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New community energy program offers alternative to SDG&E

 January 31, 2022 at 2:50 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

The great energy provider switch begins for thousands in San Diego, San Diego

Speaker 2: (00:05)

Community power will purchase more green energy than San Diego gas and electric.

Speaker 1: (00:12)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heineman. This is KPBS midday edition California's nude food waste. Recycling program rolls out slowly in San Diego.

Speaker 3: (00:30)

An estimated 40% of food is thrown away. And as a matter of fact, when you look at the landfill, 20% of the garbage in the landfill is food waste. So we just throw away a tremendous amount of food.

Speaker 1: (00:43)

Chinese new year's celebrations will welcome in the year of the tiger and will hear about a play that challenges, stereotypes opening soon at the San Diego rep, that's a head on midday edition

Speaker 1: (01:01)

After years of San Diego's community choice energy program is about to start enrolling hundreds of thousands of customers. The rollout begins this month with residential customers in Imperial beach when LA Mesa and Sonita and the cities of Chula Vista and San Diego get on board by the end of may, more than 700,000 residents will be getting power purchased by San Diego community power rather than by SDG and E energy delivery and monthly bills won't change much, but supporters say the amount of clean and renewable energy powering San Diego will increase significantly. Journey. Me is San Diego union Tribune, energy reporter, Rob Leski and Rob welcome.

Speaker 2: (01:45)

It's gonna be back Maureen. So

Speaker 1: (01:47)

In a nutshell, what's the difference between the community choice energy program and San Diego gas and electric in the way power is purchased?

Speaker 2: (01:56)

Well, as far as the way, power is purchased, San Diego community power will purchase more green energy than San Diego gas and electric does right now. Right now, when you take a look at the renewable portfolio of SDG E it's about 31%. When San Diego community power takes over the default rate program for residential customers will be about 50% renewable. So it's a little bit more renewable energy, some 19% more

Speaker 1: (02:29)

SD and E's profits go to shareholders, where do San Diego community power profits go?

Speaker 2: (02:35)

Well, first of all, if SDG and E profits go to Sempra, which is the, uh, holding company of San Diego, gas and electric, but, uh, a, any choice energy program like San Diego, community power, any profits they get after they're done paying their employees, et cetera, they use that excess revenue. They take that and they invest it in renewable energy projects around the area. They end up buying and purchasing solar power and solar farms, wind farms, energy storage, battery, storage programs, things like that.

Speaker 1: (03:12)

So does this change over mean that SDG and E is outta the picture?

Speaker 2: (03:16)

No, not at all. Probably the best way to look at it. As when you think about a utility company, a traditional utility like San Diego, gas and electric, they do all sorts of things. They do transmission, they do distribution of the electricity. They've got trucks driving around, you see them on the, on the highway, they're fixing power lines. They're doing all these sorts of things under a community choice program. The community choice energy program just does one responsibility. It's a big responsibility, but these are just one thing. And that is Purchas the power, the power contracts, the various sources of power that are gonna be used inside that power mix within that community. But all the other responsibilities that I've mentioned that is still the responsibility of a traditional electric utility like San Diego, gas and electric.

Speaker 1: (04:05)

Now residents in Imperial beach are first in this particular rollout. How will customers be

Speaker 2: (04:11)

Informed? They'll get notified altogether. They'll get four notifications two before and two afterwards, just to let them know what's going on. And so they'll be notified starting about 60 days before the transition is made, and then they get updated

Speaker 1: (04:30)

And are our monthly bills gonna look

Speaker 2: (04:31)

Different only slightly. You will still, if you're in these five cities that you mentioned that are joining SD P, if you're in those five cities, you will still only get one bill and it will come from SD, G and E. But within that SD G E bill, when you look at the details of the bill, it'll mention one specific thing, it'll say power generation. And that is what the power generation that SD C P rather than SDG and E is getting for you.

Speaker 1: (05:03)

What about customers who have rooftop solar, what's gonna change for them.

Speaker 2: (05:08)

They will transition over to San Diego community power. So if you're a NEM customer, net energy metering customer, that program that you are under, under SD E will transfer over and now be a San Diego community power customer. And the only difference there is going to be that you'll get a slightly better deal when it comes to the excess energy that you sell back to the grid. If you are a solar customer, you'll get a little bit better deal under, uh, San Diego community power than you with SDG and E.

Speaker 1: (05:44)

What about regular energy customers? Will they see their bills go down?

Speaker 2: (05:48)

They'll go down slightly only be it'll you'll save. If you're a residential customer, you'll save about 1% now four or five years ago when San Diego community power was first sold to, uh, the, uh, city council of, of San Diego to approve this, they were estimating about a four or 5% discount, but things have gotten, have changed on the energy landscape and the energy contracts have gotten a little bit more expensive and in the last few years, so they, they say that that's the big reason why instead of a four or 5% discount on your rate, you're only gonna get a 1% discount.

Speaker 1: (06:27)

And what happens if a customer doesn't like this change? Do do we have any option to stay with SDG and E

Speaker 2: (06:35)

You can, you can stay with SD. They can do that for free, but the, uh, responsibility is on the customer to contact San Diego community power and say, I want to opt out, but if you want to opt out, you can do so. And you can do it for free. If after 60 days you wanna opt out, you can, but you have to pay a nominal fee. It's about a dollar and 25, and you can get transferred back over to SD G and E. So

Speaker 1: (07:02)

If people do nothing, they're just automatically going to be transferred over to SD C P program.

Speaker 2: (07:07)

That's exactly it. It's an interesting dynamic in the sense that you're going to be transferred over. That's the default position here. And I've asked during the time I've been covering this story, you know, what was the rationale behind that back in 2000, when the say when these community power programs were first, uh, devised here in California, the thinking was that if the elected representatives of your community decides to go to a community to power energy program, that therefore that responsibility then shifts over to the San Diego community power. And so therefore they're the ones who get the customers rather than the incumbent utility, if that makes sense.

Speaker 1: (07:54)

Okay. So if there's a power outage, who's responsible for that,

Speaker 2: (08:00)

That's still SD and E's responsibility. The best way to look at this is that all transmission and distribution questions that is SD E and the billing questions, everything except the power generation done everything, except that is still done by SD E so S E E still can these quote, public safety, power shutoffs, and they're still responsible for bringing, bringing the lights back up when those shutoffs are done. So that is all responsibility of SD E.

Speaker 1: (08:32)

This is a rather complicated change. Actually, there are a number of options for people who decide they wanna go to SD C P or they don't wanna go number of cleaner energy options that they might wanna choose. So if listeners wanna find out more about the program, is there a website?

Speaker 2: (08:50)

Yes, Maureen, you can contact SD community, and get more information. And on that website on one of the pages of the website, there's a very good explanation that breaks down what your Bill's going to look like and what that all means. So that might be helpful for people to take a look at. I've been

Speaker 1: (09:08)

Speaking with San Diego union Tribune, energy reporter, Rob esky, Rob, thank you so much.

Speaker 2: (09:14)

Thank you, Maureen.

Speaker 4: (09:21)

A new state law will require food scraps be composted instead of being tossed into landfills while the change presents many environmental benefits and also highlights the county's limited capacity when it comes to managing food waste, K PBS science and technology reporter, Tom fudge has been covering this and joins us now, Tom, welcome.

Speaker 3: (09:41)

Thanks very much Jade. So

Speaker 4: (09:43)

Can you start by telling us a little bit about Senate bill 1383 and what changes it brings?

Speaker 3: (09:49)

Right. Well, 1383, which was signed by governor brown a few years back requires org organic waste collection service to be offered by all municipalities in California. In addition to making sure that the city is out there collecting food waste for recycling. It also requires companies to donate eligible food. And there we're talking about supermarkets, restaurants. If they have edible food, they're not supposed to throw it away. They're supposed to donate it.

Speaker 4: (10:20)

So then will this mean green compost containers for San Diego residents? Yes,

Speaker 3: (10:25)

It will, but you probably haven't seen yours yet because in the city of San Diego, anyway, they're getting sort of a slow start. I talked to Ken Pru who is with the environmental services department in, he says they expect to truly roll out, um, their green waste recycling program this summer, even though they're required to do it now, they need little time to get everything in place. That's what I was told and

Speaker 4: (10:49)

Independent environmental organizations across California have been doing this for years. Why is this practice only, just now becoming law?

Speaker 3: (10:58)

That's difficult to say it may have to do something with political will. It may have something to do with the fact that a lot of cities have moved ahead with doing this kind of recycling this food recycling. It just so happens that San Diego has not been one of them. So it was signed by governor brown just a few year ago, and now we're finally getting going. All right.

Speaker 4: (11:20)

So, so let's take a step back here. Exactly. Why is discarded food waste so bad for the environment?

Speaker 3: (11:27)

Well, before I answer that question, Jade, let me talk about the extent of food waste in our country and in our community. An estimated 40% of food is thrown away. I mean, that's kind of shocking to me and it should be shocking to other people, but that is why we have so much food waste. And as a matter of fact, when you look at the landfill, 20% of the garbage in the landfill is food waste. So we just throw away a tremendous amount of food. Now, the problem with that food waste ending up in the landfill is methane. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas, more powerful than carbon dioxide. And when you just put the food in the landfill and don't compost, it, it creates a tremendous amount of methane. And so that's probably the biggest problem with, uh, food

Speaker 4: (12:14)

Waste. And so we have these new laws, but does San Diego have the capacity to deal with all of this food waste?

Speaker 3: (12:21)

Not yet. In fact, one of my sources that I talked to said, when you look at San Diego county, they are currently able to only process about 30% of the food waste that is coming into the system. And so we've got a little ways to go. Now, there are some interesting things that are happening in the county. For instance, EDCO, the private trash hauler has built an organic waste digestion facility. Now what this does, it's a machine that breaks down waste in a closed container and captures the fumes that are created to, uh, create natural gas that they can use to, uh, fuel their fleet of trucks. And so these digestion facilities is modern technology and the city of San Diego is going to get this one fairly soon. Can you give us a

Speaker 4: (13:04)

Few of the benefits of composting and why it's so important?

Speaker 3: (13:08)

We already talked about methane when food is composted and not just put in the landfill. That means that it breaks in a, in a certain way. And in that certain way, it does not produce the kind of fumes, the kind of methane that is created when you put it in the landfill. Also, when you create compost and apply to the land, it is actually, it actually behaves like a carbon sink. In other words, that compost applied to the land will suck carbon out of the air. So it has a very positive effect in that way, too.

Speaker 4: (13:39)

You report that the region has long had few resources for dealing with food waste. What can you tell us about that? Well,

Speaker 3: (13:47)

The city of San Diego has had a yard waste recycling program for quite a long time, but they have just until they were forced to, by this law, got a kick in the seat of the pants, as one of my sources, uh in the way that one of my sources put it, they just didn't take the steps that they needed to do to recycle food waste. They didn't have the green containers. Uh, they didn't really have the capacity at the landfill to deal with all of this waste. Now they have to do it. And so they are taking those steps. Like I said, they say that they, the city of San Diego is going to create its own organic waste digestion facility. They are revamping some of their practices when it comes to composting to deal with this. But, uh, they're not at a point where they can deal with all the food waste. Hopefully that will happen fairly soon.

Speaker 4: (14:39)

So how does San Diego stack up against other cities or regions with food waste recycling?

Speaker 3: (14:44)

Well, you know, Jade, one story that I can tell is I visited the city of Toronto in Canada, and this must have been about 15 years ago. And when I was there and I was just visiting, I didn't live there, but even visiting, I remember that the place where I was staying, we had to take our food waste and put it into a certain container. So the city could pick it up. That was 15 years ago. And San Diego was just to do this now. So there's no question. San Diego is behind the times. Um, I talked to a person with the environmental services department and he said in the city's defense, that it's kind of difficult for the city of San Diego to create new processes like this because of the people's ordinance. And the ordinance prevents the city of San Diego from charging single family home owners to pick up the garbage. And so they can't raise the rates. And that's one thing that does make it difficult for San Diego, Tom

Speaker 1: (15:44)

Fudges, K PBS's science and technology reporter. Tom, thanks so much for

Speaker 3: (15:49)

Joining us. Thank you, Jade. Happy to do it.

Speaker 1: (16:03)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heman signatures are being collected right now for a proposed state ballot measure that could guarantee funding for arts in public schools. K PBS education reporter mg Perez tells us the effort could mean a huge transformation for students

Speaker 5: (16:25)

That you're working in orange monochromatic and blue.

Speaker 6: (16:27)

Yeah. Max Swan is the art teacher at the creative performing media arts middle school in Claremont, best known as simply CPMA. It's one of the San Diego unified school district showcase campuses for theater, music dance. And of course the studio art classes taught by Mr. Swan, who started as a math teacher.

Speaker 5: (16:47)

And I got a math credential and an art credential, and then quickly found out how much they actually, um, overlap and connect. And now I'm an art teacher.

Speaker 6: (16:56)

Swan is passionate about his art as he conveys comfort and confidence to his sixth, seventh, and eighth graders and his students with special needs right now, the class is working on a group mural that will be displayed on campus. 13 year old, Michael Clark had never tried art until this year. He's a natural, yeah, you can

Speaker 7: (17:14)

Express yourself like in different ways. You can tell your moods and color. Like you can see how you feel like how's your day going. You express it

Speaker 6: (17:22)

By doing art. The CPMA art class is an example of creativity that has survived the COVID crisis and budget cuts. It's also an exception, even though the California education code mandate, art music, theater, and dance be offered to every student less than one in five public schools today have a full-time arts and music teacher enter former Los Angeles unified superintendent, Austin Butner, who is now leading the group Californians for arts and music education in public schools. Butner calls this his passion project to collect a million signatures by May 1st and get an arts funding measure on the November ballot. He wants to bring equity to the show business states. We

Speaker 8: (18:06)

Are that creative capital, not just in America, but really for the world. Uh, and that dichotomy between a robust creative industry, uh, and public schools, which still offer that same opportunity as what we're trying to address

Speaker 6: (18:17)

Butner and his organizers are proposing voters, direct the legislature to use at least $800 million. If there's a state budget surplus to exclusively pay for arts programs in every public school with no option to defer the money elsewhere. It's a radical idea with some radical supporters.

Speaker 9: (18:37)

Uh, you may know me as an actor, but when I was a teenager, I wanted to be an

Speaker 6: (18:41)

Artist, voice sound familiar. He is Emmy and Tony award winning actor, John Liko. He is also now the face of the California ballot measure to save the arts. He's pushing for signatures and will be pounding the pavement for votes. When he says the measure makes it on the ballot. This is a

Speaker 9: (18:58)

Time of tremendous divisiveness in political turmoil. Everybody's hotheaded on the subject of political issues, but the arts bring people together in all sorts of way. Get ready,

Speaker 10: (19:11)

Use your good, powerful

Speaker 6: (19:12)

Voice back at CPMA middle school. Cathy Hickman's intro to theater class is hard at work on acting out lyric poems. She's been the theater teacher at this school for 20 years. She says she's happily put in much of her own money to support her students and hopes California voters will direct the state to do the same in November. It would

Speaker 10: (19:33)

Be nice to get the extra help in order to serve the community the way they deserve to be served with all of the proper resources things for building sets, um, all of our technology and making sure that things are upgraded in an appropriate manner as well,

Speaker 6: (19:48)

Paid signature gatherers are being used at grocery stores. There will also be collection events for signatures at public venues soon. And then there are the classrooms ballot. Organizers are depending on teachers, administrators, and parents to spread the word and deliver their signatures to the effort that could just bring more supplies and create more opportunities for teachers like max Swan, I'm developing

Speaker 5: (20:13)

A beginning, intermediate and advanced at our school. So it's only growing students are more interested and we're seeing more art on campus. It's a

Speaker 6: (20:20)

Picture perfect possibility dependent on a million signatures to support the next generation of artists

Speaker 1: (20:27)

Joining me as K P S education reporter mg Perez. Welcome. Hi. Now since the state education code requires art education to be offered to every student, isn't there a funding structure for the arts already in place,

Speaker 6: (20:44)

You would think there would be, but as, uh, has been the case for California and much of the country, uh, the economy, uh, has not always been great. And so funding that might have been channeled to arts in the past, uh, are the first to be cut. And that is the reason this ballot, uh, measure is being proposed so that there is a guarantee that the state does have to spend my on arts.

Speaker 1: (21:08)

Tell us though, what is the reason that only 20% of California schools have a full-time arts teacher? How did that end

Speaker 6: (21:14)

Up that way? Well, it really is a matter of budget cuts. Uh, when you're looking at school budgets, uh, the first thing to go would be the arts program because it's about reading and writing, uh, and, uh, arithmetic as the saying goes. And so when those needs need to be met, uh, cutting the arts program, the music program, the drama program that's really become the place to go. And as a result, there are so many children who are not enjoying the benefit of that kind of education. Now,

Speaker 1: (21:46)

The way this ballot measure is constructed, it sounds like arts funding would only be available when there was a budget surplus. Is that right?

Speaker 6: (21:54)

That is correct. Uh, the organizers will tell you that they have room for, uh, putting more detail into it that might come up with other, uh, uh, sources for funding, but it, because the surplus has been so significant over the last few years, they thought this was the opportunity to really strike and, uh, put that money to use, uh, for our children, uh, in regards to the arts and their education. Now

Speaker 1: (22:23)

You spoke with teachers and students who were involved in painting and acting, and I'm wondering what other areas of the arts would be covered by this ballot measure.

Speaker 6: (22:33)

This is kind of the beauty of this. Uh, it would be, the guarantee would be that every public school in California would get arts funding and then it would be up to the individual schools or districts to decide how that money would be spent. For instance, let's say we have a dis that has an incredible music program, but they're lacking in theater that money could then be channeled in that direction for, uh, productions and education and so forth. And it really is tailor made to the needs of each specific, uh, district or in some cases, individual schools and how they might wanna spend that money.

Speaker 1: (23:09)

The con connection that the former LA school superintendent made between California as an entertainment capital and the arts in public schools. That's interesting. Can you tell us more about what he means?

Speaker 6: (23:20)

It really is ironic as he mentioned, and that is that California is considered the entertainment capital of the world, uh, in most circles. And yet the state does not devote money to the education of children, the future artists, if you will, the future movie stars and writers and producers and so forth. And so really that's the disconnect that this measure is, uh, designed to address let's fund them, get 'em while they're young, that way we can continue, um, to, to grow this industry that, uh, is so precious to California and, uh, help our children at the same time.

Speaker 1: (23:59)

The students you spoke with, uh, of course, sound very excited about the arts that they're learning, but what effect does arts education have on children's overall education?

Speaker 6: (24:09)

The teachers that I talk to, the administrators that I talk to say it is a matter of mental health students, uh, are given the opportunity through the arts to express themselves. And the piece that I did, the young man who said, Hey, I can express my feelings through color, uh, something that you might not think about, uh, will he become a professional artist someday, maybe, maybe not, but in the moment it has contributed to his mental health. And that's really, uh, the plus to this as well. Not every child who goes through an arts education will become an artist, but boy, what a great education and experience and growth opportunity they will have while in the classroom. If this measure is passed

Speaker 1: (24:52)

Mg, you referenced the usual reading, writing, and arithmetic that, uh, a lot of parents wanna see these, their children become competent in. So I'm wondering are parents generally supportive of more arts educat for their kids?

Speaker 6: (25:07)

It is hard to find somebody who will say arts are bad. Uh, but at the same time, they will say, it's the first to go. If we can't teach them how to read and write, uh, what the curriculum is geared toward, uh, nowadays is integrating all of that. So for instance, how might art be, uh, integrated into a math class? And therefore you're getting both, you're both learning the arithmetic, but you're also getting an opportunity to express yourself, uh, through painting perhaps. And that's really, I think, uh, the direction that this ballot measure wants to take, uh, education in California. And it's hard to find a parent to say that idea. I think

Speaker 1: (25:48)

Now how much time do supporters have to collect a million signatures to get this on? Is it this year's ballot?

Speaker 6: (25:56)

Yes, uh, they have until May 1st, but here's the thing. Technically they only have to gather 662,000 signatures, but they are shooting for a million because remember they all to be valid signatures and, uh, they want to make sure that this makes it to the ballot. So they feel in order to guarantee, they have the minimum, they need at least a million signatures between now and May 1st in order to get it on the ballot.

Speaker 1: (26:23)

I've been speaking with K P S education reporter, mg Perez mg. Thank you so much. Thank

Speaker 6: (26:29)

You, Maureen.

Speaker 1: (26:39)

Tomorrow is the Chinese new year also known as lunar new year.

Speaker 4: (26:44)

And along with the new year come celebrations with loved ones all over the world. The Chinese new year falls on a different day each year, and each year is represented by a different animal. The celebrations come with many traditions that are unique to Asian culture, each having a meaning behind them. And joining me to talk about traditions of the Chinese new year is the executive officer of the house of China in BBO park. David said, David

Speaker 11: (27:11)

Welcome choy, which means happy new year to everyone in the Cantonese dialect, happy

Speaker 4: (27:18)

New year to you to so tell me the Chinese new year falls on a different each year based on the lunar calendar, not the solar calendar. What's the difference between the two and what's the significance of the lunar calendar.

Speaker 11: (27:31)

The ancients in China decided to follow the pattern of the moon and when it was full, when it was half when it was quarter. And so that is why the date of Chinese new year always changes from late January to maybe early February. So it's just a different world view on accounting for time and seasons. So

Speaker 4: (27:56)

What are some of the traditions that come along with the new year celebrations?

Speaker 11: (28:00)

Well, families gather as will my tonight for a celebratory dinner. So it just signifies a happy time, a time of plentiful food and good tasty food. Chinese have so many different types of foods and we're longing to just reconnect and to put aside maybe problems of the past and have hope for the future. So it's just a grand time of eating, talking, celebrating, maybe little polar games are some of the things done the first day of Chinese near. There are other days that are designated for like the in-laws to visit the in-laws like the second day, the third day may be time to go to see other business associates or neighbors or friends. So Chinese, New York actually runs for a two week period of time. And it ends on what's called UN Shia, which means like lantern festival and their foods also noted for that celebration as well as special lantern decorations. And

Speaker 4: (29:13)

I know there's also like other traditions, like, you know, you may wear new clothes or clean the house. Tell me a bit about those.

Speaker 11: (29:20)

Well, you would want to clean the house prior to new year. You don't want to sweep out any good luck on new year's day itself. Uh, the, uh, family should all have new clothes. They should work to end all the deaths that they have. If you're a child you'll be presented with different, uh, colored red envelopes with slogans or drawings and inside the envelopes are money. So there's a phrase talking about, you know, happy new year, where is my bread envelope or my money bag. So even the local banks in San Diego, whether it's a know chain or local chain often have the red envelope, so a customer could go in and ask some businesses, also distribute them. And for our own membership, we sent out, uh, new year's letter and we included, uh, a red envelope just as a well wish to the receiver. The red envelopes can also be used besides New York. Let's say there's a wedding. You would present the red envelope to the bride and groom. If there's a new business, if someone celebrating at 80th or 90th birthday, you would present cash. So in Western, oftentimes there's a registry and maybe you get three are four toasters for the Chinese. It really is more practical and convenient to give cash than it is to do a physical gift. So hope everyone has a red envelope in their future. And

Speaker 4: (30:56)

Red is a color of significance for the Chinese new year. What does the color red symbolize for the coal in the celebrations?

Speaker 11: (31:03)

The red is such a rich, happy color. You see them on temps, you see them in the red dresses that some of the ladies will wear and you'll see the red in, uh, children's clothing. So it's just a rich, warm color, and it just represents good fortune and happiness. And

Speaker 4: (31:25)

2022 is the year of the tiger. What meaning does the tiger have for the new year?

Speaker 11: (31:31)

Oh, it's a really significant year because a tiger is someone who's courageous and someone who is confident. They always try to put forth brilliant ideas into actual practical plants. I must, I modestly say I am a tiger. Uh, my birthday comes in December of 2022, and since the tiger year begins tomorrow, Tuesday, I'm lucky in that I am a tiger person. Uh, so, uh, congratulations to anyone born in 2022, as well as anyone 20 10, 19 98, 19 86. So it's a 12 year cycle for the tiger. So those are some of the birth years for tiger people.

Speaker 4: (32:23)

Interesting. And what's the significance of naming each year, a different animal. There's

Speaker 11: (32:28)

A legend saying that Lord Buddha had caught animals to his palace, and these are the 12 animals that did appear. So it includes like the mouse, which was the first animal and includes a dog, a lamb, a dragon, a snake, a pig, a chicken. Uh, so some of those are the other, uh, animals that are celebrated during the 12 year period of time.

Speaker 4: (32:57)

How is Chinese new year typical celebrated here in San Diego?

Speaker 11: (33:00)

Typically there are a number of events such as street, fair dinners, hosted by clubs and organizations, our own organization, house of China, which is one of the founders of the international cottages in B park has a scheduled February 19th and 20th event from 11 to five. So we have several lion, dance groups, cultural dance groups, music, even like hip hop dance. And we also will have people doing calligraphy. So there's a Sam bowl or a souvenir for them and a variety of food booths as well. Something is coming up next week in old Chinatown, San Diego did have a tiny Chinatown and there's gonna be a lion dance. And it's going to coincide with the naming of Tom Tom drive at third and market street. He and his family, uh, were one of the pioneers of the San Diego Chinatown that existed oh, in the 1910s 1920s. So people are welcome to that celebration at 10:00 AM. But the big one this year is B park, the February 19 and 20 as other organizations that we're scheduling. You know, our indoor venue is not practical, but aren't fair, of course is out of door. So we're glad to welcome the public, but, you know, we still would advise people to wear mask and to keep distance as much as possible.

Speaker 4: (34:40)

And that leads me to my next question. Have Chinese new year celebrations been impacted by the pandemic and does that persist this year?

Speaker 11: (34:47)

Well, I think the Chinese community has been in existence locally for hundreds of years and internationally for thousands of years. So the Chinese are very resilient. So last year, because it was full lockdown, multiple organizations such as our own at the Chinese school of San Diego, we did virtual programs where we had music dance, a lion dance, cultural segments, uh, that shared the rich history of the Chinese and was a way for people to still gathered, but gathered virtually, uh, we at house of China in our newsletter had pictures and demonstrations on how to fold the red envelopes into like paper balls or the fans. And we included things like recipes. So people could still enjoy foods that were savory tasty and significant to them.

Speaker 4: (35:45)

I've been speaking with the executive officer of the house of China in BBO park. David said, David, thank you so much for joining us and happy new

Speaker 11: (35:54)

Year. Well thank you very much. So, so in Hong, which means have good health for the next year,

Speaker 1: (36:07)

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heman. Michael Jean Sullivan is a writer, director and actor his latest play. The great Han is being staged at the San Diego rep in March. The play was part of the rep's black voices, 2021 play reading series that launched last March K PBS arts reporter, Beth Amando spoke with the playwright ahead of the play reading about challenging stereotypes in his work. She started by asking him to share what the great con is about.

Speaker 2: (36:40)

Great con is really a play about, well, it starts, it's two teenagers, two black teenagers, trying to figure out who they are, how do they fit in to a culture that in many ways would just prefer that they were dead. And how do you define yourself in a culture? That's always trying to define you as a potential perpetrator or as a runaway slave or just dangerous. Is it easier to struggle against those stereotypes to define yourself? Or is it easier to just get on the track with the greased rails and slide right into those stereotypes and the two main characters, uh, aunt, uh, girl and the, uh, and Jayden, uh, Tina chip boy are kind a meet in an unusual circumstance in that she is being assaulted. This happens before the play starts. She's being assaulted by some boys that are kind of her friends, but now they're all teenagers and they see her only sexualized now.

Speaker 2: (37:31)

And so they're attempting to actually rape her and he and Jayden who is an utter nerd saves her. And so now he's kind of like his mother has had to change schools for him and had to move across town because she's very concerned that those boys will find him and hurt him. Uh, so he's trying to figure out, well, should I be tough since I'm now in danger? Should I, should I start acting tougher? Cuz he's been such a nerd all this time. Meanwhile, aunt for William's Antoinette, she's like, well, I've always had to be tough to be a, a black girl and this is how the society sees me, but I don't wanna be that. I just wanna be a teenager. And so how, how they're defining themselves and redefining themselves kind of cross and then gangue con shows up

Speaker 12: (38:11)

What made you want to kind of throw that twist in and bring in gangue con

Speaker 2: (38:17)

I was kind of doing a couple of things. I, I, I was writing some other shows and this I idea of why is it that black teens are always seen as older than they actually are? You know, the police go, oh, this kid, he was so big and he's like, he's nine or a black girl being pre sexualized. This idea of how the society dictates who you are, how they write you in history, determines how you're treated in the present. And that will determine how you're treated in the past. And so, as I was writing it and I decided, well, Jayden, when he, I want him to go too far, I want him to go to, to worship somebody. Who's the biggest badass in history. And I was like, gangue Khan. And so I kind of put that aside in my head. And at the same time my wife said, you know, there's a book on Ganges con that just came out.

Speaker 2: (39:00)

You should read this cause I was a history major. And so I read this new book on Ganges con I read other ones. And I was like, this is about propaganda. This is about who writes your history. This is who decides what you were and that deter kind of your future for you and your people and for the working class or for generations ahead or for your gender or whatever. I realized that the idea of what was something that the whole audience was gonna think, they knew now most of the audience always gonna go, well, we think we understand black people. No. Um, but I was like, but that's too obvious. So I thought, what about G is con that's somebody that everybody in the audience has heard of. And so that idea of having this other very central thing to twist the audience, to make them go, I didn't know that makes them also have to go. I didn't know that about these teenagers, those kind of breaking all of the stereotypes for the audience. So they leave really questioning what do, who I know and who have I been listening to? Who stories have I been listening to that have framed how I see the world? How do they see me and how wrong have I been? Michael,

Speaker 12: (40:05)

Can you give us a little taste of the play by reading a selection?

Speaker 2: (40:08)

This is a scene between Jayden teenage black boy and Tim OIN. More commonly known in history as gang is now. Uh, Tim Jan and Jayden, uh, uh, meet in his, um, in his bedroom one night and Jayden's been showing him around town and then they come back right after Jayden's mother has left the room. So they're sneaking back into Jayden's room. Ah, here it is. Jayden pulls out a DVD box, call of duty, modern warfare. See, you were asking about modern wars and, and I thought I'd show you some, see this game will teach you what you need to know that place. You took me Chinatown, Chinatown pretty much. Every city has one. Why only place Chinese people were allowed to live back in the day. I guess, you know, Japan, town, Koreatown, Mongol town, never heard of one. Okay. You can use the character.

Speaker 2: (41:02)

I already built. He's a sniper and I'm dead. You you'll respond a what? See there you are. Now. Now I wanted, I want you to show me all of your cool I'm dead again. And you're back the weight. What? You can't just rush into battle, but I am supposed to kill that. What the guns are for. Look, hold his button to aim and push and see fire. Bam. See the guy's dead. He was so far away. That's what being a sniper means, but there was no danger. I cannot see his fear. Where was the fun in that? Oh, you want fear? How about dark souls? Dark souls. Is it also modern? Nah, but it's got lots of close up danger and fear. So I am Asian. Yeah. And you are black. Yes, but you are not actually the color black. You are brown. I mean, people are very shades of brown and pink, white, the pink ones are white.

Speaker 2: (41:55)

So the brown ones are black. The pink ones are white and everyone else is Asian, which isn't a color now except for the Indians from India. They're brown, but they're Asian and the native Americans are also brown, not black. And they used to be called Indians. What are they called now? Native Americans. What do they call themselves? I don't know why don't, you know what people call themselves, man. I don't know. In my connate everyone was adopted as a Mongo. It didn't matter what religion or family or other tribe you had been with. We were a tribe. You could join the people of the felt walls. We made our tents out of a material called Felton bongo. Barbecue. What? No, no, no Mo Mongol town, but we do have Mongolian barbecue. You know, it's this big round hot metal table. We didn't do that. But how would we carry a big metal table around on our horses?

Speaker 12: (42:48)

That was great. And you mentioned you are history major and you do bring history into this, uh, in interesting ways. Is that something you kind of knew beforehand that you wanted to do or did that kind of just happen as you were writing the story? Well,

Speaker 2: (43:06)

It kind of developed mean most of the stuff, the plays that I write have are, are very activist. I'm always trying to make the audience, uh, see and understand an injustice and challenge it in them and then go outside and challenge it in society. Like they always say, if you can only change one, person's mind, you failed miserably. You gotta do more than that. So I need people to get out there and overthrow things. And I just finished my, uh, I have an adaptation of, uh, George, or was 1984. That's been playing around the country and the line in that show, if he controls the present controls the past, meaning they get to write history and who controls the past controls the future because you can determine how people are going to act very much is part of everything that I write of redefining things. And I just love history. Also. It's like you, I was either gonna go into theater or become a history teacher and theater snatched me

Speaker 12: (44:01)

Up. I wanna thank you very much for talking about your play, the great con oh

Speaker 2: (44:06)

Thank you.

Speaker 1: (44:07)

That was Michael Jean Sullivan speaking with K PBS arts reporter Beth Amando. The great con is being staged at the San Diego rep from March 3rd through the 27th.

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After years of preparation, San Diego’s community choice energy program will start enrolling hundreds of thousands of customers. Then, KPBS Science and Technology reporter Thomas Fudge on how San Diego is enacting the new state law that requires food scraps to be composted, instead of being sent to landfills. Later, signatures are being collected for a proposed state ballot measure that could guarantee funding for arts in public schools. Plus, today is Chinese New Year, we take a look at the traditions that shape the holiday. Lastly, KPBS Arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with Michael Gene Sullivan about his play “The Great Khan,” which is being staged at the San Diego Rep in March.