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Asylum-Seekers, San Diego’s Seniors, Yampa River

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A new report on the conditions experienced by thousands of asylum seekers in US immigration detention centers finds that large percentages of the immigrants report substandard, unsanitary conditions including spoiled food, no room to sleep, and no access to showers. Also, a study shows that San Diego senior centers are unprepared for a growing over 65 population, the U.S. Air Force says social media helped prompt action to clean up mold at one of its bases, can the Yampa River survive in a rapidly drying West, the New York Times put together a Spotify playlist filled with California-inspired music after asking readers about their favorite California songs, and the San Diego REP and Amigos Del REP host the Third Annual Latinx play festival.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 A new report on the conditions experienced by thousands of asylum seekers in us. Immigration detention centers has been released. It finds that large percentages of the immigrants report substandard, unsanitary conditions including spoiled food, no room to sleep and no access to showers. The analysis focused on the care files of 7,300 asylum seeking families between October, 2018 and this June it was conducted by researchers at UC San Diego. And joining us by Skype is the author of the report, Tom Wong, associate professor of political science at UC San Diego and director of the U S Immigration Policy Center. And Tom, welcome back to the program. Thanks for having me again. Now, what files did you examine on these immigrant families and how did you obtain them?

Speaker 2: 00:51 Yeah. So the San Diego Rapid Response Network has assisted over 7,000 asylum seeking families, uh, from October, 2018 to June, 2019 each time one of these families enters into the care of the San Diego Rapid Response Network, they do an intake. And so part of the intake questionnaire includes the treatment that asylum seekers, uh, experienced while in immigration detention as well as other items including demographics. So we were able to look at the entire universe of these intakes. Uh, so just imagine for each family, uh, there's a file, uh, with questions and answers and my team independently analyzed, uh, all of the data from the 7,000 plus asylum seeking families.

Speaker 1: 01:41 Can you talk more about the major findings in this report? What percentages of the asylum seekers reported these poor conditions?

Speaker 2: 01:49 So out of one, out of every three, we have more specific data on a conditions and treatment. For example, we see that over 60% of individuals reported issues related to food and water. And the intakes are an impressive trove of data because it gets very specific. So we're talking about things like not being fed a, going hungry, being fed spoiled food, uh, not getting formula for infants. For example, when it comes to food for water, we have not being given water, being dehydrated, not getting enough water as well as having to drink dirty or, or foul tasting water. Some other major findings, we saw a video from a department of Justice attorney a couple of months ago go viral because they were arguing that uh, toothbrushes and toothpaste weren't part of safe and standard sanitary conditions. Uh, we see that over one third of those who reported issues in immigration detention reported issues related to hygiene.

Speaker 2: 02:58 So this is the, and toothpaste, but also not being able to shower, not having access to a clean and sanitary toilet. Uh, among other issues related to hygiene. And then lastly, we see that there are over 200 cases of asylum seeking heads of households reporting, verbal abuse, including being told, go back to your effing country and that you're an ape among other examples. And we have 40 instances also of physical abuse, including an individual being thrown against the wall simply for wanting to get a drink of water. So we previously had glimpses into what asylum seekers were experiencing while being detained along the US Mexico border. These data provide a systematic accounts that point to how pervasive a substandard conditions and mistreatment actually are in immigration detention. And in many ways that might be worse than we thought. Has the Department of Homeland Security responded to these findings? No, I have not heard, um, from DHS or any of the component agencies.

Speaker 2: 04:08 I welcome a conversation, uh, with DHS, uh, and with border patrol in particular, but we also found other due process related issues that are potentially solvable. Not a political left political right kind of fight. But one of the things that we found was that border patrol when processing and these asylum seekers were not giving individuals instructions, uh, about their immigration proceedings, including their immigration court dates, times and locations in their primary language. So language access is a big issue, uh, that came up in the data. And so I have not yet heard from DHS, but I welcome that conversation not just to talk about conditions and treatment in detention, but also talk about how border patrol is interacting with asylum seekers and communicating vital information about immigration proceedings to them. What can a documented report like this add to the debate about conditions at the border?

Speaker 2: 05:10 Many of these claims have been made before and they've been largely ignored. If previous accounts of mistreatment and abuse at the southern border haven't outraged us enough, uh, and compelled us to act, then hopefully the fact that these data showed that these experiences are pervasive and systematic, hopefully that is motivating enough to change the conversation and if the those data don't do the trick, then the fact that the experiences that the heads of households were reporting affect their 7,900 kids five years or younger. If that doesn't get us out of our seats, then I don't know what will. I've been speaking with Tom Wong, associate professor of political science at UC San Diego,

Speaker 1: 05:59 director of the U S Immigration Policy Center. Tom Wong, thank you so much for your time. Thank you. KPBS has reached out to the US Department of Homeland Security for comment and have not heard back.

Speaker 3: 06:15 Uh.

Speaker 1: 00:00 In the next decade. One in four people living in San Diego County will be a senior citizen. A recent study says the network of senior care centers in the county may not be prepared for that kind of population growth. Bob Kelly, CEO of San Diego Seniors Community Foundation says one way to prepare is through philanthropy. Bob, welcome. Thank you. Hey, what demographic changes when we see in the San Diego County population in the next 10 years,

Speaker 2: 00:26 we're going to go to about 4 million people by the year. 2030 about a million. Two 1,000,001 are going to be over the age of 60, which is an incredible change. So where wherever you look, one out of four persons are going to be over the age of 60. Also part of that statistic, it's an another interesting statistic and about a third of that million are going to be senior orphans and these are people who have nobody in their lives in the, in from a family perspective. Um, so we're going to have close to three hundred thousand four hundred thousand senior orphans in San Diego by the year 2030.

Speaker 1: 01:03 Hmm. So why did you commission this report and why the focus on seniors centers and not on say housing or prescription drug prices or something like [inaudible].

Speaker 2: 01:13 Yeah. Um, we decided to do this report because I'm knowing all of the seniors that were going to have, and knowing the statistics that about 80% of seniors want to live in their own home. They don't want to move to a facility or a senior complex. So you look at the senior centers, they should be and the hub of, of the, uh, for the resources for those seniors that are living in those communities. And so we decided it's time to look and see how we doing right now with all of these senior centers. It's pretty sad to see the status of, um, we have about 28 senior centers in San Diego. Um, 21 of them, uh, were built, uh, 30 years ago. 11 of them have been built 40 years ago.

Speaker 1: 01:55 So you described the outlook as depressing, um, sort of explained what it is that senior centers are used for. How do they serve, uh, seniors?

Speaker 2: 02:05 Yeah. The Classic Senior Center right now is that what everybody has the perception of you and it's dark and it's dingy and it's a lot of old people and they're playing Bingo and they're sitting around just talking. I'm maybe needing all of that's well, it's good and it, it gets people socialized, gets them out of the house. But it really, the, the futures senior centers are just completely different. A good example is that seniors over the age of 60 or over the age of 55, um, I have a very difficult time looking for jobs, uh, finding jobs. People don't want to hire senior citizens. Um, as a new senior center would actually have job training programs, job referral programs in the senior center. People know that I can call my local senior center and I can go down there. I can learn for example, that, uh, how to interview because quote the old days, you'd have a lot of face to face interviews.

Speaker 2: 02:59 Guess what? Nowadays it's, ah, it's on the computer. Well, a lot of these seniors, they don't know how to do that. Not only that, they don't have, um, a Internet service or they don't have a laptop. So they can go down there and they can learn how to do job interviews over the Internet, how to get a job in this new economy. And so this is what you hope senior centers senior centers will be in the future? Correct. Um, but as it stands today, only five of the senior centers have computers. If you look at a few of the senior centers, like one in the South Bay, their annual budget is $26,000 a year. Rancho Bernardo, uh, their annual budgets, $80,000, they have no staff. It's all volunteer. Think about a modern YMC, a 20 to $40 million complex, average budgets anywhere from two to $4 million. You look at our, the senior centers, we have now again, budgets, $100,000, no staff.

Speaker 2: 03:53 And when you talk about the budgets, where does funding come from for these senior centers? Um, it's a mixture. Some of them are run by cities and the city of San Diego has a few that they run. Um, the county of San Diego has some that they run. And then there's some not for profit organizations that have been set up. Like for example, Borrego springs. Um, they have a small senior center on Borrego Springs. It's run by a local not-for-profit, their budget. So it's probably 30, $40,000 a year. Um, they only may service 20, 30 people a day with the funding that they have. Are these senior centers even able to provide meals? Yes, some of them do. And they have congregate meals. They work with different organizations like meals on wheels, um, serving seniors. Some other organizations, they'll bring in the food, but I'm a real sophisticated senior center should have a commercial kitchen.

Speaker 2: 04:45 And so this does, this is sort of a snapshot of the problem. Ultimately. What are you hoping to accomplish with this report? Well, we want people to wake up and understand where we are right now. Also, if you look at the world of philanthropy, less than 2% of charitable dollars goes to help seniors, which is when you think about the billions of dollars that are granted out every year from individuals, corporations, Cetera, it's pretty dismal that only 2% goes to seniors. So part of our goal is to increase the philanthropy that because we believe government can't take care of it all. Government can't. The cities, the counties, they can't run all these senior centers. You know, they don't, it's just don't have enough money. Um, but we believe philanthropy can, again, using the models of the y MCA, the boys and girls clubs in San Diego, looking at the money that they have raised over the years to be able to provide the services to, to the young people of San Diego.

Speaker 2: 05:36 But is there opportunity at all, even to partner with the county? You know, the county launched its own plan last year, the age, well, San Diego Action Plan, which also includes goals and action steps. A, what do you think of that plan? Is it something your foundation could be involved with? Oh, yes. Uh, the county's doing a good job. I mean the county is doing a good job. Um, there's some, there's other groups that are working on aging in place. Um, we at the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation believe that the senior centers are the core of all of that. And let's just say your mother's here in San Diego and she's 80 years old and she's isolated in her house and you're living in Boston, you're worried about your mother. That senior center could be the go to place where they can say, could you help me? My mother's by herself. Could you get her connected to the services that you're talking about that the county's putting together throughout San Diego County and governor Newsome has got this whole plan now that he wants to develop a statewide plan to, um, you know, a, a strategic plan to deal with the young, the upcoming, you know, the numbers of seniors.

Speaker 2: 06:43 And what more do you believe the county and state ought to be doing or offer in terms of services for seniors? Um, again, job training programs. Very, very few have any programs geared towards helping seniors find jobs. And you know, the, some of the statistics of one on four seniors over the age of 65 are going to continue to work. They have to work. A lot of these people, their social security's $1,000 a month. That's what they're living on. And so part of all of this is getting the county, the city, and everybody to understand some of these and create new programs that would be able to support the changing demographics that are right in front of our face. I've been speaking with Bob Kelly, CEO of San Diego Seniors Community Foundation. Bob, thank you so much. Yeah. Great. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Mold was found last month in nearly 2,500 Dora dorm rooms at joint base San Antonio Lackland, and it wasn't the first time the military faced criticism for housing conditions, but some advocates say it could be a turning point because air force members at the base took to social media to publicize the situation. Carson frame reports for the American homefront project.

Speaker 2: 00:23 Facebook photos show dorm environments riddled with this stuff. Mold creeping up a uniform sleeve across a pillow and along the edges of a box. Right after the photos were posted, more than 500 airmen were temporarily relocated and workers ripped up carpet and treated the mold with bleach and other measures. Around 20 people have reported minor symptoms in connection with it. General John [inaudible] goes of Lachlan's 59th medical wing says mold usually doesn't cause serious complications in healthy people or the primary health concern with exposure to mold or allergy like symptoms. Uh, it'd be itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat. Those who have asthma could have an asthma flare, but it wasn't those health concerns that sparked the unusually quick response for military officials. It was the fact that airman posted pictures of the mold which went viral on social media. General Laura Lenderman commands the five-o second airbase wing, which performance logistics for joint base San Antonio. She says the mold is a familiar problem

Speaker 3: 01:25 based on the environment where we live on the circumstances, the heat and humidity, the aging infrastructure. Well we didn't know was the extent of the problem and is that social media blast allowed us to understand the extent

Speaker 2: 01:39 Lenderman points out that a dorm and campus improvement plan was already in the works, but she says the photos of the mold on social media have sped up the process.

Speaker 3: 01:46 We were able just to implement pieces and parts of that plan as well as some other new ideas and provide momentum and a catalyst to the solutions.

Speaker 2: 01:56 The military has long struggled to manage complaints about mold. In February, the Senate Armed Services Committee had a series of hearings which exposed problems that families were facing with mold in private housing on bases across the country. Lawmakers took military leadership to task over their lack of responsiveness and passed a defense budget with more housing protections. Kelly Rusko is with the national military family association. She says that although the majority of those hearings focused on private housing, they also revealed problems in dorms and other work buildings in bits and pieces. You would hear that privatized housing was just the tip of the iceberg and that when you looked at some of the barracks and you looked at some of the older work buildings that they were facing similar problems with mold. Raska says that photos of widespread mold at Lackland are helping to spotlight the problem and says the use of social media is telling the fact that they were posting the pictures on Facebook tells me that there may have been a breakdown in the reporting. Um, and will say that a lot of the focus has been on the housing. So this tells us that we need to expand some of these protections to make sure that it includes all installation facilities

Speaker 2: 03:16 back at Lackland general. Lenderman says she's committed to transparency and is determined to rebuild faith in her wing. And if we've lost any amount of trust with our and because of the situation in the dorms, then that's my job is to rebuild that trust. In the weeks since Lachlan's mold problem exploded on social media base, leaders have used some of the same tools to respond. They created a mold remediation website to keep service members and the public updated. They've also documented their cleanup efforts across Twitter and Facebook. In San Antonio, I'm Carson frame. This story was produced by the American homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

Speaker 4: 04:00 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's tough to find a river in the west that still behaves like a Western river on that rises and falls with the rush of melting snow. Most of the region's major streams are controlled by dams and that makes the relatively free flowing Yampa river in Northwestern Colorado unique as Luke Runyon reports, the people who depend on it are wondering how best to protect the river as the west water grows more scarce.

Speaker 2: 00:27 That's the sound of river guides hammering stakes into the sand along a small beach inside Yampa Canyon, they're keeping seven inflatable rafts from drifting downstream where Whitewater is churning. Sending an ominous roar

Speaker 3: 00:41 up the narrow sandstone wall.

Speaker 3: 00:48 John Saunders purchase on a rocky outcropping and points out the features of warm springs. It's one of the river's more technical sections. The water is beige and roiling like a latte in a blender on high speed. As the water comes around the corner, you start to see ways picking up and you see some waves that are actually crashing and looks intimidating. I'm part of a group of about 30 people, including water professionals and elected officials on a five day trip through dinosaur national monument. It's organized by conservation groups, including American rivers and Whitewater outfitter. Oars Saunders is one of our guides. How many times have you run this stretch? Oh Gosh, that's a good question. 10 or 15 maybe. And does it ever look the same? No. It's a different story every time we come. What do you think when you look at it? I think it looks scary. I agree with this is a good illustration. Yeah.

Speaker 2: 01:47 Of what makes the Yampa so unique in the west. It's flow changes daily. And while that might sound like a small detail, it's variability is a defining feature.

Speaker 4: 01:57 This river is uh, a relic in some ways.

Speaker 2: 02:01 Kent for trees is the board chair of the river advocacy group, friends of the Yampa. At the end of a cold, rainy day on the river, we chatted at a narrow camp site called compromise. It's a fitting name given the growing pressures on the Yampa and other rivers across the West.

Speaker 4: 02:17 Today's world where most rivers have been damned diverted and de-watered to the point where they're not functioning as rivers do or use to. This rivers still has that functionality

Speaker 2: 02:33 and that's not by accident. It comes despite varying interests, cities, farmers, and recreational lists all wanting a piece of it. In the 1950s environmental groups stymied an effort to dam the Yampa, but Virtru [inaudible] and others know the day will come when the river could be more vulnerable.

Speaker 4: 02:52 We do have a lot of growth happening in Colorado, all of the states in the Colorado Basin. We've been far enough away to this point to to preserve the flows of the input.

Speaker 3: 03:08 The largest city along the Yampa is steamboat springs, and while the community relies on the river for its water, the valley's biggest users are farmers and ranchers. Part of the ranch is right at Clark. Jay fetcher raises cattle along one of the rivers, tributaries. Part of his operation is growing hay for his animals in the amount of water it takes me to your flutter gate. That middle would take care of 3000 people for one year if it were shipped to the front range. Do you think that sometimes agricultural users get unfairly blamed for water scarcity problems or, I do think we get, we get blamed. Yeah. Yeah. [inaudible] and yet people want to eat. They do want to eat and they want to recreate, right? They want to recreate

Speaker 2: 04:02 with high flows. This summer, the fishing tubing and rafting was good, but it was a different story last year when drought and record heat caused parts of the watershed to run dry.

Speaker 5: 04:14 It was a big deal, number one, because it had never happened before. Right.

Speaker 2: 04:18 Aaron light is the state engineer in charge of managing and measuring water in the Yampa and its tributaries

Speaker 5: 04:24 and number two, it encompass the entire Yampa river.

Speaker 2: 04:27 She had to turn off water to some ranchers to meet other water obligations down river. That's when the Yampa became the newest member of a whole class of western rivers ones where there's more water on paper than in the river itself.

Speaker 5: 04:42 Sometimes we joke about it being, or maybe not joking, it's just a statement and we use that as the last frontier and when it comes to water, I think we are the last frontier.

Speaker 2: 04:50 So far no one's shown up on Jay fetcher's doorstep looking to buy his water yet, but for agriculture to survive in the long term, he says they need to make the case that their livelihoods are valuable.

Speaker 3: 05:04 I think with Colorado getting thirstier with more people, we who use the resource, the river through our water rights have to think about what other benefits are provided by our flood irrigation at Colorado and Jones,

Speaker 2: 05:25 like the wetlands. He says his flood irrigation creates that wouldn't be there otherwise.

Speaker 4: 05:30 Wow.

Speaker 2: 05:34 Back in Yampa Canyon. Those same concerns weigh on. Jackie Brown, she's a recent appointee to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. It's the state's decision making authority on all things water.

Speaker 3: 05:46 I think we're really out of out of time and water development and in water resource management when we've built relationships

Speaker 6: 05:58 to have the hard conversations

Speaker 2: 06:02 once then include the contentious issue of pursuing federal protection for the rivers flow or demand management. A still theoretical program that would pay farmers to irrigate less and send the saved water to the Colorado rivers dwindling reservoirs.

Speaker 7: 06:18 Something that I grapple with all the time is what does rural Colorado look like in two years, in five years, in 10 years, in 50 years. That's the question we're asking ourselves right now.

Speaker 2: 06:30 It's a future that's still being written and charting. That course will be up to everyone who uses water in the area

Speaker 3: 06:38 west. I think rivers that have a natural heartbeat or what we're calling on this trip, that natural hydrograph again, river guide, John Saunders, they tend to reflect a story and so we're starting to see this story change and every time we come down here it's a, you know, much like in our own lives. You know, if we look at our own lies, every day is a different story. I think rivers reflect that.

Speaker 2: 07:04 There was one more point of reflection on the trail when the rafts slipped silently in echo park where the Yampa ends and meets the Green River. Let's go that way first. Just yell Yampa as long as you can. Staying silent for, let's say a good 10 seconds, 10 count. Try To count how many echoes you can hear. Okay. One, two, three.

Speaker 6: 07:27 Yeah. [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 07:34 in Yampa Canyon. I'm Luke Runyon.

Speaker 6: 07:41 [inaudible] [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The New York Times has been asking readers that question for a couple of months now. And the list they've come up with is filled with much more than the usual suspects. Of course, the beach boys and the eagles are there, but so our led Zepplin Nico case, Johnny Cash, the California Soundtrack, they've compiled cover songs about California set in California or just feel like California, including artists ranging from Tony Bennett to Kendrick Lamar. Johnny me is John Parrella's, chief popular music critic at the New York Times. And John, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:34 Great to be here.

Speaker 1: 00:35 So where did the idea to put together a California soundtrack come from?

Speaker 2: 00:39 Well, I gotta hand it to our California bureau. Um, the times has been aggressively covering California and they realized how much culture is part of California. And it was their idea. Um, I enthusiastically jumped in, but I handled all to our California desk.

Speaker 1: 01:00 Let's go through with some of the title tracks on this playlist. Some of them are California classics, like the Beach Boys, good vibrations.

Speaker 3: 01:09 Oh, hello. The cooler food and the way this m y plays

Speaker 1: 01:23 California isn't mentioned in this song. What is it about this song besides that is by the beach boys that gives it a California vibe?

Speaker 2: 01:33 Well, this is actually my ultimate California Song, um, which tells you what generation I'm in, but also it's like Oakland, California song for a lot of reasons. It's about the geography of California. It feels like California

Speaker 3: 01:59 [inaudible].

Speaker 2: 02:01 It's about the incredible virtuosity that people put into California songs. Brian Wilson had the best studio guys at his disposal and he pushed him to the limit. It has that slightly psychedelic fantasy feeling and I always feel like California is America's fantasy factor. And so all of these things fit together in that song. Plus it's a beautiful song and I love the key change near the end.

Speaker 1: 02:28 There's also some obvious choices here, like California dreaming and Tupac, California love. One of the songs I like best on the list is California soul by Marlina Shaw.

Speaker 3: 02:45 [inaudible] like a sound, you hear that thing goes in, you eat a bunch of cans from sundown. It's all all in the

Speaker 2: 03:00 Hay. He read everywhere, no matter what you do, it's [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 03:04 That seems like one of the songs that would get someone thinking about actually moving to California. Are there more like that on the list?

Speaker 2: 03:11 I mean, California dream in which is a homesick song. So if you listen to the words, it's about being stuck in the rain somewhere. And you know, Lonnie for California, Joni Mitchell's California is not set in California. She's all over the world wishing she could get home California and in California is a great magnet for a, it was a magnet for westward emigration and it's a magnet for immigration obviously. I mean it is the earthly paradise if he could get away from the earthquakes, but the, you know, what California is this, the worry of it's cities is the story of it's farm workers is the story of um, it's hippies is the story of, it's just everybody who's there. Um, and to me, I'm a New Yorker. I'm on the wrong coast. Okay. I really should not pronouncing on this except that. Um, when you have distance from a place, sometimes you can see it. Um, in perspective,

Speaker 1: 04:07 I mentioned the unlikely artists you have on the California soundtrack. What's led Zepplin doing on the list?

Speaker 2: 04:13 Led Zeppelin going to California, that's their fantasy of California. And you know, their English, you, you know, they live in the rain. Um, they, they talk funny. So I mean California is, is, is even more of a fantasy to them than it is to me as an American.

Speaker 1: 04:28 San Diego also gets a shout out. Here's San Diego serenade by Tom Waits.

Speaker 4: 04:42 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 04:42 never saw them. [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 04:51 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 04:51 we never saw the sun. [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 05:00 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 05:01 never saw my mom's [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 05:08 Nah,

Speaker 1: 05:10 never earned the medal again. San Diego serenade by Tom Waits and it's on the New York Times California soundtrack. Now I'm thinking that it might be hard to make a soundtrack list for Vermont or Idaho, but what other states do you think might qualify to have their own playlist?

Speaker 2: 05:29 Oh, a Texas. Yeah, I was thinking about that too. Yeah. Um, and in Tennessee, um, and Detroit and Chicago and New York City, people are proud of where they live and, and rightfully so. I mean, music arises out of the geography and out of the culture and out of the way people get together. Music is a social thing. Um, music and food are, are United in a way that, you know,

Speaker 3: 05:58 did local food, the local music, the local wine all fit together. So maybe more cities than rural areas. But I bet there is some small town somewhere that just has a smoking local scene and people are writing about main street down somewhere. I'd love to find it out.

Speaker 4: 06:19 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 06:19 never saw my mom's [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 06:27 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 06:28 I never heard the Mellow d [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 06:37 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 06:37 I've been speaking with John Parrella's, chief popular music critic at the New York Times, who's going to be in San Diego at the San Diego Central Library Friday evening. Talk more about the California soundtrack. John, thanks so much. Thank you.

Speaker 4: 06:54 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 06:55 never. I knew I needed you until last minute.

Speaker 4: 07:04 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 07:05 never [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 07:13 [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 07:13 never fed my heartstrings. [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 07:23 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego Rep and Amigos Dell Rep will hold the third annual Latin x new play festival at the lyceum space theater beginning Friday. KPBS archery, porter bath DACA Amando speaks with Jordan Ramirez pocket about her play to saints and stars that will have a staged reading on Saturday.

Speaker 2: 00:18 Your play to saints and Stars is one of the plays being produced here as part of this Latin x new play festival. First of all, tell me what the play's about. So the play is about two lifelong friends. One is pregnant with her first child and the other is going on the first man mission to Mars. And so it's about female friendship over a lifetime and how our lives can take drastically different paths. Seriously. But maybe you should play the helpless girl card. Not just say that I did and I stand by it. You're a bad feminist. I'd rather be that than someone who lets her principles get in the way. [inaudible] even I'm being told to abandon my principals by the wife of a priest. I'm not saying do anything immoral, but sometimes as women we have to be flexible. And how's that working out for you?

Speaker 2: 01:08 I'm very happy with where I am. Oh, perfect wife, perfect life. I wouldn't go that far. Yeah. And what problems did you have to deal with today? Trust me, I had my share. And what inspired you to tackle this story? I often joke that if the main character were a playwright instead of an astronaut, it would be an autobiography. It's a sort of dedicated to my lifelong friend. You know, I'm at that age where a lot of my friends are having children. Um, and as someone who is not having children, uh, this was sort of my way of, of dealing with my feelings around that. I think. And I think it's something [inaudible] that a lot of women can relate to. And this isn't your first play, but you've talked about the fact that you deal with similar themes about non romantic love in your place.

Speaker 2: 01:56 Yes, absolutely. I think that the love between a chosen family, people that you choose to spend your life with as friends and the love between a parent and a child or between siblings is just every bit as powerful as romantic love. And I'd like to see more of that on stage. So I'm writing it now part of a festival where the plays are given staged readings. So for people who may not know what that is, explain what they can expect from this. Absolutely. So we have, you know, significantly less rehearsal time than you would see in a regular production. I think we have about 20 hours a week and a main stage might have a hundred hours over the course of a couple months. And basically the actors will have scripts in hand the whole time. And what's great about that for me is I plan on making changes to the play throughout the week as we're working on the script, developing it with the actors, getting the actors feedback, the Dramaturg, the director.

Speaker 2: 02:55 And so I might be making changes to the script. Same an audience it. Um, so for the actors to have that written in, they can actually implement the changes, but they will be rehearsed and so they'll have sort of the emotional truth behind it, even if they're reading the words off the page. And for a playwright, what does a stage reading do for you in terms of in the evolution of a play? What does this kind of serve a purpose for and how does that help you to kind of move the play forward? I believe that the most important character in any plays the audience, and you don't get a sense of that when you're alone in your room meeting the play on a computer screen or even if you get a bunch of friends together and just read it in your living room, you need a live breathing audience to go, oh, okay.

Speaker 2: 03:39 That's a laugh line. I didn't realize it was a laugh line. Great. The actors should note a pause there. Oh, that was supposed to be a laugh line and no one got it. I guess I need to rewrite that and retool it. It's really informative to know what's working and what's not. And you only get a sense of that by being in the room. And so it's a way for theaters to help a playwright test material out before you're the big stakes of getting it. I'm a full production and you have reviewers coming to opening night, you are a playwright, but you didn't start in theater as a playwright. So how, what was this kind of process, this journey to being a playwright? Yeah, I, I've always loved theater. Um, I've loved the idea of a live audience and live actors in the same space together.

Speaker 2: 04:23 You know, laughing together, crying together, breathing together. Um, so I thought, oh, I should be an actor. And when I was in high school and I was terrible at it, truly horrible. Uh, and I went to college and thought, okay, acting's not for me, but let me try stage management. I like, I'm very organized I think. And um, but that didn't give me enough sort of creativity. So I've done lighting, design, costume production management. I've sort of dabbled in a lot of different things before really being able to spend my time on playwriting, which is I love, part of what this is about too is there's this discussion of science and faith also comes into play, not just to women who are taking different paths. So how does that play out? I consider myself [inaudible] a person of faith, but I also deeply value scientific contributions and I think a lot of times I see them put at odds with one another.

Speaker 2: 05:14 Either you believe in God or you believe in science. So I was really interested in exploring that through these two women. One is sort of representative of faith and one is representative of science and so what happens when they're working together versus what happens when they're fighting with each other as sort of the world is much better if we work together. So I was interested in exploring that through these two characters. Now this is going to be part of this Latin x playwright project. How does your cultural background come into play in the play or in terms of this festival? I'm half Chicana, half white. And so Sophia, the lead is also Chicana and white and she does very subtly is dealing with what that means in terms of what people expect from her, how people want to identify her versus how she identifies herself and what it's like to be a woman of color as an astronaut.

Speaker 2: 06:11 And I think that her story is really important to see women of color in roles that we don't traditionally see them in. So yeah, I'm really excited to be working on this for the Latinex festival and being part of this larger festival. Do you also appreciate how all these playwrights are very different and kind of giving different perspectives on what being Latin x means? Absolutely. I'm so excited to see the other plays in the festival this weekend. Um, I think it's really wonderful that we're all going to be, uh, in a lineup together, but I haven't read the other plays yet, but what I've read from the Synopsys, you know, we're all tackling it in very different ways and I think that's so important that the Latinex community is so huge in terms of cultural diversity. What countries, you know, everyone comes from and their background and lived experiences.

Speaker 2: 07:07 And it's not, we don't all look alike. We don't all sound alike. We don't all have the same background and experiences. And I'm really excited that multiple perspectives are going to be represented this weekend. And what are you hoping people will come away from this play thinking about? I always hope that my players make someone want to pick up the phone and call a loved one. You know, I really hope that it inspires them to look at the relationships that they have in their lives and, and remember the people that they care about and to reach out to them. Um, I think we could all use a little bit more of that. Alright, well, I wanna thank you very much for talking about your play. Absolutely. Thank you. And that was bad luck. Amando speaking with playwright Jordan Ramirez pocket, the third annual San Diego Rep Latinex play festival takes place this Friday through Sunday at the lyceum space theater.

Speaker 3: 08:01 Ooh.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.