Skip to main content

Migrant Protest in Tijuana, Plastic Straw Ban, Jazzercise

Cover image for podcast episode

Migrants from Cameroon are protesting the immigration process in Tijuana. Also, lawyer Cory Briggs announces a run for San Diego City Attorney, San Diego restaurants are working to comply with the new plastic straw ban, Carlsbad-based Jazzercise turns 50, and using art to define home and shelter.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 For most of the morning. The entrance at the border were vans carrying migrants in and out of the US from Mexico has been blocked in traffic at a halt. It was blocked by asylum seekers from Cameroon who say for months they'd been waiting for asylum in Mexico, but have been ignored as Mexican immigration officials took bribes to give up spots on the list. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Adler has been there at the border and joined us via Skype with more Max. Welcome. Hi. So Max described a scene right now. What are you seeing?

Speaker 2: 00:33 So right now there is a group of Cameroonians who have been camped out since the morning. Uh, they have become frustrated and disgruntled over the past two months, um, where basically they kept being denied entrance into the u s which is the only way they can claim asylum. Uh, the formal way, they put their name on this thing called the list, which is unofficially kept by Mexican integration and a have felt that their number has been called but they're not being led in a, this is a lied to allegations on by them that Mexican officials have been taking bribes to let people go to the top of the list and are basically discriminating against the Kamra Indians. Um, not only because they're African but also because they don't speak Spanish. Uh, which is a huge language barrier that's presenting itself here.

Speaker 1: 01:21 And you said that this protest was actually resolved moments ago. What just happened? So what just happened?

Speaker 2: 01:27 The actually is earlier today after blocking traffic, uh, exasperated Mexican officials kinda grabbed eight representatives from the group, took them into the port of entry on the Mexican side, uh, had around an hour long conversation with them. Uh, and then the eight individuals they brought in came back out and told the protestors that they had reached an understanding where Cameroonians and Eritreans and other people of African descent who are here will be able to verify each morning that the list that is, uh, being used again, this unofficial kind of informal list, um, that the people who are names are being called are the ones whose names appear actually on that list as opposed to people who are, you know, basically paying their way to the top of the list. You had several situations where, uh, the Mexican officials would say, well, we're not taking anybody off the list today. And then sure enough, the Cameroonians would see people leaving on that bus that takes them to the u s uh, obviously showing that something was the foot that they were not party to. So they believe that they have some way to verify the veracity of the list and are gonna stay on top of this. They haven't said, oh, we're going to protest. I spoke to a gentleman named Douglas who had come out of these negotiations with Mexican officials. Here's what he had to say about moving forward with the protests.

Speaker 1: 02:44 Nothing. We got [inaudible] and in that clip he was saying there's nothing he can do. He doesn't have any papers to stay here. Tell me more about why people from Cameroon staged this protest. Um, people from Cameron

Speaker 2: 03:00 stage this protest again because they've been here for at least over two months. They were fleeing some really, um, dreadful and uh, persecution and Cameroon, they've come a very long way. Almost all of them have gone to somewhere in South America, gone through the jungle into Panama and found their way to Tijuana only to be stranded here now for uh, over two months for the most part. Um, a lot of these people were from the professional class in Cameroon or I was talking with lawyers, teachers who have been on the, the, um, end of persecution there and basically they understand the treacherous legal situation they're in. They have no status here. They cannot work. Uh, they were given two week visas when they entered Mexico at Chapa Chula. And those have since expired. That's something that the Mexican government has been using against them. When they show up and ask for entry, they say, well, you don't have a valid visa. And they say, well, you know, we thought we were going to be processed much earlier. So basically it's a, it's a, it's a, it's a boiling situation here. They're going increasingly exasperated and that led them to take direct action this morning, which, you know, we will see might have been somewhat successful.

Speaker 1: 04:06 Can you talk a bit about what the situation in Cameroon is? Why are people seeking asylum in the u s

Speaker 2: 04:12 yeah. The situation in Cameroon and not a lot of Americans are familiar with, but basically the French speaking majority that's around 80% of the country, uh, over the past two years has kind of a crackdown violently and, um, against the English speaking minority, which as a part of basically, uh, they claimed that they face persecution, tried to form a breakaway state from the other part of camera. And again, the French speaking majority, uh, which has resulted in a massive arrests, um, reprisals, violent reprisals by the military against this English speaking minority. So you end up with a large majority of Cameroonians coming and trying to enter the u s and claim asylum and actually do classically fit the American definition of asylum, which is that you are being politically persecuted. Um, they're not coming here because they didn't have work. Like I said, a lot of them are doctors, teachers, I'm at a nurse, lawyers, um, and they basically, uh, many people in the civil service. So as, as I'm sitting here right now in Tijuana, camera needs are walking away from the port of entry and, and seem resolved to, uh, to begin this protest another day or, or keep verifying whether what they've been told by the Mexican government is true. They've come a very, very long way and paid a, a pretty steep price at that.

Speaker 1: 05:27 And can you tell me a bit about what the metering policy is and how it may be standing in the way of Cameroonians getting a process for asylum? So for

Speaker 2: 05:37 over a year now, the United States has said they simply do not have the capacity to take all of the asylum seekers that are showing up along its southern borders. That includes the so called migraine caravans from Central America, but also much more frequently. Now we're seeing a lot of people from, uh, Equatorial Africa, um, basically people dealing with either political strife or climate change. And this has led to kind of a backlog here in places like to Quanta where people are not being allowed entry into the United States based on the idea that listen, we just don't have enough space. The veracity of those claims by the U S is interesting. Um, and, and hasn't really been, it's playing out right now in court, especially when it comes to the idea that there are people who are being returned back to Mexico who are, um, uh, claiming asylum and having to wait out their asylum claims in Mexico. Um, but while they're doing that, they're also, um, being held at the port of entry after they've been returned from a court in downtown San Diego for weeks at a time. So that's further exacerbating, uh, the stress on the ports of entry and the limited bed space and detention areas that they have. So really there was a bottleneck, not only in Tijuana, but also at the port of entry itself, which if it didn't have capacity before, almost certainly doesn't now.

Speaker 1: 06:56 So for now, negotiations have happened and things have resolved. This is something though I'm sure you'll keep an eye on, right?

Speaker 2: 07:04 Yeah. I mean, the, this is something that is going to happen every single morning because people are going to be following this list quite closely for many of them lacking healthcare, jobs and money. It is a matter of life and death. So they are, are going to continue to advocate for themselves and push this issue. And a, it's now on the Mexican side of things to kind of keep up the agreement that,

Speaker 1: 07:25 that they've come to with these protesters. All right. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Nadler Max, thank you so much. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 You may recognize the name Corey Briggs. The San Diego Turny has made headlines for filing lawsuits against downtown developers and municipalities, including San Diego. Now he wants to be San Diego's next city attorney. He joined KPBS evening edition Anchor Ebony Monet to talk about his campaign to replace Mara Elliott. Here's that interview. Welcome. Hi. Thanks for having me. So why do you want to be San Diego's next city attorney?

Speaker 2: 00:28 The city attorney's office has been turned into a politic shop. We need to get it back to running as a straight up objective law firm that provides a support role to the mayor and the city council. Right now, the city attorney's office practices in politics disguised as lawyering. That's not good for taxpayers. It's not good for voters. It's not good for accomplishing what the mayor and the city council set out to accomplish for the people who get them elected into office. I want to fix that. I want to take the office back to being just a straight up regular law firm that gives the best possible advice to the mayor and the city council so that they can go out and do what they got elected to do.

Speaker 1: 01:03 After being a frequent challenger of the, the city of San Diego, do you feel that you could offer politics free advice?

Speaker 2: 01:11 Yeah. Look, the reason that my clients have hired me to uh, to sue the city on occasion to sue other government agencies is because politics is what's driving these decisions as opposed to being supported based on good legal advice. Right. When you have the city attorney influencing the decisions because he or she is politically motivated, the mayor and the city council ended up making bad decisions because they're getting political advice from lawyers. What we need are the lawyers to be given good legal advice so that the politicians are not getting the tax payers and hot water in the first place. There's a right way and a wrong way to do things and our current city attorney frequently tells the city council and the mayor how to do it incorrectly because it's politics driven. Once we get back to making decisions based on the law, just a straight up reading, giving straight legal advice, they can make the decisions.

Speaker 1: 02:01 Do you think that that could possibly be a black eye during this campaign? How would you explain that to two potential voters?

Speaker 2: 02:09 The proof is in the pudding. My client's sue, they win cases. The judges look at it. The judges conclude that they did the right thing, that they provided a public service and the judge approves the attorney's fees. That's all part of the way the system works. Think about it from the other side. When you have a politically motivated city attorney's office, who sues the voters to block them from voting on something as important as the future of mission valley to expand this very university. By the way, when that happens and it cost the taxpayers $600,000 who do they go to to get that money back? Nobody. The city attorney's office gets to shrug its soldiers and say, too bad. So sad. That's unacceptable. I don't have that luxury in private practice. And I bring that ethic of putting the client to the city attorney's office.

Speaker 2: 03:01 And of course, to be fair, we will reach out to the city attorney's office and ask our Elliott for a response. So you speak a lot about transparency in government. Can you tell us about the San Diego ins for open government and in your role with that organization? Sure. I've been an attorney since the beginning. It's followed a lot of lawsuits against government agencies to make sure that the public gets all of the information to which it's entitled frequently, as I'm sure you know, the government stonewalls and doesn't like to turn over documents. And so we've had to file a number of lawsuits to make sure that those documents were released. And we should disclose that your organization has found a lawsuit against our media partner I new source and KPBS, um, via San Diego State University, which holds our license. The lawsuit came after a series of investigative reports that outlined your ties to nonprofits.

Speaker 2: 03:55 What would you say to critics who believe your intention is to benefit financially from these nonprofits by suing and then settling? Well, so two things. Number one, you should make sure your audience also knows that I wasn't involved in that lawsuit. I have nothing to do with it, not involved. That should be reported as well, so I can't comment on it. Just not a participant. Participant in it. The question about whether I benefit from filing lawsuits, I'm a lawyer, I represent clients. I get paid for doing a good job for them. If I'm in the city attorney's office, I'm going to represent the city acting through the mayor and the city council with the same vigor, with the same integrity, with the same, uh, with the same experience and education that I bring to my private clients. Here's the difference between private and public lawyers.

Speaker 2: 04:42 Private lawyers always have to think about what happens if they screw up because if they screw up, two things could arise. Number one, the client could lose a lot of money. And number two, the lawyer could get sued for malpractice. Public attorneys don't take those things into account because public attorneys like city attorney, Mark Elliot, when they screw up, they just shrug their shoulders and say, well, the tax payers will pick up the tab and they can't be sued for malpractice. So they have a very cavalier attitude toward protecting the public. I'm going to take my experience in private practice and bring it to the city where the taxpayers and the voters need to be put first to make sure that they're protected so that there's no politically motivated advice influencing what the mayor and the city council do. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 05:26 That was Corey Briggs, a San Diego attorney who's challenging Mara Elliot in the race for city attorney. He spoke with KPBS evening edition Anchor Ebony Monet KPBS reached out to city attorney Mora Elliot's campaign for comment and the Co Mara Elliot's campaign consultant responded by saying city attorney Mara Elliott is often running for reelection with a stellar record of accomplishment, protecting San Diego. We welcome any and all opponents to the race. The consultant continued saying, Briggs is quote, a millionaire shopping around for political office, and he's going to find out that winning the people's trust is a lot more difficult than suing them unquote.

Speaker 3: 06:09 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 Earlier this year, San Diego adopted new rules limiting the use of plastic straws and utensils. But recently the city has suspended the enforcement of those rules because it's being sued. As KPBS reporter Prius Schriefer explains the new rule and changes to would have been confusing for businesses across the city.

Speaker 2: 00:20 Laura Ambross and her husband have owned Woodstock's pizza, a chain of pizza places across California for 18 years. She says, keeping track of all the ordinances and laws in each place she owns a restaurant can sometimes be difficult.

Speaker 3: 00:35 Now, in California, there's been a trend toward every municipality creating their own sets of laws. So yeah, we have to be really careful because we're in six different towns.

Speaker 2: 00:48 Six months ago, the California legislature set limitations on plastic straws and utensils at full service restaurants. Customers have to ask for them, but Ambrose says that didn't leave her scrambling. Her restaurants stopped giving out plastic straws long before the ban. But she says the change did cause some challenges.

Speaker 3: 01:08 The paper Straw industry got overloaded. They couldn't keep up with the demand. And so what we did as a first step is we took the straws away and put them behind the counter and now we have to, you know, we tell our guests that they need to ask for a straw and then they parcel those out one by one.

Speaker 2: 01:28 She says, not only has she not been able to find a paper Straw supplier who can keep up with the demand paper straws are also more expensive than plastic, but she's happy to not use plastic because of its impact on the environment.

Speaker 3: 01:41 Well for me it's, it's more than just whether it's a convenience or an inconvenience. It's something that's a necessity. I feel like all of us need to do our part to uh, improve the environment.

Speaker 2: 01:54 Volunteers removed more than 20,000 pieces of polyester rain from San Diego beaches in 2017. That's according to Surf Rider Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of the ocean. They say plastic straws are one of the most common items they find during beach cleanups and are harmful to marine wildlife. But getting rid of plastic straws completely isn't a realistic option for everyone. Christian, a Bosco is the director of the legal advocacy unit for disability rights. California, a nonprofit committed to protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

Speaker 4: 02:29 A plastic straws are a tool that many of our clients with disabilities need to to get equal service at, at business establishment. So what we advocate is, is that, uh, the laws that band straws have exception so that anybody who request a plastic straw, they have it available for them to use it.

Speaker 2: 02:51 He says paper straws aren't effective for people with mobility issues and metal and glass straws can be dangerous for them

Speaker 5: 02:59 and listen to this try and the plastic utensils, I suppose to ask for them

Speaker 2: 03:02 over in city heights, Enrique, again to REIA from the city heights business association has been handing out bilingual flyers to small businesses outlining the new rules.

Speaker 5: 03:12 I, small businesses have a lot of stuff to keep track of. Uh, so adding something else is not gonna make it easier, but I think it's a matter of time. And eventually businesses, uh, just, they adapt, they make changes and then they just, it's part of just doing business.

Speaker 2: 03:32 Andrew Benevidez opened up a coffee shop in city heights back in April technically because his shop doesn't count as a full service restaurant where customers order at a table instead of a counter. He doesn't have to comply with the law. Benevidez says he wants to be environmentally friendly but not all of his customers are on board.

Speaker 5: 03:52 Since we opened up, we just went straight with paper straws just because it is earth friendly. Um, and some people do complain about it cause it gets a little wobbly after awhile. But now since summer's coming around, a lot of people are drinking more cold drinks. Some more paper straws are being used. So we're definitely going to see an increase in that.

Speaker 2: 04:12 Under state law, any full service restaurant would be charged $25 per day for a violation. The maximum of restaurant could be find is $300 a year. The law would be enforced by officers from the Environmental Services Department. Violations would be reported by customers of the business. Joining me is KPBS reporter Prius, Schriefer and prayer. Welcome. Thanks for having me. Now, if the San Diego band were being enforced, would it be more restrictive than the state ban? So interestingly enough, no it wouldn't. It's literally the exact same rules that have rules. Essentially plastic utensils or straws can't be handed out to customers, but they can be given to customers if customers ask for them who's suing this city over the plastic straw and utensil band. So it's the California restaurant association and we're seeing similar lawsuits to this one across the country. Um, whether it's state laws that are being challenged or city ordinances specifically what the California Restaurant Association is saying is that there wasn't enough environmental research that was done that's going to prove that this is going to have some sort of significant impact on the environment.

Speaker 2: 05:23 So they're essentially asking for more research. The city has said in response to their lawsuit that they will be able to provide that research. So time will tell exactly how that plays out. Did you find there was a certain level of confusion among restaurant owners? You know, you have the state ban in forests, but the city ban is now suspended. Do people understand what's going on? I would say no. A lot of them didn't even know about the rules in the first place. So then we actually found out in the course of reporting this story that that ordinance had been suspended, the enforcement of it. But another important thing to remember is that, you know, there is no plastic Straw police. So there aren't people who are going and doing raids of restaurants looking for plastic straws. The way that this was supposed to be enforced in the first place was by customer complaints and it was going to be people from the environmental services department that would then come and check on restaurants where they were receiving multiple complaints and then a sh finding the restaurants if they did in fact find that plastic straws were being, um, just handed out or readily available to all the customers.

Speaker 2: 06:31 So in a lot of ways, nothing has really changed. Um, it's one of those, you kind of do have to buy into the concept of this being more environmentally friendly to really go along with the band. No. The restaurant tours you spoke with seem to be buying into the concept, but actually the practical application is still the question that they're dealing with. Yeah. So Maureen, it's kind of interesting because I didn't really expect the story to be super controversial, but I'm a lot of restaurant owners who I wasn't able to interview on camera because they were actually, they didn't want to appear on camera saying this position was that, you know, they've actually found it to be incredibly inconvenient, especially small restaurants. They basically said, listen, every penny counts and paper straws are a lot more expensive. And so it's just not practical for them. But because you know, San Diego and California in general is considered such a progressive, environmentally friendly state, they don't feel comfortable, you know, publicly saying that they're against the plastic straw ban.

Speaker 2: 07:32 And what about, what did they tell you about what their customers are telling them? Well, I mean just think about it as a consumer, right? I mean, it's summertime right now in California. Everybody likes to walk around with an ice latte in their hand. How do you drink an iced latte without a straw. But as you know, the city heights business association representative who was handing out those bilingual flyers to the small businesses sort of pointed out that this is just going to have to be a cultural shift and perhaps five or 10 years from now, everyone will be walking around with a metal Straw. You may have noticed if you've gone to a Starbucks, they actually have created special lids for their ice coffees that are kind of like sippy cups that children would drink out of. And a lot of people are saying, you know, they're worried about coffee spilling on themselves.

Speaker 2: 08:14 So I mean there's just, it's, it seems silly but it is a hard thing for a lot of customers and consumers to really wrap their brains around that they suddenly are going to have to find a new way to drink their cold coffees or their cold beverages, um, without a straw. Well, the non silly part of this is the argument that the disability advocate in your feature had. Are there any exceptions in the state law for people with disabilities who need to use straws? Right, so both the State Law and the city ordinance say that plastic straws should be available and the reason for that is the disability rights lobbyists across the country have done a pretty good job of educating legislators about the fact that they believe that people with disabilities really do need plastic straws. Metal and glass draws are not a sufficient option because they're, they can be dangerous to people with mobility issues and paper straws. They just don't have that structural integrity to really hold up.

Speaker 1: 09:10 When the plastic bag ban was being debated, environmentalist said plastic bags were among the most common items found during beach cleanups. Now they're saying plastic straws. Do we know what impact the plastic Straw band will have on the environment?

Speaker 2: 09:26 Well, you know, I did extensive research trying to answer that question and that's sort of the argument that the California Restaurant Association is making as well is that there is no clear indication what banning plastic straws will really do for the environment. I think it's a commonly accepted that plastic waste is not good for the environment and there is definitely evidence of that across the world. Um, but whether or not plot banning plastic straws is really gonna make a dent in plastic waste is kind of unclear. You may remember there was a video of viral video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw up his nostril. And that sort of what started this whole discussion. And so a lot of people are saying that what this plastic straw ban is really doing is creating dialogue around the fact that plastic waste in general is bad for the environment. And that this is more of sort of a symbolic gesture that more needs to be done about plastic waste than actually potentially, you know, solving all the problems relating to plastic waste because of the straws. And I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Priya there. Thank you so much. Thanks.

Speaker 6: 10:39 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando saw a connection between the recent film, the last black man in San Francisco and a place she sighed, San Diego international fringe called shelter. So she decided to speak with playwright Renee Westbrook about how her friend show and this new film define home and shelter Renee. I had the opportunity to see your play shelter at the San Diego International fringe festival and I was very impressed by it. It's a very personal story for you. And one of the things that struck me when I went to see this film, the last black man in San Francisco is that there was this kind of thematic link between your work and this. So to start off with, let people know a little bit about your place shelter and where it's origins come from. Well, shelter, yeah.

Speaker 2: 00:52 Was, I'd have to say if, if I have to define it, it was a unnecessary healing process. Uh, it comes from, it's loosely based on my first night homeless on the streets of Los Angeles in Santa Monica. I'm a middle class, middle age. Uh, I don't smoke or drink. Uh, I'm not mentally unstable. And it's just something that happened that I had to deal with. And I lived, I ended up living in homeless shelters after about 30 days of sleeping on buses at night and sometimes the beach and, uh, Santa Monica. And even years after that experience, when I finally did get a place to live, there was still some energy from those experiences that I had. And as a writer, I just thought, well, you know, 2011 I started trying to write about it. It didn't really work out. I had in mind to write something for someone else because I didn't want to participate in it cause I thought it would be too painful. So I had met this rapper when I was homeless and told her I would write something for her. So I had her in mind. Along about 2016 a colleague of mine said, you know what? I think you should continue writing this. And I was like, because emotionally I was a mess. So I continue. I continue the process from 2011 I started developing it in 2013. And from that process I got healing. And I got some content that seems to be uh, moving people.

Speaker 1: 02:33 The title shelter refers to what you are examining in the play in terms of how do people define that. And so what were you hoping to explore and to convey to people by doing that? Really what

Speaker 2: 02:47 I was hoping to do is get people to connect to the idea of a group of people sort of defining shelter as they're watching it. When an audience is together in a room, they're not connected when they come in, but when they're viewing this experience where these characters are describing their lives and what they've been through, then there's this magic that happens where they begin to connect and think about what it means. I had a friend come and she said her brother, who's a theater guy, he would turn away, he would stop and turn away. It wasn't because he was bored, but because he started thinking about what it meant to him. I wanted to get people to connect to what shelter means because it, it really is more than just having a roof over your heads as the characters described for themselves.

Speaker 1: 03:37 So in this piece you take on a number of different characters and one of the characters that really struck a chord with me was this young man who defines shelter in a very specific way for him. So I'd like you to read a little section from that.

Speaker 2: 03:52 Okay. This is Debbie Gonzales. His nickname is the bipolar Vato and he is the centerpiece of, uh, of, uh, the show. I didn't have no kind of shelter, you know what I mean? The kind of shelter, like when you have a bad day and everything is okay, you know, it's going to be okay. Like when you get laid off from your job and you've got a family to feed and you don't know how you're going to do it, how are you going to feed them? Then when you come home with the bad news, your children, as soon as you hit the door, they run to you and tell you how much they love you.

Speaker 2: 04:29 That shelter, that shelter or even though you're in the middle of a messed up divorce and you've got to go to the Taco shop to pick up your kids for that court ordered, we can visit the mother of your children, treat you calm, respectful, whether you're employed or not. Refugio that's the kind of shelter I'm talking about. The kind of shelter that makes you believe in miracles. You know like you just watched Chasu Cristo walk on water, then bring Lazarus back from the dead shelter that no matter what happens to you, you got that thing inside you that tells you can nobody mess with you. Can nobody make you believe something about yourself. That ain't true.

Speaker 1: 05:07 Your play tackles this idea of shelter and in last black man from San Francisco, I really felt it was in part dealing with how we define home shelter in home. Some people may consider the same but they are also very different. You got to see this film as well. How did you connect to it? Into the character of Jimmy who is kind of trying to recapture his old family home in the, in the film.

Speaker 2: 05:36 The one thing that stood out for me with a main character was his inability to lift himself out of that no man's land. That feeling of being lost and not knowing how to save yourself. Uh, and I think, uh, Jimmy was it, it was like he was in the middle of the bridge trying to get from his old self and what he knew the life he knew to moving forward in life. And for me, you know, being homeless and being lost, that feeling of not having any humanity after you've seen in homeless shelters, the kind of you, a negative humanity that it can exist there. It made me, that feeling of lawlessness made me feel like Jimmy, it made me feel like there's no hope. How can I get to the other side? And one of the things I had to do was leave my old thinking, my old self, my desire to please my, my family loved them to death.

Speaker 2: 06:39 My desire to be the the nine to fiver. I had to take on my dreams. I had to walk across that bridge and visible though it was and trust that everything would be okay. So I identified with Jimmy's feeling of Oh dear God, where am I and where am I going? Technically in the film, Jimmy is not homeless in the sense that he has a place to stay, which is with his friend and he kind of squats on property that used to belong to his family and he takes up living there. But you tended to see him as homeless in another sense. So explain what that felt like for you. Well it was like a spiritual homelessness, homelessness of the self because you know, he, he was working, he was living, he was, you know, sleeping on the floor of his best friend's home and consistently going to a place that didn't belong to him.

Speaker 2: 07:40 To me that's, that's persona non grata, you know, on, on a personal level. I just kind of felt like that his homelessness was more spiritual than it was physical. And that's worse sometimes, because if you don't have, if your insides are not anchored and grounded and have a home, no matter where it is, your outsides are, are gonna be messed up. Anyway, that's just my belief. Okay. Well, I want to thank you very much for sharing some of your play and some of your insights into the film. Last black man in San Francisco. Thank you very much for having me. And the last black man in San Francisco is still playing at some theaters, including AMC fashion valley. Renee Westbrook is hoping to restage her show shelter again soon.

Speaker 3: 08:23 Ooh.

Speaker 1: 00:00 It started 50 years ago with a dance teacher and 15 students who wanted to get fit. Now the Carlsbad based jazzercise has 32,000 classes a week across the nation and in 25 different countries through the ups and downs of the fitness industry, jazzercise has found a way to keep current and popular with several generations of women. As part of the company's 50th birthday, founder and CEO, Judy Shepard, mis, it is out with a book about jazzercise success and lessons and how to start a successful business in any industry. Her book is called building a business with a beat leadership lessons from jazzercise and empire built on passion, purpose and heart. Judy Shepard Mysa joins me now and Judy, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:48 Thank you. Very nice to be here.

Speaker 1: 00:50 Now, fitness classes of all kinds are all over the place today, but not so much back in 1969 how did you get the idea that a fitness dance class for women would work?

Speaker 2: 01:03 Yeah, not so much back then. Well, I'll tell you what. I was teaching regular jazz dance classes, working professionally in a dance company and, and teaching in the company's studio. I had a lot of women in my class and I was teaching the class like they were going to go on and become professional dancers when in fact they didn't want to be professional dancers. They just wanted to look like one. When I realized that I just changed the structure of the class, I made it, um, fun, easy to follow. I turned them away from the mirror. I based what I did and in the jazz damned technique that I knew, but just made it really fun, gave them lots of positive encouragement. And as you said, I had about 15 people in the first class and the second class they all brought her friend and I had 30 in the next class. Those friends brought another friend and I had 60. And um, it was just, um, crowded and we had a lot of fun. And that was the beginning.

Speaker 1: 02:11 How did you sell the idea of workouts aimed at women? Because that wasn't too popular back in the day, was it?

Speaker 2: 02:18 No, it, it wasn't, but, uh, you know, it didn't mean that people didn't want them. I just, that they didn't have many choices. Uh, they had to go to the y and do a calisthenics or that sort of thing, or they went to a strict dance class, which was really as I found out, too strict for them. So it was pretty easy. Uh, once people found out what I was doing that, you know, they can have some fun, they would meet friends and, and they would, could change the way their body, uh, was looking. And so it, you know, it was an easy sale. Very easy.

Speaker 1: 02:58 Now has obviously

Speaker 2: 03:00 grown dramatically over the last 50 years, but how has it changed with the times? It has changed considerably because number one, uh, as my book says, change is really important in the growth of a company, any kind of company. And, uh, number two, I love to change because I kind of get bored doing the same thing over and over. When I first started, it was Dan spaced and that still a constant today as well. So as we began to develop an industry and there was scientific studies out there about how long did you need to really work the cardio system. I changed what I did and made that segment longer. And then we learned that we needed strength training, that that was really important. And now today we have many different formats of the, all the formats are based in dance technique, but we have a high intensity interval training format. We have, uh, a dance cardio box format and we have a core format. So, um, we just keep plodding along and enjoying ourselves, but we keep changing and keep adding and making it great as we learn more about what the body needs and, and uh, how we can fuel that, uh, intent of people who want really to change how they feel and change how they look.

Speaker 1: 04:32 Even with that jazzercise has been around so long, do you find that you have to fight against the image that may be jazzercise as your mother's or your grandmother's workout?

Speaker 2: 04:43 Well, of course we do. I'll be very frank and honest about that. We certainly have that a little bit of a myth too that we have to um, work on all the time. People Think, oh gosh, are you the same as you were, you know, back way back when? And the answer is no. And it's kind of a double edged sword because we wouldn't still be here and thriving like we are if we had not changed. And so, you know, it's, it's, we have to just educate folks and letting them know that that, you know, this is why we're here 50 years. It's because we keep making progress, we keep adding things, we keep changing things and that's how any company thrives.

Speaker 1: 05:32 Now your book, building a business with a beat is of course about your company, but it's also about inspiring other people to follow their dream of opening their own business. Why did you make that a focus of your book? Well, because

Speaker 2: 05:47 I have always, as the years went past, I noticed that I had so many people, women in particular asked that very question. And I would say, well, you first have to do your passion. You know, that's an a very important thing. If you're doing something that you love, then you're going to work as hard as you need to to make whatever your goal is happen. Uh, also I think when you're doing your passion, it, it really lets you be okay with being different and unique. And that's a good thing cause when you're different, you're special. I think also it helps you when you're doing things that are, that you're passionate about. It helps you, um, dream even bigger dreams than maybe you thought you could. So my first suggestion to anybody would be find what you love and then do what you love and you can be happy and be as successful as you want to be.

Speaker 1: 06:55 Can you share with us maybe one of your most important business lessons that you've learned?

Speaker 2: 07:00 Well, yeah, I spoke of passion. I think in also included in that as you know, doing a passion that it serves a purpose that makes a difference, uh, to someone else, to your community. I also think when you are opening a business or thinking about that you, you really have to use three parts of your body. The first is your head. You gotta think through things. The second part is your gut. Pay attention to what your gut tells you because it's never ever going to lead you astray. And the third thing is make the decisions and do what you have to do with heart. I think you remember those things and you can't go wrong.

Speaker 1: 07:48 I've been speaking with Judy Shepard, miss ad, founder and CEO of Jazzercise, and we've been talking about her new book, building a business with a beat leadership lessons from jazzercise and empire built on passion, purpose, and heart. Judy, thank you so much.

Speaker 2: 08:04 You are so welcome.

KPBS Midday Edition podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition

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.