Community Advocates Argue For Better Tracking of Asian American Hate Crimes
KPBS Midday Edition / February 23, 2021
PHOTO BY JACOB AERE
Community advocates argue for better tracking of Asian American hate crimes. Plus, scientists at UC San Diego will soon see whether a treatment for Alzheimer's they have been working on for over 15 years is as promising as it appears now. And local politicians and some former inmates say they're alarmed about the handling of COVID-19 at Lompoc Prison in Santa Barbara County. Then, marines with PTSD and other wounds of war continue to be involuntarily discharged for misconduct, despite efforts to keep them in the corps. Finally, how racism affects health outcomes for pregnant black women and their babies.
Speaker 1: 00:01 Uh, San Diego assault highlights attacks against Asian Americans.
Speaker 2: 00:05 We've received over 2,800 incident reports from 47 States and the district of Columbia
Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade Hyman. This is KPBS midday edition Clinical trials open at UC San Diego for a new Alzheimer's treatment
Speaker 2: 00:30 For about 15 years. And we are genetically engineering cells in the brain. We are changing themselves. The brain will,
Speaker 1: 00:37 You are a black history month special on black mothers and babies. Plus an excerpt from the new KPBS podcast. The Parker Edison project that's ahead on midday edition
Speaker 1: 01:00 The suspect in an attack against an elderly Filipino woman in San Diego has his first court appearance. Today. The 35 year old man is facing charges of assault and elder abuse, but not a hate crime. The attack in San Diego last week is being seen as part of a string of attacks nationwide against Asian-Americans in Northern California. A number of incidents against Asian-Americans included the death of an 84 year old man. Last month. Heated rhetoric from officials against China is thought to have provoked the attacks, but advocates say until we have a better accounting of hate crimes in the country, we won't know the extent of the problem. Joining me is Manju Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific policy and planning council in Los Angeles and a lecture in the Asian American studies department of UCLA. Also co-founder of stop a P I hate in Los Angeles. And Manjoo thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. What have we learned about the reasons for these attacks and are they related in any way?
Speaker 2: 02:06 Well, at stop, the API hate an organization that we founded last March. We know that there is, um, significant amount of acts of hate against Asian Americans from across the country. Uh, we've received over 2,800 incident reports from 47 States and the district of Columbia. And while we don't know, um, the motives or circumstances yet in these particular incidents, uh, we don't yet have all the details, but we know that this is part of that larger problem, um, that we've seen over the last year.
Speaker 1: 02:44 It seems many of the victims that we're hearing about are elderly. Are they thought of as easy targets?
Speaker 2: 02:50 That's exactly right. Yes. We know from our data that those who are seen as vulnerable do get targeted more often. That includes the elderly young people. And then also women actually, who have reported incidents at two and a half times. The rate of men,
Speaker 1: 03:07 The attack here in San Diego was charged as assault and elder abuse, but not a hate crime are hate crimes, difficult to prove
Speaker 2: 03:17 Often they can be. Um, but what we know is that I think unfortunately, um, law enforcement doesn't always identify hate crimes as that in fact, a state auditor's report from 2017 for California found that in up to 50% of incidents, law enforcement failed to properly identify them as hate crimes. So we know that a lot of work needs to be done in terms of trainings, if they are in fact, due to hate that they are identified as such,
Speaker 1: 03:51 What kinds of rhetoric could possibly be provoking these attacks?
Speaker 2: 03:55 Well, certainly we know from the last year that racist rhetoric used by president Trump was a factor. Um, many of the individuals who reported to us in fact said that perpetrators used his language in committing the offense. So they use terms like Wu Han virus, Kung flu China virus. Um, and sometimes they even weaponize the president himself saying that Trump is going to FSU. Trump is going to send you back to your country. So that is one factor. And we know just from our examination of Asian-American history, there, there has, um, for over a hundred years been, uh, anti-Asian sentiment. That's been with us. It led to the Chinese exclusion act. It led to the Japanese American internment. Um, and so many other things sort of in the course of the 20th century,
Speaker 1: 04:53 You tell us about some of the incidents that you've heard about over the course of the pandemic.
Speaker 2: 04:57 They range from, um, you know, individuals experiencing verbal assault or harassment, an elderly couple who is taking their grandchild for a walk in their neighborhood. Uh, car of young people drove up and yelled racial epithets at them, um, in a very menacing way. It, it obviously scared the grandparents, uh, we've seen at stores, um, that individuals are refused service where the store cashier will not serve them, or we'll make comments to them. We've also seen, uh, discrimination in the workplace where individuals have been told to go home on a day that there's, COVID when there's no evidence that they've had it they've actually tested negative, but they happen to be the one Asian American in the office. And then we have seen physical attacks, um, including, uh, one of a young man, uh, a middle school student who was, uh, physically, uh, actually a year ago in February. Uh, he was accused of having COVID just because he's Asian American and was punched in the head 20 times because of that animus.
Speaker 1: 06:07 So are there concerns about what will happen to Asian-American kids when schools
Speaker 2: 06:12 That's exactly right. We are worried about that. We're actually looking into that now working with local officials and even, you know, uh, state educators to really think about, you know, what does it mean when our schools reopen, uh, we've already seen a number of incidents even during shelter in place, uh, where schools have been opened and young Asian-American kids have been tormented by their peers. So, uh, I think we need to be proactive and know and understand what's going on and be ready to deal with it. When it happens
Speaker 1: 06:48 At his confirmation hearing for us attorney general yesterday, Merrick Garland said investigating hate groups and hate crimes would get a high priority in the justice department. Do you think that kind of commitment has been lacking?
Speaker 2: 07:03 It has been lacking until recently. Um, but we were very heartened by the Biden memorandum or executive order that was issued the first week of the new administration, condemning racist language, condemning these type of attacks against our community members and also directing the department of justice to begin to work with community groups like ours, to better understand the problem and take action because that's what's needed right now. Um, not in weeks or months from now, but today we need our leaders on the local state and federal levels to take action and begin, uh, to help us solve this problem.
Speaker 1: 07:46 How is the very broad and diverse Asian American community responding to these threats? Is there a lot of fear?
Speaker 2: 07:53 There is so much fear and trepidation right now, and we see it in young people, those of middle age and elders I've seen on social media that young people really are worried about their parents or grandparents going out at all, you know, going to the store, taking a walk in their neighborhood, um, being in the park. And then they're of course, you know, nervous about what this means, right? It creates a feeling of otherness, a lack of belonging. And, you know, at a time of COVID when we all need to be coming together, uh, it really creates alienation. And with it, uh, additional anxiety and depression,
Speaker 1: 08:35 I've been speaking with Manju Kulkarni. She is co-founder of stop AAPI hate, and Manjoo thank you so much for speaking with us.
Speaker 2: 08:43 Thank you again for having me
Speaker 3: 08:50 There is promising news and the effort to treat Alzheimer's disease researchers at the, of California, San Diego school of medicine launched a first in-human clinical trial. They are looking at the safety and efficacy of a gene therapy that delivers a key protein into the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment. The principal investigator of the clinical trial is Dr. Mark [inaudible]. He is a professor of neuroscience and director of the translational neuroscience Institute at UC San Diego health. And he joins me now, Dr. [inaudible] welcome.
Speaker 4: 09:26 Thank you very much. It's nice to be here.
Speaker 3: 09:29 This clinical trial is going to be very interesting to a lot of people. Can you describe what it is? You're testing?
Speaker 4: 09:36 Yeah. We're using a gene therapy to introduce a protein into the brain that in animal studies prevents the death of cells in the brain and promotes the formation of new connections between cells. So in animals, when we do this, we see a reduction in loss of cells, and we actually see an improvement in memory function. The question we're testing the trial is whether these benefits will be observed in people who have Alzheimer's disease. And gene therapy in the last few years has achieved just remarkable breakthroughs and at least one neurological disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. In that case, a replacement gene for a deficient gene was introduced into children who would otherwise die by the age of two. All of the children that were treated are still alive, and that's simply by taking a gene and the viruses we use to introduce a new gene into the body of those children. We're trying to do something analogous in this study, which is to introduce a gene that's normally present in the brain, but making much more of this gene for a growth factor called BDNF and hoping to over produce it in a region of the brain where cells are dying and prevent their death and the same approach and animals literally builds new connections. So we would like to try this in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment and see if it's beneficial.
Speaker 3: 11:02 And do you know if there are other clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer's,
Speaker 4: 11:07 There are lots of clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, and that's an issue we face in recruiting patients. Um, the reason we're excited by this one is that this is the only potential therapy to our knowledge that can literally recover memory. The other clinical trials are trying to slow cell degeneration, and we too are trying to do that. But in addition, unlike these other approaches, this growth factor gene that we are delivering literally builds new connections and on that basis and restore memory in animals. So, you know, this is unprecedented in the realm of Alzheimer's disease therapeutics.
Speaker 3: 11:45 That's amazing. And you mentioned BDNF. It's something we've all got in our brains, but can you tell me what happens when we don't have enough of it when we don't have of it, then cells
Speaker 4: 11:54 Degenerate and sometimes die. So, you know, in Alzheimer's disease, there is a deficiency of this normal protein called BDNF in the region of the brain that undergoes degeneration earliest in Alzheimer's disease. That's in the memory circuitry called the hippocampus. And, um, it, we don't think that Alzheimer's disease is caused by the loss of beating enough. We think the loss of BD NEP and Alzheimer's disease is a consequence of amyloid what's called pathology. So these other things, the amyloid, the towel and aging are responsible collectively for causing Alzheimer's disease. As a consequence of that, these levels of this growth factor decline. And again, we're replacing the growth factor, not just to normal levels, but to extra high levels and in an effort to really combat this degeneration.
Speaker 3: 12:45 No, it takes quite a while to get to the point of human trials. I imagine. Um, how long have you been studying this particular therapy?
Speaker 4: 12:54 We've been studying this for about 15 years? Gene therapy is a, is a important undertaking. We are genetically engineering cells in the brain. We are changing the cells, the brain. So to be able to bring that to people, you really have to be very careful. You have to do enough, uh, studies in animals to really show that it's a compelling enough effect to merit, bringing it to people. And you really have to show that it's safe. And so we did a number of studies. We started with amyloid mice. Then we went to rats and the age of rats. And then we even took this through monkeys and found that it continued to have these, these effects that were beneficial and that it was safe. You know, you might ask what are the potential risks of this? And the, the largest risks that we identified in the animal studies was the risk of seizures. If we introduced this into the wrong place in the brain, but interestingly, those seizures are a reflection of activating brain circuits. That's something that we want. And if we can accurately deliver this to the part of the brain where the cells are degenerating, we don't see seizures.
Speaker 3: 14:00 And this trial is in phase one right now. Where do you go from here? What's next?
Speaker 4: 14:04 Well, we'll see if in our first patients, it is safe. We can see whether it will actually improve memory. Um, and if it is safe, uh, then we'll move on to larger phase two clinical trials. So we are recruiting patients for this trial now, hopefully from the local San Diego region. And if we see good evidence of safety and maybe some evidence of effectiveness, then we'll move into larger clinical trials.
Speaker 3: 14:29 If all goes well, what kind of a timeline are we on?
Speaker 4: 14:33 What about two to three years?
Speaker 3: 14:35 Okay. I've been speaking with Dr. Mark [inaudible] professor of neuroscience and director of the translational neuroscience Institute at UC San Diego health. Dr. [inaudible]. Thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 4: 14:47 Yes. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 14:59 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Heintzman with Maureen Kavanaugh. How do you protect yourself from COVID-19 when you have nowhere to go? Well, that's a question. Some incarcerated men have been asking themselves during the pandemic lone Pope prison in Santa Barbara County has struggled to control the spread. The facility had the worst outbreak in a federal prison last year, but today local politicians and some former inmates say they're still alarmed about the handling of COVID-19 at that facility in Lompoc here's reporter Dina Montague.
Speaker 5: 15:34 It's a cool Saturday morning in a rural part of Santa Barbara County. And a few men in gray sweats are lined up arms around each other's shoulders. Eyes closed. These men are incarcerated at the low to medium security federal prison in lone Polk. After a moment with their heads bowed, the men start exercising until recently burned. Appleby was one of them. He served 16 months at Lum Polk for a white collar crime. When COVID hit, he was terrified.
Speaker 6: 16:06 There is no social difficulty. You're sleeping a couple of feet away from someone else.
Speaker 5: 16:11 The federal Bureau of prisons says it has conducted widespread testing of inmates at long Polk, but Appleby disagrees
Speaker 6: 16:18 Dormitory with never tested, never at all.
Speaker 5: 16:21 Appleby was finally tested for COVID-19 right before his release in October, in a statement, a Bureau spokesperson said any inmate displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested and placed in medical isolation. Inmates will also be tested when entering or departing any Bureau of prisons facility. Even with this response, the mayor of Lompoc Jenelle Osborne is concerned, but there are some systemic issues. For example, over 11 days in may active COVID cases fell from 931 to 16, a more recent uptick and decline in January has mayor Osborne worried about the cause of the new cases
Speaker 6: 17:03 I heard of the new uptick was once again, as I did the last time, which was outreach by members of the families that have prisoners in residence and by locals who knew of the uptake because they have family that works out there. And
Speaker 5: 17:21 It's frustrating in an effort to reduce infection rates, former us attorney general, bill BARR directed the Bureau of prisons to prioritize the release of non-violent at risk inmates to finish their terms at home. What's known as home confinement, but Don specter, executive director of the prison law office says that long poke, this has been refused for unclear reasons for using prior offenses as a disqualifier
Speaker 7: 17:50 There they're using the amount of time served as a disqualifier,
Speaker 5: 17:54 Even though the risk of contracting COVID in prisons is high. Spectra is representing incarcerated men at Lompoc in a class action lawsuit. He says that his legal team has been trying for the last eight months to get a court order, to allow more men to see out their sentences at home. But without success, I reached out to the federal Bureau of prisons for data on the number of inmates transferred to home confinement from lone Polk, but only system-wide figures were made available for burned Appleby. Even though he served his time, it's not over
Speaker 7: 18:27 So disgusted. Okay. With, with the whole process that I said, you know, I'm not just going to drop this once I get out. Okay. You know, I want to, I want a voice to be heard and I'm a proud American should have. And I think that we could do better
Speaker 5: 18:46 Was reported by Dina Montague
Speaker 7: 18:51 More than a decade ago. The Marine Corps established wounded warrior battalions for Marines, with the worst mental and physical injuries. But those battalions aren't addressing one of those troops, most common issues that Marines who were suicidal or suffer PTSD are still being discharged for misconduct, KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh has this story.
Speaker 8: 19:15 Staff Sergeant Romeo pack Torres Jr. Has multiple combat tours starting in Iraq in 2004 and later in Helmand province in Afghanistan, when his outpost was attacked from the nearby village,
Speaker 9: 19:28 Getting a tagged and firefights. And so when I got back, I noticed that was not the same.
Speaker 8: 19:35 A few years later, as an instructor, he remembers saving a Marine's life. He says a young Marine threw a live grenade and it bounced back landing in between them. The Marine froze and Torres dove on top of him.
Speaker 9: 19:49 Number is everything is slow motion. You know, by the time I grabbed that Marine, I really thought I was going to lose my leg.
Speaker 8: 19:56 It's also where he received a traumatic brain injury.
Speaker 9: 19:59 I started getting headaches really busy.
Speaker 8: 20:02 October is his 18 year career. As a Marine came to an abrupt end after a DUI in Okinawa hearing voices, he was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and flown back to the Naval hospital in San Diego. He spoke from a wounded warrior battalion at camp Pendleton, as he was fighting to stop the Marine Corps from kicking him out of the service.
Speaker 9: 20:23 I feel like, you know, they're just going to try to put me in the streets with no help. After all the years of service that I did
Speaker 8: 20:30 For Goldsmith says, it's a common story. It happened to him.
Speaker 7: 20:34 I was kicked out of the army in 2007 after surviving a suicide attempt. Um, and this is the type of thing that is all too common Goldsmith has
Speaker 8: 20:43 Gone on to form higher ground where he advocates for the law, so that fewer troops get discharged for misconduct in the first place, which affects their veterans benefits. He says it's still happening as often as it does because it's too easy for commanders to separate service members.
Speaker 4: 21:02 No accountability officers can, you know, discharge people and ruin their lives by stripping people who, uh, are suffering from PTSD, from access to healthcare. And that officer just gets to move on with their life. Uh, while someone, you know, may end up suicidal may end up dead. A few years later,
Speaker 8: 21:25 Camp Pendleton's wounded warrior battalion were picked. Taurus was assigned the commander won't address, individual cases. Lieutenant Colonel Brian Heisman says most of the Marines who end up here are on their way out of the Corps. Many voluntarily
Speaker 10: 21:40 Our focus is to ensure that their medical treatment is coordinated. And that's really where that begins. In that end. We are aware of legal issues, but really our focus is on the medical side.
Speaker 8: 21:52 Heisman is a former infantry officer without a medical background. Wounded warrior battalions are Marine units, not medical units. They coordinate treatment and connect with the VA benefits system. For those Marines being discharged because of illness or injury, it was packed Taurus's commander back in Okinawa who wanted him to be involuntarily discharged for misconduct, even though he's undergoing treatment at the 11th hour Peck Torres hired a private attorney, Jay Sullivan, to try to stop him from being discharged.
Speaker 4: 22:24 If someone doesn't save him, I believe he will die. And he cannot do this alone. He needs help. He needs a lot of help because the disorders that he has are permanent and he will be struggling for the rest of his life.
Speaker 8: 22:36 Torah says it's more than a potential loss of benefits. It's a sense of abandonment,
Speaker 4: 22:42 My, uh, interview with, uh, SAR major and Della tenant Corona. You know, I was just, I couldn't control my emotions. Uh, so I just started breaking down and yeah,
Speaker 8: 22:51 A few days after this last interview, staff Sergeant Peck Torres texted that his involuntary discharge was final. He had to leave the wounded warrior battalion at camp Pendleton and head home to Texas, where he faces an uncertain future.
Speaker 1: 23:07 Joining me as KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh, Steve, welcome. Hi Maureen. This is a really disturbing story. Is it the DUI that Peck Taurus got in Okinawa that is the basis for his discharge,
Speaker 8: 23:23 Right? That, and, and there's another piece of misconduct that I won't even mention, but yeah, small things often the related to injuries that affect decision-making and impulse control like, like PTSD. So people get under stress, they relive past trauma and they start to self-medicate and that, you know, these are things that can go untreated for years, especially if you're a Marine and you don't want it to impact your career.
Speaker 1: 23:50 Doesn't the service see a link between the traumatic injuries suffered during his time in service and the drinking that caused the DUI.
Speaker 8: 24:00 Well, they're supposed to there's even a 2016, uh, secretary of the Navy policy that is supposed to require extra consideration when a sailor or Marine is being discharged. Once they've been diagnosed with these types of injuries or mental health issues, advocates say that the services have actually found ways around that though. They determined that the PTSD didn't contribute to the conduct in [inaudible] case, his attorney says they administer what was really designed as a test to show whether someone is competent to stand trial though, eat also been diagnosed with a serious, uh, service related disorders, including traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
Speaker 1: 24:42 Now, when a Marine is involuntarily discharged, how does it affect their veterans benefits
Speaker 8: 24:48 In all sorts of ways? You know, and in voluntarily discharged typically typically comes with some sort of downgrade, a Peck Taurus, I believe is going to be a general under honorable condition. Now that highest is, uh, is an honorable discharge. So it does impact benefits. I'm also told that, you know, if you have a really good advocate, they can get around some of those restrictions. You know, if they really know the law, but it takes time and it's real expertise, especially in the area of VA benefits. So for someone who is struggling with mental health issues, they may not have all of those resources available to them. And it definitely impacts the employment. Like a future employer will see this discharge and the last questions it could affect whether or not you receive a security clearance going forward. So yeah, there are serious long-term consequences.
Speaker 1: 25:37 Now it sounds as if there's not much recourse a service member has, if their commanding officer wants them discharged for misconduct, no appeals, right?
Speaker 8: 25:48 Well, this is mostly a paperwork shuffle, so you're not going to have this, this large in-person hearing people think of you like a few good men, and there's a big trial going on. That's typically not the way this happens with a discharge. You can appeal up the chain all the way up until the secretary of the Navy. Um, but it's complex. And it usually takes somebody who really knows the system to do that. And I'm told that it's, it's often not very, and especially in this case, it wasn't very effective.
Speaker 1: 26:18 What are the Marines wounded warrior battalions for? Are they for injured Marines who are about to leave the service
Speaker 8: 26:26 In part? Now, think back when these were formed back in 2006, what was going on? You had thousands of Marines filtering back from, from Iraq and Afghanistan was serious injuries. And each one of the services has some sort of analogous to a wounded warrior. This is because people were falling through the cracks. Back in those days, they were being sent home to their home units where they really weren't getting proper treatment. Some were discharged shortly after their tours with little preparations, people fell through the crack. There were a number of suicides. It was a real mess. But so these battalions were, are set up to kind of coordinate somebody's medical treatment. They start the VA benefits process for people who are going to be separated out of the service. They can also provide guidance to commanders at other units on how to handle these cases. It's a place where people can go to rehab or at least have their rehab coordinated. So some people will stay in the service, even if they've gotten to a wounded warrior battalion, but though most of these people are on the way out.
Speaker 1: 27:29 Steve, I don't want to let you go. Before I ask you about this forum, you have coming up on violent extremism among us military veterans. Tell us about it.
Speaker 8: 27:39 So this is kind of a followup to the two, um, zoom events that we did last year, looking at extremism in the military. This is kind of a followup looking at the role veterans groups play in this. We know that we're seeing extremist activity in the military itself, and that at recently in a change to the byte administration, we're seeing the military taking more serious action against that. The veterans groups are kind of in the same boat though. There we're finding out there are very few resources set aside for veterans, you know, to help maybe pull them out of some of these groups. And we're seeing even fewer resources from the VA though. I'm thinking that that's going to be changing over the next year or so. So we're going to talk to advocates that, uh, looking at, um, uh, how to maybe talk to your relative. If they've been kind of pulled into one of these groups, we're going to talk to veterans village of San Diego on some practical advice on working with people in this area, as well as just kind of get a sense of just things like Q Anon and Oathkeepers, you know, just to give people a sense of just what's out there. And quite frankly, it's a little bit frightening.
Speaker 1: 28:46 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS, military reporter, Steve Walsh, Steve. Thank you. Thanks Marie. The virtual forum on violent extremism among us veterans takes place tomorrow night at six
Speaker 3: 29:10 For black women who are expecting pregnancy can be filled with the anxiety of knowing. You will have to navigate a healthcare system plagued by racism, and that racism affects the quality of medical care black women and infants receive. According to the most recent data from the California department of public health, black infants are three times more likely to die. And 60% more likely to be born prematurely than white infants. Black mothers are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy or delivery complications than white. Again, this is happening because of racism in health care. And we want to talk about it to kick off our hour long, special tomorrow. We want to introduce you to Darnay Blount. She is a certified professional midwife who owns birth roots, women's health and maternity center. They've recently partnered with project concern, International's healthy start program to help address these disparities. It was her own traumatic experience that led her to where she is today. Darnay welcome.
Speaker 6: 30:10 Hi, good morning, everyone.
Speaker 3: 30:12 So many women, particularly black women are having these traumatic birthing experiences and, and you had a traumatic birthing experience yourself that sort of connected you to this line of work. Can you tell me about that?
Speaker 6: 30:24 Yeah. So when I had my second child who is now about to be 22 years old, and next week I'm in the hospital setting, I felt like I had a lot of birth trauma from that birth. Um, it felt like, um, for all, for lack of a better phrasing, like birth rape, um, and because the doctor that I had, wasn't my primary care doctor that I had been seeing the entire pregnancy. So I had a complete stranger. Um, and when I went in there and my, my water had been broken and I wasn't aware it was like a high trickle and I had a fever. So they said, we're keeping you, we're inducing you. And then the intervention started coming without any explanation of what they were doing, why they were doing it and doing exams on me without really asking permission. And he did manual dilation on my cervix when he was in there without telling me that's what he was going to do.
Speaker 6: 31:13 And I asked him to stop and it was really painful and he kept going and held my legs while he was doing it. And it just, I, more and more of that throughout the labor of just like doing things to me without really saying what's happening and why. And, um, and that pretty much put a fire under me of like, if this happened to me, I'm sure this is happening to other people. I was very young at the time and I'm like, I started doing more research and learning about the experience of birth and then how it relates to black women versus white women. Um, and it kinda kinda put this like passion in me to, to create something different and be a part of a solution instead of a problem.
Speaker 3: 31:52 Why, why do you think you were treated like that
Speaker 6: 31:55 In the hospital? One because of my youth and then two, because I was black woman and I feel like it was a two-fold thing. So there was this sort of assumption that because I was young and black, that I didn't know better, so that they'll just tell me what's best for me. And I've seen this kind of attitude pervade throughout the healthcare system. If they make an assumption based on what they think, what culture you're coming from, our race you're coming from ethnic group that you belong to. And as well as like how much you could possibly know based on your age. Um, I was pretty well read and I did a lot of research. And so, you know, I understood a lot of things, but they just didn't seem to want to have those conversations with me and just like, Oh, the doctor will let you know what you need.
Speaker 6: 32:37 You know, that's kind of what the nurses would say. They'll tell you what you have to do next. Um, and you know, I didn't appreciate that. And, and so I was like, I would never treat a patient like this if I had, if I was in this type of a field and that it's really demeaning, it's very disrespectful, it's scary, it's traumatic. And, um, and it messes with the progress of the labor and the birth when there's fear involved, you know, as you became a midwife, what did you begin to notice about the birthing experience of other black women? I was only seeing similar things as I had experienced in my birth. I noticed that when I was attending a birth of a white woman, that they were more likely to explain all the procedures, give them options, um, that they were, they were more, um, amenable to letting more people come in the room and support them, um, pre COVID of course, that they gave them more options when it came to what they can choose and, and not choose for their babies even.
Speaker 6: 33:42 Whereas there was more of this blanket approach coverage of like, this is what we do in the hospital when it was anyone that was not white, you know, and these issues have persisted for a long time. Um, just like the disparities have, why do you think there's no urgency to fix the problem? When we say like this urgency to fix the problem, it takes us a really long time to change something that has sort of been as a part of our system, kind of woven into the care of our system. And I feel like the United States was sort of, kind of created and this like white system and from a white perspective. And it's, it's an, you know, several hundred years ago and racism and slavery and all that we were, was built. You know, our system was built on that and it's hard to kind of like undo all those foundational building blocks that were put in place of like treat the whites this way, treat everybody else this way.
Speaker 6: 34:37 This is how we do care. I mean, everything was segregation. And like, if you don't have money, then you don't get care. And it seems that in the last like 15 years that we're shining this light on this issue of disparities and like that, that it even exists. A lot of people had no idea that these were the numbers and that they seem to be the same in some areas getting worse in some areas like in, particularly in California, our numbers are better than the national, like, um, leading numbers for disparities, but still the, the, the difference is still there three to four times, you know, the rates of white people for, um, our infant health and our maternal health outcomes. And so I think that I'm really excited that we're, we're really shining a light. We're seeing it on billboards. We're seeing it on news articles.
Speaker 6: 35:26 We're hearing podcasts that everybody's learning that this is an issue. Um, but I think that we just don't know how to break ourselves out of income, out of it. People are starting pay attention to like, well, what's working. What are these groups asking for so that they can have better outcomes so that they can be seen and be heard and, and survive and live through their childbirth experiences. And, um, and one of the things that we learned about is that, like what, what are women asking for? What are pregnant people asking for that they're asking for culturally competent care by care providers that look like them, they want more holistic approaches. They want options. They want alternatives to what the normal birthing scene may look like Rizzo, and maybe an alternative in the hospital, having a birthing center within a hospital, having care providers like midwives that may be able to take care of them, um, in conjunction with working with doctors, some of them want options for birthing outside of the hospital and outside like freestanding birth center, and some want the option to be able to birth at home and, and doing this on a risk and risk by risk, you know, or case by case basis based on their actual health risks.
Speaker 6: 36:35 I've been speaking with Darren, a Blount, a certified professional midwife and owner director of birth roots, women's health and maternity center. She recently partnered with project concern, International's healthy start program to help address these disparities, Darren, I thank you so much for sharing your story and for the advocacy you do thank you. Tomorrow on midday edition, you'll hear about the experiences black women are having here in San Diego, as well as available resources. And what's being done to fix the healthcare system.
Speaker 7: 37:19 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade. Heinemann what comes to mind when you think of American culture, the new KPBS podcast, the Parker Edison project zooms weigh in on what really makes it culture, food, music, styles, sex fashion, and more all through the lens of black America and an excerpt from episode two of the podcast, host Parker Edison takes us to Imperial Avenue in the heart of Southeast San Diego to talk to Kelly Alexander founder of the organization, pillars of the community, to the Edison project. We'll see what's happening on the 6,400 block of Imperial. These days located at 6,403 pillars of the community brings together national activists, educators, and artists. Today, we talked to Calvin Alexander, a man who was in the middle of it all. Excellent man. Excellent. I'm gonna jump right in and ask you some personal questions on the side. What's the full name of pillars, pillars of the community. Where are you located? So we're on Imperial Avenue in Southeast San Diego, not too far from the in Canto station could be anywhere else. May
Speaker 11: 38:38 You know what? That's a good question. So we've been in a number of different spaces, but all of them have been on Imperial Avenue and, uh, Imperial Avenue actually has kind of a historic significance, um, where there's been, it's kind of been a, a black hub, both of the arts and business and other things historically. Um, it's kind of in the center of Southeast San Diego and it transitions through a number of different neighborhoods, but in parallel Avenue was very central to kind of everything that we've done. And so, although we've been in maybe three or four spaces, all of those spaces have been on Imperial Avenue. Um, and in fact, that's where we looked when, you know, when we were first starting, we were very kind of, uh, intentional and deliberate in finding a space on Imperial Avenue. And so that's where we started and that's where we are. And that's where we hope to remain.
Speaker 7: 39:32 What is one priority that you have in this new year that you guys are looking to tackle?
Speaker 11: 39:37 Yeah. So the number one thing is we want to be able to address kind of harassment by the police. So, you know, a lot of attention has been put around kind of police violence, police harassment, racial profiling, um, after the death of, of, of George Floyd and Briana Taylor. And so I think what we see happening is young African-Americans black people, uh, in this country in particular, are tired of being bullied by the police. The fact that in Southeast San Diego, you can be pulled over and asked if you're a gang member asked if you have any tattoos, that's that they think they might not kill you. They might not beat you up. And if they don't kill you and don't beat you up, that's considered a good interaction, pulling people over like this and the Hoya, and there would be chaos. They would never stand it.
Speaker 11: 40:21 Why? Because you're taking away for time that they could be spending with their family. You're hassling them. You're treating them as if they don't have a right to drive someplace. Um, but in Southeast San Diego, it's normalized. So you go to any barbershop on U S you get pulled over by the police that they gonna look at you like, you're crazy because there's normalized so that we want to address the normalization of police harassment that happened in our community. So that's the main focus that we were trying to knock out, uh, this year for listeners who are outside of San Diego, what's the major difference between Southeast and the Hawaii? Well, first let me say that it's not even people outside of San Diego, because most people in the Hoya and other parts of San Diego don't even know what Southeast San Diego is because they don't come and visit here.
Speaker 11: 41:03 Right? And so you have two San Diego's. You have the San Diego, uh, with the beach and SeaWorld and, and, and the San Diego zoo. And then you have the other San Diego that tourists don't know about. So people from outside of San Diego don't know about, but also people who live in San Diego don't know about and don't care to know about, you know, LA Jolla is a more affluent. It's just kind of the extreme difference between Southeast San Diego is more, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in San Diego and San Diego for the most part is one of the poorer areas of San Diego. And in San Diego, as throughout the rest of the country, is there's a direct correlation between poverty class and race. Uh, so the area tends to be wider and richer. And Southeast San Diego tends to be blacker and poorer.
Speaker 11: 41:57 So in LA Jolla, people look at police as if there's a problem. Those are the people you call to help out in Southeast San Diego. The police are there, whether you call them or not. That is the biggest difference between kind of LA Jolla and Southeast San Diego. In particular, when dealing with police presence and community indirections, was there an instant that acted as a catalyst that caused you to do pillars? Two things happened. One is I ended up moving to Southeast San Diego off of ocean view Boulevard. And in a period of two weeks, I was pulled over three times by the police. The other thing is, as I was teaching at San Diego city college, I had a student of mine, uh, who was getting all A's really brilliant, formerly incarcerated, getting all A's writing, brilliant essays, doing really well in his other classes two weeks before graduation, two weeks before his finals, he ended up being arrested for a parole violation because he was a documented gang member.
Speaker 11: 42:57 And his parole officer came to do a visit. He found a blue shirt on the ground inside of his closet. And because he had a blue shirt on the ground inside of the closet, he was via, that was a violation of his parole. As a result he was taken out of fully, was taken away from his job. He was taken away from his family and reincarcerated for the color of shirt that was sitting on the ground of his closet. Um, so those two examples made me realize that we really had an issue with how people are treated in, in the communities that we live in based off of their identity. That's what I'm talking about. When we talk about community, it's knowing different people who grew up in different areas who have different areas of focus, uh, and whatnot, but because you have a shared culture because you have a shared set of values because you care about the same areas, you create a community.
Speaker 11: 43:53 And so that's a, that's what we're all about, man. What part of town do you live in today? Yeah, so I'm an Encanto. I live two blocks away from, uh, our office, I think is really important when we do the work in communities that we actually live in those communities. That we're a part of. Although I grew up in Linda Vista Southeast has kind of been my adopted community and a place where I've, you know, raised both of my sons, um, and where I'm currently raising, uh, my third son. Um, and I've really put down roots and really loved this place because of the culture, because of the, the love because of the, uh, you know, the diversity, uh, it's just an amazing place to be.
Speaker 12: 44:31 How was Calvin Alexander, president and founder of pillars of the community? They're always doing amazing things over there
Speaker 1: 44:41 That was Parker, Edison, host, and co-creator of the new KPBS podcast, the Parker Edison project, the full episode, exploring Southeast San Diego comes out tomorrow, listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.