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Almost 19,000 Migrant Children Stopped At US Border in March, Most Ever In A Month

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY DARIO LOPEZ-MILLS AP

The administration has struggled to house young migrants at Customs and Border Protection facilities like this one in Donna, Texas.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports 19,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers entered the U.S. last month, the largest monthly total ever. Plus, KPBS reporter Tania Thorne looks into some of the barriers preventing the Latino community from seeking mental health help. And across California, more than 200 people have died of COVID-19 in state prisons. R.J. Donovan prison in Otay Mesa has been among the most deadly. Then, for over a year, school has been online. To get a glimpse into what it’s been like for teachers, we asked a high school teacher to record an audio journal for a week. Finally, the San Diego Asian Film Festival is holding a virtual launch party for its upcoming Spring Showcase. KPBS Arts Reporter Beth Accomando got a preview of the line up.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Record numbers of unaccompanied children cross the U S Mexico border.

Speaker 2: 00:05 It is our moral imperative to ensure that children are treated safely and humanely

Speaker 1: 00:12 Kevin Hall with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid day Challenges faced by the Latin X community and getting mental health services.

Speaker 3: 00:32 [inaudible] mentality we have as Latinos is I'm not crazy, and it's not the weird, crazy it's that we need support of a doctor, a specialist

Speaker 1: 00:41 As San Diego's in-person school comes back. We'll hear an audio diary on teaching during the pandemic, the San Diego spring showcase of Asian-American films takes on the issue of anti-Asian violence. That's a head on mid day edition.

Speaker 1: 01:01 Children have become the latest victims in the broken immigration system between the U S and Latin America, us customs and border protection reports, 19,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers entered the U S last month, the largest monthly total ever recently, we've seen two heartbreaking examples of this trend. Two children, a five and a six-year-old brother and sister from Mexico were found abandoned near the border in Southwestern San Diego County. On Monday, last week, shocking video was released of smugglers dropping a three and a five-year-old into this country from the border fence in New Mexico. Joining me is Carmen Chavez. She's executive director of Casa Cornelia law center, and Carmen, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 01:49 Thank you so much for having me. I guess

Speaker 1: 01:51 The big question is why, why are children either being smuggled or entering this country without their parents? Do you have any insight into that question?

Speaker 2: 02:01 I think that one needs to understand what are the current country conditions from which these children are coming from. For many decades, there has been reported substantiated and corroborated reports of extreme violence within the three major countries of which many of these children are coming from not the only countries, but the three that are the most prominent, uh, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. And so that cycle of violence and that inability to find protection under current systemic protection that either the police or the military in those countries has risen to the level where there is a great uncertainty and mass incidents of, uh, violence. Addition to that. A lot of these children are finding or experiencing violence within their home as well. So issues of being in great bodily harm, a threat of great bodily harm, or having had family members that have been killed is one of the reasons that has fueled persons coming, not just children, but adults as well.

Speaker 1: 03:11 Now, in both instances that I mentioned of children being abandoned or tossed over the border border patrol says a parent has been located in this country. What's the likelihood that those children will be reunited with their parents.

Speaker 2: 03:28 Law has certain requirements in the treatment of unaccompanied minors for a lot of good reasons, a good public policy. And just the fact that these are very, a very vulnerable population. So upon an encounter with, uh, CBP or border patrol and detention, there is they have 72 hours to make these kinds of determinations as you're you're suggesting. And one of them is, uh, should the child be released or should they be sent to a shelter? Currently, there is something called an emergency intake sites, which we see at the convention center, but there are other temporary shelters the children would go, and that's where they would identify if there is a parent or parents or a close relative that would qualify as a sponsor for that child. And so then begins the process of releasing the child to, to the parent. And I should underscore that the child upon apprehension and processing is placed in removal proceedings often, uh, understood as deportation, uh, immigration court proceedings, where their case will continue and they need to appear, uh, before the immigration judge who makes the determination of they ultimately would be able to stay or not.

Speaker 1: 04:46 Do you think the Biden administration is doing the right things for these kids,

Speaker 2: 04:50 The current Biden administration, what they are doing right, is that they are now following the rules and regulations for the process of unaccompanied minors that find themselves along the border. And so they are now in that process and ensuring that the children are receiving the appropriate care that is afforded under the law to vulnerable populations, such as these, what they could do differently. I think that they're trying to find every which way to, to ensure streamline, make it more effective in terms of the process. And it remains to be seen what, what they can do to improve. I think that, um, right now they're trying to ensure that there's a holistic approach to receiving the children. So we will see in the next weeks how these outcomes are expressed, the process that's being put into effect now is a process that should have always been in effect.

Speaker 2: 05:47 And so expelling children as they were under the previous administration has helped cause the circumstance not to mention the desperation, the persons that has never changed the country conditions have not been, have not changed, have not improved. And so the reasons for these children that have fled, and there's a different reasons why persons flea, including minors, that hasn't changed. So I think that this bottleneck as is described could have been lessened if the process had been followed. So the current arrival of the unaccompanied children is the inevitable result of children being prevented from seeking Haven last year, because the reasons for their flight have not been addressed. So until the children are protected in their countries of origin, safe from violence inside or outside, their home, able to seek redress from functioning governments, they will continue to flee.

Speaker 3: 06:40 I've been speaking with Carmen Chavez, executive director at Casa Cornelia law center. Carmen, thank you

Speaker 2: 06:46 Very much. Thank you so much. There's a lot of feelings around, around this. And the bottom line is that these are children and as is often the set a country will be judged on how it treats children, whether they're citizens or not.

Speaker 4: 07:12 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 07:14 Mental health can be a hard topic to talk about. And for some cultures, it can go ignored KPBS reporter, Tonya thorn looks into some of the barriers preventing the Latin X community from seeking mental health, help a warning. This report includes a graphic description of domestic violence. And talk about self-harm that some listeners may find disturbing

Speaker 3: 07:37 Is Stella chemo's. Depression began when she left her hometown in Mexico. At the age of 17, a family friend told her parents, he had a job for tremble in California babysitting two American children, but there was no job. And the man who took her from her family wanted her as his woman. Instead for 15 years, chairman when dirt, uh, forced an abusive relationship, maybe that's my life has been really sad. I would cry. I couldn't go anywhere. I had not activities. I was Bart to the wrench until one day she had enough and left once on her own Chamoun knew she wasn't okay and sought out help, but the Latin X community faces language barriers, less access to healthcare and cultural influences that keep them from getting help with mental health [inaudible] mentality. We have as Latinos is I'm not crazy. And it's not the weird, crazy it's that we need support of a doctor, a specialist.

Speaker 3: 08:38 One of the biggest barriers is the stigma of being labeled crazy. You have these people telling you, looking you in the face and telling you, you can just pray this demon away. Andrea Vasquez was diagnosed with major depressive disorder when she was 16, the anger was the bigger part of it. The depression, the panic attacks that I had been having. And at that moment, I told him, you know, there's a crisis because I don't want to live. Vasquez has depression got so bad. She began self-harming and checked into a behavioral health center, something her Latin X parents had a hard time accepting. And that's a big thing in Latin community that it's to believe that if there's something wrong with your child, the discomfort over mental health within the Latin X community also has to do with the lack of therapists that can understand the culture and the problems they face. It's really hard to find a therapist that connects with those issues. Hey, I, I think I have problems with my family because of my culture. And you're talking to a white male therapist that has no idea what you're talking about. Then there are therapists like was that ma who is Latina and says she can relate to the cultural influences Latinos face when it comes to mental health, help

Speaker 5: 09:56 My beliefs that if we pray to God and we do, you know, [inaudible] and every goat, you know, pare perse to the church, it's, God's going to grant us a miracle. And the symptoms are going to go away,

Speaker 3: 10:08 Says she has to be culturally sensitive to the points of views of her patients, and also incorporates them in her practice for successful treatment.

Speaker 5: 10:16 Yes, we can pray, but this need something more. We have to respect their belief system, but also work with them. Um, so what I tried to do is incorporate those beliefs.

Speaker 3: 10:26 [inaudible] says there is still progress to be made in mental health services and thinks the pandemic meet the need more urgent.

Speaker 5: 10:33 Um, you know, there's all these things that we haven't even thought about, or actually even seen because we're still in the midst of the pandemic.

Speaker 3: 10:42 As people rebuild their lives from the aftermath of the pandemic Masa, just not sleeping on mental health.

Speaker 5: 10:48 And I think that we need to educate people that it doesn't simply go away. We need to learn and teach people the way to navigate and the way to seek out resources for their specific needs and how do they do it, and how can they find someone that they connect with

Speaker 3: 11:06 Gemma was building that bridge to resources for her community. As part of [inaudible] a North County advocacy group. [inaudible] for me, it's a new life. Since I left my life with domestic violence and guide bold with the groups, it's the most marvelous thing I have found in my life. Chemo's says these activities have been the best medicine for her to get out of depression and help her community along the way. Tanya Thorne, KPBS news. We just heard about the many barriers that stand in the way of seeking and receiving mental health care in the Latin X community. And that story Lizeth ma who is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a private practice in Chula Vista spoke about how she incorporates cultural sensitivity

Speaker 6: 11:54 When working with patients. She is joining us now to talk more about that and how to overcome barriers to receiving mental health care Lizeth. Welcome. Thank you. So, you know, critics say mental health care providers just aren't keeping up with the nation's growing Latin X population and that there aren't enough providers who are Spanish speaking and who understand the various cultures. Can you talk to me about,

Speaker 5: 12:18 Yeah, absolutely. I will have to agree with that to a certain extent. I believe, especially just in California, I can't speak about the rest of the country, but especially government agencies, um, and County and city. I think they do a really good job at ensuring that we have providers that speak the language, not only Spanish, but tagalo and Japanese and all those other languages that are prevalent here in California. But one thing is speaking the language and the other is knowing the culture. Um, we have, uh, you know, other, uh, racist Anglo-Americans, African-Americans Asian that speak Spanish and understand Spanish. And some of those providers are treating some of our Latin X communities. And just because they're able to understand that language, not necessarily under means that they understand the culture. And can

Speaker 6: 13:09 You give me some examples of how culture becomes a barrier to receiving mental health care?

Speaker 5: 13:14 Well, there's a lot of components to that. I think it becomes a huge barrier within the culture. There is a belief system that if one of the young ladies also mentioned this, that if there's some sort of mental health within your family, culturally, it's very taboo. We don't speak about it. We don't tell anyone about it. And sometimes they'll tell, you know, the maternal mom or grandma that there's something going on. And typically they'll say, you know, it's going to go away. It'll pass. It's nothing. We'll pray well that I kind of, um, we'll get [inaudible], but it's, it's a barrier in itself because if they're not accepting or even listening or hearing them that there's actually something happening, how could they even get to a provider and start getting some help? And there's also that, that resistance of, you know, what is the provider again to say, what are they gonna think? Are they gonna think I'm crazy? Are they going to label me crazy? Are they going to give me a diagnosis? So it's not only the stigma and the resistance within the family culture. It's also sometimes that individual that's resistant to going into treatment because of the unknown. And maybe that believe that the provider's not going to understand

Speaker 6: 14:25 What about access to mental health care while it's a basic need? Insurance status often prevents people from getting the care they need, right?

Speaker 5: 14:32 Absolutely accessibility to insurance. You have to think about with the Lennox community. We still have some, you know, undocumented immigrants that don't have insurance or you'll have, um, some individuals that have private insurance or they have Medi-Cal or they have a limited medical insurance. And those typically the government ones are very limited 13 sessions. You can exceed them, they have to X for extensions. It's the whole process and private insurance. You have to go to a private provider and they get a referral. And that sentence could be tough to navigate, even for someone who's educated and understands the system. And you have to think about what about those individuals that don't have insurance or that don't know the process of getting a referral. Some insurances require for you to get a referral from a medical provider, some insurance, you just have to call the provider. And how do you start if you don't know, think about if you're having some mental health issues, do you have the capacity to even start that search? If there's no guide, no assistance? I think it's just definitely some barriers to that, um, that we definitely need to work on.

Speaker 6: 15:45 What are some of the common mental health issues you're seeing

Speaker 5: 15:49 Your practice? I think the pandemic, um, changed things quite a bit. I'm seeing a lot of relationship issues. Um, a lot of couples issues, especially at the, you know, four or five months in, um, into the pandemic. There is a high increase of, you know, couples calling individuals calling. There's also a lot of uncertainty and uncertainty. Um, depression is definitely a lot of depression, a lot of paranoia and some people that are kind of holding it together for a period of time. I believe that the isolation and the lockdown definitely triggered some people and, uh, exacerbated some of those symptoms. Also individuals who aren't coping just with the change of what the newer norm is and people who were affected directly by the pandemic, they lost someone

Speaker 6: 16:41 Where can people look to find a Spanish speaking therapist, for example, and therapists who are culturally competent. I mean, what resources are available,

Speaker 5: 16:50 Finding someone that speaks the language, um, is not that it's relatively assembled, but there's a lot of resources for that. You can call your insurance panel of your insured and they can give you a list of providers or geared you to the right direction where you can find those bilingual therapists or doctors. Um, if you called two, one, one, they will give you a resources to Spanish speaking, um, therapists or providers also online psychology today. They have psychiatrists, psychologists therapists, um, that specify the language. And a lot of them in psychology today, there is that cultural components that you can read on the therapist to see what culture they're from, or some of them give you a little spill on it. Um, but when regards to culturally competent, um, I think we definitely need to have some work in regards to that. Um, like I said earlier in the interview, um, one thing is speaking Spanish and the other one is understanding the culture.

Speaker 6: 17:46 I've been speaking with Lizeth ma who is a licensed marriage

Speaker 1: 17:50 And family therapist with a private practice in Chula Vista. ETH, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks so much. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann across California. More than 200 people have died in state prisons of COVID-19. The Donovan prison in OTI Mesa has been among the most deadly. I knew source investigative reporter. Mary Plummer has uncovered new details about inmates who have died of the virus.

Speaker 7: 18:30 The crisis peaked in mid December, COVID-19 had spread quickly about 20% of people incarcerated at Donovan were known to have the infection. Many were relocated within the prison to try and control the virus over the next five weeks. 18 inmates died of COVID-19. One of them was Gilbert Rodriguez who was serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole. His son, Ryan Rodriguez says the family learned of his death. The day after Christmas, no one had told them he'd gotten sick.

Speaker 8: 19:02 Me, you know, was fearful. Of course, that you know, Cove is running around and it's, and it's entering these prisons, but certainly shocked that I got a phone call about him passing as opposed to, Hey, your father contracted COVID and here's what we're doing about it.

Speaker 7: 19:16 I knew source uncovered that his father was one of three men at Donovan found dead or dying in their cells of COVID-19. They were all 65 or older with pre-existing medical conditions. They died within eight days of each other. During that same time five others at Donovan died of the virus at hospitals. I knew source piece together. What happened through County medical examiner records, the death certificates and interviews Rodriguez family asked the prison what happened, but was given very few details.

Speaker 8: 19:47 We don't know, you know, what the protocols should have been. We certainly don't know if they were followed. So whether he was given treatment or whether he was isolated, a person in his conditions with obviously a, you know, diabetes, you know, uh, overweight, et cetera, high blood pressure, I would expect that there would be some trouble.

Speaker 7: 20:05 About a month after Gilbert Rodriguez death, the family received a letter from his cellmate. It said their father had requested medical help after testing positive for the virus. But staff told him no. According to the cellmate, he coughed two nights in a row. Getting little sleep then seemed to have a heart attack or stroke and died.

Speaker 8: 20:24 It sounds more likely than not that nothing happened. And he was left in his cell to sort of work it out

Speaker 7: 20:29 Through a spokesperson. The prison warden declined multiple interview requests for this story, even so corrections department officials say they've worked tirelessly to address the virus and inmates with COVID-19 are screened at twice a day by medical staff. But experts say that isn't always enough. And court indicate Donovan's response to the pandemic has been among the worst of California prisons. In December, the prison oversight office found guards. There had the most citations for refusing to social distance or wear masks. It's something Mike Spilker witnessed himself. He was incarcerated at Donovan before being released during the pandemic,

Speaker 3: 21:09 He would be walking the track kind of isolated and walk by a group of correction officers, not wearing masks with them, telling us to put our maps.

Speaker 7: 21:20 Spilker says a few days before he got out, he was kept in a holding cell with an inmate who shortly after tested positive for COVID-19 the state paid for him to stay in a hotel after he was released to quarantine advocates and public health experts say the mixing of people with COVID-19 with those who aren't sick is well-documented at Donovan and it's dangerous. UC Hastings law professor Hadar ABI rom reviewed our findings. She says the atrocities that have happened to incarcerated people during the pandemic are hard to comprehend.

Speaker 3: 21:55 We have to keep in mind that even if you believe in harsh punishment and you believe that people should do the time. If they committed the crime, nobody was actually sentenced to die of COVID in their cell.

Speaker 7: 22:07 And she says, when the virus spreads in prisons, it puts the entire community at risk each day, hundreds of people go in and out of prisons in California. And then

Speaker 3: 22:18 That means that if you're in a County that has a prison or a jail or both, you are at a higher risk of getting sick yourself

Speaker 7: 22:25 Over a dozen correctional facilities operate in San Diego and Imperial counties statewide nearly 50,000 people in prisons have contracted the virus.

Speaker 1: 22:36 Joining me is I new source investigative reporter, Mary Plummer, and Mary. Welcome.

Speaker 7: 22:41 Thank you. Thanks for having me

Speaker 1: 22:44 Donovan prison officials tell you about their protocols for treating COVID-19 patients.

Speaker 7: 22:51 Uh, well, first I should say that we repeatedly requested an interview for this story and that was declined. Uh, no one at Donovan agreed to speak with us. And all of our questions were worded to public information officers at the California department of corrections. When it comes to those three desks that we uncovered, who were found in their cells, uh, the department cited medical privacy laws and set it couldn't comment. They did not dispute the dust circumstances. I should note, uh, they would only say that medical rounds are conducted daily and the medical staff will transfer people to outside hospitals. If they need a higher level of care. We know that that happened in other cases of folks who died at Donovan, but it did not happen in these three deaths.

Speaker 1: 23:36 What has the spread of COVID been like at Donovan? Was it fast or did it continue for months?

Speaker 7: 23:42 Donovan, state prison stayed remarkably of the virus for much of the pandemic, but in December that changed fast and that changed really dramatically. COVID-19 spread quickly, you know, without question, managing an outbreak at a prison where a lot of people are in close proximity is very, very challenging. Officials at Donovan used three gymnasiums to separate people. Who'd gotten infected. Uh, the case number is stayed high until the end of January. Uh, now more recently, they had gone several weeks with no active cases, but just yesterday, this tape tracker showed that COVID is back at Donovan. Uh, they have just one active case right now.

Speaker 1: 24:23 Now you say that Donovan's response to the COVID virus has been among the worst of California prisons. What do you base that on the number of deaths or infections

Speaker 7: 24:35 That's based off of, uh, the death count statewide 219 people have reportedly died of the virus in state prisons. Uh, San Quentin state prison in Marine County has lost the most lives. 28 people died there. That's followed by the California Institute for men in Chino and then Sola state prison. Uh, Southeast of Salinas has 18 deaths. The same as Donovan state prison here in San Diego. And I should mention that these death counts may not capture the full losses we reported earlier this year about inconsistencies between numbers kept at the local and state level. So there are some known problems regarding counting the deaths of incarcerated people during the pandemic.

Speaker 1: 25:17 And it's not only the close proximity of prison life that causes infections to spread, but don't prison populations tend to be sicker than the general public.

Speaker 7: 25:28 Uh, the populations tend to come in with high rates of health issues. And on top of that, many prisons are located in rural areas, making it tough to recruit medical staff. And, um, some of our listeners may know California's prison. Population is also aging. Many incarcerated individuals are in their sixties and seventies.

Speaker 1: 25:46 Now many California prisons released prisoners early to reduce prison populations because of COVID-19. Was that an effective method of slowing down the spread

Speaker 7: 25:57 Statewide at thousands of incarcerated people have been released from California prisons ahead of schedule, but advocates have really called on officials to do more. They have complained that many of the early releases would have been released within a few months anyway, that the state really has not done enough on this front. A statewide nearly 50,000 people in prison have contracted COVID-19 so far, that's a number that keeps growing and it's a pretty staggering number that public health experts say really could have been avoided

Speaker 1: 26:28 In this report. We heard from Ryan Rodriguez whose father died of COVID in his cell at Donovan. Did you hear about the stories of any other inmates who died in a similar way?

Speaker 7: 26:38 Uh, we reported on Gilbert Rodriguez, Ronald Johnson, and Kenneth Sandlin. Three of those men died in their cells. A records show that Sandlin tested negative almost three weeks before his death, but then he declined additional testing. Uh, his story is that on December 27th, he told his cellmate, he wasn't feeling well and went to sleep on the top bunk that after noon staff found him unresponsive, uh, records show that they attempted CPR. They took him to the triage department where he was pronounced dead. Um, in this case, the medical examiner office tested San Lyn's body and found he was positive, uh, positive for the virus

Speaker 6: 27:19 And then a companion report. That's coming out on the I news source website. You profile families who weren't even told that their incarcerated relatives were sick. Can you tell us about that

Speaker 7: 27:29 For this, for the story coming out tomorrow, we interviewed, uh, five additional family members of men who died at Donovan. All of these deaths occurred at hospitals and all of the family members we spoke to said that they were not contacted by the prison prior to the news that their relatives had died. Uh, they did not know the incarcerated men were COVID-19 positive. Uh, and they also say they were not notified when the transfers to the hospitals took place. And, um, you know, from, from talking with them, um, their feelings are mixed. You know, one woman we interviewed lost her father to COVID-19, but he was in prison for the murder of her mother and serving a life sentence. Um, she did agree to handle his remains, but said for her, his death really brought complete closure. Um, others who died were incarcerated for lesser crimes and some even had, um, upcoming parole hearings. There's a big span in what these families experienced, but all of them say that they were not contacted, uh, until, uh, after their relatives had died of COVID-19.

Speaker 6: 28:36 You can read the full report on Donovan deaths on the I new source website that's I knew source.org. And I've been speaking with I new source investigative reporter, Mary Plummer, Mary. Thank you. Thank you, Maureen. Monday, April 12th marks a historic back to school day for many San Diego County children for over a year. Tens of thousands of kids here have been learning through a computer screen and getting to know their teachers and classmates virtually to get a glimpse of what teaching students online has been. Like. We asked a Rancho Bernardo high school teacher to record an audio diary for a week. Here's social science teacher, Tristin McCoy.

Speaker 8: 29:24 I'm sitting here about five minutes before class is going to start. And normally on a typical day, the campus would just be brimming over with energy. And you could hear the voices of kids going through the hall talk and teachers standing outside their door, high five, and kids talking to them, welcoming them as they come in the class. There's just an energy on campus that, you know, if you've, if you've never taught, uh, it's indescribable. And once all those kids filter into your class, some excited, some not wanting to be there, but those are the ones you pour a little bit more energy and effort and love into. And once that door closes, there's, there's just something magic that happens between the teacher and the, and the kids in that class. And you're, you're a family for that hour and a half, you know, and you have fun and you push each other and it's an ongoing, just living thing.

Speaker 8: 30:21 And you know, I'm sitting here now a couple of minutes before class, and it's just, it's a graveyard. Nobody's walking in the halls, no kids to high five, no energy in class. You know, when zoom, when that zoom camera turns on, you know, I'm going to try to bring the energy, but it's, it's hard. It's hard talking to, you know, a screen and I'm seeing one inch faces. And sometimes not even that, because they're not in the camera or I'm sharing my screen. So you can't even see their faces. It's just, it's a very, very sad environment and void of void of the usual energy. So we do what we can and, uh, you know, put on a happy face and see if we can, we can energize these kids somehow.

Speaker 4: 31:19 [inaudible] so a big part of class

Speaker 8: 31:22 Normal times is building a classroom culture community, and really getting these kids connected and learning from each other and developing some relationships and trust because we do so much group work that culture really needs to be established. And in a virtual world, it is really hard to build any of that. So I know a lot of teachers like me spend some time putting kids in breakout rooms and giving them some guided questions for them to get connected and getting to know each other and, uh, learning how to build those relationships. But you know, when you're sitting on zoom and some kids cameras are off and are not responding, and you can tell that when you're looking at them and the camera they're playing video games or not engaged, or you jump into the breakout rooms and you know, two kids are talking and the others have their cameras off. And it's a challenge. It's a challenge, really hard to do something that I look forward to. I know many other teachers look forward to in the classroom is really getting to know these kids and having, helping them get to know each other. But it's just a, it's just a challenge in this virtual world.

Speaker 4: 32:39 [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 32:43 List of things to do today is to reach out to some parents whose children have not been engaged in class at all up to this point. Our quarter started about a week and a half, two weeks ago. And I have about five students in every class who have not attended a zoom meeting, which we have, uh, four days a week or have completed any assignments. So I have emailed parents, uh, up to this point, but I've not given phone calls yet. So that's something I'll be doing today. And I think that is probably one of the more challenging things about this new virtual learning environment is what to do with these kids who aren't, who aren't engaged in class. Uh, typically you have these kids in class with you and through face-to-face interactions, you get to talk to them, one-on-one build some relationships, show them that you care, you know, work with them, nag them, give them multiple opportunities to, to get on board.

Speaker 8: 33:51 And because you see them every day, those connections, those relationships really do start to move them in a, in the right direction. But in this situation, these kids are, they're pretty much anonymous to us and we're anonymous to them. Um, we have no relationship with them, no connection, no face to face opportunities to really reach them and, and try to influence them and get them moving in the right direction. So that's been the hardest I will call their parents today, but their emails have gone, or my emails to them have not been responded to. So my, my hope is that maybe a phone call will work, but in my experience, usually if the kids don't engage, the parents don't return emails. They usually don't respond to phone calls either, but you never know

Speaker 4: 34:48 [inaudible],

Speaker 9: 34:48 I'm on my way to get my first round of the COVID vaccine. I am really excited about the vaccination, not just for me, but that means that more and more educators are going to be getting the vaccination and more and more of the vulnerable population is going to be getting the vaccination. And that means we can get back to business and reopen our schools and get these kids on campus, where they belong. It's been a long time coming. And, um, you know, I know most of the teachers that I know all the teachers that I know are excited to get the kids back in their classrooms and start working with them and seeing their faces and engaging with them that well, we love

Speaker 1: 35:38 To do [inaudible]. That was Rancho Bernardo, high school teacher, Tristin McCoy, McCoy is now fully vaccinated he's back in the classroom, but he says only about 20% of students have currently opted to go back to campus. So he's continuing to teach virtually while he also teaches in person on Monday, you can hear more stories like this. Join midday edition for a special marking the first day back to in-person instruction for many San Diego students. This has KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Heinemann tomorrow, PAC arts is holding a virtual launch party for its upcoming spring showcase where it will reveal its full lineup, but artistic director, Brian, who gives KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando, a sneak peek at his songs. Our elders taught me program that he created in response to recent anti-Asian violence.

Speaker 10: 36:50 Brian, as the artistic director for the San Diego Asian film festival, you have decided to curate some titles, both just in terms of a list of films to suggest to people and some films that you're actually going to be showing at the spring showcase in reaction to what we've seen as a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. So talk a little bit about what motivated you to create this list and kind of what you were thinking about in terms of the titles you were selecting. Yeah. I mean, I'm just a little bit of a background that when we, when we look at the victims of anti-Asian violence and bullying and abuse, especially in places like New York city and in the Bay area, so often it's the elders and, and sort of what many people's take on it is that elders seem to be the least likely to fight back.

Speaker 10: 37:40 And there's something about them that makes certain racists feel like no, one's going to fight for them either. And I'm not saying that like a film series is a way of fighting back for them, right? Like the, this kind of existential problem of like that your life is in peril. Isn't going to be fixed by people watching movies. But I, I feel like we to combat this notion that like our Asian elders are somewhat less than human, right? I like so much of the depiction of that is sort of in this old yellow peril discourse of the fact that they're sort of like sewer rats or something like they're in the streets, like you can stomp them out or something. And that to me is hugely disturbing. And I think it's tied to the fact that people just don't see them as human. And that's where movies, I think can play a part and this isn't going to be solved right away.

Speaker 10: 38:25 But I feel like if more people are aware of sort of the old people's like, where do they come from? What does it mean when we can have subtitles for the words they say, what are their hopes and dreams for their, for their families, for themselves, their love stories or anything like it's infinite and as opposed to one dimensional in the most sub humanizing way possible. So that's, that was the motivation. That's the initial motivation. And then the, secondly soon after these reports about anti-Asian violence was sort of becoming mainstream. I mean, I heard from news outlets who were trying to make lists of like 10 films about the Asian American experience about like, you know, reminding us of your history. And that's great, right? Like, it's great to hear that people are talking about the Chinese exclusion acts and like the Chinese massacre of 1871 and things like that. And then like anti-Asian lynching, which was, is not part of the mainstream discussion in history at all, but it's sorta like, where's the, where's the joy in all this, right? Where are the stories that are going to make us kind of feel with our hearts of kind of Asian humanity? Um, and, and so I feel like another part of this impetus was to give a space for joyous representations to,

Speaker 5: 39:37 So Brian, you're calling this program songs, our elders taught me and you created one list of recommendations of films that people can seek out on their own. And this is a great list because it has filmmakers like Wayne Wang, who was one of the first Asian American filmmakers to kind of cross over into the mainstream. So talk a little bit about the choices you made on this recommendation list.

Speaker 10: 39:58 I think we're very lucky that so many of these films are actually widely available. And these days when we're watching films at home and the problem is we don't know what to choose. There's just too much to watch like D deep in the depths of our Netflix and Amazon prime. Like we get what's recommended to us through some kind of algorithm, but the algorithm doesn't know for instance, that we are interested in things that are not, um, on the tip of our tongues. And so I wanted to create this list of, of classics and the classics to the Asian American film festival. So filmmakers like Wayne Wayne, who aren't necessarily considered like, like an off tour in the way that Martin says he is, even though they're like careers, parallel each other. Yeah. So to, to, to bring out a film like Candice missing by Wayne Wayne, or like Inglese pushing hands, which very few people have seen, but is available on canopy. And yeah. And so just to remind people that these films are, are there, they are accessible.

Speaker 5: 40:53 So the complete lineup for the spring showcase is not going to be released until Friday, but you are willing to reveal a few of the titles in this program songs. Our elders taught me.

Speaker 10: 41:03 Yeah. So, I mean, yeah, it, it, it is true that many of these films about Asian elders are accessible, but I think it's also important for us as historians and curators to think about what is no longer in circulation. And so I challenged myself to find some films, not just like a recall the titles, but actually find the films and make them accessible digitally on streaming. So, I mean, I'll just be reveal some of these titles here, one of these films is called the wash. This is a 1988 film starring Mako Nobel McCarthy. So, so like it's legends of Asian-American cinema, who people like if you watch, if you grew up on Hollywood films, if you watched the films in the sixties and seventies, you'll recognize these as actors who were always in the background, never had a chance to be the leading stars of a romance.

Speaker 10: 41:51 And so this is the thing I remember watching at the media library at UCS D on VHS. I was doing some research because it was the only way to find this movie. Obviously, if this was in person festival, we'd find that 35 millimeter print, right? Like that, that still exists. But I got on the phone call with the director, Michael UNO, and he told me if you can find the laser disc, you can play this movie. And, uh, given his permission, like we went on eBay somehow dug this up, got a laser disc player, find a way to convert this as high quality as possible and to make accessible a film that has never been available on streaming. And then when people watch this film, they realize that, I mean, this is a film about a Japanese American retirees who long time married, but realizing there may be a world beyond marriage.

Speaker 10: 42:40 And this is like a lovely sentiment that conjures up all kinds of demons within this marriage. And it's just like a perfect little drama that we would never be able to see. Otherwise you can't stream a VHS tape. So that's, that's one of these films. Now the film is cosmopolitan talked about Nisha Nitra, who more recently made late nights, starting Mindy Kayling and Emma Thompson. But cosmopolitan, I mean, this is the fun that we played at the San Diego Asian film festival back in probably 2004 or something. And it was released on DVD years ago, long out of print. They told us if you could find the DVD, you can show it. And luckily at the Asian film festival archives includes this DVD. And we can now watch the film. That's, you know, about like, uh, elderly, Indian American living in New Jersey who starts to become curious about one of his, his neighbors played by Carol Kane and then, and yeah, and other films that are very hard to find, never been released on DVD that we had to go and go straight to the filmmakers to even get these digital tools

Speaker 5: 43:39 You're full lineup for the spring showcase has not yet been released, but where can people find this information?

Speaker 10: 43:45 We're doing this big launch on Friday afternoon, but starting Friday evening, you can go into our website S D a F f.org, where you'll get the full lineup of not just this series on our Asian elders, but also the entire spring showcase lineup, which will be about 15 films, including new films, old films, Asian American films, as well as films from throughout Asia, from Iran to Japan, as well as a few other surprises, which I, I'm not ready to reveal just yet. So just come check out our website on Friday night.

Speaker 5: 44:16 Well, great. I look forward to the spring showcase and thank you very much for talking about it. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 44:22 That was Beth Armando speaking with PAC arts, Brian, who the spring showcase lineup will be announced tomorrow on Facebook, Twitch and YouTube, and then be available online.

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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.