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Family donates $5M to SDSU Black Resource Center, repaying decades-old gesture

 March 19, 2024 at 5:04 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on Kpbs. Today we're talking about a multimillion dollar gift and the story of Cross-racial solidarity behind it. I'm Jade Hindman. Here's to conversations that keep you informed and inspired and make you think. A Chinese American family , gives a multimillion dollar donation to honor the African American family who helped them achieve the American Dream.

S2: The dogs have done something truly extraordinary by not just giving back , but in the way they've given back.

S1: We'll tell you how their donation will help Sdsu Black Resource Center , and we'll talk about the impact of Cross-racial solidarity. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Welcome in San Diego. It's Jade Hindman. You know , in the 1930s , an African American family in Coronado helped a Chinese American family achieve their American dream , while now , years later , that family is paying it forward with a $5 million donation to Sdsu Black Resource Center. We'll talk about it. This is Midday Edition connecting our communities through conversation. In 1939 , Coronado Lloyd Dong senior and his wife Margaret Dong , a Chinese American couple , tried to rent a home. But because of anti-Asian housing laws at the time , they weren't allowed to. That is until a black couple , Gus and Emma Thompson , rented to them anyways. Eventually , the Thompson sold the home to them , along with the accompanying barn. Now , 80 years later , the Dong's children are paying it forward. They've pledged to donate $5 million , the proceeds from the sale of that house to the Black Resource Center at San Diego State University. The center will be renamed after the Thompson's two. The donation means a lot to Gus and Emma Thompson's great grandson , Ballinger Gardner Kemp. Here he is on NBC.

S3: Paying it forward , shall we say. It's just the icing on the cake. It's just it's a beautiful story. Maybe it's one that the world needs to hear.

S1: Joining me now to unpack the story is local historian Kevin Ashley. Kevin , thanks so much for being here.

S2: My pleasure.


S2: I came across a newspaper article , um , that mentioned this group of African Americans that came to Coronado in 1886 from Henderson , Kentucky , and Gus Thompson was one of those. So from there , I , I , I just went further into his life and his marriage to Emma and all the great things that happened after.

S1: Well , tell me about them.

S2: Gus was born in 1859 , in Kentucky , into slavery. You know , he came out at around age 25 and he followed. Is Babcock the founder of Coronado when he left Evansville , Indiana , of all places and came to Coronado to to build the hotel. And in that process , he brought a number of African Americans with them. And so Gus was , you know , started out just hustling about town in Coronado until he landed a job with Babcock as his coachman , which , you know , taking his personal carriage around town and is famous for being the first , you know , carrying the first , uh , guests to the hotel del Coronado in January of 1888. And that coach. But then he worked for the next 30 years for Babcock , off and on , while also doing , you know , private work. He had a library stable. He had a transport business. He did the mail contract for the city of Coronado. He had the trash contract for a few years , um , and did quite a number. It was just a he was a kind of a entrepreneur , jack of all trades , who was kind of Mr. Fix-It for the city and for some of the city founders , and he made good money doing it , doing that. His his wife , Emma , who he met and married in uh , 1895. They I'm sorry , 1893. My , my my mistake. Um , she came out from Texas , um , and uh , sort of at age 16 with a white family , um , and she , uh , she and Gussie , of course , after marrying , she she was a business person herself. She ran a a lunch counter , um , at Coronado's famous tent city , um , for a number of years. Um , she was also an active , um , in the civil rights sort of early , uh , burgeoning civil rights movement in the 20s. She was part of a statewide California , um , Colored Women's Association that was fighting for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill. So she was involved in that. So they were they were definitely progressive , hard working people. They were community people. Um , their kids were remarkable. One was a World War , one veteran. The other , uh , son , um , was actually Southern California's first black collegiate football star , if you can believe that , at Whittier College and their daughter was a college graduate who actually worked with Betty Davis and Evelyn Keyes in Hollywood in the 30s and 40s. So there were quite a unique family.


S2: And then they started to pivot and spend more of their time in San Diego while renting out their property they had. To two things on their property. They had a , um. They had a house and they had a livery stable , and the library stable was used as a boarding sort of house for African Americans on the upper floor of the library stable for probably the better part of 30 years. Um , while the house , um , the original Thompson house , um , once the Thompson started , you know , the kids had gone off to college or married and left the house. They , they started sharing time in the , in the , in the library stable as well as living in a house they built in San Diego. So they they would rent the original house out to immigrants as early as 1920. And then in 1940 , in the census , you see the Dong family , you know , in that home in the in the 1940 census. And actually , they rented that house in 1939 to the dogs. So when I saw that , and I realized that somehow the property stayed in the Dong's hands , I realized that the dogs , you know , must have a story. They must have had some memory of that transaction of buying the house from the Thompsons. And so that's how I reached out to to Ron and Janice Dong in 2022. Yeah.

S1: Yeah.

S2: I mean , from 1939 to 1947 , that's Gus was still alive. He was an 80 year old man. And he would check in on this young Chinese American family because obviously the livery stable was next door and they had the the boarding house upstairs with tenants. And so he would be checking on them. I think it was must have been cordial. Plus the Dong family was an incredible family. I mean , their kids were , you know , one of the daughters was valedictorian of the Coronado High School. They were football stars. You know , Ron was a great football player. I mean , so I'm sure that Thompson just really loved that family.

S1: And you were a huge part of connecting the dogs with the descendants of the Thompsons.

S2: And so I found , you know , Ron and Janice , as I said , in 2022 and then 2023 , I connected with Ballenger Kemp , who is the great grandson of Gus and Emma. My only interest was just to get the Thompson story right. And so I printed a story in 2022 on my Substack page about the two of them , about the about the Thompson family , and didn't think anything much of it. But I guess that touched the dogs enough to where they started thinking about what to do with their their property when they sold it. So lo and behold , here we are.

S1: And the dogs. And the Thompson story has gotten a lot of national coverage recently , from NBC to the New York Times. It's really resonating with a lot of people.

S2: And I think that the dogs have done something truly extraordinary by not just giving back , but in the way they've given back , understanding that , you know , African Americans ticket to getting out of a difficult economic situation that many African Americans find is through education and better jobs. And so how better than to support students who are already enrolled at San Diego State to stay in school and succeed. And so it blows my mind remains blown by what they've done and how humble they've went about it. I mean , they didn't even brag about it. The only reason I found out is we were launching our exhibit , which we have a Coronado Black History exhibit going on right now in Coronado. I called the dogs just by chance to say , hey , would you like to come for the launch of the exhibit ? Because the Thompson's are a prime feature , and that's when they just broke the news to me , that. Oh , by the way , Kevin , you won't believe this. We're actually heading to San Diego to sign over the proceeds to the sale of the property to San Diego State. So they had not even planned to make any fanfare about this at all. It was simply going to be something they quietly did , and it was just because I happened to call them that. I now then put them on the stage at the launch event , and next thing you know , it kind of is grown from there. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.


S2: Keep in mind , there was only three children of Gus and Emma , and only one of them had a single child , and that was , uh , Ballenger Kemp. And so Ballenger Kemp had several children , and they're , you know , Lauren and Ballenger. I mean , Ballenger Kemp is a lawyer , retired up in the Bay area. He's had a. Great life. Lauren is successful in Colorado , and I think that the pioneering efforts of Gus and Emma and the way that their daughter Edith raised her son and and supported her grandchildren has , has made a lasting impact on these great grandchildren , for sure. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. That's excellent.

S2: They ran businesses , they own property , they live side by side , their white neighbors between the 1890s and the 1920s. And suddenly between the 1920s and the 1960s , literally , um , African American home ownership ended in Coronado , um , as a result of , uh , excuse me , practices by realtors and , um , the , you know , in Coronado , you know , you had in that period of 1890 and 1920s , literally 2 to 3% of the population was was African American. In the state of California , it was only 1%. But by 1970 , where you have in California , it's 7% African American. In Coronado , the black community had virtually disappeared. Um , that part of the story , many people can't quite understand how there is a wealth gap today. And the reason we have a wealth gap today. Much of it has to do with the fact that African Americans were unable to participate in the boom periods between 1920s and 1960s , when anyone who had a job could buy a house with an FHA loan. But , um , unfortunately , if you were African American during that period , that was not possible. And , uh , we're still and that's why we see many of the problems we see today. Um , in some of our cities. And , um , I just think that we need to hearken back and understand that there was a time when actually we were an integrated society in many of our cities. And so I just think that , um , as a historian , that's an important point for people to understand. Absolutely.

S1: Absolutely.

S2: The exhibit will be open until early June. Um , open every day except Monday.

S1: All right. I've been speaking with Kevin Ashley , a local historian in Coronado , tracing the Thompson's and Dong's story and many others. Thanks for being here , Kevin. Uh , very eye opening , and I appreciate it.

S2: Thank you so much. My pleasure.

S1: Coming up , we'll hear from San Diego State University's Black Resource Center and their history curator about the multimillion dollar gift tied to the history between the dogs and the Thompsons.

S5: I think this full circle moment is based in in honesty , I don't think you can have any sort of reconciliation without honesty.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. We continue our conversation about the story of a Chinese American family paying back a decades old gesture. The Thompsons , an African American family rented to Lloyd Dong senior and Margaret Dong in 1939 despite anti-Asian housing laws at the time. Now , the Dong's children are donating $5 million to San Diego State University's Black Resource Center. We now turn to San Diego State University to explain that historical racism and the importance of black resource centers , both locally and systemwide. Joining me now is Seth Melillo , professor of anthropology and history curator for San Diego State University. Seth , welcome.

S5: Thank you. Jade.

S1: Also , Brandon Gamble , director of the Black Resource Center at Sdsu. Brandon , welcome to you.

S6: Thank you. Good to be with you.

S1: Well , it's great to have you both with us. Seth , I'm going to start with you. Take us back to 1939 , if you can.

S5: Uh , he makes a speech in which he says , I stand for the national policy of exclusion. So it is a national dialogue that is all about preventing anybody from coming into the country. And because of that , California enacts an alien land law that bars Asian immigrants from owning land. And then the law gets tightened in 1920 and again in 1923 , where they can't even lease land. But they also prevent land ownership by American born children of Asian immigrants. And the reason that this is so important is they were US citizens that were not being allowed to own land. And so that is the atmosphere here. It's it's not just San Diego , it's California and it's nationwide.

S1: And so then take us to the Dong story.

S5: And so it's not like any of these marginalized groups had it easy in terms of dealing with house ownership or in terms of getting by in everyday life. And so you have one group. African Americans at this time were highly segregated in San Diego and were only able to live in certain neighborhoods. And then this particular story , you have individuals who then went the extra length of helping out other ethnic minorities that were facing discrimination. And that's where we have the Thompsons renting their house to the dogs.

S1: Um , you know , all of that , you know that you said it reminds me , you know , that you've said before that San Diego was known as the Mississippi of the West. Talk about what you mean by that and the relationship between San Diego and the civil rights movement , which was , you know , it was an attempt to right the ship. Yeah.

S7: Yeah.

S5: One of the things that , you know , many of us who are from California , when we're taught local history , we believe that California , because it entered the Union as a free state , was this land of racial harmony. And that's just not true when it comes to settlement patterns. A lot of northerners settled Northern California and Southerners settled Southern California. And so Southern California in particular had a lot of baggage of that Jim Crow baggage from the South. Because of that , Southern California was highly segregated all the way into the 1960s. And this is where you see different , different efforts to undo equality by people in Southern California. And the most specific example that comes to mind is that in 1964 , it was Southern California Realtors that led the charge to fight the Fair Housing Act. And it was so bad that it drew a visit from Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. He comes to San Diego in 1964 to rail against this return to racism. And the brutal thing is , is the state passes prop 14 by 66% by two thirds.

S1: And while the legacy of of those racist housing policies still lives on , it is good to see the legacy of solidarity between these two families live in a way that will impact so many , in particular Sdsu students.

S6: Citizens of , you know , the United States , but particular citizens of Sdsu and paying it forward. So in our classes , particularly our Henrietta Goodwin Scholars program , we have classes for entering students in second year students. And if you're not familiar with Henrietta Goodwin , but she is the first black person to graduate from San Diego State. An interesting tidbit about her story is that she came to Sdsu with her sister. Her sister wasn't able to make it and needed to go and work to pay to make sure that Henrietta could graduate. This level of support by a family was extremely important , and it helped pave the way for many other black students to come to Sdsu. It parallels the story of my family and many of our students families who came from the Deep South , but particularly from parts like Texas , Arkansas , Oklahoma and Louisiana out here for work , but experienced some of those same covenants that Seth was talking about , where they would red line areas and people didn't have access to homes. I know my parents have stories about that in Los Angeles as well as in San Diego. Now to our students. Our students are very excited because they know scholarships help them navigate the system that many other folks aren't able to have access to , especially if they're the first in our family to go to college. But the other thing that we do that is unique here at Sdsu , which I'm a huge fan of , part of the reason why I wanted to come and work here is that students mentor each other. They get paid to work at the Black Resource Center to learn about black history , black identity development , but more specifically , how to help another student navigate this large school system that we have. Um , the flagship of the Cal States. So we're ecstatic , but we can't even quite put into words exactly what it means , because who says , I'm just going to give $5 million to a group of students I ain't never even heard of ? Um , that's that's just extremely powerful and impactful. But I know we can find stories throughout history of people paying it forward. And particularly if you're talking about black students in the United States , there's usually has to be somebody who says , I'm going to make a way out of no way for them. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. And that's not only huge for the Black Resource Center , but but for Sdsu.

S6: Definitely , definitely. Our Black Resource center supports our MLK parade. It supports our Juneteenth events , several other events that go across the campus. So this is exciting.

S1: Right ? And San Diego State's Black Resource Center is fairly new. Give me the backstory on that. Wow. Yeah.

S6: Yeah. And this is part of our tours that we give to folks who come through. We one of our students , I was watching them give a great tour today. So if anyone comes by the Black Resource Center , we will give you an outstanding tour. But we start with our mission statement that focuses in on people coming together. We came together after police action in the school year of 2016 2017 , and students were concerned about how a citizen of San Diego was being treated , particularly a black young man. And it led to conversations with the president of the university. They said there are many other universities that have places for students to congregate and to support one another. Why don't we have a black resource center here ? So by the school year of 2017 , 2018 , there was a groundbreaking , there was an update , and we have our Black Resource Center , which focused in on academic achievement as well , because we didn't want to just want to congregate , but we also wanted our students to be retained , to stay here and to eventually graduate at much higher levels.

S1: And earlier , you mentioned all of the programs that the Black Resource Center supports , right ? The Cal State system struggles to graduate black students , by and large. I mean , so how are programs like yours working to combat that ? And how might $5 million help help in that effort ? Right.

S6: So I'm just very , very proud of Sdsu. I'm proud of our staff , our student staff. I always wanted to give them a shout out and proud of our supervisor , Doctor Tanika Green , who's our associate Vice president. And one of the things that we've been able to do is create a welcoming environment. How do we create a welcoming environment where we really take into account where students are coming from ? So some of it is is somewhat science. We do a lot of surveys and other things to get to know the students what their interests are , but then we also turn that into programs or activities that are relating to areas where they'd like to know more things , know more about how to navigate the system. And so a peer to peer kind of interaction goes with , hey , how do I pick my classes ? Who's some of the better teachers ? You know , I heard somebody had an issue last year. How can I navigate that issue in that teacher's classroom ? I'm the same major and kind of bringing those students together. So we have actually have a ratio of one to about five students , one five entering students to one mentor or academic coach. And that connection really. Helps to strengthen our community so that academic coach can say , hey , I'm having an event this week. It's with my student organization , the National Society of Black Engineers , or the Black Psychology Student Association , or the National Accountants Black Accountants Association. I want you to come to that event so you can learn more about it. We're the same major , and hopefully you'll be an officer , a leader , or at least a member with that organization. So we can help you navigate the system all the better and ultimately end up with a good job and be one of those alumni who continues to give back. So it's a good cycle that we have of giving back to the university.

S1: Yeah , I mean , it sounds like it's about much more than academic success , right. But community inclusivity.

S6: I got my master's degree here at Sdsu. I was given a school psych program , a shout out , and I'm looking at those kinds of things for our students to get overall good mental health information , psycho educational information. So we have several different programs that do that. One is with our counseling and psychological programs that's here on on campus , and we have counselors that come once a week for Talk it Out Tuesdays. Then we have another counselor who comes once a month for Wellness Wednesdays. And with those programs , we are seeking to reduce the stigma , but also increase the access to a counselor that students can relate to. The other programs that we have are called healing Circles , and we have a black women's healing circle and a Black Men's Warriors collective. And these healing circles just simply focus on talking about the issues that may create obstacles for them having academic success or lifelong success. A lot of that influence is influenced by black history , black psychology , black sociology , and even economics , and we want to want them to feel connected to the university , but also grounded in their goals and objectives , and that somebody is supporting them to reach those goals and objectives , especially , as I mentioned before , they're the first in their family to go to college.

S1: That is excellent. I mean , we can see how impactful the Black Resource Center is and how impactful this donation will be. We can see all of the potential there.

S6: There are people out here who want to support you , who want to connect with you , want to see you do well , and that idea of paying it forward to make sure that you have access to land , that you have access to health care , that you have access to the basic things that people need to live a high quality life. That's a big part of San Diego. We share such beautiful landscape together. We might as well share a beautiful life together.


S5: Right. And Brandon did a great job of bringing up Henrietta Goodwin , um , the first black student to graduate from San Diego State in 1913 , the San Diego Union , the newspaper of the city of the time , printed a list of degree recipients then , but they didn't include her. And so I think this moment is important for us to to celebrate this gift , to celebrate people coming together and doing the right thing , but also being very honest about all these things that are in San Diego's past , these different exclusion acts , um , the redlining , um , the discrimination and , and that moment of honesty , instead of shying away from this tough history , saying that is the past of San Diego , that is the past of San Diego State as well. And the only way we can move forward is through being honest about it , acknowledging it , and then uniting to fund that better path.

S1: I've been speaking with Seth Marlowe's professor of anthropology and history curator for San Diego State University. Seth , thank you.

S5: Thank you , Jade.

S1: And also Brandon Gamble , director of the Black Resource Center at Sdsu. Brandon , thank you so much.

S6: Glad to do it.

S1: Coming up , the conversation continues as. We explore the impact of Cross-racial solidarity.

S8: These stories , I think , are really important because they're people who break the mold of what the existing structures are and create a model of how we can come together in a different way to obtain a more just world for everyone.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back. You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. You just heard a bit about the dogs and the Thompsons , but their story is just one of many examples of solidarity throughout history. We want to take it to the present and talk about how Black and Asian American communities are continuing to build relationships , and what solidarity might look like today. I'm joined now by Scott Qureshi , president of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Foundation and author of several books on race and ethnic studies. He's currently writing one about the violent history of anti-Asian racism. Professor Qureshi , welcome. Thank you. So , Professor Qureshi , why don't you tell me about James and Grace Lee Boggs ? Yes.

S8: James and Grace Lee Boggs were well known community organizers in Detroit , Michigan. Uh , Grace had a PhD in philosophy , which is extremely rare for a Chinese American woman to obtain in 1940. But because of race and gender discrimination , she never worked at all , uh , at a university. Um , she instead became a movement activist , particularly because during World War Two , she was in Chicago when the 1st March on Washington , led by the black labor leader , a Philip Randolph , took off , and she decided to dedicate her life to being a movement builder. And she really was grounded within the black community her entire life. Despite herself growing up as a Chinese American , she ended up moving to Detroit , which was the center of labor activism and a lot of black civil rights activism. In the 1950s , she married James Boggs , who was a Chrysler auto worker and was really an organic leader among workers in Detroit. And , uh , they had this incredible partnership. James was an African American man from the Jim Crow South , and they really have become a symbol of black Asian solidarity for a lot of younger people in Detroit , and really all around the country and all around the world. They're both passed away at this point , but really , it is their ideas and their activism that has continued to inspire , inspire so many people.

S1: You know , I want to dive into this concept of solidarity. I mean , what does it look like ? What does it mean ? Um , can you explain that for our listeners ? Yeah.

S8: I think the first thing to point out is that even within a specific community , you know , political organizing , mobilization , bringing people together around any issue is always a challenge. You know , people have , uh , families to feed. They have jobs to work. Right ? It's it's a struggle just for people to survive. So getting people to come together right really requires leadership. It requires dedication and requires sacrifice. And so doing that across racial boundaries , when there's such a history of segregation , when our education system doesn't oftentimes even teach us about our own histories , let alone other people's histories , is a big challenge. And so I think when we look at history , we see folks like James and Grace Lee Boggs. We see folks , uh , like in the history of the United Farm Workers , where Chicano and Filipino workers came together to go on strike against grape growers and found this really historic union that obviously , you know , people today know Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. But there were also Filipino American leaders like Larry Itliong and , uh , Philip Veracruz. These stories , I think , are really important because they're people who break the mold of what the existing structures are and create a model of how we can come together in a different way to obtain a more just world for everyone. Right.

S1: And history is so important for context. For example , when you look at Los Angeles in the 90s , for example , and the tensions that existed between Asian American and African American communities.

S8: We I learned only , you know , minimal , superficial things about black history a little bit about slavery , a little bit about , you know , Martin Luther King. Um , but we learn history largely through , you know , famous people and icons and we don't really understand , you know , the depths of people's experiences. Right. And so I think it's understandable that when you have people in a situation where they are struggling to survive , you know , in South Central Los Angeles , an area I've studied now they call it South LA. There was a , you know , deprivation of jobs. It was difficult to get housing. The schools were underfunded. There was police brutality. And , uh , it's it's not unexpected then that people would be frustrated , you know , that they would that they would um. That they would feel like they were under siege. And so , you know , in 1992 , after Rodney King was beaten , but then the police were acquitted of the charges , there was , you know , um , an understandable , uh , frustration that that led to the uprising. And unfortunately , in that moment , there were , you know , uh , Korean Americans who had owned liquor stores. Again , that's large in large measure because of redlining. Why there weren't , um , the larger chain grocery stores. And again , it's a really complex history of why immigrants ended up there rather than in other jobs and professions that , you know , they had their degrees in. Um , but at the same time , when Korean Americans were struggling to find a place , you know , to make a living , there were , you know , African Americans who were having trouble even getting loans , right , or starting their own businesses. And that ended up creating a great deal of tension. And so , you know , there are certainly are tensions that exist between communities and within communities. Um , but the important thing for me is to see that within the broader context , what is the structure in which people are struggling to find any opportunity at all ? What are the , uh , forms of misunderstanding that we could clear up through what we have now ? Uh , we finally have in the state of California and other parts of the country , a requirement that people learn about other cultures and communities , that people learn about the history of racism and ethnic studies. So I think , you know , we're starting to move in a better direction , but obviously there's still a lot of tension and misunderstanding that we have to address on an ongoing basis.

S1: And for decades , the model minority myth also pitted Asian American and Black communities against one another. First , can you explain what that stereotype is ? Yeah.

S8: I mean , I think we have to start with the long standing , right ? Stereotypes against African Americans , other communities of color , indigenous peoples as being prone to violence and crime or being , you know , um , inferior in education or as , as workers. Right. And so we have a structure in this country , in this political and economic system that seeks to validate , you know , and rationalize , right , oppression of African Americans , of Latinos , of Native American and indigenous peoples , of Muslim Americans. And so in that context , when particularly , right , you had the civil rights movement at its apex and the Black Power movement taking off. There were really defenders of the existing order , particularly white intellectuals , who began to posit that Asian Americans were the model minority. This distorted image of Asian success and arguing that , you know , Asian Americans simply pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. And though they face discrimination , they just worked harder , you know , and they abided by the law. And , of course , you know , in some cases , there were Asian Americans that worked hard and abided by the law. In other cases , there are Asian Americans struggling in poverty , um , you know , failing in school , dealing with substance abuse issues or mental health , um , illness.


S8: And so there's a obviously a long history of anti-Asian racism tied to reproducing structures of white supremacy. You know , many people don't know that , uh , in 1790 , Congress passed a law that basically made it illegal , uh , for Asian immigrants to become naturalized US citizens. Right. So there's just a long struggle against , uh , laws that banned agents from migrating to this country , banned Asians from becoming citizens , banned Asians from owning land , uh , banned Asians from having different types of jobs and citizenship rights. And so , you know , when Asian Americans , when we get in to learn about these histories , we get to understand that , you know , our status and the type of experience we have , whether it's from microaggressions to outright , you know , violence and acts of lynching and , and murder , these are part of a broader structure and a system. And if we want to end that level of violence and discrimination and misunderstanding in our own lives and the type of misrepresentation we see , you know , in TV and movies and in the media , then we can't simply view our own experience in isolation or in a vacuum. Right ? Separate from how racism affects other groups. So I think it's become really important for me. I studied , you know , black history. I was. You need to have some really important educational and scholarly mentors. When I was a student , I was able to learn about black history before I actually was able to take an Asian American Studies class , and that helped me better understand , you know , the history of white supremacy over all in this country. And of course , it's really important , obviously , that we all understand indigenous peoples histories because they were here basically before all the rest of us were able to come to the US.


S8: Um , in 1992. It's documented that Asian Americans actually voted , you know , more for the Republican than the Democratic Party candidate. But , you know , since that time between the type of , uh , anti-immigration rhetoric that's really , uh , heated up on the right , uh , between the type of , you know , xenophobia that's been drummed up against particularly South Asian and Muslim Americans and Arab Americans with the so-called war on terror , um , with the type of , uh , obviously rhetoric like China virus and Kung flu that came up during the Covid 19 pandemic. There's really been a lot of distrust , right ? Um , within the Asian American community , uh , against , you know , Trump and MAGA and some of the Republican leadership doesn't mean there aren't still people voting for Republicans. There are still a minority of folks voting there. But there's been much more of a sense of Asian Americans voting in alignment with African Americans and other communities of color. Um , to the point where obviously , you know , if Biden wants to be reelected , he's going to have to take Asian Americans , uh , very , very seriously and address some of the concerns , you know , that folks have. In order to maintain this coalition that not only won him the presidency overall , but allowed the Democratic Party to gain in states , you know , like Georgia , right ? Not just the Electoral College votes for president , but also the two Senate seats. And in that case , there were black political leaders like Stacey Abrams pushing very , very hard to build these cross-racial alliances. And there's a surge in Asian-American voting in Georgia , particularly around the Atlanta area , where , of course , those , um , Asian-American women were killed in that in that horrific , um , mass shooting in 2021. So I think there's a lot of Asian Americans who are much more vigilant , but they also don't want political leaders , you know , to take them for granted. And so , you know , these coalitions in many cases are fragile , and it requires ongoing attention and vigilance to maintain and , you know , build upon them. Yeah.

S4: Yeah.

S1: Any final thoughts on this , that , that we didn't touch on Scott.

S8: You know , I would say , uh , I have a lot of faith , uh , in younger people , because even though they are facing , you know , all types of difficulties finding work , nobody can afford to buy a house anymore. Um , they really haven't given up hope. And so we see , you know , young folks continuing to struggle in so many , uh , areas. Obviously , you know , the fact that , uh , our environment is facing catastrophe , you know , is something that makes many young folks fearful about what type of , you know , world they're inheriting from us. And the older generations. So between the struggle around climate , the struggle for basic forms of democracy in the face of these , you know , insurrections and rising authoritarian figures , between all of that and the continuing struggles against police violence , police brutality. And again , these , you know , wars of colonization against people from Palestine to other parts of the world. There are folks now who are so much farther ahead of where I was when I was 18 years old. I have a daughter who's in her first year of college , and she already , you know , is running circles around anything I might have even attempted to do at that age. And so , you know , I think it's important that none of us give up hope and that we continue to , you know , uh , inspire younger generations but also draw inspiration from their actions at the same time.

S1: Scott Qureshi is president of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Foundation and author of several books on race and ethnic studies. Professor Qureshi , thank you so much for joining us and being here today.

S8: Well , thank you for having me , and I hope you will continue to continue to report on these types of important stories that have been overlooked for far too long.

S1: That's our show for today. Don't forget to watch Evening Edition tonight at five for in-depth reporting on San Diego issues. We'll be back tomorrow at noon , and if you ever miss a show , you can tap in to find the Midday Edition podcast on all platforms. I'm Jade Hindman. Thanks for listening.

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Gus Thompson is pictured in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Kevin Ashley
Gus Thompson is pictured in this undated photo.

In 1939 Coronado, Lloyd Dong Sr. and his wife, Margaret Dong — a Chinese American couple — couldn't rent a home due to anti-Asian housing discrimination.

But Gus and Emma Thompson, a Black family, rented to them anyways. Eventually, the Thompsons sold their home on C Avenue in Coronado to the Dongs.

Eighty years later, the Dong's children have pledged to donate $5 million of the proceeds from the sale of that house to the Black Resource Center at San Diego State University.

On KPBS Midday Edition, we unpack the story with local historian Kevin Ashley. We also hear from SDSU's history curator and Black Resource Center on the significance of the donation.

Then, we zoom out to discuss the history of solidarity and coalition building between Black and Asian American communities into the current moment.


Gus and Emma Thompson rented out the upstairs of their livery stable to many immigrant families. Their home is pictured to the right.
Courtesy of Kevin Ashley
Gus and Emma Thompson rented out the upstairs of their livery stable to many immigrant families. Their home is pictured to the right.