Biden Forms Taskforce To Reunify Families Separated At Mexican Border
Speaker 1: 00:01 President Biden moves to reunite separated families. Speaker 2: 00:05 We're going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration. Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. Is this the right time to reopen outdoor dining or more businesses Speaker 2: 00:30 Shut down, whether they're restaurants or slow or the transmission of the disease is going to be that's for sure. Speaker 1: 00:36 We'll discuss the roots and the rise of extremist groups in San Diego. And we began a month long tribute to San Diego's African-American music makers. That's a head-on mid day edition. President Biden made a statement as he signed an executive order yesterday, it addressed a particularly sore point for the president, the Trump administration's family separation policy at the border. Speaker 2: 01:12 We're going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally not figuratively ripped children from the arms of their families and their mothers and fathers at the border, and with no plan, none whatsoever to reunify the children who were still in custody and, uh, and their parents Speaker 1: 01:31 Biden's order creates a government task force in an effort to reunify hundreds of families that remain separated. But some advocates say a task force is not a plan to bring these families back together. Joining me is KPBS reporter max Revlon Nadler, max. Welcome. Good to be here. How many families max were separated at the U S Mexico border under the Trump's zero tolerance policy and how many remain apart? Speaker 3: 01:59 We'll never get exact numbers because one of the main issues was that records were not kept, but we do know that over 5,000 families were separated under the zero tolerance policy. Uh, something that doesn't get reported as much as that almost, you know, a significant number were reunited, uh, quickly after the judge Dana sobre here in San Diego, a federal judge ordered the end of the family separation policy right now, the estimates are that around a thousand families remain separated under the zero tolerance policy and have not yet been reunited. Speaker 1: 02:34 The Trump administration was, as you mentioned, ordered by the court to reunite these families and advocacy groups have been trying to do just that. Why is it so difficult for these remaining actually hundreds of families that remain separated? Speaker 3: 02:49 So the Trump administration was ordered to reunite the families that were in their custody, people that had already been deported. That's far more difficult. And actually the wheat was thrown onto advocacy groups and plaintiffs in the lawsuit, like, you know, the ACLU who had to go and track down people who had been deported, who might not want to be found who had just gone through a terrible experience in the custody of customs and border protection, where their children were taken away from them. Um, and, and local nonprofits on either side of the border here joined in that effort. Here's Erica Pinero, who works for the organization, a turtle Speaker 4: 03:24 In between August and December of 2018. Uh, [inaudible] staff and contract attorneys and volunteers to central America on five separate trips, um, to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, to meet with parents in person and prepare petitions for their return. So Speaker 3: 03:47 I actually had to go down and find these people. And a lot of these individuals, like I said before, you know, didn't want necessarily to come back to the U S given the, you know, incredibly egregious experience they were given by the U S government. Speaker 1: 04:03 But one major demand of the advocates of separated families is that these reunifications do take place in the U S why is that Speaker 3: 04:13 One hurdle that these groups had to get through is that the us wasn't just accepting parents. Once they were found, they had to have a valid asylum claim, uh, which was a huge hurdle to get through, to be able to come to the U S so even if they had located parents getting them, not only from central America through Mexico, which is a dangerous journey to the Southern border is difficult. And then even getting the us to agree to take them. So one of their demands is that they come to the U S with already legal status, um, and can be guaranteed that as opposed to this dangerous journey, that is a lot to ask for parents. Many of whom have children back in central America or family back in central America, things that would have them want to stay as opposed to risking it all again, Speaker 1: 04:58 Is granting some sort of legal status in the U S to parents who reunify with their kids is that part of the Biden plan. Speaker 3: 05:06 So the Biden plan is yet to be determined, right? That's why he created this task force, but he did outline that there was some ability for the state to offer travel visas, some other legal methods for people to come into the U S they could be paroled in at a port of entry. It's all being determined right now. So, you know, it's not completely out of the question that people will get these visas that have the kids are asking for. Speaker 1: 05:28 Who's going to be part of this task force, and do they have a timeline to get this reunification accomplished? Speaker 3: 05:35 So the task force right now is the department of Homeland security. Uh, the state department, department of justice, health, and human services, all of these different branches of government that have not been coordinating over the past few months after the settlement for the federal lawsuit against child separation. So a lot of time has passed for these groups to kind of start working together, to try to locate the, who might be in the U S custody or might be with a sponsor, might be with family, and then also get in touch with those parents in central America. So the timeline of this task force is as quickly as possible. Um, you know, we'll see what that actually means. It's entirely possible that tomorrow they'll have recommendations, but it could take as long as six months to a year, Speaker 1: 06:17 The president signed another executive order about asylum seekers at the U S Mexico border. What does that do? Speaker 3: 06:25 Again? It orders the department of Homeland security secretary to look into ways to expedite asylum processing at the Southern border to look into winding down the remain in Mexico program, also known as the migrant protection protocols, which has sent thousands of asylum seekers back to Tijuana and other border towns to wait while their asylum claim gets processed in the U S but no firm actions are taken. It's just basically said to look into, um, you know, basically changing from Trump administration policy and something that the vitamin illustration has been stressing is that things are not going to happen overnight. What advocates are saying on behalf of asylum seekers is that you speed is something that, you know, they have the power to do. They can parole people in tomorrow because people are not only being deported right now, but people are staying in dangerous and pandemic stricken, uh, border cities Speaker 1: 07:16 In speaking with KPBS reporter max Revlon Nadler, max, thank you very much. Thank you. Speaker 5: 07:27 Okay. Speaker 1: 07:27 San Diego, new COVID cases dropped to a two month low yesterday, hospitalizations and ICU admissions also continue to decline, but Tuesday's count of 926. New cases is still several times higher than when the first day at home order was lifted. Late last spring. The same situation is reported in most of California cases down, but still much higher than in most of last year. So why has the state lifted this stay at home order, allowing outdoor dining and other activities. Now it's a question that's troubling. Some health officials, business owners, and service workers who see high rates of transmission and vaccinations for them still months away. Joining me is reporter Anna Elman. [inaudible] with Kaiser health news and Anna, welcome to the Speaker 5: 08:17 Program. Thanks for having me Speaker 1: 08:19 Your report, that there's confusion about why this lockdown has been lifted. Now, what has the state said about the timing? Speaker 5: 08:28 The state explains that based on their projections on ICU capacity, because of the falling new case numbers that in a few weeks, there'll be, um, back up to very robust ICU capacity. So based on those projections, they're saying that it's prudent to lift the ICU based, stay at home order. It's, it's difficult for business owners and workers, especially those in the service industry understand one of the restaurant owners told me since when do we do anything based on projections? We only hope that ICU capacity will continue to rise, but we can't be sure Speaker 1: 09:04 The state messaging is also odd. Is it okay to dine outdoors with friends or not? Speaker 5: 09:12 And human services, secretary Mark Golley appeared in a video explaining the lifting of the ban and the return to outdoor dining. And one of the slides that appeared next to his face said, if you miss a friend, you can go out to eat outside in a restaurant together. Los Angeles County has said, actually, you can't do that. We are restricting outdoor dining only to tables from people within a single household. Um, I'm not sure how restaurant workers will be able to determine or verify, um, what people say is true. Speaker 1: 09:41 Now, one of the infectious disease doctors you spoke with said the banning of outdoor dining in particular was never exactly data-driven. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 5: 09:51 Yes. This is Dr. Monica Gandhi. She's a professor of medicine and infectious disease at UCF all throughout this pandemic. The state of California has been saying we're using data and we are trusting in science, but when it comes to outdoor dining, either contact tracing wasn't robust enough, or there are too many other mitigating factors for the state or counties to really say that outdoor dining specifically was a major driver or even a significant minority driver. In, in cases, people were thinking if this isn't based on data to begin with, how are we going to know when we can get out of this ban? Speaker 1: 10:25 Yeah. San Diego County says outbreaks in community settings like restaurants and retail dropped more than 25% during the recent stay at home order. So was it just having people stay at home that was beneficial? Speaker 5: 10:40 I think everybody can agree that the more businesses shut down, whether they're restaurants or retail, then the more people stay at home. The slower, the transmission of the disease is going to be that's for sure. What restaurant owners are afraid of now is because we're starting at such a higher level of cases. When the economy opens back up, the cases are going to start to rise at such a higher level than when we were back in November of 2020, Speaker 1: 11:04 One of the restaurant owners you spoke with said, he'd rather wait another month or so with more of a certainty that the reopening would be permanent. This opening and closing has been very hard on the industry. Hasn't it? Speaker 5: 11:15 Yes. Restaurants say that they can't adequately plan for what food and other supplies, which are obviously perishable. They can buy. Um, if the restaurant is just going to get closed down again, there's also an issue with workers who may be don't want to come back and take on that additional risk if they're receiving unemployment. However, with the closure of so many restaurants right now, um, servers and workers especially feel that they don't really have a choice. If they're asked to come back, they probably will go back because they don't have the luxury of closing down relationships and networks. And though coming back Speaker 1: 11:54 To work means having a job. There's a certain amount of dread among some of the service workers that you spoke with. Speaker 5: 12:00 Yes. I spoke to a bartender named Vincent come PO, and he said that he's so puzzled that restaurant service workers are being allowed to return when they have not yet had access to the vaccine. Of course, he said he would return if asked, because he can't afford to not continue having these, um, professional relationships that could lead to more longterm or stable jobs in the future. But he, he just said that it doesn't seem worth it for him to have to serve people, food, and drink in a restaurant setting so that other people can feel a return to normalcy. Speaker 1: 12:38 So with all this confusion, uh, that you encountered are some restaurant owners you spoke with voluntarily postponing, reopening, outdoor dining, kind of waiting to see what will happen. Speaker 5: 12:50 Yes. I spoke to the owner of Salazar. It's a Mexican barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles. His name is Billy Silverman. He said, after canvassing his staff, most of whom said they don't want to return. He has decided to put off reopening, even though he's legally allowed to. He says that he wants to wait until at least the cases and the hospitalizations are back down in numbers to when Los Angeles banned outdoor dining in the first place right now, he says it doesn't make any sense to return. Speaker 1: 13:19 I've been speaking with reporter and an Elman drama with Kaiser health news and Anna, thank you Speaker 5: 13:24 Very much. Thanks for having me. Thanks for bringing light to this important topic. Speaker 6: 13:32 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. After the Capitol riot, DHS has now issued a rare national terrorism advisory warning that violent extremists, good carry out attacks in the coming weeks. One person arrested last week in connection to the riot was from the San Diego area and another who died during the attack after being shot by police. While trying to climb through a window at the Capitol was also from San Diego. The local connections highlight San Diego's history of extremism and the threat of tear that exists today. Joel day, a UCS D lecture and the school of global policy and strategy who specializes in Homeland security and combating extremism joins us with more. Joe. Welcome. Speaker 5: 14:19 Thanks Jake. Great to be with you. Speaker 6: 14:21 So can you talk a bit about the history of extremism here in our region? Speaker 5: 14:25 Yeah. Many folks have seen a history of extremism, especially in East County and North County folks have said that there's around 17 to 20 hate groups here in San Diego. These are groups like the proud boys, uh, the identity Europa, the KKK, you know, Santi with its history, with the KKK has been jokingly referred to as clan T. Um, and then course just a couple of years Speaker 7: 14:52 Ago, we saw the deadly attack in the Poway kabod, uh, where we, we experienced racism hate, uh, firsthand in our community. And I think that what we're experiencing is not different than what the entire country is seeing, but that we have a rich history in this and that our law enforcement therefore needs to take it much more seriously. Speaker 6: 15:17 I've heard you say, um, that extremist groups have sort of spiraled into three different types of categories. Yeah. Speaker 7: 15:24 So three different types of categories would be somewhat the hate groups. That would be the KKK and the proud boys. These are the chauvinist groups. Um, the second sort of group would be the paramilitary groups. These are the sort of the three percenters or the oath keepers that are heavily tied in with law enforcement and the military very fascist in their orientation. And then finally, we have a kind of sedition as groups or groups that are following the Q Anon philosophy. These are the kind of the cookie cookie groups that really are, um, about breaking away from the United States government. Speaker 6: 16:04 The FBI raised the red flag, uh, months ago about the threat of white supremacist, domestic terrorism. How do you think Trump's focus on Antifa distracted attention, maybe and resources from the far right threat of white supremacist, domestic terrorism? Well Speaker 7: 16:23 Firsthand here working with, uh, our local law enforcement, uh, I know that experts all across the United States saw this somewhat false flag of local law enforcement, criminal intelligence units, fusion centers during the black lives matter movement, really focusing on where's Antifa, right, hunting down this Antifa ghost and what this new terrorism advisory shows us is that the United States intelligence community is telling local partners to act on a different sort of threat, right? It doesn't mention Antifa at all. It says it's crucial for law enforcement to take the far right threats seriously, and that we need to really be focusing on that rather than hunting Antifa ghosts. And so instead of criminal intelligence units, trying to find sources of Antifa here in our communities, they need to be focused on those three types of domestic terror groups that I talked about at the beginning. Speaker 6: 17:27 Do you think of our local law enforcement's response to the threat of domestic terrorism? You know, given the history of extremism in our area, even the, the 2019 Habakkuk Poway attack, do you feel that they're using enough resources and are prepared to combat this Speaker 7: 17:42 Right look, we're in the national emergency and that's not going away anytime soon, what this terror advisory is about. I think that our threat here in San Diego, uh, as evidenced by the folks from San Diego who joined the Capitol insurrection on the sixth is elevated or even imminent. And that we need to get serious about tracking and tracing individuals who were part of the insurrectionist movement, who are part of the three percenters who are infiltrating the more mainstream right-wing movement in San Diego. And here's what I'm, I'm most concerned about that law enforcement and our civilian leadership needs to turn their attention to yesterday. And that is that there are terrorist groups that are, are here locally, uh, hate groups that are attacking our, our residents and our neighbors that are also trying to infiltrate mainstream, mainstream right-wing groups. So people protesting the reopening, uh, of, of the economy after COVID, uh, people who are part of groups like defenders County that have kind of become the tourists in this debate. Speaker 7: 18:59 Folks who have not utilized violence in order to get their point, but that are frustrated and protesting against the government. In some way, what they are trying to do is infiltrate those groups and radicalize our neighbors before our eyes. And that is very dangerous. Um, so we know for instance that the three percenters group, one of these paramilitary right-wing groups that trains people to overthrow the government was part of setting up the reopened San Diego protests. And so those sorts of dangerous connections mean that our neighbors are being targeted. Our neighbors who are frustrated, but aren't terrorists are being recruited every day into these groups and that our law enforcement, our civilian leadership needs to take that far more seriously than we currently are doing. Speaker 6: 19:50 Can you talk about how, um, these folks are, can have connections to military and even law? Speaker 7: 19:56 Yeah. I think that more than two dozen folks that have been identified from the insurrection six have ties to the military. Uh, like you mentioned here in San Diego, we obviously have a military tradition in a veteran population. There is a, a nefarious connection between, uh, militarism and these paramilitary right wing groups. And we need to do a better job breaking that connection. And that means better support services for our military, investing more in our, our VA and making sure that the sources of grievance politics that drive anybody, uh, but especially the military towards resorting to violence, which is something that they've been trained in, uh, resorting and violence in order to fix something that they think is, is unfixable by the government. Um, by giving more resources investing in these individuals, we can pull them away from the brink. We can prevent people from sliding into radicalization, especially our military, but it requires attention. And it requires a resources to do it. Speaker 8: 21:07 I've been speaking with Joel de UCS D lecture and the school of global policy and strategy who specializes in Homeland security and combating extremism. Joel, thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 7: 21:19 Thanks Jen. Speaker 8: 21:25 Some black lives matter. Protesters have accused San Diego County. Sheriff's deputies of ignoring pro-Trump counter protesters assaults at Poway rallies. They also believe deputies sympathize with them. KPBS is a meta Sharma has the story about the accusations and sheriff bill Gore's response, Rancho Bernardo high school, senior Gabriela Sanchez Morris says when she heard students from a nearby campus had organized BLM rallies in Poway in November. She wanted it. Speaker 7: 21:55 It's just important that these students know that they're being heard and they're being listened to. And we're going to fight for them Speaker 8: 22:02 Has more didn't expect to experience this counter protesters shouting white power. The 17 year old says some of the mega counter protesters also pushed a teen BLM supporter to the street, but she says San Diego County Sheriff's deputies on the scene did not ask. Speaker 7: 22:21 She was crying. And she was trying to talk to the police and ask for help. But the police ended up telling her that because she was a minor and she didn't have a parent there, they weren't going to do anything. Speaker 8: 22:31 Bill Gore says he is unfamiliar with that incident so far, he says deputies have filed 11 reports stemming from BLM protests in Poway, since may, he could not provide a breakdown of how many were on behalf of BLM protestors or mega counter protestors. Gora says the department screens, all deputy applicants for ties to white supremacist or far right groups. And he says the vetting continues once they're on the forest. And as of yet, he has found no deputies involved with extremists. Speaker 7: 23:01 We work on a constantly in our training. We talk about equitable, fair, and unbiased policing Speaker 8: 23:08 Who only wanted her first name used because she fears retribution wonders. If some deputies have actually absorbed that training, she says one day in November, she saw racist members of the group defend East County or DEC some wearing knives around their waists and carrying a noise machine in circle. The team BLM protesters. Jennifer says deputies close by appeared unmoved. Speaker 7: 23:31 The attitude was, if you come out here to protest, this is what you get. Speaker 8: 23:36 Day. Jennifer says a deputy refused to file a report. After counter protestors shoved a 20 something BLM protester onto the street. His position was Speaker 9: 23:46 Until all of you leave. And this girl is the only person left. I'm not doing anything. I refuse to call another office. Speaker 8: 23:52 Gore says the deputy didn't file the report because he lacked sufficient backup. Speaker 9: 23:57 You go in and try to take a police report would have further inflamed. The situation. Speaker 8: 24:02 Jennifer says a video of that same deputy talking to manga, DEC people just moments later shows he's biased toward one side Speaker 9: 24:14 [inaudible] Speaker 8: 24:14 Gora says the video must be viewed. In context, the sheriff says a deputy was trying to keep those sides apart while listening to a complaint from a DEC counter protester Speaker 9: 24:24 And the deputy best I could tell Sam, I've got this. And in other words, we're going to separate them and you don't have to do it. That's how I interpreted. And then that's what the deputy says. His intentions were Speaker 8: 24:35 Sanchez. Morris says she can't shake her belief. That Sheriff's deputies favor, that Speaker 9: 24:41 I saw a group of the Magda supporters talking to the cops and they were fist bumping and shaking hands and laughing Speaker 8: 24:48 Or says the glad-handing was really Intel gathered. Speaker 9: 24:51 If somebody comes up and they want a fist, Bucky, it's hard for you. Put yourself in a deputy's position. When you're trying to develop rapport with these individual groups to say, get away from me. I can't talk to you so I can see how it could be interpreted that, Oh, they're friendly with one second. Speaker 8: 25:05 But university of Illinois at Chicago law school, professor Samuel Jones, who specializes in police accountability says that kind of public display discredits the Sheriff's department. Speaker 9: 25:16 Well, Karen, to be biased by a parent to ignore the rights of any American or American, they are essentially engaging in conduct unbecoming of a police officer. Speaker 8: 25:26 Jen says the department's handling of the protests and counter protests could dissuade BLM supporters from attending rallies as was the case with Gabriela Sanchez more. Speaker 9: 25:36 If something were to happen to me, I don't know what we would receive. Gloria Speaker 8: 25:39 Says he's disheartened by that sentiment. Speaker 9: 25:41 My commitment is to try to have those resources there, so that doesn't happen. So they do feel safe. I can't make them safe from hateful things or hurtful things that are said that I can protect them from physical danger. If we were unable to do that, I'll take responsibility for that. Speaker 8: 25:56 Anita Sharma KPBS news. There are some neighborhoods in San Diego with beautiful tree-lined streets, parks and walking trails, farmer's markets and an abundance of options for fresh foods, all underneath sunny skies and clean air from an ocean breeze. Then there are other neighborhoods within the same city with sidewalks. So uneven it's a hazard to walk fresh food is scarce available homes have lead paint and mold. The sky is hazy from pollution and children who live. There are several times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma after years of studies and decades of this growing problem, the city of San Diego is now working on plan to address these Speaker 6: 26:44 Inequities. It will be laid out in the environmental justice section of the city's general plan. I spoke with Vicky white senior planner with the city of San Diego. Here's that interview beyond the fact that this is required by a 2016 state law. Why is it important that there's an environmental justice section in the general plan? Speaker 4: 27:05 It's important as the city planning department in recognition that these different conditions in different neighborhoods have real effects on people's lives. And we can see that, for example, in the rates of COVID infections, in different populations in the city, the County has provided data that shows that the rate of infections per 10,000 residents as much higher for Latino and black and native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents than it is for white residents or residents of the County as a whole. And we also have data that shows that Latino residents and Lac residents are often living in certain pockets of the city as a result of policies that the city had adopted in the past and private actions that didn't allow people from these groups, the full access to life choices that wider other residents did. And so it's, it's important to, to recognize that actions that have been taken such as the citing of freeways have real impacts on people's health. And so we've known that this is a condition for a while, and I think that the COVID pandemic has really shown the urgency of raising the visibility and importance of environmental justice at the city level. Speaker 6: 28:22 And a big part of this project again, is to identify certain neighborhoods to focus on. Talk to me more about that. And if you could paint a picture for me of what some of these neighborhoods are experiencing, that you're trying to bring equity to. So Speaker 4: 28:36 As you mentioned, one of the requirements that were was adopted in state law is that the city identify areas within the city that are disproportionately experiencing pollution and health deficits. And at the same time also have lower income. So therefore fewer resources to address these, these types of conditions. So for example, the CNSC DRO community, which is located with in proximity to three different freeways border port of entry and trucking routes experiences, higher rates of pollution and pollutants related to those types of vehicles. And they just got an updated community plan in 2016, but those community plans really address the more community specific systems such as how people get around within that specific community and less. So the more regional systems such as how the city plans for and advocates for other transportation solutions, such as highways versus transit highways, being a source of a lot of those vehicle related emissions. So updating these policies can tell city decision makers what the priority should be in terms of considering the effects on local populations. When big decisions come before them such as regional plans that have to do with transportation or infrastructure spending on things like mobility or parks or the urban forest that can help combat some of the effects of pollution and increased local temperatures. Speaker 6: 30:14 And we keep mentioning these communities, tell me, where are these communities? Speaker 4: 30:18 Well, we haven't determined these communities yet, but there are data sources that are available that give us some idea. And so we know that a number of San Diego communities fall within the top 25% of the census tracks evaluated by the California and virus screen in terms of experiencing disproportionate health and pollution burdens. A lot of those are in Southeastern San Diego, South of state, route 94. There are some portions of the city Heights community that are included in those and the Santa Sedro community, as well as a few further outlying areas, such as parts of Linda Vista and the San Pasqual Valley. Speaker 6: 30:55 The first step in creating this section of the general plan is to gather information from the community. So how will you be doing that? Speaker 4: 31:02 We are focusing on doing a community survey right now where residents of the city can tell us what their priorities are for the city to address in terms of environmental justice and what environmental justice conditions they are experiencing in their own neighborhoods that will help us as city planners to research and prioritize the work that we do. We'll also be holding public meetings online in the future. And we are working with community-based organizations as well to help directly contact people that these community-based organizations are serving and let them know about the opportunities for collaboration and input in this process. Speaker 6: 31:43 And then after you collect that community input, what are the next steps? Speaker 4: 31:47 The next steps will be first to identify those focus areas that are experiencing disproportionate pollution and health burdens, as well as lower incomes, addressing the needs of those areas will be the priority of this project. We'll then have discussions about specific topical areas that relate to environmental justice, such as access to recreation, uh, access to safe and healthy housing access to food, access to the infrastructure that allows people to get around their neighborhoods and get exercise. And then from the input we receive from those conversations, we'll develop some policy proposals to address the needs of these communities. Well then again, get community input on those proposals and ultimately take the element which will include those policy proposals to the city council for approval. Speaker 6: 32:34 And when can people expect that policies will be implemented, Speaker 4: 32:37 Policies will likely be adopted middle to late portion of next year. And then it'll be up to decision makers and the implementing city departments to decide how to implement those in the system. So it could take awhile. I've been speaking with Vicky white senior planner of the city of San Diego, Vicki. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much, Jane, any link to the environmental justice survey can be email@example.com. Speaker 1: 33:12 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kevin doll with Jade Heinemann ever wondered what inspires your favorite musicians as part of Monday edition celebration of black history month. We're bringing you a special series with some extraordinary black musicians who call San Diego home, talking about their musical influences to kick things off. We'll start with the great Alfred Howard founder of San Diego's redwoods music label and collective he's written songs for dozens of albums over the last decade or so in an interview, we first brought you last summer. Howard talks about his quest during the COVID-19 pandemic to write 100 songs, each one accompanied by an original watercolor painting by his mother, the artist, Maryann Howard here's, Alfred Howard. In his own words, Speaker 10: 34:03 I started out as a spoken word, musician or artist, and, uh, always wrote a lot of lyrics. And then I lost my voice for awhile. So I stopped playing music for a little bit until, uh, I started writing songs and meeting singers who were like willing to perform them. So that started like a foray into songwriting and playing percussion in these bands. And I did that for, I don't know, more than 10 years, I was writing lyrics for eight bands in San Diego playing a lot of shows and, uh, I've had chronic Lyme disease for, uh, gosh, since I was like 14 years old and I'm 42 now. And, uh, it gives me a lot of joint problems. It makes me really tired. So, you know, playing these shows late at night, getting up early, the physical pain that came with it, it was a, it was something that was difficult and music wasn't fun the way it was when I started. Speaker 10: 34:52 So before the pandemic hit, I was, I was kind of contemplating like what was next for me, musically? Like, could I keep playing shows? Was that like the best way to do it? And I was, you know, kind of busy working other jobs, you know, I, I was ready to kind of, I made peace with it and I was ready to walk away. And then, um, quarantine hit, I found myself with a lot more free time and I started writing a song a day and inviting people to collaborate just via Facebook or Instagram and, you know, enough people seemed interested in it that I started to kind of refine the idea. Like what if I, you know, personally reached out to people, some of whom I've been working with some of whom, you know, I met at a gig in the past, some of whom I've been influenced by and were kind of reaches for me, but you know, you never know a lot of musicians have this new found downtime in the gig free economy. Speaker 10: 35:45 Yeah. I got a really, really positive reception. A lot of, a lot of folks were interested in working together. So I called my mom, who's a watercolor painter. And I asked her if she would want to illustrate each song. And she was totally in, I've always been like in a lot of eclectic bands, you know, like at soul psychedelic, rock folk, you know, Americana, stuff like that. But now, you know, now that it's not like having to do like a full album, you know, I could, I can kind of tackle any genre and it's just whatever two or three people kind of bring to the table. This is what we've been getting, you know, so got to write some jazz and, and like working on a bluegrass song, working on like a kind of old timey blues song, working with a folk singer in Virginia on a few songs, uh, you know, it's going to be really eclectic. Speaker 10: 36:32 Tom waits is a voice that I really, really love, you know, such it's just such a unique style and just like big influence on me, musically. I would love to write with Tom waits, you know, I don't really have any specific thing about that song. It's just got a mood to it. It's on a it's on his album, swordfish trombones, which is kind of like his first foray into like avant garde music. There's nothing avant garde about this song. It's just got this like beautiful piano part. It's really sparse. The lyrics are kind of haunting. And, uh, I just always gravitated towards that song. And I think it's also like the album that it appears on makes it stand out because it's, it's just this like kind of soft ballad for me made Bob Dylan it's all right. Ma I'm only bleeding is a song that I heard and I Speaker 11: 37:26 Just, the lyrically shadows, even the silver spoon, the handmaid blade, the child, Speaker 10: 37:33 I stepped away from the protest song side of folk, you know, or at least a lot of people kind of thought that about his music, you know, as he kind of plugged in and went electric. But this song is like, it's an acoustic song. And it's, you know, as far as I'm concerned, it's like his, his biggest protest song. It's just a little bit more maybe poetic and abstract than just like directly criticizing like this big problem. Yeah. Speaker 11: 37:58 You reappear, you suddenly find you've got nothing to fear alone. You stand with nobody needs. Speaker 10: 38:04 That was like a move I could, I could take lyrically, you know, where you don't want to kind of beat people over the head with the message. Sometimes, sometimes you gotta have to dance around it and, you know, paint it a little bit differently for folks to hear it. For me, protest music is just, it's just music. I think a job of any artists is to reflect on, on the world, around them, on what's going on in society. It's kind of hard to turn a blind eye to the last, I mean, any, any point in society, you know, the last, uh, four years seem, seem pretty intense as far as things go. But as far as I can remember, I've been writing protest stuff since the Gulf war, you know, lots of artists have. I think maybe it becomes a little bit more esoteric how it, how it lands in their, their lyrics, but you know, it's out there Speaker 12: 38:52 Radio cabin Speaker 10: 38:58 And it was Nina Simone doing, uh, about Hollis Brown, which I there's a live version of it where it's like more of a piano bass song, piano and drums and the upright bass. And that is like the heaviest song Speaker 12: 39:11 I've ever heard. And like, I always, that was one of the first Bob Dylan songs I got into, but then hearing Nina do it, she just Tabby. Speaker 10: 39:30 Um, I put, I had to pick one Jason Molina song. Uh, Jason Molina was a, in a group called songs, Ohio and the pyramid electric company. And he did a lot of solo stuff. He was really prolific and, uh, he died young from, uh, you know, he kind of abused alcohol, but, um, I think he's one of the best lyricists I've ever heard, you know, and there's a line in the song I put on their spectral, alphabet Speaker 12: 39:56 Their names and scribed by death in a spectrum. Speaker 10: 40:00 Their names were inscribed by death, in a spectral alphabet. Speaker 12: 40:09 [inaudible] Speaker 10: 40:09 Their names look foreign and are forgotten by the world ahead. And I don't know, but that, something about that line was just so gripping to me. He's just a, he's got a great way with words. I just wish more people Speaker 12: 40:22 I had heard of Marvin Gaye, Speaker 10: 40:25 Curtis Mayfield. I heard that a lot growing up. Um, I went with Curtis Mayfield right on for the darkness, which is Speaker 12: 40:33 Just like, Speaker 10: 40:35 His voice is just so good on that song. And the string arrangements are beautiful and, uh, Marvin Gaye was tough. Cause I, you know, I kind of wanted to go with something from what's going on, you know, cause it has a little bit more of a social political overtones that like fit the time. And just as an album, it's like the best soul album ever made, but it it's hard to like separate any of those individual songs. Cause they're such like it's a whole, the whole album is a song. So I went with trouble, man. Cause I, I love the, I love the drum field. Speaker 12: 41:13 Yeah. Speaker 10: 41:13 Production on it. And some of his cadences, uh, remind me of like, you know, early hip hop influence cadences. And I thought that was really, Speaker 12: 41:23 Yeah. Speaker 10: 41:24 I put the grateful dead on there because everyone always like kind of clowns on the grateful dead, but the grateful dead like American beauty and working man's dead. Those albums are tremendous, great harmonies, great song writing. You know, I put the song broke down palace. There was a it's written by, I think Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. And I liked that cause like, you know, Robert Hunter was not really in the band, but wrote a lot of songs for the band. And that's kind of a position that I, I play, you know, in life. But uh, that song was written around the time Jerry Garcia's mother had passed away. There's just lyrics. And there's just some, a certain tone in Jerry Garcia's voice that just like kills me. It makes me want to weep and that's that's the song, But those two Michael Q Nuka songs because they go together. It's like one song that was the last concert I saw before a pandemic. Speaker 10: 42:23 And I went with my mom who had moved out here recently and I got her that album for Christmas and she like loves it so much. And these are like these experiences that, you know, we didn't go to concerts when I was like young. So like getting to know my mom as an adult is a, is a totally different experience than knowing her when I was young and getting to go to that concert with her. It was like, it was really amazing. Cause I figured out like that album to me has elements of like Richie havens, pink Floyd and Isaac Hayes in some weird stew that works Speaker 2: 42:55 Ah, Speaker 10: 42:59 Perfect environment of music that my mom grew up on. But like with, uh, with the L in a modern landscape and just kind of sharing that memory with her and having it be like the last concert before, you know, the world was shut down for a little bit, just kind of, of it Speaker 2: 43:25 [inaudible] Speaker 10: 43:26 I came out to California on fish tour, which is something like I like to keep in the closet a lot more so than like my grateful dead fandom, but I was selling grilled cheeses and a fish parking lot in 1999 on my way to California, we would like play music out of the back of my Toyota Corolla. And I remember playing Alice Coltrane journey in Satchidananda And it's just this really hypnotic heart-based Speaker 2: 43:54 Song Speaker 10: 44:04 After John Coltrane had passed, she was John Coltrane's wife. And, uh, I think it's Pharaoh Sanders and like just great players. But like, I just remember people like walking and stopping and it was the music that stopped him, not the smell of our garlic. They would spend like the entire, like however long that song is just standing and listening to it. And then at the end they'd ask like, Hey, uh, do you know which direction I was going when I came here? Like, we'd have to like recalibrate their, their beings, you know? But that song is, it's just got a special place in my heart. And I just, you know, the first time I heard it, I was just like, what is this it's otherworldly? You know? And I didn't Speaker 12: 44:51 That exists. Speaker 10: 44:53 It's funny. Cause uh, like I like the records that I've made over the past 10 years or so it's a good feeling as an artist, you know, like I think we're all like constantly critical of, of things we've done, but like I've gotten to this point where I'm really proud of like the catalog that right. Speaker 12: 45:12 [inaudible] Speaker 10: 45:13 Kind of keep growing it, trying out new genres that I've never done before, Speaker 12: 45:17 Because why not? That was Alfred Howard founder of San Diego's redwoods music label and collective.