Dems 3-Way Tie In California Poll, Cannabis Equity Program, VA Training Clergy To Recognize Mental Health Issues And Meet San Diego’s MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant Winner
KPBS Midday Edition / October 3, 2019
Elizabeth Warren, who is hosting a town hall in downtown San Diego on Thursday, is in a statistical three-way tie in California's Democratic Presidential Primary, according to a new poll. Two San Diego City Council members are proposing a “cannabis equity program” to help those disproportionately affected by the war on drugs jumpstart a career in the legal cannabis industry. Plus, the VA is training clergy members to look for mental health issues among veterans in their congregations. Also, San Diego Unified’s school choice application window is now open. And, a San Diego native wins a MacArthur “Genius” Award.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is in San Diego tonight holding a town hall event and a brand new California poll has some pretty good news for her. She's at the top of what is basically a three way tie of Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. The bad news is for the rest of the candidates, including California Senator Kamala Harris, who are stuck in single digits journey me by Skype is Mark Baldisari, president and CEO of the public policy Institute of California. Mark, welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: 00:33 Thank you. It's good to be part of the program.
Speaker 1: 00:36 Now tell us more about this three way tie among the top tier candidates.
Speaker 2: 00:41 So, um, in our latest poll, we found Elizabeth Warren with 23% Joe Biden with 22%. And Bernie Sanders with 21%. When we ask people, um, who they would prefer as the, um, the, in the democratic primary in California. And, uh, so they're in there in a virtual tie. There's no other candidate, um, that receives more than 10%. In our poll. Uh, Senator Harris, for instance, uh, receives a 8%. The other Californian, uh, Tom Stier getting 1%. Um, so clearly, um, uh, Senator Warren, um, is, uh, has moved up since our last poll. And, uh, Senator Harris, um, has lost support.
Speaker 1: 01:29 Was this poll taken before a Bernie Sanders health scare? Okay.
Speaker 2: 01:33 Yes. Uh, this pole, uh, was taken basically right after the democratic, um, uh, the last democratic primary debate, which by the way, when we ask people how important the debates are, a four foreign 10, um, likely voters said that, that the debates are very important in eight out of 10 said that, uh, that the debates are at least somewhat important in helping them decide who to support. And the, so we have to assume that this is a, this, this is a strong factor in, uh, the changes we've seen between our July survey and our September survey, which are favored, um, uh, Senator Warren, um, and, um, uh, show a loss of support for Senator Harris.
Speaker 1: 02:21 Now, was it only Democrats who were surveyed about the presidential candidates?
Speaker 2: 02:25 We, uh, talk to, uh, people who are Democrats or independents who tell us that they lean democratic because, um, anybody who's a registered, no party preference, a voter in California can also participate. Um, so most of the people we talk to are Democrats, but some were, um, were, were independence. So, uh, so both groups were represented. The margin of error is plus or minus 5%. In our poll,
Speaker 1: 02:54 you also opened up the poll to all Californians for other questions. And some of those numbers might explain why Senator Harris isn't doing better in the presidential race. She's not getting high marks for her work in the Senate issue.
Speaker 2: 03:08 No. Um, you know, in general are elected, uh, officials are statewide elected officials are not, uh, getting high marks right now because many California and say the state's going in the wrong direction or they're concerned about the economy. But, uh, but in our poll, when we asked about the approval rating of Senator Harris for the job that she's doing as us Senator, um, 43% of likely voters said that they approved to the job she was doing in 46%. Said that they disapproved.
Speaker 1: 03:39 And you tried to gauge support for president Trump amongst Californians. What did you find out?
Speaker 2: 03:44 Well, uh, president Trump's approval rating has been really remarkably stable and um, and, and uh, not, not positive over time. Um, in our latest poll, 35% said that they approve of, uh, the job he's doing as president. 62% said that they disapprove that's virtually unchanged from the approval rating that, um, that the president had in January. Um, and when he entered office. And I think it's, you know, consistent with the national polls that um, his approval rating doesn't seem to move with whatever news there is. Um, most, uh, Democrats overwhelmingly disapprove of the job, the president's doing most independence. Um, and about eight and 10 Republicans say that they, that they approve of what he's doing.
Speaker 1: 04:37 Now you mentioned that, uh, the poll found out that people in California, the majority think that California is moving in the wrong direction and they're concerned about the economy. What are the other top concerns of Californians? We found when we asked people just straight out and open ended question, which we've been doing for 20 years, here's
Speaker 2: 04:56 what's the most important issue facing people in California today? Homelessness, the economy. Um, housing costs and immigration were the top four issues. So first time, uh, ever in our polling that, uh, that homelessness, um, has been mentioned as a one of the top issues. Uh, so that was a new and surprising for us. Um, and I think what this list has in common, um, is it's a reflection of the concerns and the fears that people have about, um, uh, about life in California right now. Many people are concerned about the, the, the, the, the number of homeless people that they're seeing on the street and what that means about the society. Um, the, the level of poverty, the level of inequality in our society. And, um, almost everybody in one way or another is, is impacted by the cost of housing. Um, and many people in our poll also said that they're concerned about the, um, increased federal immigration enforcement and what this means for the possibilities that somebody they know might, might be deported. Actually, four and 10 people in our poll said that. So lots of fears and concerns and in a general sense that a government is not, I'm not doing all it can to make a, this a better place. I've been speaking with Mark Baldassarre, president and CEO of the public policy Institute of California, and we're been talking about the PPI CS latest California polling. Thank you, Mark, so much for your time. Thank you very much.
Speaker 3: 06:37 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 Now that the laws around cannabis are evolving. There is an effort by two San Diego city council members to bring equity to the multibillion dollar industry. It's called the cannabis equity program and its goal is to take dollars from marijuana sales tax and use them to lower barriers to cannabis licensing for those hit hardest by the war on drugs. One city council member proposing this program is Monica Montgomery. Monica, welcome. Thanks for having me. You and Chris ward have made the pitch for a cannabis equity program in San Diego. What spurred this proposal?
Speaker 2: 00:34 Yes, we did make the pitch. Uh, we went before our, our colleagues on the economic development and intergovernmental relations committee. I believe it was last week or the week before last. Um, really what this comes from is the desire for, uh, our city to gain, uh, prop 64 funding that comes from the state. That was the proposition as you may recall, that the state, uh, voted on to allow marijuana to be legally sold in our state. And so there are, there are funds that we're missing out on as a city because we do not have a cannabis equity program, uh, at the city level. And that's really what, what spurred this along with just me being familiar with a lot of community members that have the same desire to enter into the industry but have a lot of barriers.
Speaker 1: 01:28 So how does your program help communities and people hit hardest by the war on drugs?
Speaker 2: 01:34 We're still working out some of the details, but the idea is that if there is a permitting, uh, component, um, attached to this program that it would benefit folks who have been impacted negatively by this, uh, this war on drugs or so called war on drugs, um, that we've experienced in the last few decades, uh, in our black and Brown communities. And so what it would do is it would concentrate on folks that have been impacted by the system, allow them to, uh, gain permits and maybe other assistance that they would need to open up, uh, cannabis shops, uh, throughout the city. We know that, um, the city of San Diego does allow for, um, marijuana retail outlets per district. Um, and we want to ensure that those permits are being given out, uh, equitably.
Speaker 1: 02:29 And what type of barriers might exist for people trying to get those licenses at this point in time? Well,
Speaker 2: 02:37 uh, the licensing has it, it's definitely a hot topic. When, uh, San Diego first decided to legalize having shops that were selling medical marijuana. There were, you know, basically permit Wars here at the city where folks would come and stand in line and, and really try to get those permits. Um, so there are just barriers, uh, from that perspective. There are also barriers as to, you know, obtaining land, um, to, to put the, the shops on. Um, and what we're trying to do with this systems just again, to equity component to cannabis. And we're trying to make sure that now that this, this market in this industry is legal. In so many years, it has not been and our communities have been negatively affected by that. We want to make it easier, uh, easier for those who have been impacted by a system that is now illegal system.
Speaker 1: 03:37 Can you talk a bit about how communities have been negatively impacted and how that puts certain people at a disadvantage when they're trying to get into this industry?
Speaker 2: 03:47 Yeah, so, um, when we're speaking of marijuana, we can look at marijuana usage and see that across the board and all different, uh, racist and um, races and, and uh, different folks. The usage is the same, but what we see is that black and Brown folks have been criminalized more for the use of marijuana. And so I believe when it comes to felonies, for example, a black person is, uh, has been five times more likely to have a felony attack to some attached to some type of drug use than their white counterpart. What that, um, there is, uh, you know, direct, uh, effect, a negative effect of that when we're talking about anything from housing to getting a job and also with permitting and, uh, cannabis retail outlets. And so we again, want to just really break down those barriers because there has been such a disproportionate impact on our communities.
Speaker 1: 04:49 In what other ways will this proposal help communities? Are there programs that will be put in place for, um, job at training or anything like that?
Speaker 2: 04:58 Yeah, so we have asked the city attorney to do a legal analysis, some of the ideas that we came up with that committee, but expungement relief was included as one of those ideas, ideas, uh, youth services for opportunity youth, um, in the areas of workforce and substance abuse treatment. Um, we are looking at many different things. Also funding of grassroots organizations that work with the populations that have been most impacted. And so, you know, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we're very hopeful that this would be something that, you know, the city can embrace and really be a model, um, of equity in the city of San Diego.
Speaker 1: 05:43 And you know, despite the best intention, some in the marijuana industry say social equity programs aren't necessarily working. They point to staffing and funding shortfalls for the programs. As you craft this, how do you ensure San Diego see some of the same problems? Other cities, uh, who have the same type of legislation have seen?
Speaker 2: 06:02 We know that the cities of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, all have their variation of a cannabis equity program. Um, we are fortunate now in San Diego that we have examples before us that we can kind of look at and we can make this program tailored to San Diego, which is exactly why we're taking our steps. We're going and getting a legal analysis, we're doing our own research. We really want something that benefits the people. Um, and so that's what we're striving to do.
Speaker 1: 06:34 Another concern is limited oversight of business partnership arrangements among social equity applicants and outside investors that could really ultimately keep equity applicants from getting their fair share. How do you prevent something like that from happening?
Speaker 3: 06:49 Okay,
Speaker 2: 06:49 well it's all in the way that we build the program. And like you said, that the, the things that we choose to sort of enforce and monitor our main purpose for this program is to counteract that. And so if it's a part of the program to monitor, to ensure that impacted folks are getting their fair share, then we have to look at that. But that is our purpose. That is our goal.
Speaker 1: 07:11 And this proposal, as you mentioned, was last in the economic development committee. What's next?
Speaker 2: 07:17 It will come back to the economic development committee with the legal analysis from the city attorney, um, and with more, you know, the resolution, the council resolution, and also a policy attached to it. And then we've, we'll see what that committee conversation is and go from there. Okay.
Speaker 1: 07:35 I've been speaking to city council woman, Monica Montgomery, council woman Montgomery. Thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: 07:41 Thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 3: 07:50 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 The department of veterans affairs is reaching out to clergy members around the country to help veterans in need. The agency is holding sessions to train religious leaders to look for signs of psychological issues among veterans in their congregations. Carson frame of the American Homefront project reports from San Marcos, Texas.
Speaker 2: 00:20 Barrington. Malcolm is a clergy training instructor with the VA and an army veteran. Since separating from the service, he struggled with suicidal thoughts, but he says it can be hard to seek help
Speaker 3: 00:31 as a veteran, as a military person. I'm never comfortable speaking with mental health professionals about my mental Charles and I do have them.
Speaker 2: 00:39 Malcolm has developed certain tools to help him stay grounded tools. He teaches other religious leaders through the VA's community clergy training program.
Speaker 3: 00:47 So when I conduct my groups at the hospital, I let them understand that, look, what I'm sharing with you is what I'm using to help me stay alive.
Speaker 2: 00:57 At a recent training at the central Texas medical center, about 20 clergy members and veteran advocates, swaps strategies they've used to support those in need. One of the attendees. Mark George is a chaplain at the Caldwell County jail in Lockhart, Texas. There he sees a lot of incarcerated veterans in extreme distress.
Speaker 4: 01:15 They're normally telling me they're having dreams of suicide and they see themselves dying this way or that way and I really don't get into questions at that point. I just let them talk.
Speaker 2: 01:27 These kinds of incidents happen a lot.
Speaker 4: 01:28 Just last week I had an individual tell me that I won't be here next Tuesday. Yeah, well where are you going to go? I mean it's, you're going to be here for like two years from what I can tell. Well, I, we just won't be alive next Tuesday.
Speaker 2: 01:42 Malcolm steps in with feedback. Keep them talking. He says, don't leave them alone. Call the VA suicide hotline. That's the crucial part. That's the good part of our job is to be able to really listen and hear, hear what is not being said and don't be scared to ask to list. Use your ignorance to inform you. Since 2010 the VA has been offering trainings like this to help clergy become more familiar with veterans issues. Things like transition related problems, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, suicide and military sexual trauma. It costs the department a little over a million and a half dollars each year and operates in 47 States. Chaplain Larry Collins is another clergy training instructor in Texas and served in the air force and Navy. He says, veterans come to clergy and clergy come to him with questions. We get questions about how [inaudible]
Speaker 3: 02:31 difficult it is for veterans to transition back into the civilian sector after deployments. The specifics of symptoms related to PTSD, they want to know
Speaker 2: 02:44 more about moral injury, but mainly from a practical standpoint. What can we do? The training offers tips on how to reduce veterans' isolation by creating supportive networks and empathize with veterans who may be having a stress reaction. It also the major differences between military and civilian culture. Veterans service organizations and local mental health providers are usually looped into the trainings. Giving clergy places they can refer out if necessary. Colin says veterans value the anonymity and acceptance offered by clergy. In part because there's stigma around mental health issues.
Speaker 3: 03:18 One of the things that we talk about is is this idea that spiritual care in its essence is total acceptance. It's non-judgment and I believe that that many of our veterans know that
Speaker 2: 03:32 for Barrington, Malcolm, the other VA instructor, one of the most important things for clergy to realize is that they themselves can connect with the veterans even if they haven't worn the uniform or been in combat. The first part I believe is for clergy to open themselves to become vulnerable is recognized. I'm a human being. I hurt too. I don't live up here and the sky without pain. I struggled too. The VA training seem to be making a difference. Early outcomes data showed that clergy who went through the program were more likely to make referrals to the VA and other mental health providers. Attendance has risen over the last nine years with more than 1500 participants in 2018
Speaker 1: 04:13 joining me is reporter Karsten frame with the American Homefront project. Carson, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me. Does the VA's community clergy training program focus its efforts and communities with a big military presence like here in San Diego.
Speaker 2: 04:30 The program actually started with a heavy emphasis on veterans in rural areas. Um, the thinking was in places that have less mental health infrastructure or less access to VA facilities, that clergy were playing an important role like as counselors and community leaders. Um, and that that was putting them on the front lines of caring for veterans in their communities. Um, that's still the case now, but the program has kind of expanded to include more urban areas too. Um, because they're centrally located and because veterans often do seek counsel from clergy regardless of what type of area they're in. Um, unfortunately I can't really speak directly to San Diego in terms of whether they've done any trainings there yet. Uh, but I imagine, I would imagine so.
Speaker 1: 05:12 How do various clergy members get involved? Are they recruited or do they volunteer to join the program?
Speaker 2: 05:19 So, so there are a couple of ways that people can get looped into these trainings. And I should point out first that the program doesn't restrict itself to just clergy. Uh, they're open to, um, lay people in the community, healthcare providers, VSS and so on. Um, but in a general sense, the program gets its participants through a combination of what you're saying, recruitment, um, and then requests from the field. So, um, the CCTV chaplain instructors each have these like catchment areas and they target rural pockets within those. So they'll speak at ministerial gatherings and things and find basically like a local champion who will help them organize a training. The VA also gets event requests from the field. Like oftentimes veterans will hear about the program on a new source or a website or from others who've attended and those folks will contact the VA and then the VA will send out a chaplain who's in that area. And if they have no one covering a particular area, they will dispatch somebody to do the training. Um, but, but otherwise it's all, it's all just kind of word of mouth. People being impressed by the program and, and looping others in.
Speaker 1: 06:18 Clergy members are familiar with trying to help people through their troubles. I know that, but they are not trained mental health professionals. Is that a potential problem for this program?
Speaker 2: 06:29 Um, I could definitely see why you would ask that. And it was a question that I had to going in. I mean, one of the mantras that I heard repeated at the training was when in doubt refer out and the message seemed to be, you know, acknowledge your limitations and moments of crisis. Like if you need backup call for backup but stay connected to that veteran, keep him or her talking, stay close by basically. Um, but in terms of like a practical application, I mean the next suggestion was used usually to call the veteran's crisis line and have them walk you through next steps are to call the police. Um, but as you're, as you're suggesting, there is kind of a cone of uncertainty there when it comes to the correct response to someone in crisis. Because I'm not sure people in general or, or clergy, you know, always understand or acknowledge what their limitations are. So I think that's a, a really interesting point.
Speaker 1: 07:17 How does this program help the families of veterans who are struggling?
Speaker 2: 07:21 The program has a real emphasis on educating entire congregations about the challenges of deployment or the, the cultural realities of military life. And that can be, that can be when service members transition out. Um, a lot of different things. I think one of the primary goals is to make sure that veterans and their families have someone that they can go to, um, especially if they're feeling alienated or hopeless and, you know, preferably someone who isn't completely unfamiliar with how the military functions and what the fallout from service can look like, whether that's a mental fallout, physical fallout, spiritual fallout. In terms of reaching family members, the VA instructors usually have suggestions, like they'll create support groups or organize veterans specific events. Um, they'll offer daycare coordinate services to take some of the pressure off. But one of the things I heard repeated was, um, the importance of, of clergy, perhaps giving sermons that display empathy for military people and families and a working knowledge of that culture. Um, the, the thought is that support at any level ripples back to the veteran and through the community.
Speaker 1: 08:23 One of the menu interviewed in the report, the VA mental health chaplain, he had talked about struggling with continual thoughts of suicide himself and says he's developed a range of tools to help him stay grounded. I wondering, did he share with you any of the ways he copes with those thoughts?
Speaker 2: 08:42 He didn't, he didn't really parse out which tools from the training were really specific to him. Um, I got the sense that in some ways he was a pretty private person, but he did share some stories from his own life. Um, especially the segment about moral injury. Um, he, he kind of, he talked a lot about the importance of feeling spiritually connected and being part of a community and being of service to others. I think those things really gave him a sense of meaning and purpose and rootedness. Um, and that, that meaning making is a big part of the program itself. Sort of like how do I reintegrate into the civilian world? What does that look like? What does my moral code look like now that was sort of, uh, something that he repeated.
Speaker 1: 09:22 And how was the VA measuring the success of this program? The VA does internet
Speaker 2: 09:26 based a followup surveys with as many of the clergy trainees as they can reach. And I think it's usually between six months and a year after they've done the training. Um, they measure things like the number of referrals made by chaplains to mental health providers. Um, whether clergy are feeling more comfortable working with veterans in the military, um, things like that. And also whether the clergy or reporting, you know, using the, the training materials in an active way. Um, so I think so far they've done about 500 trainings since the program started in 2010 and there's another, um, kind of followup data set that they're producing in terms of, uh, outcomes.
Speaker 1: 10:01 I've been speaking with reporter Carson frame with the American Homefront project. Thank you so much. Thank you. 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 1: 00:00 San Diego unified school district has opened up at school choice window again from now until November 13th parents can submit applications to move their children from neighborhood schools to other schools within the district, but submitting an application doesn't guarantee that a child will be able to switch schools. Joining us by Skype with the details surrounding the school choice window is voice of San Diego education reporter. We'll hunt Sperry and we'll welcome to the program. Hey Maureen. So is this a popular program? Do a lot of parents want to switch their kids from neighborhood schools?
Speaker 2: 00:35 Well, about 10,000 people a year submit a choice application, so that would be less than 10% of the district. So it's not something everyone is doing for sure. If a family wants to go to their neighborhood school, they're absolutely entitled to a seat to go there and they can do it. But if they would like to choose into a different school, a magnet program or a bilingual program or just another school in another neighborhood, now is the time where they will try to do that. They will submit an application between now and November 13th and based on a lottery process and a set of priorities the district uses. They may or may not get in. Like you said,
Speaker 1: 01:18 you sort of gave us an overview of how the choice process works, but let's go into that a little bit. How, where do you get an application? How do you submit it? How does the process work?
Speaker 2: 01:28 Sure, so you apply online though. You can also go into the school district, central office and get paperwork to apply. I believe you get to choose your top three schools, your first second and your third choice. And the first thing the district will do to assign this open seats around the district is they'll look at a set of priorities like do you have a sibling in the school you're applying to? If you do that would mean you get one of the first open seats. Another new choice priority for this year is that if a student is leaving a charter school or leaving a private school, they'll also get priority status during this window. I mean right now, the earlier you apply, doesn't matter. As long as you get your application in before November 13th, you're on an equal footing with everybody else. But then if you don't have one of those priority statuses, then the rest of the seats are assigned by lottery. So, you know, uh, it'll just all be jumbled up in a hat and they'll pull the numbers out.
Speaker 1: 02:35 Now I understand that this year fewer students in the district will be able to switch schools. Why is that?
Speaker 2: 02:41 Well, that's correct. About 20% less choice seats will be open according to 'em. What the union Tribune has reported, and there's several reasons for that. The district says it's because there's declining enrollment every year. Um, some students are choosing to go to power or to charter schools. Some students are choosing to go out of the district. So because there are less students in this school district that they're saying they have a responsibility to balance enrollment in every school and making sure every school has a certain amount of enrollment in. Some schools aren't deeply under enrolled, while others are over enrolled. Uh, you know, we've done some recent reporting that showed the district has a lot of capacity right now and it has about a dozen schools that are seriously under enrolled right now. There aren't any conversations going on about closing schools, combining schools, anything like that.
Speaker 1: 03:39 Now you mentioned that uh, students who are perhaps leaving a charter school to go into the San Diego unified district will get priority in this school choice window. Uh, the governor just signed AB 1505, which lets communities assess how much money and resources opening up a new charter school would take away from existing schools. Do you think that means fewer charter schools for California?
Speaker 2: 04:05 I think it definitely means that districts will be taking a tougher look. School districts that would authorize the charter school like Sandy Diego unified, I think they'll take a tougher look at whether to open them. Certainly, you know, we saw thrive charter school, uh, their charter wasn't renewed earlier this year. In years past they might have been able to stay open with their performance. Um, they were performing slightly below average of comparable district schools. And so the district, the district decided no, we're not accepting that anymore. And I think I, yes, I think all school districts are in difficult financial straits. Their budgets are stretched thin and I think it's very feasible that that less charter schools will be opening, um, under that new bill.
Speaker 1: 04:52 Now I know voice of San Diego has been publishing a guide for the last few years to help parents decide on a school for their kids if they want to during this school choice window. Where can parents access the school choice guide from voice?
Speaker 2: 05:05 You know, you can grab a copy at a lot of preschools around the area. We try to put them in strategic places, but you can also go online and find our school's guide. Uh, just go to voice of San diego.org and then you'll be able to find it from there. You know, our goal is to empower parents to have the best information they can at their disposal about their neighborhood school and how it's doing and, and to be able to look up other schools. This, this guide mentions every single school in the County. All 500 plus of them. And it gives you lots of diverse data about each school. Not, not just one data point. It tells you how test scores are doing. It tells you how they're trending over time. It tells you how many students are taking AP classes and the tests. It tells you if a lot of students are chronically absent at the school. So it gives you like a healthy, wide range on what's happening in local schools. And we've been going around to libraries and doing presentations on it. You know, we see some parents carrying it around like, like their Bible almost looking for, for the school that she's so, yeah, please, please grab a copy. And I've been speaking with voice of San Diego education reporter will Huntsburg well, thank you. Thanks Maureen.
Speaker 3: 06:28 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 It's an award given to those who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits rooted in purpose. It's called the MacArthur genius grant, $625,000 paying over five years and investment into each recipient's potential. Kelly Lidell Hernandez, who was raised right here in San Diego and is now a history professor at UCLA is one of 26 people to receive the award this year, which includes artists, novelists, doctors, and more. Lidell Hernandez is being recognized for her work to put race, incarceration and deportations under the light of historical context. She joins us to talk about it. Professor Lidell Hernandez, welcome and congratulations to you. Thank you very much and thanks for having me on. You know, when you found out you had received this award, how did it happen and what was that moment like for you?
Speaker 2: 00:55 Well, I was on the UCLA campus walking between meetings and I was getting some phone calls from Chicago from a number I didn't recognize and I picked it up and someone hung up on me immediately. And then they called back and said, is this Kelly Lidell Hernandez? We have to speak to you. And they asked if I was in private now. I said, no, not yet. Give me a moment. And I found a seat and you know, they let me know that I had been selected as a MacArthur fellow. And I went breathless. I went limp, I lost the ability to speak. This is something that fell out of the heavens and really took the wind out of me.
Speaker 1: 01:32 Wow. And some of our listeners may also be familiar with your father's Cecil Lidell, a classic pianist and a you CSD provost emeritus. Uh, how'd you tell him about all this? Oh, that's right. Of course, my dad was
Speaker 2: 01:48 the first person I thought of and I called him immediately, just so thankful for the life that he was able to build for me with my mother in San Diego. So thankful for all the support he's always given me. He's just always been my greatest champion. And so I shared the news with him immediately and we rejoiced and we cried and we hollered and we were disbelief together.
Speaker 1: 02:13 Wow. And of course we know you grew up right here in San Diego during the 1980s and what was it about this area of the country and your eighties childhood that inspired you to be a historian?
Speaker 2: 02:27 [inaudible] well, all San Diego residents who were living in the area prior to operation gatekeeper and operation hold the line certainly will recall that the presence of the U S border patrol was, um, far more common in our communities, on our streets, um, at schools and transit stations. And for me it was very impactful to see the men in green snatching people off of the streets, um, lost far too many friends and neighbors to deportation. And that was really a terrorizing experience even for myself. I don't come from an immigrant community, but to exist and to grow up in that environment in which the removal of human beings is so normalized, um, was deeply impactful for me. And I also saw it and it resonated for me as a young black youth growing up during the war on drugs and we were disappearing. We were being set on curves, put on gang databases, taken into the local jail system, um, called up on, um, various violations. And so I saw what was happening to Mexicans through the border patrol to the lens of what was happening to black youth through the police and wanted to figure out how these stories were connected. And I have to say the last 20 years of my career, I've been dedicated to unraveling these questions that I had as a child in San Diego in the 1980s.
Speaker 1: 03:51 Hmm. And you know, you've written several books, one of course on the history of border enforcement and another on incarceration in Los Angeles. Looking back on your work, what's the biggest lesson you've learned about how the nation built these systems? Specifically in the West?
Speaker 2: 04:06 It's all about race. That is what I have learned, um, that border enforcement, immigration control is a story of race and labor control over the course of the 20th century. And of course as so much scholarship and organizing has taught us the rise of mass incarceration is, um, the extension of histories coming out of enslavement coming out of colonization in the American West. And so if we really want to get serious about what people call comprehensive immigration reform or comprehensive criminal justice reform, we are going to have to get very serious and have hard conversations about race and resources and the reallocation of power in this country.
Speaker 1: 04:49 And you've had to create your own archives for your work. The rebel archives. Tell us about that.
Speaker 2: 04:55 Sure. The rebel archive I'm in my work is two things. One, I greatly rely upon the work of people who have rebelled against systems of policing and incarceration across time. All of their activities, all of their words, every piece of evidence of their labors that they left behind is what I have gathered up over decades. Um, use to build what I call the rebel archive. The words and the deeds of the people who ever build. But the rebel archive is also a set of documents that I've gathered from across the country and around the world. In fact, um, that have escaped police destruction. Um, law enforcement tends to destroy their records very quickly, very seamlessly. We're certainly see this, seeing this happen in the state of California now with the officer involved shooting files that were recently required to be released to the public. Some Lea as law enforcement agencies have decided to destroy them instead. So I have gone around up these records, um, in forgotten boxes or winning them through litigation to make sure that they see the light of day so the historians can tell the story so that the public can inquire into the activities of law enforcement. Look, they have the power of the violence of the state that they can wield against ordinary people. And it is absolutely vital that we have the, the right and the capacity and the access and the transparency to see how that work is done.
Speaker 1: 06:26 And why is it, why is challenging these narratives so important and what really drives your work? What drives my work
Speaker 2: 06:36 is a freedom dream that I have and I share and I work on with so many organizers and advocates and activists that I, since the time I was a child and certainly taught by my father and my aunts and everybody understand that we're living in a particular moment on a long arc of time and four peoples of African descent for indigenous folks, for nonwhite immigrants, that long arc time, long arc of time has been filled with struggle. We continue to live in these struggles. We, if there has been some movement, some improvements, but it's really that freedom struggle coming out of the transatlantic slave trade out of colonization in the Americas. We're still trying to get the boot off of our chest. And so it's that campaign that so many people have waged over centuries that keeps me inspired to do this kind of work. And the historical narratives are vital because how we understand the past is how we see our present and it's what helps us to imagine and even re-imagine the futures that we can build together. So I've taken getting up this work, um, in terms of unmasking untold histories about the collisions of racial violence in the American West against native black and nonwhite immigrant communities and the work that we have collectively done to fight back, to survive, to dance with that oppression and even to create spaces of liberation.
Speaker 1: 08:14 And as a historian, I'm wondering what this moment today in history feels like to you? It feels like 1896.
Speaker 2: 08:23 Um, I don't mean to laugh at that or, um, to diminish it in any means, but we certainly are in the middle of a race war that, um, echoes back a moment of Plessy V Ferguson to the moment of the creation of, um, immigrant detention. Um, both of which were solidified in us law on May 17th, 1896 by the United States Supreme court. And we have a president in powered right now who I would argue is someone is a strong advocate. I'm a silent get boisterous advocate of these types of policies and practices who was trying to resurrect an America that many of us thought that we had, um, taken Stu two steps back from. And so I'm deeply troubled by this moment that we live in. Um, the border is really just a euphemism for race. The war on crime is really just a new mechanism for anti-black, um, policies and practices. And, uh, we have taken some steps backward in the last few years, but of course this is also stirred the rebel archive, which is hard at work. Um, and you can see that organizing at the immigrant detention centers now inside prisons, outside of prisons for now, first beginnings are seriously talk about prison abolition in this country. Um, so I still have great hope that the rebel archive will at the end of the day, uh, be victorious.
Speaker 1: 10:04 That in mind as part of the award, you'll receive a pretty large financial stipend over the next several years. Uh, do you know what you'll do with it yet?
Speaker 2: 10:14 Well, I'm straight still dreaming about this. I'm not quite sure. I want to make sure that I steward this investment well. So I'm taking my time and thinking it through carefully. But when my mind keeps coming back to is the need for myself and for others to find the time and to find the space to write. Um, we are so active right now. Um, the rebels are hard at work, pushing back against this new tide of white supremacy. I would like to be able to find and help to create some new respite and spaces for these organizers and myself to be able to write about, to write our stories and to write back against the regime.
Speaker 1: 10:53 I've been speaking with Kelly Lidell Hernandez via Skype. She is a professor of history, African American studies and urban planning at UCLA and one of this year's 26 MacArthur genius grant fellows. Professor Lidell Hernandez. Thank you so much. And congratulations again. Thank you for having me on.
Speaker 3: 11:15 [inaudible].