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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

San Diego County Closes Indoor Dining, County Contact Tracing Not Keeping Up, More Issues With Tijuana Sewage Spills And San Diego’s Role In Women’s Suffrage

Cover image for podcast episode

Patrons sitting outside in front of El Chingon on June 20, 2020, the first weekend Fifth Avenue was closed in the Gaslamp Quarters to allow for customers to patronize restaurants and maintain physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Alexander Nguyen

Rising cases of COVID-19 prompted San Diego County to order restaurants to close indoor dining to stop the disease from spreading. Plus, the county contract tracing program is not keeping up with the surge of new cases. We take a look at the program’s limitations. Also, new allegations of fraud by American corporations connected to Tijuana sewage spills that have been affecting South Bay cities for decades. And, Independence Day doesn’t mean the same thing to all Americans, especially for Black Americans. Finally, documenting San Diego’s role in the fight for women’s suffrage.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Mayor Faulkner throws restaurants in lifeline to help expand outdoor dining,

Speaker 2: 00:04 What the executive order appears to do. And we're, again, we're still waiting for some details is to waive the requirement for that permit temporarily.

Speaker 1: 00:13 I'm Alison st. John with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday edition

Speaker 1: 00:25 Contact tracing is essential to defeat the virus, but it turns out it's not that easy. They refuse to even listen or complete the interview until you tell them cool with the person, you know, who affected them or who they were exposed to us. We can't do that several major us companies have been using Tijuana water supplies for years without paying the bill. And the role San Diego has played in the suffragette movement that resulted in women getting the vote 100 years ago. That's all ahead. On mid day edition, thousands of restaurants around San Diego, a reeling from the counties order to shut down indoor dining

Speaker 2: 01:01 For the next three weeks due to a resurgence of the Corona virus, some restaurants we're working to find ways they can continue to do business outside this morning. San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulkner's thrown a lifeline to the restaurants with an emergency executive order here to give us more details on that order is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Berlin. Thanks for joining us, Andrew. Thank you, Alison. So what would this executive or to do for the restaurants that are being very hard hit by this quarantine? Right? So as of now, and we're still waiting for some more details from the mayor's office, but I'm currently under the current rules. If a restaurant wants to put tables on, say a sidewalk, um, cemetery adjacent street parking, or a private parking lot that they actually own themselves. It often takes weeks, sometimes a month to get that, uh, permit approved by the city.

Speaker 2: 01:47 So what the executive order appears to do, and we're, again, we're still waiting for some details is to waive the requirement for that permit. Temporarily. If we look back to just a few weeks, the mayor actually held a press conference, announcing this plan to streamline the permitting for outdoor dining, uh, subsidized permit fees for a limited number of businesses. And that was supposed to go to the city council for approval today. That was their schedule. Um, but apparently it got held up with legal review. So it never made it onto the council agenda. And that looked particularly bad, you know, happy name to coincide with the day that restaurants are forced to closed indoor dining. So they, you know, they, they missed the intended deadline for, you know, approving these streamlined permit approvals. And so the mayor decided an executive order is kind of a stop gap measure that that can, um, help, uh, restaurants out right now.

Speaker 2: 02:38 How much does a permit for outdoor dining cost? They can cost a well over a thousand dollars. This is just for reference the same type of permit that you would need from the city. If you wanted to hold a farmer's market or some other type of special event that would require, um, some, uh, you know, encroachment into the public right of way, the mayor says he intends to allocate about $300 for fee assistance, and those fees are paid into what's called an enterprise fund. So, um, the, the fees that are paid then end up paying the salaries of the city workers who have to check the plans and verify compliance with all the rules and things like that. And it's meant to be a self sustaining fund. So the city would essentially be paying from its general fund into the enterprise fund in order to, um, you know, make sure that those costs are still recovered.

Speaker 2: 03:25 No, some, uh, expanded outdoor dining has already been in place in some parts of the city how's that been working out well? Yeah, so it has happened in little Italy. Um, on the weekends, they've been closing some street parking on, uh, I believe it's India street in order to expand outdoor dining, setting up some extra tables and chairs out there. Uh, they went through the regular permit process. Uh, I haven't seen it myself. Um, but I also haven't heard any major complaints about it. And if restaurants are able to fill those tables, then clearly there's the demands there, especially as people are trying to get things back to normal. What we do know about COVID-19 is that it's much more difficult to transmit outdoors than it is indoors because of better ventilation. Sunlight also acts as a sort of disinfectant. Uh, so given our great weather in San Diego outdoor dining is a pretty easy way to let restaurants continue their operations, especially in, in light of the recent counterpublic public health order, while also mitigating the risk of, of outbreaks, which can happen and have happened in restaurants with indoor dining.

Speaker 2: 04:28 So the restaurant industry always contends with very thin profit margins. What would you say has been the effect of the restrictions on restaurants on their bottom lines of these quarantines? Yeah, well, restaurants were, uh, many restaurants were able to stay open during the early weeks of the shutdown, uh, simply by offering, uh, takeout dining and, you know, not all restaurants, but some were able to do that. Uh, and when indoor dining expanded, we saw a lot more restaurants being able to bring back some employees continue, you know, offering those jobs. And, and so I think that, you know, with the, with the rollback of indoor dining, this is really a lifeline that could help some restaurants, um, either avoid further layouts or having to lay people off again after they laid them off once before, uh, could, you know, help them obviously pay their rent if they don't own their own buildings.

Speaker 2: 05:21 And it's, you know, really just, uh, a lot of restaurants have actually closed. I mean, there's, there's one that's just down the street from me that's closed permanently. And so, you know, the business districts or neighborhoods obviously have an interest in and keeping those restaurants alive, as soon as a storefront goes vacant, there are all other side effects that can cause problems with blight, graffiti, uh, you know, encampments. And so, uh, you know, the restaurant industry definitely was eager to get this done and, and was pretty upset at the fact that the city council was not going to be voting on it today. So I, that there I'm feeling pretty good about the mayor's executive action

Speaker 1: 06:00 And this executive action, assuming it does get signed only applies to the city of San Diego, right. Other cities in the County would, would have to take similar steps for it to apply.

Speaker 2: 06:09 That's right. And I have actually heard anecdotally from a couple of other cities, national city comes to mind that they were also working on some permits, um, particularly with, uh, parking lots. That's maybe something easier for cities to allow, um, outdoor dining and private parking, lots that, um, otherwise, you know, would have to be reserved for restaurant guests. Um, and those things, you know, have happened before. And, and I think that other cities are probably going to be looking hard at those choices and maybe, uh, also accelerating those plans, uh, in light of the, the change in the band and, uh, indoor dining and restaurants.

Speaker 1: 06:43 Is there a date for when the city council might actually sign off on this?

Speaker 2: 06:47 The last that I've heard is, uh, July 14th. So a week from today, uh, you know, barring any other, uh, delays that might happen. So, you know, the, the mayor, as I mentioned, intended this as more of a stop gap measure, uh, and the ultimate attention is still for the city council to take a vote themselves. And, and to make this more of a permanent solution.

Speaker 1: 07:07 We've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew, thanks so much. Thank you. Alison San Diego County has effort to maintain control of the coronavirus. Pandemic is failing with a surge in cases since mid June, this is happening as the County continues to ramp up its contact tracing program in hopes of slowing the spread. But KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger found it has some big limitations.

Speaker 3: 07:37 Every day. Asthma Allissa bag goes to work and gives people bad news. And I'd say, um, I'm calling because you were recently exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Elsa bog is one of nearly 500 contact tracers working for San Diego County. It's her job to find a notify people who were likely in contact with someone who's tested positive for the coronavirus. They have to monitor their symptoms twice a day. They have to check for fever. We go through the whole list of symptoms. There's like fever, difficulty breathing, cough. There's, uh, you know, there's a whole list that we go over with them and we send them out to them to, um, we encourage them not to do things like share your pencils or share bedding, uh, to wear face covers around each other. Elsa bug estimates. She's made hundreds of phone calls, but all her hard work may not be having the desired effect.

Speaker 3: 08:28 Cases have been surging in the County with daily counts, approaching 500 and the total tally over 15,000 yet the county's contact tracers have only reached about 9,000 County residents who are identified as a close contact of someone with the virus. The last time they were within six feet without a face covering for longer than 15 minutes. That's probably only about 6% of all the County residents who've been exposed. Plus the County does not know how many of the people contacted actually followed the public health order and went into quarantine. It's turned out to be much more difficult to standardize across the state. Andrea Loquat is an epidemiologist at UC San Diego and to put, to sew together from various institutions, um, and make it happen. She and other epidemiologists say urging of widespread wearing a face coverings, social distancing testing, and contact tracing is the only safe way to slow the spread of the disease until a vaccine is available. Contact tracing has proven effective in countries with authoritarian systems like China. And those with populations that are generally more compliant with government authority like South Korea or Germany, but in the U S San Diego county's program is just one of many that are struggling. An NPR survey found that only seven States and Washington DC have enough contact tracers to contain outbreaks. California currently has 6,000 contact tracers statewide about half of what it would need, according to the survey.

Speaker 4: 10:10 Hi, I'm calling from Mariella back at her desk. The contact tracer Al Shabaab is working the phones again. Hi, Mariella and Asma. I'm calling from the County of San Diego's public health department. How are you?

Speaker 3: 10:20 None. That is 10 times the person's like, yes, I already know who it is. It's so, and so that's because the person with COVID-19 is a family member or close friend, but other times she's greeted with real anger. Um, sometimes the person's like, Oh, wow, like they're, they're more understanding. And they're willing to listen. Other times people are really angry and, you know, they refuse to even listen or complete the interview until you tell them who the person, you know, who infected them or who they were exposed to us. And we can't do that. This is just one of the limitations on a contact tracers power. They're not reaching all the people they need to reach. They can't force the people. They do reach to give them information and they can't force those. Who've been exposed to stay home. Jeff Johnson, the head of the county's contact tracing program acknowledges the limitations.

Speaker 5: 11:14 We really want them to quarantine themselves. And, um, and that is the recommendation. And, uh, that's one of the reasons we keep in contact with them, you know, if they are threatening to, um, you know, to go to work, then, you know, we, you know, we will have to talk with them and, and kind of advise them otherwise, you know, if they went to work, then we might have to, you know, call their employer and just kind of, um, work with our HR department maybe, and just make some soft, friendly recommendations.

Speaker 3: 11:44 If a person does develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, the County then has the authority to force that person into quarantine. And if the person refuses,

Speaker 5: 11:56 We have somebody from the County, uh, in, in, in some cases it has been a Sheriff's officer actually physically, uh, issue it. And like I said, that's been very, very rare.

Speaker 3: 12:08 Another reality that could be limiting the program's effectiveness is a lack of bilingual contact. Tracers. Alibaba speaks Arabic in addition to English, but not many other contact tracers speak a second language. There's currently one other contact tracer on staff at the County who speaks Arabic and 41 who speaks Spanish just under 10% of all the contact tracers, three contact, tracers, speak, Chinese, one speaks Vietnamese and eight speak Tagalog or Filipino. Alibaba says many of the calls she makes are to people who speak Spanish. So she uses software called language line that does the translation for her.

Speaker 6: 12:50 So, um, do you have difficulty breathing? Okay. Do you have any loss of smell or taste?

Speaker 3: 12:57 She plans to continue going to work and helping people through the challenging phone calls they received

Speaker 6: 13:03 Until contact tracing is no longer a thing. Probably when a vaccine comes out, I'm guessing

Speaker 3: 13:09 Claire, sir. KPBS news,

Speaker 6: 13:12 Johnny mez, KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Tresor and Claire. Welcome. Thank you. This sounds like one of the most frustrating jobs in the world. How well have the contact tracers you spoke with been trained for this job?

Speaker 7: 13:28 Yeah, so they did a really fast hiring period. Um, they, they tried to bring in people as quickly as they could, uh, San Diego County and then they got them trained up. So I think they had about 17 hours of training. Some of it was in person where they actually go into the County operation center. And then a lot of it is, um, a virtual training that they, they do at home. And really, I mean, they were taking people with a wide variety of backgrounds. I think, you know, medical experience would be, uh, ideal, but anyone who is able to just ask questions and kind of have that patient, um, demeanor, which I think you would need to be making all of these calls, uh, had had a shot at it.

Speaker 6: 14:14 How does the tracing work? In other words, when someone tests positive for COVID who gathers the information about who that person has been in contact with.

Speaker 7: 14:25 So that's, that's exactly what the, what the contact tracer does. So if you test positive, then you expect a call I'm from San Diego County and they go through your basically your last two weeks with you to say, okay, you know, Maureen, what, what have you been doing? Did you go out to eat? Uh, did you go to a party? Did you spend time with anyone? Have you gone into work? Um, and they get as much information as they can about all of the people that you have been in contact with. And then they go about calling those people and you get that scary phone call that says, hello. Uh, someone you've been in close contact with has tested positive. Is it ever okay for the person who has COVID to basically say to the contact tracer, you know, I'll call up my own friends and acquaintances.

Speaker 7: 15:15 You don't need to bother. I mean, I think that you could say that, but, um, the County is still going to need to reach out to people directly is the contact tracing system lagging because it takes so long to make contact with people, or is it the sheer volume of new cases that they're trying to keep up with? Well, right now, I think it's both, um, you know, for the first few months of the program, it seemed like they were able to pretty much stay on top of all of the calls that they need to make. But one of those County triggers is, um, is that they are able to initiate new investigations within 24 hours. And they say they want to be able to do 70% or above, which basically means, you know, there aren't so many cases that the contact tracers they have on staff, um, can't keep up with all of them.

Speaker 7: 16:06 And now it's dipped to 57%. So that's actually one of the, one of the triggers that we talk about at the County. And then it is also difficult for them to get people that they do call to call them back, you know, pick up the phone or hand over information. So I think they said that about two thirds of the time, they're able to get those contacts from people that they call. But, um, you know, that means a third of the time they aren't able to, why can't the contact tracers reveal the name of the person who tested positive. That seems to be a sticking point for some people, right? I think it's just a, a medical, um, privacy issue where, you know, you, aren't gonna just give out medical information and, you know, it could actually be a safety concern if, if someone's really upset with someone, for, um, for being sick and, and potentially infecting them.

Speaker 7: 16:55 But I will say that in other places, uh, they give out a lot more information. They don't reveal the names of people who've tested positive. But for example, there was this story about a, I'm a hairstylist at, at great clips in Missouri and she tested positive. Um, they didn't say who it was, but they said, you know, if you were at this business between this time and this time on this day, you know, you should really go into quarantine or get tested. And San Diego County is not giving out any information like that really. Um, publicly, they don't, you know, they'll say there have been outbreaks at businesses or restaurants, but they aren't saying where, or what time or anything like that, so that people can know, you know, whether they're at risk or whether they need to follow up themselves. Now, it's not really surprising that as you say, more autocratic, governments have better success with a program like this, but is

Speaker 6: 17:50 There any kind of followup that can be done to find out if a person is obeying quarantine in San Diego County? They said at first they said they only call on the first day and then at the end. But then they said, well for, um, people with more health risks, maybe we'll call more often, but they aren't really doing that call every day that I think would, would encourage people a little bit more, to be honest and stay home if they needed to. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir. Claire. Thank you. Thank you. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Alison st. John. There's a new wrinkle in the decades. Old story of sewage from Tijuana, contaminating cities and beaches and San Diego, South Bay, an independent audit of Baha's water agency has found that many international corporations in Baja have not paid their full water bills for years and have dumped sewage into the overburden to want a system while utility officials look the other way, the alleged fraud between the water agency and corporations like Walmart and Coca-Cola would have deprived. He want to have millions to fix it. So each system, while adding industrial runoff to the problem, Johnny May of San Diego union Tribune, reporter Wendy fry, and Wendy, welcome to the program. Hi, good morning. Thanks for having me. Now, the utility is part of the state water agency in Baja. What's the magnitude of the fraud being alleged.

Speaker 8: 19:21 They're still conducting the audit, but they have estimated that they have missed out on approximately 49 point $4 million in water fees during the last five years, which is the most that they're allowed to go back retroactively and try to collect,

Speaker 6: 19:39 And how many corporations are involved

Speaker 8: 19:42 More than 450. And you know, some of them are smaller companies that are our cross border companies are us companies, but they're just on the smaller side. And then there's these very big corporations that are recognizable to everyone like Coca Cola and home Depot and Samsung.

Speaker 6: 20:00 Now, what did the audit find out about how this scheme worked?

Speaker 8: 20:04 So the auditor says that these companies would basically work with the state water agency, employees to hook up water to their site, to their facility, um, without it being detected or without the full amount of water that they were using, being detected. And then to also cover up that they were doing that they would also install LANDESK Stein drainage, or plumbing subsystems to drain the wastewater away from their site so that it wouldn't be detected how much they were discharging. Either.

Speaker 6: 20:40 Some of the, as you say, big names involved in this, I had a rather complicated systems. Apparently

Speaker 8: 20:48 You write Coca Cola connected to water in the parking lot. How did that work? Yeah, that is what the auditor is saying. And he even shows video of when they go to do the inspection at the site and how they kind of had to look around and then find this clandestine connection. There's also another big company that they industrial developer. So they develop sites that the macula daughter, companies come in and use, and they're accused of, um, even going to the trouble of enlisting the help of a nearby church that was across the street. And they dug the pipes and the drain and the system underneath the ground. And then through the floor of this church to, to avoid detection is what the auditor is alleging. And how little have some of these companies been paying for water. So Coca-Cola, according to the auditor has only been paying the state of Baja, California, five liters of water per second.

Speaker 8: 21:46 So it's the amount that one single person living in a very small house or like a one room apartment would use typically is what the water investigators say. And apparently Hyundai hasn't paid any water bill, right? They went back trying to find when they connect to the water, the water discharge rights, all these documents that should be somehow in the system. And they could not find anything for Hyundai, although they do have running water at their site obviously, and drainage at their sites. So a have not been able to figure out how that happens, but that is what prompted the governor to say that he believes obviously they would have had to have been working with the state agency back when they set up their systems for, for this to have gone undetected for all these years. What are the repercussions for the water agency officials allegedly involved in this?

Speaker 8: 22:40 So about 80 have either been suspended. I think about 40, about half of that have actually been terminated. Um, and they're in all varying, I guess, stages of their internal investigations with what happened. They're going back through the accounts who had, what account, who was entering, what into the system at what time and all that stuff. And having some of the people that were charged with going out and investigating exactly this type of behavior are now no longer working in those roles. And I suppose the suspicion is that these officials were taking bribes from these companies. Is that right? Yeah. Although there hasn't been anything that proves that any money exchanged hands specifically from one specific person from one specific company, it's the question that the governor and the state officials are raising is, you know, why, why would they be allowing all these systems to fail all over the city, all the pipes to collapse when they could be collecting this money?

Speaker 8: 23:41 Um, so that's sort of the question and they're still investigating now been the response from Coca Cola and the other big corporations involved. So, so far I have not heard much from any corporation specifically to us. However, they have been responding to state investigators. They have been trying to work with the state water agency to sort this out, to figure out these bills. And one of the things that they've said over and over again is, you know, we paid the bill that came to us. You know, we, when the bill came, we paid it. And so that's, that's something that's sort of still being sorted out as who, who had what role Coca Cola says. They actually have their own wastewater treatment system they're on their site, their bottle, or in Baja, California. So they say that they're recycling their own water and that they have federal rights to do that.

Speaker 8: 24:30 So, and that's another thing that, uh, the role of the federal water agency, they kind of go is, um, still sort of undefined. Like it's just not clear in the law. And that's something that some of the state legislators are talking about trying to more clearly define what the role of the federal water agency is an oversight of all of this. Well, apparently Baha's governor has vowed to recoup some of this loss money. What's been his reaction to the scandal. He has been bowing as you know, to stop the sewage from coming across the border into Imperial beach. In fact, I think sometime in June, he said before the end of this month, we're not going to be spilling another drop of water over, onto the beach of intermural beach. And when he, when he had his swearing in ceremony, his inauguration to take office as governor, he said, it's going to be six months and there will be no more sewage spilled into Imperial beach.

Speaker 8: 25:25 And so this we're coming up on that six months right now, and obviously June has passed now. So he's promising that this is the way he's going to resolve the sewage situation at the border. And he's been very adamant about he's going to collect the money from these companies. There, there have been some, some, some news articles in Spanish language media in Tijuana, where some of these companies sort of representatives people who say they're representatives of the company. Haven't been talking a name, but they're saying that they feel like they're being extorted by the governor. That he's just sort of looking for a way to finance this project or to finance, stopping the flow of sewage across the border. Obviously that's sort of a scandal that's playing out in the local media, but so far they have not put their name to and their company's name to what they're saying specifically, what kind of connection is being made between this Baha water scandal and the ongoing effort to stop the flow of sewage from Tijuana into San Diego. The governor is saying, and the state officials that are, are in his cabinet and his administration are saying, if they collected this money from these big corporations, we're actually, you know, discharging a lot more water than, than, than the normal users. They would have the money to pay for those upgrades, the infrastructure. And it wouldn't stress the system so much because we would know how much sewage is coming in, that they need to treat. And how much to divert.

Speaker 9: 26:57 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter, Wendy fry, Wendy. Thank you. Thank you, Maureen,

Speaker 9: 27:07 Many Americans, perhaps for the first time over this for many Americans, perhaps for the first time over this 4th of July holiday, realize that independent stay does not mean the same thing to all of us. The history of black Americans challenges, the myths we have about freedom and demands that our nation live up to its promise for all Americans and keeping with that spirit, San Diego poet, Gil. So to who is an award winning grand slam poet, and three time TEDx San Diego presenter composed a poem called I pledge allegiance. It's about our nation, our past and our future. It's also about strengthening the American dream of building wealth for African American families and entrepreneurs. So here's, I pledge allegiance. I don't remember much about my early schooling, but I do remember being fed information about our country's independence is one of the many American historical events that I was duty bound to memorize be graded on and tested with.

Speaker 9: 28:11 I remember pledging allegiance even before I knew what that word meant before I knew any other $5 words. I remember no more than $2 in my pockets, long lines for free school meals. You could always tell which kids had money by the condition of their character themed lunchboxes and the individually wrapped contents of their grade ACE snackage. Those were generational Twinkies. They were flaunting black folks for the most part had to learn how to be happy with off-brand meals, schools, housing neighborhoods, opportunity stolen from our drums, stripped of our tongues, our relatives, our religion, and taught by the founding settlers. How to settle in silence, forget our country's skeletons. Forget the double standards. Accept, set the denied reparations, accept the red lining the red tape being caught red handed. Even if our palms were as pink and as innocent as theirs agreed to the allegiance before we were even permitted to read Mary or even walked through this country freely.

Speaker 9: 29:26 I know that the 4th of July is a time that we look to the sky, but put down your potato salad for a second and understand what is going on around you. You may have been distracted by the barbecue, but the wick has been lit and sizzling since 17 six, ever since our founding fathers proclaimed that every soul in this country has the right to be free, except ours many believed that a civil war would solve the unrest in our bodies. But that is simply not how fire works. I know, I know who needs a history lesson when COVID and outlaw cops I've taken away. People's ability to breathe, but it's all connected. Don't you see wealth, my school lunch, race opportunity bias our independent state, all come with strings attached to afraid flag that people still in 2020 are afraid to emit needs to be fixed.

Speaker 9: 30:29 Betsy Ross was not done. Washington was not done. Don't you get it? We are a country. Unfinished black people and businesses were hit a hardest during this crisis. And 95% nationally of those who apply for payroll protection, supposedly available to us all were denied our country's assistance. Again, our flag, your great grandmother's quilts and systematic racism. All have two things in common. They all follow a pattern and they provide comfort, but only for those whom they were intended. So if you read the document crafted at the birth of this nation and magnify its trail all the way to my son, you will see that even in San Diego, the city that I absolutely love the majority of these documents that create generational wealth. We're not really meant for everyone do not mistake our exceptions for the propensity of those in power to change their unspoken rules.

Speaker 9: 31:39 There are nearly 22,000 black owned businesses in San Diego County. If our lives truly matter to you, then allow us the chance to keep our livelihood alive. More than equality. We starved for equity, a seat at your table, the opportunity for the same organic GMO free brands that your barbecue has. I mean, we may flavor it a little differently, but that's not the point. Those are generational Twinkies that you were flaunting. If you believe that our lives matter, then you agree that our wellbeing matters. This bandwagon that you have now decided to jump on, have some rough roads ahead, but the beautiful people inside are beaming with hope, with direction, with love. We will not allow our crisis to determine our vision. If you are going to take this ride with us, and I hope that you do place whatever color hand you have over your heart and pledge allegiance to balance pledge allegiance, to black owned businesses.

Speaker 9: 32:44 We are not asking you to denounce our flag or our collective nation. We are simply asking for you to love our country better. And joining me now is the writer of I pledge allegiance, San Diego, poet, and Gail. So too, and get a welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me and Donna Dewberry is president and CEO of central San Diego black chamber of commerce, and she joins us as well. Donna, welcome. Thank you. Glad to be here, Gail, tell us what you wanted your audience to understand or feel when hearing that poem first. I want it to take it back way back in when we first were, uh, aware of this place as a country, um, and, and our us pledging allegiance. So I have a four year old son and a two year old daughter. My four year old son doesn't know the difference right now, of course, between what's a United States.

Speaker 9: 33:44 What's a San Diego. What's a, but pretty soon when he goes into school, he'll he'll soon learn. I remember as early as elementary pledging allegiance to this flag before I knew what it meant before I knew what, uh, the word allegiance, or even how to spell it, ma uh, and, and now looking back, I was seeing what I was, uh, really pledging to, and then I move it forward as to what I, and a lot of African Americans experienced. Um, if, if you were pledging allegiance, like it's almost like we're, we're, we're in contract with this country. And what we got on the other side of that contract in exchange for our allegiance, in my opinion, was not on the same level and it's still is not. And so that's why, and I brought it to today is just where, you know, us pledging allegiance, us celebrating the 4th of July.

Speaker 9: 34:44 It's not that we don't love this country. It's this, that we we're wanting the people in it to, to care about us more, to love us more, to, to be fair in fairs, another word of equity, guilt. This is not an angry poem, but it could have been. So what kind of reaction have you been getting? It's very easy for a poet or anybody to get on, on, on a public forum and say, this is how you need to change. This is how you need to do it. Um, and, and a lot of people will feel like they're being talked at instead of, uh, in a genuine conversation. And I think when you approach it as a genuine conversation and you challenge people, uh, then it they're going to come up with their own answers. And, um, when I I'm pushing people towards the towards love, and when you really love people and you look at it as all of us, uh, one of the lines in the poem is, uh, and I had to think about this when I, before I wrote it is, um, I'm not asking you to denounce our flag.

Speaker 9: 35:53 I could have said easily, I'm not asking you to denounce your flag or your collect or your country, right? But I said our, to let you to, again, that little nudge that this is all of our country, I'm saying to love our country better and look at us as part of our country. So if you're looking at us as part of our country than it is your responsibility, if you're going to pledge allegiance, if you're going to say that you love this country and your flag throwing these, the flag up saying, I love this country. We're a part of that. Recognize us, see what we're, we're going,

Speaker 6: 36:28 Let me bring Don it into the conversation. Let's talk about businesses in the black community. What are some of the difficulties that they are facing during the COVID-19 crisis?

Speaker 10: 36:40 No, the, the black community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, from unemployment to significant food, insecurities technology, and specifically our businesses. Um, we've been the black businesses have been disproportionate left out or denied stimulus money. Uh, there's so many different, uh, research and studies on like 95% of black owned businesses have been denied, a PPP personal protection program, and many businesses and nonprofits have been shut out of the process for loans and grants. Even with the city of San Diego. We know that there's been historical practices and policies and inequities that are negatively impacting our businesses from receiving financial help. And so here we are talking about flattening the COBIT curve. What we've got to work on right now is to flatten the economic disparity.

Speaker 6: 37:36 And now we're into a second shutdown of dine-in restaurants. And w what impact do you think that's going to have Donna,

Speaker 10: 37:43 That's going to send us over the top. We were already, um, disproportionately denied money and financial help to reopen and recover our businesses. And so by shutting it down again, we are at the brink of literally almost losing our community. The business is our community. Our businesses are there. They are a community.

Speaker 6: 38:08 So with the help of the poem, I pledge allegiance. The black chamber of commerce of San Diego has as well on its way, actually, to raising a million dollars in 60 days for black owned businesses. Donna, how can small business owners apply for these grants and how do people donate

Speaker 10: 38:28 The black business relief fund? If you're interested in donating, please go to SD black You can donate, or you can apply those, those of you who are out there hurting and need money, lack of businesses who need money right now, please apply for these grants. We're looking for donations. We're halfway there. We're excited. Corporations, individuals, private donors have donated so much money because they understand the need for economic stimulus, but not only the black community, but for the community at large for San Diego County.

Speaker 1: 39:08 Well, I'm so glad both of you had the time to talk to us today. I've been speaking with Donna Dewberry, president and CEO of the central San Diego black chamber of commerce and San Diego poet, Gil. So to Gil, that was a beautiful poem. I'm so glad we got a chance to play it and to speak with you. Thank you both. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Speaker 10: 39:28 Yeah. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 39:30 I am Alison st. John with Maureen Kavanaugh and you're listening to KPBS mid day edition. The right to vote is something that many treasure, some take for granted and many more don't use, but how that vote came to be for women goes back more than a century in this country. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment KPBS is Maya troubles. He takes a look back at how San Diego played apart

Speaker 11: 39:55 Inside the women's museum of California in a room lined with clothes, buttons, postcards, and political signs, president of the museum. And Hoiberg reads from a poem written by a suffragist more than a century ago,

Speaker 12: 40:12 Workday for the taxes we pay for the laws wheel Bay. We want something to say,

Speaker 11: 40:21 But who were these trailblazers fighting for? Women's right to vote. And more specifically, how did San Diegans play apart in 1895? Susan B. Anthony, the famous leader of the national suffrage movement paid a visit to the then sleepy town of San Diego.

Speaker 12: 40:39 Yeah, the town was so excited. The famous Susan B. Anthony, she spoke at the Methodist church, standing room, only determined

Speaker 11: 40:48 That California women would get the right to vote in 1896. Anthony led the first local campaign. The amendment passed in San Diego, but for the state

Speaker 12: 40:59 Down to failure, which was very disappointing

Speaker 11: 41:03 At the time women were considered to be morally superior to men. And there was a fear of what steps they would take in society. Should they be able to vote particularly on the issue of prohibition women's suffrage could hurt the liquor industry. It wasn't for another 15 years in 1911, that women would seize another opportunity. This time led by a local points Loma resident, dr. Charlotte Baker,

Speaker 12: 41:32 She will deliver baby in the morning.

Speaker 11: 41:34 And then the afternoon she would dedicate to civic duties. And so she became president of the San Diego woman's suffrage associates, suffragists got organized with support from other prominent women like flora, Kimball of national city, Ellen Browning, Scripps, and attorney Clara Shortridge volts. The local suffragists used a three pronged strategy. They believed was short to work for starters, instead of protest, the women use the power of persuasion and these women would go into a man's home

Speaker 12: 42:14 And they would sit with that man, and talk about the importance of women getting the right to vote, and they wouldn't leave until they convinced you. And they even said they were conducting invasions, invasions of vans home.

Speaker 11: 42:29 The women took advantage of the times the California exposition was coming to San Diego and Balbo park was having a groundbreaking ceremony in July of 1911 for their second strategy, the suffragists would parade. They decorated a float with yellow ribbon, promoting their clear message of equality.

Speaker 12: 42:50 Yeah. They call it the modern Boston tea party float, and also had on their taxation without representation cheering. Now, as it was in 1773,

Speaker 11: 43:07 For the most part, San Diego County was still a rural town. Agriculture was highly dependent on the labor of women. The suffer just knew they had to reach the outlying communities by using their third strategy. Automobile campaigning. The campaign started on a Monday morning.

Speaker 12: 43:26 Women left San Diego for ocean side. It probably took them several hours to get there. The roads were probably running dusty, dirty. What happened

Speaker 11: 43:38 From there? They drove to speak to men in Escondido than to Fallbrook. And finally to Ramona,

Speaker 12: 43:44 Imagine it took three days to cover our County and it was highly successful. And then I Tobar 11th occurred. And that was the big election day. Was it going to go down to defeat like it did an 1896 or would it be successful?

Speaker 11: 44:05 It was a win. The final statewide vote was close with a margin less than one and a half percent in San Diego. The margin was wider with more than 57% of men voting yes. To grant women the right to vote. When you think of the determination of those suffragists, it just seems unbelievable that the numbers weren't higher, but the votes were high enough and became

Speaker 12: 44:32 The sixth state in the country to give women the right to vote. All of which were Western States. How do you explain that? But I do think it has to do with the sense of equality between men and women, the pioneer spirit, the progressive nurse of people who would venture from the East coast. Come out here to me. That's fascinating. My [inaudible] KPBS news. You can learn more about the suffrage movement and a new two part series on the American experience. It's called the vote and you can watch part two tonight at nine o'clock on KPBS TV and on the PBS video app.

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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.