel about the writing. It's the most challenging. And in this time of all sides and writers, that, uh, the people that were really near him felt really betrayed by him, really upset about, and they have a lot of bad things to tell him like Phillip broth, for example, that I'm so happy that I got the last interview with him before he died, had a very complicated relationship with soles. Bella first field from us started to be a writer. He came to soul Bella. And so Baylor was really telling me he Phillips that you should be a writer.
Speaker 14: (40:31)
Phillip brought was really looking up to Phil Della. And later on, he came to one of Saul, bellows reading with his girlfriend. And so Bella stole his girlfriend and he hated him really. And he wrote a story about him in the ghost to either feel poor, that he was threshing. So the hello and later on, they became good friends again, but stilly, he CA he could never say that soul Bella was a mench. This is only the example feels important. And also his family, his sons and his wives, it's very complicated, but this is what makes a movie good. One.
Speaker 15: (41:22)
I grew up thinking of this book as that awful book about my mother, anybody who ever read the book that who met her would say, oh, you're Madeline. I know all about you. There was a torment for her, you know, to be portrayed in that first sort of negative, angry way. And by a great writer who could really capture you, uh, in such a way that anybody walking down the street could, you know, who had read the book, be able to record
Speaker 14: (41:48)
Nice. You hear it's make you the, if every juicy film
Speaker 13: (41:53)
And was it difficult to win the trust of like his children to say like, yeah, come on and, and talk about these difficult aspects of his life. And of having him as a parent, uh, was it difficult to win their trust and get them to open up on camera?
Speaker 14: (42:11)
I think that his children, his wives are very, very intelligent and seeming a very good perspective. They know the guilt things about him. They know the difficult things. First I wanted that they will just say good things about him, but then you can hear more, eh, complicated things about him. I wanted that they will not worrying my perspective about him because I solve the teaser writers that I admire writers. I wanted to be a writer. And then you hear about all these complicated life and you say, okay, maybe it's better. As the time you will not be invited.
Speaker 13: (42:56)
You mentioned that his popularity or his stature as a writer declined a bit because views the social context in which he was writing changed and people's opinions of what he was writing about change. And you don't shy away from tackling some of the difficult aspects of his writing and bring up issues of racism and misogyny in your film. And was that something you knew you were going to tackle from the beginning?
Speaker 14: (43:24)
Uh, it's part of the, the journey of the films that you hear it tomorrow that, uh, you know, when you read his eh, little chair, I thought tomorrow to focus on his Umer, but then you hear other new issues and you say, it's a master. This is so contemporary and we shouldn't, I should deal with it. And so the many voices about it,
Speaker 13: (43:53)
What would you hope people come away from your documentary, thinking about him as a writer. Do you hope that people are going to be interested in seeking out his work after seeing your documentary?
Speaker 14: (44:05)
Yeah, exactly. I think that if somebody tells me after the, he watched a movie, my M my movies say, I go back and I read again, Hertz again. I love it. Or I dislike it. I feel I did my job.
Speaker 13: (44:25)
Thank you very much for talking about your new film, the documentary adventures of Saul
Speaker 14: (44:30)
Bellow. Thank you very much. I really enjoyed the
Speaker 4: (44:33)
Conversation with you. That was Beth Armando speaking with a soft Goliath, the adventures of Saul bellow screens in person tonight at the David and Dorothea Garfield theater, and then will be available online tomorrow for a two day window.