Despite Calls To ‘Defund’ Police, Council Passes Budget With No Cuts, Coronavirus Magnifies Social Inequity, And Black Journalists Reflect On Racial Injustice, Police Brutality
KPBS Midday Edition / June 9, 2020
After more than 10 hours of public comments, the San Diego City Council voted to pass the budget with no cuts to the police department. Plus, the coronavirus pandemic is magnifying the social inequity in at-risk communities, such as the homeless. Also, two local black journalists reflect on recent protests and why they remain hopeful for the future of race relations in the U.S. And, the Navy continues to lean heavily on isolation in its response to COVID-19 after the virus spread uncontrollably through the USS Roosevelt. Finally, a new San Diego-based documentary on hospice and the impact of AIDS on the gay rights movement
Speaker 1: 00:01 Police get more funding and a contentious city budget meeting and the challenge of testing and tracing the homeless and a pandemic. I'm Mark Sauer with Alison st. John. This is KPBS mid day edition. It's Tuesday, June 9th,
Speaker 2: 00:27 dozens of protesters gathered outside San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulkner's house late last night after the city council had agreed on a budget that increases the police department's budget by $27 million. This at a time when there are nationwide demands to defund police departments and several cities, including Los Angeles have taken steps to do that. San Diego's budget meeting lasted over 10 hours. KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Byrne was there until the end. So Andrew, thanks for joining us today.
Speaker 3: 00:55 Thank you. And I was actually watching from home. So I was there kind of virtually, but not in the room
Speaker 2: 01:01 they're virtually. So what was the main point of contention that kept it going so late?
Speaker 3: 01:05 Well, there was no question. It was just a flood of a public comment calling for cuts to the San Diego police department. The public testimony portion of the budget hearing lasted literally all day. It started just after 11 o'clock and wrapped up just before 10 o'clock. So it's a really interesting time right now for city council meetings, because public comment has become so much more accessible for people because of the coronavirus pandemic. All you have to do is call into a number, punching a conference code, and then you're entered into the queue. Whereas previously you would have to physically go to city hall, find the council chambers, fill out a comment slip, and then wait in the building during the entire meeting. If you're just calling in, you can kind of stay at home and keep on doing your business while you're waiting for your turn.
Speaker 3: 01:49 At one point, the phone system actually collapsed because there were so many callers in the queue and the city clerk decided after that to basically just lock the conference, call clear the queue of, of commenters, and then reopen it periodically. The council deliberation, uh, you know, among council members, after that marathon, public comment only lasted about an hour and most of the council members didn't directly address the calls for cutting the police budget, which I think is one of the reasons why folks were so upset and ended up showing up to the mayor's house last night. But then after the budget vote, the council did have a few other items on its agenda that, that it had to take up. And there was another flood of public comment that essentially was shaming them for the budget vote that they actually took. Although some of those comments were deemed out of order and some of them got cut off because there were some expletives thrown around, but it was a council meeting. Unlike I've ever seen before
Speaker 2: 02:40 we have some of those voices, let's hear them.
Speaker 4: 02:43 We cannot keep finding our police. To this extent I am calling to urge you that we to find the police for Jeff mayor falters proposal to increase the police budget. I am urging the council not to give the STD any more money. They got too much money as it is.
Speaker 2: 02:57 So hundreds of people spoke and yet the council adopted the budget vote of eight to one to increase the police budget. Why did the mayor and council argue that was necessary?
Speaker 3: 03:08 Well, much of the increase to the police budget is actually due to the change in benefits that were negotiated by city employee unions, both the police officer's union, as well as the municipal employees association, which represents white collar city workers. Um, and the, there were some shifts in the budget internally within the police department. There's actually an overall net reduction in the actual, uh, number of, of budgeted positions. Um, but because the city council made that commitment to, you know, give the officers and everyone in the department, a better benefits package that, you know, that that kind of led to this increase. Um, why couldn't the city just cut the overall number of sworn officers in the budget at this point, uh, you know, or at that point last night, those really big, um, changes to the budget are hard to make on the fly.
Speaker 3: 03:55 It's hard to know exactly how you know, that those cuts would impact public safety. Let's say, and how, uh, you know, these ideas that were thrown around by many of the commenters take money away from the police and invest it in social services and mental health and, um, schools. I mean, some of those ideas, aren't all that easy to implement and certainly not easy to implement from the day. S so, uh, in some cases also cutting police positions might result in more overtime. It's a really complicated thing, the city budget. And, and so I think that at that point, uh, there wasn't just a whole lot of time to, to make such a big change. And that's why you saw some of the reluctance from the council members to actually do that.
Speaker 2: 04:35 No council, woman, Monica Montgomery is taking a stand in recent days for police department reforms, but she supported this budget. And she explained in her, yes, vote, uh, on Twitter. She said, although the budget did not defund the San Diego police department, it does provide social and economic justice relief for our communities of concern. She wrote, I am committed to developing a plan that can reasonably and responsibly address diverting funds from the San Diego police department gives the community my word on that. And in the meantime, she's won agreement for several million dollars for a new office of race and equity. Andrew, what will that do?
Speaker 3: 05:12 Well, uh, one of its mandates as they've spoken, or as you know, they've talked about it in concept is to increase the, um, or promote, uh, minority owned businesses with city contracting. So currently, um, the city contracts with minority owned businesses at a lower rate than, than, you know, the population might call for the pop, the share of population that is. And so that's one of its mandates. I think at one, they want it to take a broader look at how, how the city budget can actually be more equitable. If there are certain communities that need more resources, you know, give those resources to those communities and communities that might be better off might have to make some sacrifices. Those things are all political decisions though, and creating a new office of race and equity, which would be presumably the mayor's office or under the mayor's control.
Speaker 3: 06:00 Um, I, I'm not sure quite how, um, that will, will necessarily solve the problem. I think that we'll just have to see a lot more details on how that department is structured, um, who is leading it, how much money it has, those types of things. Chris ward was the lone vote against the budget. What did he have to say? Of course, Ford said he was disappointed that his renter relief fund for low income tenants, that, that are struggling to pay the rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the economic impacts really only got a fraction of the funding that he had requested. He asked for, uh, close to $62 million and it ended up getting, I think about 14 million. Um, so he was disappointed with that. He said he, he was also very concerned about the use of tear gas and rubber bullets on protestors in his district that all took place downtown, which is his district. And he said, you know, he, he wants to have a deeper discussion about shifting resources away from the police and toward other types of, of solutions to public safety. Here's a bit of what he said last night.
Speaker 4: 06:58 I would like to have seen a reallocation of resources from police towards program policies and initiatives that support does work because we need to be investing more in our people, proactive measures and less in reactive measures.
Speaker 3: 07:11 Well, there was a lot more in the budget, of course, then the police budget and the city has restored some of the cuts that the mayor initially announced to tell us what services will not be reduced after all. Well, the big one I think has probably the library hours. So the mayor had proposed keeping libraries closed on Sundays and Mondays. The city is independent. Budget analyst had come up with a solution to maintain them at their current levels, open seven days a week. Uh, you know, basically just finding money in, in different parts of this, of the budget. There were a number of other things we probably don't have time to go into all of them, but, you know, it's kind of interesting that that was the big discussion when the COVID-19 pandemic started and that the, it started hitting the city budget. What's going to happen to library hours. What's gonna happen to arts and culture funding. And it was all completely overtaken by this discussion. We're having about how we police our communities. We've been speaking with Andrew Byrne, KPBS, Metro reporter. Thanks so much, Andrew. My pleasure, Alison,
Speaker 1: 08:11 the coronavirus pandemic magnifies existing social issues. KPB a science and technology reporter. Shalina chatline. He says controlling the pandemic and at risk communities like the homeless presents a unique set of challenges.
Speaker 5: 08:28 Jesse Angeles jr. Drives through San Diego's North park neighborhood to drop off food on a late may afternoon. It's for his clients who live on the street since Povich, my workload has been almost doubled because of the pending Angeles works with a homeless nonprofit group. Now clients they're saying like, well, we don't have any places to eat. We don't have places to use. The restroom. Angeles has been working with the homeless community for years, developing empathy, knowledge of mental health and trust,
Speaker 6: 08:56 but he still has to approach some clients with caution, like a homeless man. He's building a new relationship.
Speaker 7: 09:02 So with this gentleman across the street, we're building rapport with him, just going to drop off a bag to him, just to let them know that we're still here for him. It's that, Brenda? Hey, I don't know if you remember me, would you like a bag of food?
Speaker 6: 09:16 Angela strikes up a simple conversation, but offers to leave. If the man feels uncovered,
Speaker 7: 09:22 it actually went really well. Yeah.
Speaker 6: 09:24 Now that San Diego is opening up again, County officials have increased testing and started contact tracing to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. Officials hire people who can find infected residents in their contacts and ask them to quarantine, to avoid spreading the virus. Public health officials say contact tracing everywhere is key to controlling this pandemic. Angela says he doesn't know much about contact tracing, but asking for information. Isn't easy
Speaker 7: 09:50 because if you don't have that trust with them, like if someone just asked them just like a blame question, like where you've been and stuff like that, it all has to, it has to develop the relationship. First,
Speaker 6: 09:58 San Diego County has distributed close to 8,000 hygiene kits and mass to the home [inaudible] and offer testing and shelter and hotels. And the convention center. The County says relatively few homeless people have tested positive for coronavirus, but while the County generally knows where positive cases are, there's currently no map of all the unsheltered communities that makes it difficult to create a regional approach for serving as well as testing and contact tracing unsheltered people, County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher says officials are doing as much as they can.
Speaker 8: 10:29 Certainly the, the, our unsheltered community presents unique challenges, uh, both in terms of, uh, engaging them and, and, and building that trust.
Speaker 9: 10:37 But of course with people feeling like the government hasn't treated me well in the past, why would I feel like they will treat me in my community? Well, in terms of contact tracing,
Speaker 6: 10:45 Rebecca fielding Miller is an infectious disease professor at UC San Diego.
Speaker 9: 10:49 Just because there's an outbreak, doesn't mean the preexisting social issues go away. They actually come to the fore. Even more.
Speaker 6: 10:56 The County has already hired just over 400 and diverse contact tracers who plan to call or text people. But many homeless people don't have phones. And Miller says they may not trust those calls and texts from everyone. She suggest hiring people like Angeles who have the expertise
Speaker 9: 11:13 we know in any community. There are people who are leaders formally or informally who are trusted by their community. And it's evident from watching the work of homeless workers, that building relationships.
Speaker 8: 11:24 It's a key part of the job. Did you need help with that? Well, I go, I'll, I'll, I'll jump back in his car. Angeles answers a phone call from one woman, Laurie buck they've stayed in constant communication since Angeles helped her get a phone. Okay. Now these guys were to come over where we're at. Yes. We arrive at a motel in Loma portal. Angela's helped buck into this motel at the onset of the pandemic. She'd been homeless for eight years. This is extremely frightening because you're supposed to be inside
Speaker 10: 11:54 and when you're outside it. But I mean, that's extremely difficult. I've never lived through a pandemic
Speaker 6: 11:59 buck, heard about the pandemic from a friend now that she lives in this motel. She tries to follow guidance, social distancing, wearing a mask and hand-washing, but she says, it's not that easy for people on the street as a single woman, when she was unsheltered, she didn't want to socially distance herself because their safety numbers,
Speaker 10: 12:17 it all depends on how you approach him. You know, you know, in some you're going to be able to get through and some that are mentally challenged, you might have a little bit of difficulty. There are people too
Speaker 6: 12:27 contact tracing is critical to controlling the spread of coronavirus. And while working with at risk communities has always been a challenge. The pandemic highlights the need to find longterm solutions.
Speaker 1: 12:39 Joining me now is KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina chat Lonnie. Hi, Shalina
Speaker 6: 12:45 Hey Mark. Glad to be here.
Speaker 1: 12:47 So your feature notes that relatively few homeless people have tested positive for coronavirus, wherever they've been tested, mostly in shelters.
Speaker 6: 12:56 So I'd say the majority of testing has been happening at the San Diego convention center. Downtown. There have been around over 2000 tests that have been conducted there. Um, there are a few tests that are being conducted in shelters like father Joe's villages, but I'd say the majority in San Diego are happening at the convention center.
Speaker 1: 13:13 For those who have tested positive, it seems tracing who they've had contact with might be a tall order. There's mental health or substance abuse issues often, and few would seem to have much of a schedule or calendar to rely on what's the strategy for health officials to trace this population.
Speaker 6: 13:31 Sure. Yeah. That's a good question. I'd say what I've gathered from the city's contact tracing efforts in the County press conferences and on the job description for hiring contact tracers is that they're looking for people who have skills like empathy and cultural sensitivity, but this is alongside things like data entry and keeping spreadsheets. So I wasn't able to get access to data on who was hired, but I suppose we could conjecture on the types of people being hired, meaning that they have to have a certain background with data entry, right? So it sounds like the County is mostly going to be texting and calling people. This is an issue because a lot of homeless people don't have phones, tracers go through training, but it's unspecified. And what the training is. So the County says the strategy may change as state solutions are rolled out, but they'll probably continue to use technology specifically.
Speaker 1: 14:23 And you interviewed Jesse Angeles. He has trust and rapport with many homeless people, but as a Angeles or others, working with a homeless, been able to do tracing with those who've tested positive as far as we know.
Speaker 6: 14:35 Yeah. So when I interviewed Angeles, he didn't really even know what contact tracing is. Um, obviously a lot of people don't know what contact tracing is and no, he hasn't been doing that. And what the infectious disease professor I interviewed proposes is that we should be hiring people who work in these sort of homeless outreach, specialty programs and nonprofit organizations to be doing this kind of work. And actually the County has a separate partnership with San Diego state university to hire community health workers, um, who come from different backgrounds like Spanish speaking backgrounds and from African American communities, for example, because they recognize that going into some underserved communities may be challenging because of language barriers, for example. So what is being proposed in this feature is that a similar approach could be taken with the homeless population,
Speaker 1: 15:27 San Diego County and city officials face criticism and struggle a couple of years ago during the hepatitis a outbreak among the homeless here, were there lessons learned from that crisis that can be applied now with the coronavirus pandemic?
Speaker 6: 15:41 Sure. So I posited that question directly to the County, a spokesperson there said they wouldn't frame that they have had lessons learned, but are continuing practices that were effective in that response. So, um, some of the things they listed were partnering with organizations who do outreach and serve populations that are, um, at risk that need critical information, getting services, like testing to those populations and building strong partnerships through regional cities.
Speaker 1: 16:12 And do we know how other cities with large homeless populations, including those in California, are dealing with this tracing challenge, have San Diego health officials been looking to other cities for guidance?
Speaker 6: 16:24 So, yeah, again, I asked the County about this and they said that they couldn't speak to other cities, um, and their responses, but it does look like it's been kind of similar across the board for a number of other cities like New York, for example, that they are actually trying to address systemic problems within homelessness that have existed forever. Um, as the pandemic has been going on, the first of that obviously is lack of housing. So when the pandemic kicked off, a lot of, um, cities needed to find forms of shelter, hotel rooms, um, the convention center, like we have downtown in California, we've, uh, the latest data shows that we have, you know, around 4,000 people that have been put into hotel rooms. Um, and then there's also things like putting up, uh, you know, hygiene, hand washing stations and portable toilets so that, um, people can, uh, continue to maintain basic hygiene. Uh, but I think, and what I try to get across in the feature here is that these are obviously all bandaids to the issue of homelessness. At large, for example, one woman I spoke to said that she wouldn't want to even go to the convention center because, you know, she's been given guidance to socially distance herself. So a lot of the messaging around some of the solutions is very confusing for people. Um, and so, you know, the point of the feature is to say that any one of these things has to be coupled, uh,
Speaker 2: 17:50 you know, social services, you know, mental health, for example, treating mental health issues, substance abuse issues, otherwise they're kind of short term solutions.
Speaker 1: 18:00 Well, it seems it's a novel Corona virus and it's got a novel challenge when it comes to homeless and the tracing, it would be clear.
Speaker 2: 18:06 It's definitely something that the County is freshly having to address.
Speaker 1: 18:12 I've been speaking with Shelina chatline, KPBS science and technology reporter. Thanks. Shelina thanks Mark.
Speaker 2: 18:24 While the rest of the country begins to open up, the Navy continues to update its own response to the coronavirus, with policies that lean heavily on isolation. The Navy has tried to learn from a recent embarrassing episode when the virus spread uncontrollably through the carrier, the USS Roosevelt KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh has that story
Speaker 11: 18:45 on April 23rd, a sailor from the USS kid was diagnosed with COVID-19 the second outbreak on board, a Navy ship commander. Michael Kaplan was at the Navy medical center in Jacksonville, Florida. His team was flown to El Salvador where the Navy destroyer was anchored off the coast.
Speaker 12: 19:01 So we were, we were there within hours of that positive test result. So they found out the night before we got there, that the patient they had sent off the shift back to, I think it was Texas. I tested positive for COVID. We got the call the next morning. And we were there that afternoon.
Speaker 11: 19:14 By the time they arrived, the shifts medical team had isolated 20 to 30 sailors who were showing symptoms.
Speaker 12: 19:20 It was actually kind of, um, some sort of a surreal situation. Uh, we didn't really have much time to think about what we were getting into, which is probably a good thing. Um, not too many people would probably want to run into a burning building building, and that's probably the best analogy
Speaker 11: 19:33 and it's not an overstatement. The Navy has had the most cases of any of the services, roughly half of it it's more than 2000 cases have come from outbreaks onboard two ships, the carrier USS Roosevelt, and a month later on board, the USS kid, one of the lessons learned from the Roosevelt. The Navy moved quickly to track down everyone who was sick on board. The kid, again, Navy Dr. Michael Kaplan.
Speaker 12: 19:57 That was exactly our plan is to try to test a hundred percent of the crew as quickly as possible. So they work 24 seven around the clock from the moment we got there until the time we left and it took us about three and a half days to get everybody on board. Over 300 people tested,
Speaker 11: 20:12 the Pentagon is now loosening coronavirus restrictions, but the Navy remains particularly vulnerable to an outbreak. Keeping the virus away from sailors is a constant challenge. The new Navy buzz phrase is creating the bubble. The isolates sailors in small groups in may. The Navy seals use the bubble to justify reopening portions of its notoriously grueling basic training, including hell week in this 2011 footage of seal training. It does sort shown being pushed to the brink of collapse. I'm at our Bart. Randall says the Navy can keep sailors crammed during training because the cadets are isolated from other classes and from the rest of the base,
Speaker 12: 20:52 those guys, that bubble is solid. We are increasing all the social distancing. There are classrooms in the chow hall. There's some things that we just, we're not going to change these standards though. We're not changing the quality of training.
Speaker 11: 21:07 The Navy is still ramping up testing. It's been a struggle. The Naval health research center was granted authority to test by the CDC on February 12th, but it took another two weeks before hospitals figured out a process for getting samples to the lab says dr. Chris Myers,
Speaker 12: 21:24 the case definition in the beginning was very limited, right? So you had to have specific travel to woo Han China and, and other limitations, or at least contact with someone that met, uh, the Cobra definition. So meeting that narrow case definition, um, may have been problematic in the beginning
Speaker 11: 21:42 with each month, the test themselves are getting faster. The test used on the kid showed results in 15 minutes as dr. Kaplan who responded to the initial outbreak testing is still the only way to find out if people have the virus, but who don't show symptoms. That includes roughly half of the, some 90 cases found on the kid.
Speaker 2: 22:01 I ship is a tough place to have an outbreak, but again, we actually were able to implement a number of different steps to try to mitigate the spread that hopefully other, other ships in the future, we're going to make it part of their standard operating procedures, such as you know, routine cleaning.
Speaker 11: 22:16 The Navy is also keeping vessels at sea to prevent the crew from coming into contact with the virus. The carrier USS Nimitz is currently in San Diego, but the sailors are not allowed to leave their ship. The entire crew were sequestered in Washington state for nearly a month prior when they leave San Diego, ports of call will be canceled. Even pilots that fly into deliver supplies will have to be isolated for two weeks to preserve the Navy's new bubble. Steve Walsh, KPBS news.
Speaker 2: 22:46 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 13: 23:03 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 23:12 a poll out today, shows Americans overwhelmingly support protests in cities nationwide. Following the Memorial day killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, the poll done by the Washington post and Shar school also found a large majority feel. Police forces have not done enough to ensure that blacks are treated equally to whites as black journalists working in San Diego. My next two guests are keenly attuned to the attitudes of the public and police regarding racial injustices and conflict. Each had essays on the topic published in the past week. The union Tribune, Charles Clark is a reporter covering County government for the San Diego union Tribune. And Donna Stewart is news operations manager at NBC seven, San Diego and president of the San Diego association of black journalists. Welcome to you both.
Speaker 14: 24:00 Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 24:01 Well, a question for both to begin with, um, it's been more than a week since the protest started. How are you processing what you're seeing unfold?
Speaker 14: 24:10 I'm still kind of working my way through it. I think I've gone through a couple of phases, I think at the start of this, uh, especially when George was killed, I was very, um, just frankly depressed and sad and angry, but as it's gone on and we've gotten farther away, I've really been heartened seeing just the outpouring of voices who are still out there speaking up. I mean, as one of my buddies out in New York actually pointed out when we were kind of comparing it to Ferguson that, you know, here there was a clear set of initial demands and, you know, we'll can debate about the timing, right, about how quickly they held officers accountable, but they have been arrested and yet we're still seeing kind of this momentum persist. And it really, I think speaks to kind of a larger moment here in reckoning, which is really encouraging.
Speaker 12: 24:58 Yeah. I mean, I'd like to echo a lot of what Charles just said. I mean, it's very confusing time, but I mean, it's a lot to process, right? This has been something that's been going on for a long time. These are not new arguments. These are not new ideas, but somehow I think given the magnitude of, of the crowds, given the makeup and the diversity of the crowds that have been out protesting, I think there is a little bit more momentum behind, you know, some change. I I'm also heartened, um, as Charles kind of alluded to the, the arrest of the, of the four officers in Minneapolis. Um, but we've also had some change in our, in our police policies and law enforcement in here in San Diego, which I think is, um, is heartening. I mean, again, these are conversations we've been having for 20 years. I don't know why they were able to do it within a week of, of the unrest, but, um, I don't know why this couldn't have been done sooner, but regardless it's happening. Um, and that's, that has given me a little bit of hope. It's still a lot to process when you think that there are some people that still don't really understand what this is about.
Speaker 1: 26:02 And I want to ask you both as black journalists in San Diego, how do you think local newsrooms are approaching this huge urgent story now compared with how coverage of similar tragedies has gone in the past first? Donna?
Speaker 12: 26:13 You know, I, I will say I, you know, and this is going to sound like I'm trying to kiss the, uh, know kiss my, my, my boss's, um, rear ends, but it's not, I've felt like this for a long time that I'm very proud to work for this company in particular because of the stand that they take on diversity and inclusion. It not just in our coverage. I think our coverage has been taken very seriously. We're making sure that we are talking about the issues and not just going after the low hanging fruit, uh, you know, the, the most dramatic stuff it's like, let's get to the core of the issues I wrote about in my little essay about, you know, having to talk about how parents of black children, you don't have to have the talk. We had a conversation, we sat down with three mothers and it had explained what that feels like for them.
Speaker 1: 26:54 And Charles, how do you think newsrooms are doing
Speaker 14: 26:56 so I will say in San Diego specifically, I've been really impressed. I think nationally, you know, we've seen the uproar at some places like in Philly and, uh, you know, the New York times over
Speaker 1: 27:08 that was quite a dustup over the Senator, Tom cotton op-ed I think that's what you're referring to.
Speaker 14: 27:13 Yeah. Precisely. Yeah. Which, you know, kind of turning away from that and returning local with the UT, you know, at the start of this, uh, you know, admittedly, I was a bit nervous. Um, you know, I think there's a history of papers in particular, just broadly, not doing the best job with protests like these. And when you add to it that, you know, the UT we've had some fairly high profile incidents just in the past two years with, you know, some, uh, questionable cartoons and things that I think I know Donna and I, and, uh, other sta ABJ people have talked about before that were concerning to say the least. Um, so it's really been, I think, remarkable, I think our protest coverage, you know, just across the board, I think, you know, I, Andrew, Phil, Andrea, Gary, all these people have really done a tremendous job in really, I think capturing the spirit of the protest very well and not getting too fixated on some of the other trappings that I think a lot of people like to point to, to distract from the conversations we're supposed to be having. Uh, and then with our UT ideas team, I really do applaud Matt hall and the rest of the team for, I think really aggressively trying to put black voices at the forefront of this conversation. Um, I think even with them deciding to run what I wrote, which was originally just something I wrote on medium and didn't exactly tip anyone off that I was doing it, uh, you know, I know there's a lot of newsrooms where that probably would not have been very well received.
Speaker 1: 28:44 And Donna is president of the local chapter of the national association of black journalists. What are you hearing from members about what it's been like for them in the field covering the protests?
Speaker 12: 28:53 It's just hard. I'm going to sort of preface this with COVID-19 in terms of how journalists in general are now having to cover stories that are directly affecting them. Now, when we move into the conversations around George Floyd and the protests and all that, it hits us in a personal way that us covering the story doesn't normally affect us. And I think that it's, it's been hard. My first thing culmination with the coverage was seeing Omar Jimenez get arrested on the air for no explanation, you know, the CNN reporter. And I was like that to me, was just so indicative of where the disparities are, you know, where the, where the, where the conflicts are, that he could be arrested for what he was cooperating. It was all clear yet, officer that kneeled on George Floyd's neck took four days for him to be arrested and a week for the rest of them to be, you know, found complicit. So it does take a toll on us. So that's what I'm hearing mostly is that we're exhausted that it is just we're having to do our job, which is what we would be doing under any circumstances. But we have that extra layer of exhaustion of, are we doing this again? Are we talking about this again? Why, what are people not understanding about this? Why is this such a bike?
Speaker 1: 30:09 And Charles you write about your frustration, anger, and sadness over the fact that we, all of us have the potential to be better, that we could build a kinder, more compassionate, equitable society, but, but we haven't yet you remain hopeful now in the wake of the George Floyd killing the nation and the world could change for the better. Why
Speaker 14: 30:27 you not really, for me, I guess it's kind of, I thought about it more and more, and it took me a while to reach that point, to be honest. But when I look around, although there are always people who try to distract from the conversations we should be having, or try to downplay these things, certainly in my lifetime, this seems to be an unprecedented moment where you're not only seeing nationally this reaction, but you're seeing an international reaction, uh, and shows a solidarity.
Speaker 12: 30:56 Uh, and, and I think what it comes down to two that really strikes me as kind of different about
Speaker 14: 31:03 this moment is it really doesn't seem like there's anything that is going to make it lose steam. And you add to that as something Donna brought up earlier, you're actually seeing the protest deliver results, right. You know, you're seeing some of these police departments and Sheriff's departments take steps that they resisted for more than a decade. Uh, and then even when I just, you know, think about kind of the personal side of it, you know, you're seeing people make, you know, even small gestures and shows a solidarity. I mean, I look at Minneapolis where I actually lived for 13 years. Um, and I see childhood friends who are not black, who are out there aggressively not only marching and protesting, but doing different things to uplift members of the community and amplified black voices. Uh, and they're certainly not going anywhere here. So I think it's really encouraging, you know, I talked to my parents and my dad who was born just before the civil rights act was passed. And I think even for him, this seems to be something that he has never really seen before. And I certainly find that, uh, promising
Speaker 12: 32:09 Charles his article made me feel hopeful. It was, it was something that, um, I hadn't thought about and the idea that, that Jianna Floyd could think, Oh, this my dad's making a change. Right. She's just lost her dad. But she, you know, on some level she is seeing that his death, hopefully it was not in vain in terms of finally getting that conversation going that Charles was talking about. I am also encouraged by, as I mentioned earlier, the diversity of the crowds, the intensity of the crowds that have been out and I'm, then I'm encouraged by the conversations that I'm having with friends. And, you know, we're looking at trying to change people's hearts, right? Not, it has to start with the legal system, but then changing people's hearts is what's going to take the long time. And so I'm telling my friends with kids, teach your children will teach your children well and teach them that it's up to them. And once, once we have that change, then we were talking about making a big difference.
Speaker 1: 33:05 I've been speaking with Charles Clark of the San Diego union Tribune and Donna Stewart of NBC seven in San Diego. And she's president of the San Diego association of black journalists. Thanks to you both.
Speaker 12: 33:16 Okay. Thank you. Mark
Speaker 2: 33:23 filmmaker, Jonathan Hammond did not set out to release a pandemic documentary during a pandemic. His new film expect a miracle is about the long history of the elephant forest, nonprofit fraternity house. So hospice for people dying of AIDS. It's also a Chronicle of the AIDS crisis in San Diego. In the early 1980s,
Speaker 5: 33:43 people started to get sick and die around us. Then a miracle sort of happened when she read one of the AIDS watch articles. And it was an article about this house in North County. Most of the people who had been rejected by their families, like we were, their family miracles do happen, but they don't happen unless people take action.
Speaker 2: 34:07 The film was produced as part of the KPBS explore project. And it premieres tonight on KPBS television at nine o'clock. Jonathan Hammond joins me now welcome Jonathan very much for having me. So now, what was it about this story that, that made you realize back then that you wanted to make a whole documentary out of it?
Speaker 12: 34:28 As I went up to fraternity house to make a Grant's video. And when I walked into the doors, I didn't know. I didn't know what it was. And I walked in the doors and I was hit by this really strong, really mysterious, overwhelming emotion. And I looked at my hosts and I said, what is this place? And she explain to me, you know, this is a place where people who had AIDS and had, uh, they're rejected by their families or had nowhere else to go would come. It, it just really, really struck me. And I looked at her and they were just reflexively sad, trying to make a documentary about this. What I found interesting was it wasn't so much that people came to die. It was the fact that people stepped up and like took care of them and they created a whole house for it.
Speaker 2: 35:19 So it was about not just the people who lived there, but the people who chose to go there and work there. Yeah. So, so this documentary does, is it takes us really on a journey through the AIDS pandemic in San Diego. Tell us about some of the individuals that you spoke with. Do they have to tell you about life in San Diego when AIDS struck back in the early eighties?
Speaker 12: 35:42 I thought it was very important just for the context to speak with various AIDS, historians and, um, politicians and activists, just so they can, like I said, just give context and their interviews were so compelling and ended up becoming, um, a substantial part of the documentary. And I spoke to Susan and Jessica. Sure. Who is the founder of AIDS walk?
Speaker 2: 36:07 Yes. We have a clip here from Susan jester who was the first openly gay San Diego city commissioner. Let's hear what she had to say on your documentary.
Speaker 5: 36:16 People started to get sick and die around us and quickly, all of a sudden somebody had scars on their body or somebody had pneumonia or somebody had, uh, some strange infection and then three days later, or a month later, they were dead.
Speaker 2: 36:36 What were people fighting the AIDS epidemic up against back then, you know, socially and politically, and with the health, what was it like for a gay person to get that diagnosis in the early eighties?
Speaker 12: 36:47 Well, I think that it pretty much would have been the worst thing you could hear. Um, because as, as what's addressed in a documentary, if you, most people weren't really out. So if you had that diagnosis, it was also an issue of coming out. And of course there was no medicine. There was no treatment. There was very, very little hope. And you knew that you were probably going to die. You're going to die soon and you're going to die badly. I'm the president of the United States did not even say the word AIDS until his last year in office. So you had the stringent concern of a religious community fighting against you. You had society fighting against you, you had basic issues of homophobia. And on top of that, you had, um, prejudices of having AIDS within the gay community. It was literally like an avalanche of awfulness.
Speaker 2: 37:44 So in that context, you know, it's, it really is a bit of a miracle that fraternity has emerged. How did it come to be, to care for AIDS patients?
Speaker 12: 37:52 Exactly. Well, there's a man named Ray Byerley who had a citrus farm in Texas and it went belly up. So he moved to San Diego and became a nurse's aid. And he was one of the only people who would actually treats in the facility he was working for, would actually treat people HIV. And it really affected him. And so he started, um, letting them live with him. And she worked double shifts over time to get a house where you could put young men who were dying of AIDS and housed them and give them a place to basically die with dignity and love. Eventually it became a nonprofit and he moved on to start Byerly house in San Diego, but that's pretty much how it was. He knew people who had nowhere to go and he had to take the Slack himself.
Speaker 2: 38:44 Right. You mentioned earlier that you were very, you found the stories of the people who work there are very compelling. Why did they tell you they do this work?
Speaker 12: 38:53 I think everyone has a different story and everyone has a different reason. At least the Lipsey, her, uh, uncle. She was a girl when her uncle had to move into fraternity house that he passed away there. Um, and I think that sort of activated, uh, I need to, uh, be part of that. So she went on to become the director of communications and it's on the board. Now, one lady just stumbled upon it accidentally. And then she would just check in and ended up becoming the, uh, the director of the board. One man had 40 friends die of AIDS. And so he just wanted to do something to help. And he ends up becoming, um, the house manager, all these people have, you know, obviously really good hearts. And
Speaker 2: 39:41 how was the work of fraternity has transformed now that the disease is much more treatable.
Speaker 12: 39:49 AIDS has stopped being a death sentence is more of a life sentence. Um, the function of fraternity house also changed and it still wanted to give baths. So it, it started to take in, um, every once again, everyone is from different backgrounds has a different story. Um, but many of the residents, uh, are from the streets. Um, many of them are, have mental issues. Many of them just need a little extra help. So it's a place where people still come to die, but now it's more a place where people come to live and to rehabilitate.
Speaker 2: 40:29 So what can you generations learn from this pandemic and the activism that resulted from it? Why is it important to study this history?
Speaker 12: 40:37 Well, um, I think there's many reasons for that. If you, if you're talking with, um, the activists, I call them the witnesses, the people who were around at the time, they were still hungry for the story to be told and to get out there because we know the generalities of what happened, but we don't know some of the details, which are just as compelling and strong. But also I think it's important for people to know this history because there will always be something there'll always be a prejudice and there'll always be really, really dark times. And as we know in these times, we are living in the middle of a pandemic. And what we can learn is that people actually based, stepped up. They learned that they needed to formulate a plan and they were able to, um, change hearts minds, able to literally move a mountain to save the next generation. So that's something we always
Speaker 2: 41:34 need to be reminded that even in the darkness there is light and more importantly, that you can be the light. Jonathan, thank you so much. Thank you very much. I've been speaking with filmmaker, Jonathan Hammond, and the KPBS explore project film expect to miracle premiers tonight on KPBS television at nine o'clock. And it also streams on the PBS video app.