CIF Probing 'Racist' Tortilla Throwing at San Diego-Area HS Basketball Game
Speaker 1: 00:00 Racist attitudes. Don't start at school sports events, children learn them really Speaker 2: 00:05 Are like sponges. They're taking in science and evidence of the racism. That's there and begin to form their own views. Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Andrew Bowen. This is KPBS midday edition, a hurried up governor's recall. Election could be costly. Speaker 2: 00:28 We're looking at anywhere from 20 to $23 million to conduct this election. Speaker 1: 00:35 Some thoughts retiring San Diego community college leader, Constance Carroll, and a San Diego author is out with a new book about his pandemic year that's ahead on midday edition. National Latino civil rights group says Coronado high school coaches should be fired after a racist incident at a championship basketball game. Last weekend, the league of United Latino American citizens says strong actions should be taken at Saturday night's game Karnataka players with a mostly white student body through tortillas at their rival orange Glen high school players and Escondido school that is largely Latino observers have pointed out that this is the third time in recent years that San Diego high school sports events have been marred by racist incidents. And it opens the question as to why 21st century teenagers with all the heightened awareness against racist behavior would engage in these incidents and how they affect the students who are targets of that. Racism. Joining me is Dr. Ashanta Anderson assistant professor of pediatrics at USC and a children's hospital in Los Angeles and Dr. Anderson, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 02:03 All right, I thank you for having me today. What's Speaker 1: 02:05 Going on here? Why do these racist outbursts persist? When there seems to be such awareness and sensitivity against racial bias in school Speaker 2: 02:15 These days, there is a heightened awareness and a lot of folks that call it a racial reckoning around what needs to be done to fight the racial bias and the racism that's there, but that racial bias and that racism have been there for a long time. And many people will speak of children as these sponges ever since they're born, they really are like sponges. They're taking in this information. They're taking in science and evidence of the bias and racism. That's there and begin to form their own views about people and about the circumstances in the world. And so we need to continually do work as parents and others who care for children to go against some of that negative information. That's setting up the bias that Speaker 1: 02:52 They have are teenagers picking up these biases from parents, Speaker 2: 02:57 Teenagers pick up these biases from everywhere where parents are their first teachers. So parents are in a place to direct the information that their children who become teenagers know the information that they're receiving, but children are receiving an informal education from everywhere, from what they see on media, whether it's on the internet or on TV, they're constantly getting information. And it's an important rule of the parents to help them to filter that information, to make sure that it's the right information and that it reflects the values of the family. Speaker 1: 03:26 Last Saturday at this basketball game at Carnados hi Caren, Nado had just won a very close and hard-fought game. The players of orange Glen high school were pretty devastated at the loss, and then they get tortillas thrown at them. What does an insult like that say to those players? Speaker 2: 03:44 Well, an install like that can be very damaging to those players. It can be very damaging to their sense of themselves, their sense of their own racial, ethnic identity, and that ethnic identity is important. Part of them going on to have good health in general and you'll have good life outcomes, mental health, behavioral health, school outcomes. It's important for us to help them have a good, strong sense of their racial and ethnic identities. So it can be very damaging for them to have that kind of experience, especially if they don't feel that others are coming to rally around to go against that negative experience they had. Speaker 1: 04:18 Is there something about the intense atmosphere of sports competitions that kind of brings out this kind of behavior makes racist incidents more likely? Speaker 2: 04:29 There was something about the way we cheer for the home team, where we think about what's our team. Who's like us, and who's not like us that might bring out some of those little biases that people have deep seated, but like any other circumstances, still the time to put some of those biases to the side, there's a way for us to interact in the world. And it's not by doing these kinds of things. Speaker 1: 04:49 Now, can a school do to address an incident like this? Speaker 2: 04:52 I think the first thing will be important for the school to look at their own policies and regulations and make sure that there aren't things in place that allow biased treatment of students to take place. If they didn't already have policies in place to deal with this kind of incident during a sporting event, to begin to have one of those, to make forums for, you know, teachers, students, families, to be able to discuss the ways that they're feeling. And they should then just be very clear and transparent with the community about what their next steps are and about what the consequences would be for those who were throwing the tortillas. Speaker 1: 05:25 I'm going to ask you a sort of devil's advocate question here. Uh, you know, according to reports, there were only a couple of current auto players who through these tortillas and we all know teenagers sometimes pull stupid pranks. Is there a chance we're overreacting to incidents like this? Speaker 2: 05:41 No, there's not a chance that we're overreacting to incidents like this because unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. This is not the last time that our teenagers who experienced this will probably have something similar happened. So it was important for us to take a strong stance against it, because for them, it's not just as one-off incident. It's something that represents what the larger society may have in store for them. So we need to let them know that in response, we have a strong reaction against it, Speaker 1: 06:08 Escondido union school, district official. And that's the group that oversees orange, Glen high. It has suggested this is an opportunity for restorative justice. How would you suggest something like that would work? Speaker 2: 06:22 Well? I think that it's always good to look at a challenging time like this as an opportunity to do something good. And I think that certainly as you have a different stakeholders come to the table that can begin to talk and to move forward and to think about not only how those two players need to be treated, but how we can have the community come together in a larger way to be ready to deal with incidents that might happen outside of the sports arena. So I think I w I would leave it to the folks at the table to talk about what that restorative justice might look like. I Speaker 1: 06:49 Have been speaking with Dr. Ashanta Anderson assistant professor of pediatrics at USC and at children's hospital, Los Angeles, Dr. Anderson, thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 06:59 You're very welcome. Thank you for having me, Speaker 3: 07:11 California voters will be deciding later this year, whether to kick governor Gavin Newsome out of office, that much is certain, but when will the recall election take place? That's the subject of partisan debate in Sacramento. Democratic lawmakers want to capitalize on nuisance, relatively good approval ratings. Right now they've unveiled legislation this month. That would, fast-track the normally lengthy process to prepare for a recall election. And that has some nonpartisan county election officials raising alarms. Joining me to discuss those concerns is Cynthia pass interim registrar of voters for San Diego county. Cynthia. Welcome. Thank you. Tell us about the measures proposed for this recall election by Democrats in the legislature. What are they, and how will they make this recall different from previous elections? Speaker 2: 08:00 Well, essentially they're, they're looking at two different models that elections officials can move forward with. So we know it'll be a condensed timeline, um, as with any unplanned election, we know that going into this election cycle, all active, registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail. Um, so that's critical just to, to get that word out there to let voters know now is the time to verify their voter registration, make sure their mailing address and their residence addresses out to date so they can check their registration at St. vote.com. The two different models is really conducting the election like a regularly scheduled election, or being able to use special election rules, um, to more heavily. Speaker 3: 08:56 So what would the proposals unveiled by the Democrats mean for San Diego county in particular, how would voting be different? Speaker 2: 09:04 I think depending on the perspective you're coming from as a voter, there'll be pluses and minuses in both models. If you look at a regularly scheduled election model, that would be anywhere from 1500 to 1600 neighborhood polling places with paper rosters and paper ballots voters will be assigned to a location. So there, there are more locations, but they must go to their assigned location. Otherwise, if they go, if they vote out a precinct, they'll need to vote provisionally with a more heavily consolidated model under the special election rules, we can have, um, E poll books at all of these locations. So voters will still be assigned a location just to control traffic, but they can go to any of those heavily consolidated precincts and be able to vote regularly, meaning that they wouldn't need to vote provisionally. Speaker 3: 10:07 And which of those two options is the one that Democrats are proposing. Speaker 2: 10:11 From what I understand reading the, the proposed trailer bill is more treating it like a regular, uh, election Speaker 3: 10:20 With regular neighborhood polling places where someone must go there. Okay. And you and several colleagues across the state signed a letter to Lieutenant governor LNE [inaudible], she's the one who will ultimately pick a date for the recall election. And you outlined a list of specific concerns over holding an earlier election. What were some of those concerns? Speaker 2: 10:42 Well, ultimately, um, the calling of the election and the model of the election will be up to stay legislature. So regardless we're moving forward, we're preparing for various scenarios depending on what direction we need to go. Um, so at this time it it'll be up to the state and we'll be prepared to act. Speaker 3: 11:09 One of the concerns seems to be the cost of the recall election. There was an, a preliminary estimate of $215 million for the state that already seems pretty pie pricey. Do we have any idea how the proposal from Democrats in the legislature would change that cost? Speaker 2: 11:26 I can only speak for San Diego county. So we provided our estimate based on looking at the November election, um, and both scenarios. And we're looking at anywhere from 20 to $23 million to conduct this election in San Diego county. Speaker 3: 11:46 Another concern is about the paper that the ballots are actually printed on. So what is special about the ballot paper and why would an earlier election make it difficult to get all of those ballots printed and mailed? Speaker 2: 11:59 So we have the law that has carried forward. That's requiring elections officials to mail all active, registered voters, a ballot in the mail. So that adds to the need of paper across the state. So we, we were speaking with our vendors early on and it is, it's just getting the paper in-house and ready to print. We do use a heavier weight paper for both our envelopes and for the ballads. And it's simply a supply issue of getting enough paper for the number of vendors across the state, working with elections officials and, um, pretty unanimously, they were saying an August election date would be impossible for these vendors to have enough paper to support us in the upcoming election. Speaker 3: 12:56 And a variable seems to be, of course, the number of candidates that will appear on the ballot. In the 2003 recall of governor gray Davis, there were 135 candidates. Do we know how many will appear on this recall election and, and how much more paper that would require Speaker 2: 13:12 That that is a very good point. So right now we can't tell our vendor whether our ballot will be one card or two cards, because we simply don't know if we're going to need double the amount of paper, um, or we're going with a OneCard ballot, Speaker 3: 13:28 Right? What are the challenges that your office expects in finding more in-person vote centers to actually, and the staff to keep them open? What's the procedure for that? And how long do you think that will take? We've Speaker 2: 13:41 Started now, early on, we were anticipating anywhere from October to early December. And so the timeline seems has changed with our volunteers and with, um, polling places that served in the November election. And Speaker 3: 13:59 How soon do we expect that the Lieutenant governor and legislature will finally settle on a date for the recall election Speaker 2: 14:06 That I, I'm not sure by tomorrow, I would anticipate that the secretary of state's office, uh, will move forward with, with finalizing, um, the petition and certifying that Speaker 3: 14:21 Lots of questions still about this recall election. Well, I've been speaking with Cynthia Paz, interim registrar of voters for San Diego county. And Cynthia, thank you for joining us. Thank you. Speaker 1: 14:42 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Andrew Bowen. Jade Heineman is off today. People living in the S illegally are encouraged to report crimes committed against them, but some fear that may lead to deportation. So a federal program has been in place allowing undocumented crime victims to apply for a U visa, which will give them status in the U S the problem is the program has a backlog of applications and people can wait years. A new Biden administration policy is coming to the aid of those stuck in limbo. It allows qualified applicants to receive work, permits, and be protected from deportation while they wait for their U visas. The new policy could affect the lives of tens of thousands of undocumented people across the country. Joining me now is Kate Morrissey and immigration reporter for the San Diego union Tribune and Kate, welcome to the program. Hi, thanks for having me the wait time for these UVisas would seem to threaten their effectiveness and getting undocumented people to report crimes. How long are people waiting for these visas? Speaker 2: 15:53 So right now, the weight is taking roughly five years or so sometimes a little bit longer, but that weight is likely to increase. So that's the people who are getting their visas now waited about five years, but the people at the back of the line, um, it's likely to take even longer because of how much that line is growing. That's the Speaker 1: 16:10 Extent of the backlog and the reason for it. So Speaker 2: 16:14 There's currently, or at least as of the end of December, there were just under 270,000 pending applications for these UVisas. And part of the issue is that when the visa was created, there was an annual cap put on how many of those visas could be given out. So once they reached the cap, everybody else has to wait until the next year. Once they've reached a certain point in their processing, they usually get what's called deferred action, which means that they're not going to be deported while they're waiting for that last bit. But even getting to that point takes almost the full amount of time, because there's so many visas to process relative to the resources, put into processing these visas as well. And so that's what the Biden administration done is said, has said, Hey, we're going to go ahead and work through the whole stack and see who has crossed all their T's and dotted their I's on their application and give them that deferred action. So they're not under this threat of deportation, and we're also going to give them work permits so that they can go ahead and start getting a little bit more settled in their lives while they're continuing to wait. Speaker 1: 17:16 Now profiled a woman in San Diego who has qualified for this new policy. Tell us about her. Speaker 2: 17:23 She is currently working in the fields at a succulent farm, and she's, you know, raising her kids as a single mom and doing her best to make it, but she has dreams of going to school, becoming a nursing assistant. And she knows that in order to do that, she needs the work permit and to be able to really make the money, to give her kids the life that she wants them to have having a work permit, it's going to make a big difference for her. So when I spoke with her, those were the first on her mind was what the work permit was going to do. And then when we dug a little deeper, you know, the idea that she would be protected from deportation was also very significant, especially to her kids. One of her kids has a friend whose parent was actually deported. And so this woman's daughter has been terrified that the same thing might happen to her mom. And so now, knowing that that is coming much sooner, that protection is a big relief. Speaker 1: 18:12 And this whole process started for Rossa when she was the victim of domestic violence, right? Yes. Speaker 2: 18:19 And it took her a long time to get to a place where she felt like she had to report it. She told me that when her son was born, she decided that enough was enough. She'd been living with the abuse for so long. And she had already seen, you know, the effects of that trauma in her daughter as her daughter grew up in. So she said, you know, I don't want to do that to my second child as well. I'm getting out. And so she moved out, but this person continued to threaten her. And at one point showed up at the garage where she was renting the garage as a room and sort of ransacked it. And so that was when she got the police involved. And because of that, she's now eligible to apply for this visa. Speaker 1: 19:00 And how different is this new approach to crime victims waiting for you visas these new benefits and protections, then the track record of the Trump administration? Speaker 2: 19:09 So, one thing that we saw under Trump was that if somebody had a U visa application pending, that was not enough to protect them from deportation. If you look back historically, you know, the attorney for the person who's, who's helping them with this U visa could, could talk to ice and say, Hey, you know, they have this UVS a pending, can you guys use your discretion and like, hold off on, deporting them right now. And before Trump, like, it was much more likely that you could get your client to be able to stay in the U S while they were waiting under Trump. More people started to be deported while they were waiting. The argument was that they can still wait for the visa while they're outside of the country. And if, and when they get the visa, then they can come back. And so I remember I wrote about parents of young children who were all of a sudden being deported, who thought that they had this protection coming. How Speaker 1: 19:59 Are you visa applicants being able to find out if they're qualified for the, the new program for a work permit and this protection from deportation. So Speaker 2: 20:09 My understanding from the attorneys that I spoke with is that, um, this is a process that's going to happen automatically. The UVS, the applicants don't have to take any kind of step to start this review of their application, that it it's going to happen. And so they just need to wait until they hear from the federal government to say, Hey, you know, here's your, here's your work permit. Um, you know, we reviewed your application. Speaker 1: 20:35 I've been speaking with Kate Morrissey and immigration reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Kate, thank you so much. Thank you. Speaker 3: 20:52 For the past 17 years, Constance Carroll has served as chancellor for the San Diego community college district. One of the state's largest community college districts, Carol will retire from her position at the end of the month, following a national search for her replacement. Her departure comes at a critical time for higher education in California, which has seen a steep decline in the enrollment of community college students. Since the pandemic began now here to reflect on her long career, and the many challenges that remain for the San Diego community college district is chancellor Constance, Carol chancellor, Carol. Welcome. Speaker 2: 21:30 Thank you. Good morning. Is there a particular Speaker 3: 21:32 Achievement that you're most proud of during your time as chance Speaker 2: 21:35 If I had to pick one single area, it would always be the people who have been hired because what a district really is a community college district or community college is a Collegium. It's a collection of individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of students. So always, always the people. How Speaker 3: 21:54 Would you, did you say accessibility to a college education has changed since you first began your current role? Speaker 2: 22:00 It's changed a great deal largely because of the advent of online methodologies that has helped us during the pandemic and has also helped us in general, since people no longer have to drive long distances in order to pursue a quality education, they can pursue that same education from the comfort of their homes. So higher education community college education have become more accessible than ever before. What are some Speaker 3: 22:29 Of the major challenges that you see the district facing as you prepare for your retirement? Speaker 2: 22:34 The major challenge for the district and for all community college districts is financial. It is no secret. The California community colleges receive less funding per student than the university of California, the California state university, and even the K-12. So stretching dollars to make sure that high quality is maintained, has always been a challenge for community colleges Speaker 3: 23:01 Appears to have caused a drop in college enrollment across the country. A report this month from the national student clearing house found that California actually had the biggest drop in the nation of 5.3 percentage decrease from the spring 2020 to spring 2021. And that's primarily due to a drop in community college enrollment. What are some of the biggest obstacles that you think are preventing people from pursuing a college education? Speaker 2: 23:28 The first one spiked when the pandemic spiked, and that was at the sudden conversion of virtually all of our classes and not just in the San Diego community college district, but elsewhere from an on-campus with some online balance to 100% online and now being reversed somewhat. And so, uh, there was an enormous challenge to make sure that the digital divide did not expand, but that students would, uh, receive, uh, equipment. So our district indulging in fundraisers initially to provide laptops, thousands of laptops for, uh, for students making the parking lots available, uh, for wifi and other needs that students may have. The second issue emerged somewhat later, and that is the job market. So many, many of our students lost their jobs during the pandemic that they have had to find employment elsewhere. And that meant that they were not able to make a full-time commitment and sometimes not a commitment at all to their education. As you Speaker 3: 24:31 Hinted at many Americans continue to face severe economic hardships due to the pandemic, there are of course, challenges in the labor market and other areas, healthcare childcare are these problems that institutions like community colleges, uh, do you think, are they capable of solving these problems? Speaker 2: 24:49 The problems can be solved, but not by one institution alone. The three federal stimulus packages, the higher education emergency relief funds one, two and three have provided financial support was urgently needed so that community colleges could continue and others can continue their work. The good news is a district like the San Diego community college district has received almost a $100 million in funding from the, from the federal government in order to help with the situation. The bad news is that the money is one time. So it's not a permanent investment, but it has been, uh, one that, uh, has enabled us to move forward. No, the Speaker 3: 25:33 San Diego community college district has already chosen your replacement, Carlos Cortez. He's the president of the San Diego college of continuing education. What advice have you given him as he prepares to take over on July 1st? Speaker 2: 25:46 We have been talking about the various projects completion of the bond program, which I think has, is now pretty much put to bed, the, uh, rules and regulations, uh, legislation that's pending. And of course the intricacies of the four institutions that comprise the district. So, uh, we've been having regular discussions, uh, along those lines Speaker 3: 26:10 As this nation continues to recover from COVID-19. What do you think is necessary to bring enrollment numbers back to what they were before or even higher? Speaker 2: 26:19 Well, the economy will have to level out, particularly with regard to jobs. We're still about a half a year from stabilization. So, uh, as soon as the nation, and as soon as California can stabilize the job market, then community college enrollments, the university enrollments will all restabilize. Speaker 3: 26:41 I've been speaking with Constance Carroll, retiring chancellor for the San Diego community college district and chancellor Carol, thank you for joining us and congratulations on your retirement. Thank you very much. Speaker 1: 26:58 The new state law required school districts to keep detailed attendance and engagement records this year to make sure students online didn't fall behind. But an investigation from NPRs California newsroom found students were counted, present and engaged when they did little more than log in valley public radios, serif Hawk took a deep dive into the data at one school district outside Fresno. She found that attendance numbers don't reflect the frustrating reality of the school year. Speaker 4: 27:31 No. After over a year online, Madeira unified adopted a hybrid schedule in April. So students could return to classrooms a couple of days a week, but walk into rodeo Montgomery Gentry's 12th grade economics class in early June. And it felt like school was already out deaths with plastic dividers lined the room at Madera south high school, but there were only three Speaker 5: 27:54 Students. Everyone. Would you mind turning on your camera? We, um, it's our last day might as well. Most Speaker 4: 28:00 Of the students Montgomery Gentry was talking to were still online out of 27, logged in eight, had their cameras turned on, but most of those cameras pointed at the ceiling. Senior Daniel [inaudible] was one of the few students in the room. He says he had always cared deeply about school, but in the pandemic, he lost his motivation. His drive online learning made classwork seem well empty. It just, Speaker 6: 28:30 They didn't feel as real. It felt like a phone call versus actually like being there and talking with someone, Speaker 4: 28:37 Madera unified is a poor district. Nearly 90% of students receive a free or reduced price lunch here at Madera. South high, the vast majority of students are English learners, 70% speak Spanish at home and others speak indigenous languages like Zapoteco and mixed TECO. So how are those students doing valley public radio filed the public records act requests for the school's attendance records. And officially the chronic absenteeism rate was just 5% meaning nearly all of its students were going to class, but that's not what teachers and students were seeing. And even the district admits that official statistic is misleading. Speaker 2: 29:20 It's inflated. I mean, it's absolutely inflated. Alison Speaker 4: 29:24 Crafton director of student services at Madera unified was in charge of making sure records were compliant with state requirements. Speaker 2: 29:31 And you can literally be on your phone with your friends and YouTube and, and sleeping. Speaker 4: 29:37 That's not how the district was supposed to keep track of their students under a law signed by governor Newsome. Last June, administrators were required to track not only whether students showed up, but how much they participated in distance learning or example whether they communicated with their teacher or turned in assignments. But though we requested it, the district didn't share that detail with us and neither did bigger school districts like Fresno and Clovis unified. And so Crafton says the true level of student engagement remains unknown. Speaker 2: 30:10 And quite frankly, I don't know that. Um, I don't know that there's any way to tell Speaker 4: 30:16 Senior Daniel loopy on say [inaudible] was counted as president when he was online, he would log on, but he wouldn't do the work. Eventually taking a job, pulling weeds from grape crops seemed like a more sane use of his time. Speaker 6: 30:30 I was mostly in the field like working, trying to earn money because that seemed more important to me at the time thing. Just keeping up my grades. But Speaker 4: 30:38 When school reopened, he changed course. Speaker 6: 30:41 Well, help me get back into school was realizing that if I don't, if I don't put in the effort into my work, I might not graduate. Speaker 4: 30:48 You can judge how engaged students where this year is with their grades because Speaker 7: 30:53 You were here last semester Speaker 4: 30:55 In Montgomery Gentry's economics, class 11 students got DS and apps. That's twice as much as during a normal year where she says the average is four to five, econ or civics is a graduation requirement. So students who fail this class can't graduate. We visited on the last day of school as Montgomery Gentry, ready to sign off, addressing students, both in class and online. Speaker 5: 31:22 It's been an honor to be called your teacher. And it's been an honor to be called your guys's teacher. Speaker 4: 31:30 Tears began to form in her eyes as she addresses a screen of digital squares. Speaker 5: 31:36 Um, this is hard on you. It's hard on teachers, but you made it. You made it. Speaker 4: 31:43 Montgomery. Gentry says she believes the most important lesson for students. This year was resiliency. A life lesson they'll carry into adulthood. Speaker 1: 31:53 That was valley public radio's serif Hawk reporting a bill that addresses learning loss during COVID-19 is awaiting a signature from governor Gavin Newsome. We all speak to San Diego assembly member of the Brenda Gonzalez about the legislation on midday edition tomorrow Speaker 8: 32:20 [inaudible] Speaker 3: 32:21 More and more, or women are buying and shooting guns, KPBS reporter Aleksandra and hell recently spent time with a group that is working with women who are arming themselves for protection. Speaker 7: 32:34 So not me. SD is our initiative to stop domestic violence, sexual assaults, Speaker 4: 32:40 It's women, mentoring women through the male dominated world of firearms. Today, Speaker 7: 32:45 10 ladies who are learning how to shoot, um, it's a variety of experience levels. Some of them have never touched a gun before Speaker 4: 32:53 San Diego county gun owners launched the initiative, not me SD two years ago, it's a program focused on helping women protect themselves and their loved ones. Each person who goes through the training is paired with a female mentor who teaches them everything from learning how to shoot a gun to gun safety, as well as the steps it takes to apply for a concealed carry weapons permit. Speaker 7: 33:16 What we're doing is leveraging our expertise as gun owners, to be able to help increase women's ability to stop domestic violence and sexual assault. Speaker 4: 33:27 Wendy Hoffen the director of not me. SD says the program stemmed from her own experience. Speaker 7: 33:34 No, where to start. I didn't know what to do. There's just so many questions to ask. You know, even figuring out what questions to ask was really complicated. Speaker 4: 33:44 Hoffman says the program sparked even more interest during the pandemic. Speaker 7: 33:48 We definitely saw a huge increase during the pandemic, um, women who were on the fence about gun ownership realized that they needed to be able to take their safety into their own hands. Speaker 4: 33:58 Following a global pandemic and political unrest. 2020 saw the biggest increase in gun sales, the national shooting sports foundation estimates 8.4 million people bought a firearm for the first time last year. And nearly half of those buyers were women. Puffin says it's women from all walks of life that are wanting to learn about gun ownership, Speaker 7: 34:21 Young women who are, you know, in their early twenties, we've got older women who are in their eighties, who are living alone and really need to be able to protect themselves Speaker 4: 34:30 In just two years. Not me. ISD has helped 320 women become gun owners. And that number is expected to grow. The program is so popular that spots to participate get filled up to six months in advance. Well, it Speaker 9: 34:46 Just being a woman and nowadays, and just feeling like I need that extra source of protection. Speaker 4: 34:51 Janine Abdullah has been wanting to buy a gun for a while after hearing about not me yesterday, she decided it was time to learn more about firearms. More women Speaker 9: 35:01 Should take more steps to protect themselves and be at least comfortable being around firearms. And I don't think nowadays enough women are Speaker 4: 35:10 Melissa Morris, a firearm instructor and mentor for the program says it's all about arming women with knowledge and empowerment, Speaker 9: 35:18 Their fear diminish their confidence increase and their skill level improve. Speaker 4: 35:23 More says it's not uncommon for women to be nervous about gun ownership, especially when they're coming out of a domestic violence relationship. Deputy district attorney I'm president of the domestic violence council. Claudia Graso says there was a 3% increase in domestic violence cases. Last year, that's more than 17,600 cases reported to law enforcement in just one year. We Speaker 2: 35:48 Fear that as we open up more and more, we are going to get those victims that are going to report those cases that happened during the shutdown when they were not able to report. And we're an essence trapped in the home, Speaker 4: 36:03 Although self-defense, isn't one of the main focal points of the domestic violence council, they do provide resources to help victims overcome their trauma leap Speaker 2: 36:13 To success is one that is basically empowerment classes and not necessarily self-defense, but more empowerment. How to assert yourself, how to basically say, you know, this is what I want. Speaker 4: 36:28 So also encourages victims to have a safety plan tips like carrying a cell phone and having a safety word in case you need help Alixandra and hill KPBS news. Speaker 1: 36:50 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Andrew Bowen. The pandemic forced a lot of people to be more contemplative while sheltering at home for much of 2020 for Walter Meier, former manager at Lambda archives. It prompted him to take to social media in a way that created content for a new book called. If you weren't here, this would not be happening plugs from my life. KPBS arts reporter, Beth Armando speaks with the author about his collection of anecdotes about his life. Speaker 10: 37:24 Walter, you have a book out now called. If you weren't here, this would not be happening. So first of all, explain how this book came to be and how the pandemic plays no role. Speaker 2: 37:35 Well, like many of us, I was a little frustrated and bored when we first got locked down last March. It's hard to believe it's been over a year, but it has been. And, um, it was a way to fill the time actually, but it came away about accidentally. Somebody had posted something on their Facebook page about Charlton Heston. And I responded with a comment about my brief encounter with Charlton Heston, which led to me posting the story of my meeting, Shirley Jones and the Partridge family, which led to another story, which led to another story. And each day for over 250 days last year, I posted a story on Facebook. One plot at a time, as I was calling them, applaud being my own invention for a post that became so long. It was long enough to be a blog. And if this was one story after another random moments from my life, everything from my childhood to weird jobs, I've had two celebrity encounters people I've interviewed for my writing, all sorts of stuff Speaker 10: 38:35 And explain exactly what this title means. That's Speaker 2: 38:37 The title of the book. If you weren't here, this would not be happening. Seem to sort of sum up my, my whole life. And it came from one of the plugs that I posted. I was in the middle of the shootout in Washington, DC. I was visiting a friend in DC and we got caught in the crossfire between a liquor store owner. The would be liquor store robber and the DC police. And we couldn't go anywhere. So we just fell to the floor of the car and we're covering our heads. And he looked at me and said, if this, if you were here, this would not be happening. And that seems to be the case. Weird stuff happens when I'm around all the time. So I have numerous examples of that in the book of just random things and people who know me well after a while, say, you know, if you weren't here, this wouldn't be happening. This is on you Speaker 10: 39:23 To give people a little flavor for what the books like. Can you read a little sample, Speaker 2: 39:28 Uh, short, one of the jobs that I had for many years, which taught me a lot about life and gave me a lot of good stories was I taught comedy traffic school. And this is a, uh, one of the stories that came out of that when I taught the two part evening Travis school class, which was three and a half hours each evening, I encouraged my classes to bring food and have a potluck. The second night of class one particularly memorable holiday party comes to mind the second night of a class in San Diego a week or so before Christmas people out did themselves many dress for the occasion and Christmas sweaters and Santa hats and reindeer antlers and brought cookies and pies and cakes and more one, one particular should be having a wonderful time. Laughing, joking, being overly festive. I had noticed her the night before and she slowly transformed from being Doward to laughing almost a bit too much, all of my jokes, but winning, sitting next to the laughing woman finally said to her, and then not unkind way. I know the class is fun and no offense to Walt, but not that funny. What's with you. You haven't stopped laughing. Since we got here, the woman said, I know I'm getting carried away, but I haven't laughed in 14 years. Speaker 10: 40:38 All right, I'm going to leave that as a cliffhanger. And if people want to hear the rest of that story, they can go to kpbs.org. When you were writing these plugs, did you ever think you were going to put them together into a book? Speaker 2: 40:51 I did at some point, but not initially that I was doing this mainly just to keep myself from going crazy during lockdown and more and more friends seem to be liking them. And people started sending me friend requests saying, oh, my friend, Cindy has been reading your blogs. Can I read them too? So I, my following started growing on Facebook. And then at some point it's like, I should actually start assembling these. And I have enough now that I could do five or six volumes books of the blogs and still have many more stories to tell. Speaker 10: 41:22 I have to ask you about one, because you mentioned somebody that I adore and that's George Romero. You actually worked on a show that he was involved in. Speaker 2: 41:31 Yes, my first job in Hollywood, cause I had moved from, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to California to work in Hollywood was ironically enough for a guy based in Pittsburgh. I thought it was funny. I moved all this way and my paychecks came from the Boulevard of the allies in Pittsburgh. But George Romero, who's famous for producing night of the living dead and the sequels hated Hollywood. So he stayed in Pittsburgh and sent line producers out to California to oversee things while he stayed in Pittsburgh. But the show was tales from the dark side, which was kind of a low budget Twilight zone. So low budget. We didn't have a soundstage. We actually shot in an abandoned mattress factory in, uh, south LA where they had tacked mattresses on the wall to soundproof it. But every week we had a different guest star. So I got to hang out with some of my, you know, people I had admired for years. People like Tippi, Hedren and, and Keenan Wynn and being the big film buff you are, you could just imagine what it would be like to talk movies with somebody like Keenan Wynn, who was in probably 150 of them in, in some amazing small, but great roles. Speaker 10: 42:39 Now the pandemic kind of forced people to be a little contemplate of on a certain level. So how did this whole pandemic play out for you in terms of how did you start reflecting on your life? Did it make you see things differently? Did you come to any kind of, I don't know, Epiphanes or realizations while you were writing these, Speaker 2: 43:01 Uh, very much so, you know, you get to a certain point in your life and especially when, you know, the whole world hits the pause button, you have time to think about these things. And you know, obviously I worked in Hollywood to try to sell screenplays. I've had numerous screenplays option, none ever made it through movies. And at some point you think, well, if I sort of like failed at life, and then when I started looking back at this amazing amount of experiences, I have had all the interesting people famous or not that I have met all the great places I have visited. And I realized that sort of the theme to the book and the theme to my life is that life is an amazing adventure. If you choose to look at it as one, sometimes we just kind of sleepwalk through our lives and don't realize there were all these great moments that actually add up to a great life. Speaker 10: 43:49 And you have an event coming up on June 30th. What can people expect from that? Speaker 2: 43:53 Uh, I will be talking more about the book. Uh, it's my hometown library in Buffalo park, Pennsylvania. It's at 4:00 PM Pacific time, seven Eastern that are accommodating their audience over there. I've done other speaking engagements at my hometown library for my other books. And, uh, we arranged to do this one on zoom because we weren't sure the world would have been reopened by by June, but, um, all are welcome to attend. It's free. You can Google Bethel park library, calendar, and find the link on there. And they'll send you a link to the zoom. Speaker 10: 44:26 All right. I want to thank you very much for talking about your book. Speaker 2: 44:29 Thank you so much, Beth. It's always a talking to you Speaker 1: 44:33 Was Beth Armando speaking with author Walter Meyer for more information about the June 30th event and to hear more of his readings, go to kpbs.org org.