In This Episode
DeRay, Sam, De’Ara, and Kaya dive into recent overlooked news including anti-vaxxers, reparations, CDC pandemic data, and Candace Valenzuela’s run for Congress. Johnetta Elzie joins again to update us about developments around the current protests. Then, DeRay sits down with Elise Buik to discover what the United Way is doing to fight new heights in homelessness amid a pandemic.
DeRay, Sam, De’Ara, and Kaya dive into recent overlooked news including anti-vaxxers, reparations, CDC pandemic data, and Candace Valenzuela’s run for Congress. Johnetta Elzie joins again to update us about developments around the current protests. Then, DeRay sits down with Elise Buik to discover what the United Way is doing to fight new heights in homelessness amid a pandemic.
DeRay [00:00:01] Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this
episode, it’s me, De’Ara, Kaya and Sam, as usual, talking about the news that you might
not have heard in the past week, but that’s important. And then I sat down with Elise Buik
to talk about the United Way of LA and the work that’s happening to fight homelessness
and the work of the pandemic to make sure that people have what they need. Now, the
advice that I have for you this week is about putting a stake in the ground. We have to
make sure that we move beyond the conversation in theory and that we actually put a
stake in the ground, that if we are ever going to get the progress that our lives deserve, it
means that we will have to make decisions about how to act, where to act, what the
biggest levers are. And that means that when you put a stake in the ground that people
might criticize it. That means that some people might not like it. But the only way we’ll
move forward is if people actually put two feet down and say this is what I believe. This is
what I think we should do. And this is how I think we actually get to the big goal that we
want to get to. That It’s not enough just to say here is the goal. We have to have a
conversation about how we get there. And that means that you put a stake in the ground,
that you take risks. And part of taking risks means that you won’t always get it right or that
people might not love it the first time or the second time or never win otherwise.
DeRay [00:01:18] Let’s do it.
De’Ara [00:01:19] Hello there. Here we are again. Pod Save the People. Thank you for
joining us. I’m De’Ara Ballenger @DeAraBallenger on Instagram and Twitter.
Sam [00:01:30] And I’m Sam Sinyangwe @Samsway on Twitter.
Kaya [00:01:32] I’m Kaya Henderson, @HendersonKaya on Twitter.
DeRay [00:01:36] And I’m DeRay @deray on Twitter.
De’Ara [00:01:39] I’m trying to have as much energy as I can, but obviously it’s been a
long week, particularly given that we lost our beloved, our hero, our John Lewis. So, you
know, there is great sadness, but I think also great legacy for us to act upon. And so, you
know, we just want to spend a couple moments just talking about how John Lewis paved
the way for us, for the four of us in so many ways, but also around the world in terms of
civil rights and activism and fighting for voting rights. My thoughts always go to the 2016
election, which we really saw what happens when our voting rights are gutted. And so
much of what John Lewis fought for was actually eroded, and that’s currently what voting
rights looks like in this country. So I think it’s now more than ever that we need to be as
active and as as forceful, but also in the legacy of John Lewis, be as loving and as kind as
we can for a continued fight to ensure that there is justice and equity and equality in this
DeRay [00:02:44] You know, the last time that I saw John Lewis, we were in a meeting at
the White House. It was the first ever intergenerational meeting of civil rights leaders that
C.T. Vivian was also in that meeting. And I’ll never-and we lost both of them in the same
sort of 24 hours.
DeRay [00:02:58] I’ll never forget C.T. because C.T., he was like both shocked and proud
DeRay [00:03:06] He was just like I just he he, you know, even just remembering it, he
was like, I never imagined that I’d be in the Roosevelt Room meeting with a Black
president in a roomful of Black civil rights leaders across generations. And he he was like,
we fought so hard and worked so much to get some wins on the board. And he was like to
Obama, I know that this is not enough. I know that this is not the end all be all. But this is
such an incredible win that I never thought I’d be alive to see. And John Lewis also in that
meeting, sort of helped frame how powerful the moment was that we were in. But also this
idea that part of our work is to always protect win. That they got the Voting Rights Act. But
part of it is like every generation has to protect the wins that the earlier generations got
and that we can never take those for granted. So I know there are a lot of people who are
like the Voting Rights Act is the Voting Rights Act like, of course, it’s going to stay like how
could you repeal the Voting Rights Act or how could you weaken it? And then you look up
and it happened. It happened in his lifetime. He both saw it begin and then side get
weakened in an incredible way. So I’ll just never forget that meeting. It was an important
meeting in my life and one that continues to shape the way I think about what it means to
fight from the outside and also fight on the inside.
Kaya [00:04:22] I’ll share my John Lewis story. When I was the chancellor of D.C. Public
Schools, we decided to adopt March, his graphic novel as part of our curriculum, and we
went to see him to share that with him. And he offered to come to our teachers
professional development session so that he could share with them directly about March.
And he did, which was incredibly generous of him. But we while we were in his office, he
spent a lot of time with us just talking-my Chief Academic Officer. And I just want to share
that with him. And he spent so much time just telling us stories and sharing his
experiences and we talked quite a bit about his chickens, if you’ve ever been in his office.
There are lots of pictures of chickens all around. And the story is that when he was young,
he was responsible for taking care of the family’s chickens, feeding them and checking on
them. And he was an aspiring preacher when he was a little boy. And so he would go out
and he would preach to the chickens. And that is how he overcame some speech issues
and really developed his oratorical skills,preaching to the chickens. And so I always think
about that when I think about John Lewis and I think about how much time he spent. He
was super busy, but didn’t think that it was too much to hang out with some educators and
just share his stories. And so I am appreciative to have had that opportunity, as well as
appreciative for all of the work he did for all of us in this country.
Sam [00:05:51] You know, I I never got the chance to meet John Lewis, but I continued to
be in awe of his sacrifice. The work that he put in to push this country to be a better place
and also just grounding the critical importance of pushing back against police violence as
one of the core issues that he championed, that he pushed back against, that he put his
body on the line in the face of and just learning more about his role, for example, on the
March on Washington when he was only 23 years old, giving this massive, massive
speech in front of so many people and learning some of the backstory about some of the
politics behind that speech and how there were lines in the speech that he wanted to
speak on that got cut, focused on police violence, focused on the Civil Rights Act, not
doing enough to address police violence. And, you know, fast forward to today and so
many of those issues remain. So many of the videos that we see on on the timeline today
are images of protesters getting beaten by the police in cities across the country. And how
much work we still need to do, just as we fight to reinforce and to reauthorize the Voting
Rights Act that he fought so hard for and that Republicans have gutted, the Supreme
Court has gutted. And there’s a bill sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk right now that would
do that work, that would reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, that was passed by the House,
by John Lewis. And I think it’s so important that we push to reinforce what has been
repealed that folks worked so hard for, just as we also fight to complete and continue to
make progress towards addressing some of the other issues that have continued, that
have never been fully addressed through comprehensive federal legislation like the issue
of police violence and so many other things that continue to be fundamental challenges
and problems today.
De’Ara [00:07:45] You know, use this week ahead to dig in a little bit more on John Lewis,
if you don’t know of him. I mean, even for those of you that do, there’s always more to
learn. So to Kaya’s point, his book, March. Check that out. There’s also a documentary
right now produced by Magnolia and Participant and directed by the amazing Don Porter.
That’s a documentary about John Lewis’ life and work. Also, learn what’s happened since
the Shelby case in 2013 that gutted the Voting Rights Act. And it’s a reason why 27 states
in this country have put in place legislation that closes polling locations, requires voter I.D.
laws and purging voter rolls, essentially making it more difficult for people to vote.
DeRay [00:08:22] The only thing I’ll add is by the time that you are hearing this podcast, by
virtue of Georgia law, they will have already had to appoint a successor to John Lewis.
And that is sort of like a what? You know it would be interesting to see who replaces him in
the Congress and what that looks like moving forward, how that process works out. You
know there’ve been calls for that person to resign, triggering a special election, you know,
but by the time this podcast comes out, we will all know more.
Sam [00:08:47] So my news is about Berkeley, California, where the city council just
approved legislation that will create a plan for removing the police from traffic enforcement
and creating a new unit under the Department of Transportation. That would be unarmed
civil servants who would be doing traffic enforcement in the city instead. Now, this is
important for a number of reasons. It’s also interesting because of how the idea originated.
So the idea originated in a series of tweets on Twitter by Daryl Owens, who is an organizer
with East Bay for Everyone in the East Bay Area in California. And he tweeted some data
from the Bureau of Justice Statistics public contact survey, which measures the degree of
public contact that the police have each year. And in their most recent report, which is
2015 data because the Bureau of Justce Statistics doesn’t release a whole lot of data on
the police very often. But in their most recent report, contacts between police and the
public, 2015. What that data shows is that about 30 million people a year experienced
some type of police initiated contact, meaning they’re stopped by the police. They weren’t
the ones who called the police. The police stopped them and initiated the encounter. And
of that 30 million or so public contacts that were police initiated, 24 million of those are
traffic stops. Both the driver and passengers in the car. And so this is fascinating because
what it shows is that the vast majority of police initiated encounters happening over the
course of traffic enforcement. And so by removing an armed police officer from having the
responsibility to respond and enforce traffic laws and creating a new unit that does that,
instead, you can actually substantially reduce the overall amount of police contact in a
given community. And so that tweet from Daryl Owens reached the city council in
Berkeley. They drafted up legislation and now it’s been approved removing the police from
traffic enforcement. In addition, they also cut the police budget by 12 percent recently in
Berkeley and have proposed a plan that would cut it by 50 percent. So things are moving
pretty rapidly in Berkeley. It is incredible to see. Again, these are plans they have yet to be
implemented. And so you’ve got to keep the pressure on, as well as pushing other cities to
begin continuing to shrink the role of the police, create alternatives and shift those
resources from the police to community based alternatives as well.
DeRay [00:11:25] So this will be important as we go in the next year. Remember that what
the council actually voted on, right, was the establishment of a commission and a process
to go through a year long review about how to actually make this happen. So that’ll be
most of the biggest changes, you know, Minneapolis also a yearlong commission. So it’ll
be important that we all maintain vigilance in watching this process as the new shifts, as
this is not the biggest story as the protests get moved to the side for other new stories that
are already happening, like Covid, right? So if the police aren’t the main responders, but
there’s another traffic department that has similar powers, like not necessarily a win. So to
be important that people monitor this and make sure that the implementation actually
meets the needs. I will say that there is already fear mongering happening that I’ve seen in
some of the articles or people like traffic stops are really dangerous for the police and this
could be dangerous for community, as if this is going to lead to some wild attack on police
officers. And that is just not the case. So there is a study that came out the University of
Arkansas at the end of last year that showed that we over exaggerate the danger of police
stops with regard to police themselves. So I don’t want people to succumb to fear
mongering about this. I do want us to be vigilant about the actual implementation meeting
the demand in this moment, because we’ve seen time and time again that people come
out with a big splash. And then when you read the what it’s like not as big as what the
De’Ara [00:12:50] Ya’ll. This is why we elect folks into office is to problem solve.
De’Ara [00:12:55] So they’re not supposed to just sit there, you know, and go forward with
business as usual. And so I think it’s up to us one to hold city officials, particularly like your
city council folks, know who those people are. They can, like to Sam’s same point, they
control your city’s budget. Right? So some of these things we can legislate like, you know,
because when I read this, my mind goes to. But I don’t want people speeding down the
street. Well, you know what? They can put speed bumps on the street. And who would do
that? The city council. So I think part of it is we all have to, like, activate ourselves to know
exactly what we could get or what we should get when we elect these folks and then hold
them accountable. We’re as much a part of the problem solving as the elected officials. So
let’s all do a little bit more, get a little bit more educated on what our government,
particularly our local government, actually does so that we can know what that looks like,
but also be a part of the conversation to how that shows up in our individual communities.
Kaya [00:13:48] I think this is going to be one to watch. I think what happens is one
municipality goes this way and then I think what will happen is you’ll see other
municipalities trying to do this. And I think it’s an important experiment, given the numbers
that you folks cited about how many traffic stops initiate contact with the police. And so my
hope is that, you know, even if the first municipality or the second municipality doesn’t get
it right, that people will continue to tinker with this and see if we can’t get to really
decreasing the number of traffic stops to decrease the amount of police interaction with
Black people. This is important to me, I think.
De’Ara [00:14:30] OK. My news this week, y’all, is from CNN. My girl. I don’t know her, but
I’m going to act like I do. My girl, Candace Valenzuela, will be, I’m just gonna put it in the
universe will be the first Afro Latina in Congress. Let me get more specific, because she’s
really repping me, the first Black-xican, Black-xicana in Congress. So I’m so excited. I went
to Candice’s website and made a little donation. I’m telling you how to do it, but I’m
De’Ara [00:15:01] I’m so excited about her candidacy on all the issues, she’s right where
she needs to be. Police accountability, income equality. She was endorsed by
Congressman John Lewis. I bring her bring her to the pod just because I think it’s really
important that we are paying attention to these standouts across the country. Because if
you look at the numbers in Congress in terms of folks of color, we’re doing a lot better
compared to 1965. But in terms of actually looking at representation per the population,
we’re still not doing that great. So I think right now we’re at like 52 members of Congress
that are black and then 38 for Latinos. The other interesting thing that I’m going to start to
address and have conversations with this week is that evidently, if you are Afro Latino, you
can either be in the Black Caucus or the Hispanic Caucus based on congressional rules.
You can’t be in both. So we actually have a member in Congress. He identifies as Latino,
but Latino with African descent. But he wouldn’t be able to identify as both Black and
Latino in the United States Congress. So that’s an issue that I’ll be tackling personally in
the in the weeks and months to come. But I thought that was interesting for folks to know.
But anyway, I just I wanted to bring up Candice. She’s running against a woman who’s
popular in that part of Texas, so they’re in Irving, Texas, which is like the suburbs outside
of Dallas and Fort Worth. But her opponent is endorsed by Donald Trump. So it’s going to
be important for us to support Candice and all the other bright and exciting congressional
candidates that are standouts across the country.
DeRay [00:16:39] This made me think about the conversations that we need to be having
about this election. You know, you look at the latest poll numbers and 50 percent of White
people still support Donald Trump. That that is wild, that his base will certainly vote and
that this will be an unprecedented election in so many ways. So, you know, when you
highlight this candidate for us, De’Ara, I’m thinking about all the people, especially young
people, who probably never mailed anything. I’m thinking about the people who have
never seen a ballot that wasn’t in a voting booth. I’m thinking about the older people who
definitely want to vote, are nervous about Covid, are trying to figure out, like, can you do it
over the phone? Do you only do it on the Internet? If you don’t have the Internet? How do
you do it? And some, like just the logistical challenges that we’re going to face and making
sure that our side is able to vote, I think will be massive in a way that the voting groups.
And, you know, I am on the board of Rock the Vote. I know that Rock the Vote is
organizing around this. I know that Fair Fight, I know that there are a lot of groups across
the country to really incredible work around this. But I think that I’m not sure that we have
all reckoned with how unprecedented it’ll be to just like go over the hump. So when I see
50 percent of White people still support Donald Trump, it’s like he won’t need a million, two
million, 30 million more votes than Biden to take it home again. Right? And we learned that
the last election. So even though the polling looks like Biden is ahead, we just can not let
up. And I worry that people like might think that we might have it in the bag and we might
have had in the bag if not for Covid. But I think that there will be people who get nervous
on Election Day, especially those places where voter suppression is really deep. So when
you close all the polling places by 5:00 and people feel like he already won the primary
and Biden has in the bag and they just are not going to stand outside again, then what do
we have? And it does not look like Covid is going to let up before Election Day.
Sam [00:18:31] So De’Ara, this made me think a lot about the demographics of Congress
and how under the existing two party system, we essentially have one party that is
becoming more representative of this country that is approximating, although still not there
yet, the demographics of the nation overall and then the other party is essentially, you
know, between 80 to 90 percent White men. And so you have one party that is exclusively,
essentially for White men and one party that reflects the country as a whole or that’s
getting there, soon hopefully we’ll get there. And in the end, what that means is you have a
system where you’re negotiating between White men and sort of an average demographic
breakdown of the country and you end up with a result that tends to skew heavily towards
White men. I mean, how that sort of counterbalance doesn’t really work well for us. How do
you counterbalance a political system where a party like the Republican Party, where
everybody is essentially a White man? What level of diversity and representation and
inclusion within the Democratic Party would be necessary to really have a representative
political conversation and political system? And I think we still have a long ways to go
before we can get there. We would need to dramatically increase representation not only
in terms of race and gender, but also by age. And I think, you know, just over the past, you
know, five or six years, we’ve seen an influx of members of Congress, who are younger,
who in many cases are millennials who are approaching these issues, just differently.
Where I feel more represented and I think a lot of younger people feel more represented
than sort of the previous cohorts of Congress. So I. I like the trajectory. It’s cool to see that
beginning to happen. But I’m just reminded when looking at the numbers, at how much
further we really have to go to truly be represented at the federal level, let alone the state
and local level, which has many of the same issues.
Kaya [00:20:26] I thought it was really interesting to think about having the first Afro Latina
member of Congress. And at the same time I wondered what that means for her level of
support amongst Latinos generally, given the broad diversity and some of the history
around colorism in the Latino community. I think it’s bold. I mean, she is an Afro Latino, but
I think that it’s bold to proclaim that when there are a lot of Latinos who don’t recognize the
or don’t honor the African ancestry within the Latino community. And so I am interested in
seeing. I think we’re seeing more and more Afro Latino candidates come forward. And I
think it could be a galvanizing moment or it could be a I guess, a further divisive moment
for the Latino community. But I think it’s an opportunity to continue to have the tough
conversation around colorism within the Latino community.
De’Ara [00:21:26] And Kaya, I think that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to highlight
Candice, just because growing up as Black and Mexican, I oftentimes had to choose
whether I was Black or Mexican. And so I think there is this growing movement,
particularly with Afro Latinos, kind of putting a stake in the ground and saying, you know,
we are both. And it doesn’t mean that we’re less of one than the other, but it means that
this is who we are. This is our full, authentic self. And that’s how we’re going to show up.
And we’re going to have, you know, two feet in each community. But we’re going to uphold
the values of both communities, the priorities, the agendas of both communities. And, you
know, most oftentimes it’s the same agenda and the same priorities and the same values.
So I think that’s what’s particularly exciting about about Candace and so many others,
about, you know, so many Afro Latinos that are now leaders in the Black Lives Matter
movement or leading in, you know, the Dreamers or immigration Movement. So I think
ultimately what I see happening and what I’m hopeful about is just kind of return to the
coalition building from the 1970s that was happening between the Black Panthers and the
Brown Berets and the, you know, Young Lords.
De’Ara [00:22:32] Like, I just see us all kind of coming back together. And there’s so much
history of that. And I’m excited about that. And that’s why I’m also excited to figure out
what’s going on with this, You can only be in one caucus, situation.
Kaya [00:22:45] That sounds wild to me.
Kaya [00:22:47] So my news comes from CNN, where Asheville, North Carolina, voted
unanimously to approve a reparations resolution for Black residents. Yay. Right? Sort of.
So 83 percent of the folks in Asheville are White. Twelve percent are Black. The city
council has apologized for the role that it played in slavery and for implementing racist
policies. But they are not giving 40 acres and a mule. They are not giving cash payments
to Black people. They are giving. And I want you to see my air quotes "investments in
areas where black residents face disparities." They have, you know, taken a bold step in
saying reparations are important and we’re going to figure it out. But they are calling for the
development of policies and programs that will establish the creation of generational
wealth and address reparations that are due in the Black community without actually
specifying anything. So it doesn’t specify how we’re going to create generational wealth or
how reparations could be achieved. And the mayor has taken this on and saying that this
is not for the faint of heart. On the one hand, as I sort of alluded to earlier, I think these are
the beginnings. We’re having more conversations about reparations in more serious ways
than we have before. And there are other cities who are considering reparations. So the
city of Seattle, Washington, is considering a reparations plan. Providence, Rhode Island,
and the state of California. But as I was sort of sad about Asheville not going a little further
later on in a week, I learned from ABC News that Evanston, Illinois, has actually gone
further than anybody so far in adopting a resolution for reparations as part of their city
budget. In fact, they’re the first municipality to commit public dollars to reparations. And
they have taken a pretty innovative approach to it. They are funding reparations through
their tax revenue from legalized marijuana sales. And they’re rationale is that 70 percent of
the arrests in Evanston for marijuana are Black people when Black people only represent
17 percent of the population. So this is clearly an over policing situation. And so they felt
like, OK, if Black people were disproportionately policed around marijuana, then we should
take the revenue now that marijuana is legalized and use it for specific things. And there
they are actually anticipating about ten million dollars over 10 years towards housing
assistance and towards economic development benefits, business development and
entrepreneurship. They are putting twenty five thousand dollars up for Black people to
purchase a home. They are doing grants for, as I said, business development and
entrepreneurship. And there are thirteen thousand four hundred Black people in Evanston
who stand to actually get some cash payments, to buy houses and to create businesses.
And those are indeed the things that helped to generate generational wealth. And so while
Asheville took me up and then brought me down a little bit, Evanston, Illinois, came out
fighting. And I think we’re going to continue to see municipalities take this on and go
further and further.
Sam [00:26:15] This was cool at first to read the article and to see the headline. And I got
all excited. And then, you know, I read through what Asheville was doing and there were a
couple of signals that just didn’t make me feel very confident that they put out. So, you
know, first and foremost, they were very clear that the resolution that they adopted did not
mandate any direct cash payments to descendants of anybody who was enslaved. And so,
you know, I think when we talk about reparations, obviously there’s a particular legacy. A
particular history to that term to what that means to the scale at which that would have to
be at if it was serious about making amends for and reckoning with the history and the
legacy and the present reality of institutional racism going all the way back to slavery. And
I don’t think that what Ashville put out really meets that bar yet. Obviously, there’s a
process that they initiated. Going back to what what you said DeRay about creating a
commission and talking about what this should look like. And obviously, there should be
done in a deliberate way, and a thoughtful way. But it didn’t inspire confidence that they
immediately felt the need to say, well, we’re not talking about cash, direct cash payments
right now. We’re talking about generalized investment in Black communities.
Sam [00:27:32] When that has been something that a number of cities have said that they
were doing through a variety of programs, local, state and federal, going back a long time
and have never really reached the scale and the boldness that they would need to really
grapple with and close the inequities around race in this country.
DeRay [00:27:50] Sam, you remember these calls. We had a lot of calls not too long ago
around reparations and what it would look like in practice. And I learned a couple things.
One is that I learned that the people who study this most deeply study the need for
reparations, that there’s actually not a lot of studies out there about what to do. Like, what
could it be? So there’s some direct cash assistance stuff that’s happening mostly under the
sort of framework of universal basic income. But we know that like Stockton and there’s a
host of cities that just joined like Jackson, Mississippi, there’s like a host of cities that just
say they’re going to start doing direct cash assistance. And I hope that the data from that is
really useful. But there’s not like a field of research out there. But like what the best
practices might be. So I’m hopeful that, like, as we have these conversations are
appreciates that we try things like free childcare. Right? That we try giving food to people.
And yeah, I don’t know that we try a range of things in addition to cash assistance that will
make up for or atone for a remedy some of the structural disadvantages. So that’s one.
The second thing, though, is that we got to read beyond the headlines and I to like you,
Sam and liek you Kaya was let up and then I read.
DeRay [00:28:58] I read I’m like, okay, reparations.
DeRay [00:29:00] And then I read a number like, this is a resolution to study and no
commitment really sort of outside of that. And this was a really good reminder for me about
the way the media sort of moves in. If you aren’t really consuming in a way that allows you
to be critical, which is not even your fault sometimes because everybody reported this like
the way it was reported, it was like people, again, checks and if you read it you were like
they expressly are not getting checks that is like if you learned anything from it, it was like
they are not getting checks. You don’t know what they’re getting, but they’re not getting
checks. So that that was really interesting. And the third thing is that there have been calls
for the uber wealthy, the billionaires to sort of do reparations work. And what I learned
when we were doing this project we were working on a while ago is that most of the
scholars sort of think that the private money is interesting and can definitely help do good,
but that the government caused the problem and the government should actually be the
body that pays for it. So that like, while private money is interesting, that the true cost of
reparations is more than any billionaire has.
DeRay [00:30:02] And that we shouldn’t limit our understanding of what is necessary
because we are attaching it to a single person or a single couple of people. So if we can
find a trillion dollars for Covid that we can actually pony up the resources to do what’s right
for Black people. In a moment like this.
De’Ara [00:30:20] Yes. Do I want cash money? Obviously. But what I think I want more is
kind of like a national reckoning around the slave trade and how insidious racism still is in
this country and how systemic it is in our institutions.
De’Ara [00:30:37] And so I think while, yes, there needs to be a discussion and study and
there needs to be reparations, I think there also just needs to be sort of something similar
to what happened in South Africa after apartheid in terms of truth and reconciliation. And
obviously, that’s not a perfect model. But I think one of the goals is, is that you actually
want to dismantle racism so that it doesn’t continue, because if we do not, we’re gonna
have to continue giving people reparations for generations and generations to come. While
we might want that to, I think a way to really have a total balance around this is a
component of this. That is education. That is discourse. That is people grappling with the
truth of this country. Yeah, I just I just feel like that this conversation around reparations
needs to be a larger conversation around dismantling racism in this country.
Kaya [00:31:29] So the media clearly took this headline in a particular direction. And like
you, it took me up and then brought me down. But it also then made me look for where ha,
is there a place that has actually done reparations with cash money to Black people? And
that’s what took me to Evanston. You know, even that Evanston stuff, while it is cash, it’s
not a ton of cash. And to Sam’s point about, you know, what is bold enough, what would
actually atone for. I wonder if any reparations plan will ever be bold enough to truly atone
for what we have suffered here in these United States of America at the hands of this
country being built on slave labor.
DeRay [00:32:17] Now, my news this was fascinating to me. And I and I brought it here
because I am interested in what you have to say about it. So I was going through the
news, getting ready, and there’s this Washington Post article that is titled "Anti vaccination
leaders fuel black mistrust of medical establishment as Covid-19 kills people of color." So
there are a lot of thoughts that came to mind. First of I didn’t know RFK Jr. Was one of the
leading anti-vaxers, that was new to me. But there are a host of people, and this article
focuses mostly on Denver, there are a host of people who are using the Tuskegee
experiment in the horrific sort of torture that happened using Black bodies as guinea pigs
around, not giving treatment for syphilis and intentionally making sure that people
experience harm so they could be studied, using that as a way to tell people that they don’t
need Covid-19 vaccine when it comes out. And it’s interesting is that there’s a Washington
Post poll that found that 63 percent of Black adults said they were likely to get the
coronavirus vaccine, compared with 70 percent of whites and 78 percent of Hispanics.
Only 32 percent of black adults say they would definitely get the vaccine, compared with
45 percent of whites, Hispanics. But what it continues, what the article does a really good
job of is painting these conversations that the anti-vax community is explicitly having in
Black communities to push the idea that the vaccines will disappointedly hurt Black
communities to fight against vaccination legislation in sort of exploiting what happened in
Tuskegee, to say that in this public health moment that Black people shouldn’t take
advantage of it. Now, let me be the first one to say that, like, do I trust the government to
do this well? No. And do I trust Trump’s government to do it well? Absolutely not. I also
know that if we see Black people dying at disappointing rates right now with little access to
health care and a shoddy system, that if this just continues and everybody is vaccinated
but Black people, I can only imagine the havoc that will be unleashed in our community.
So I want us to have more conversations now about this vaccine so that we’re not
cramming them into the five days when it gets released. And I haven’t heard a lot about
this. That’s why when I found this article, I was like, I got to bring it here because I want to
hear a conversation about it.
Sam [00:34:34] Wow. So this is really complicated. Right? This is, first of all, given the
obscene way in which the government has responded or lack thereof when thinking about
a response to Covid in the United States. I don’t have much faith in the government to do
anything. First of all, I do know that if South Korea develops an incredible vaccine, I will be
Sam [00:34:59] In fact, if anybody basically develops a vaccine other than the Trump
administration, I think it is good.
Sam [00:35:04] I do worry about, you know, the fact that the Trump administration we
didn’t even talk about as a matter of news, but the Trump administration recently removed
the data that was going to the CDC and said instead the data should just go directly up to
the Trump administration. And they were going to put out their own numbers, which we
already know are going to be a disaster in ways that when Florida tried this, they
undercounted covered cases a lot. So I don’t have a lot of faith in the Trump administration
to produce anything, let alone a vaccine. Sort of on the fly with no resources and probably
no expertise anymore. At the same time, I do know that it is going to be really, really
important that when a vaccine is developed, most likely outside of the United States, that
that becomes something that is used widely and that we are not avoiding or misinformation
keeping us from accessing that vaccine. And frankly, structural racism, keeping us from
accessing that vaccine. Looking at the disparities in health care access and the quality of
health care that’s actually provided to you if you are Black. So I think there will be a range
of different structural, systemic and misinformation challenges to accessing a vaccine
around this when one is developed. I also worry about the trials. And, you know, if, as we
talked about previously, there aren’t Black people being included in those vaccine trials.
How will that vaccine affect us? And how can we be sure that that will have the same
benefit for us as for other people? I think there are a lot of questions around that. There
are legitimate questions, but at the same time are not a reason for us to refuse to or not be
able to inoculate ourselves from a plague that is ongoing. That doesn’t look like it is getting
any better in many places. And I think it’s also important just to call out that cases are
rising all across the south and the Sunbelt, and that is where the majority of Black people
live in the United States. And we are talking about states that are governed by
Republicans, governed by White men who were elected by white voters, who have refused
to protect Black communities from Covid and have allowed for this to become a pandemic
at higher rates in Black communities than in other communities, not only in the South, but
all across the country. So I think there is a a broader conversation about how race is
operating at every level of the pandemic, both in the government’s response. Also, the
ways in which a vaccine, if one is produced, might benefit or not benefit us, as well as
whether we’ll be able to access one. So I just want to call all those things out and it is
complicated to navigate that at the same time. I think my recommendation would be to get
yourself inoculated from a plague and to trust the actual scientists and not the Trump
Kaya [00:37:53] Sam’s comments actually make me think about the governor of Georgia
suing the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, for mandating mask wearing and not
suing a number of other mayors in Georgia who have mandated the same thing. Sam is
absolutely right. Republican governors in states that have large populations with black
people are making decisions that are imperiling Black people’s lives. And I think this is a
place where we have to rely on our community to educate our people. We can’t wait for the
experts in part because of whatever distrust warranted or not warranted. But we have
community practitioners. What we see, what I saw when, you know, through schools and
through lots of other community programs is people trust the people in their community. So
when there’s community health care, when there are doctors who living your community,
when they’re at the health clinics that you go to, those people are oftentimes most effective
when there are social workers and people who are in your community, you tend to listen to
them. And I think that this is a place where, you know, the Black grapevine works and for
good or for bad. And I think this is going to be a place where churches become important
in terms of carrying this message of getting vaccinated. Once we determine that there is a
vaccine where fraternities and sororities can put out the word. We have to rely on our own
civic institutions, on our own faith based institutions, on our own people getting the word
out because there’s so much misinformation in the press that we’re going to have to make
this a ground game if we are going to save people by making sure that they get
De’Ara [00:39:41] I completely agree with everything that said.
De’Ara [00:39:44] And I think, you know, one of the people who I’ve relied on for a lot of
council around Covid is Dr. Eric Goosby, who’s wonderful, who was currently the U.N.
special envoy for tuberculosis. Dr. Goosby is a Black man, ya’ll. He’s wonderful. So I think,
again, to the folks in our community, to folks that I’ve been working on infectious diseases
for a very long time, like we are a part of that community. So let’s rely on those voices. And
I think this is listen, this is also something we should be paying attention to, because now it
seems that the health of Black folks and folks of color is now, you know, the center of
conversation. And when it comes to diabetes and high blood pressure and then all of the
infectious diseases that have come before it, whether it’s tuberculosis or chickenpox like
these, are all things that our communities have been infected by exponentially. So I think
we need to yes, we’re now, we’re paying attention now, but we need to continue to pay
attention. We need to highlight and support and amplify those voices that are speaking
truth to science and giving us advice and vehicles in terms of how we protect ourselves.
DeRay [00:40:47] Got it. The last thing I’ll say is that when we look at Covid, there is June
2020 data that shows that Black people are being hospitalized at higher rates than other
racial ethnic groups across the country.
DeRay [00:40:59] And it’s one of those things that I remember when Covid first hit one of
my friends, he fainted in his kitchen, came to enough to call nine one one. And he probably
had to stay in the hospital for five days. And I remember tweeting about and people would
be on like you’re dramatic. You don’t really know somebody who had Covid. Then I got
Covid and then the Covid truthers came out, too. He just tweeted it for, I’m like, I can’t
smell for days. It’s been five weeks. [00:41:26]A gazillion days. [0.4s] I still you know, the
doctors do not know if I will ever get my smell and taste back at 100 percent to this day.
Right? And I’m one of the lucky people who did not get any symptoms besides the lost of
smell and tatse. I’ve been tested five times now. I don’t have Covid anymore, but it’s been
a long road. And like, it’s wild because, you know, the last couple I was so we talked about
school and there really are no perfect solutions. But what we do know and Sam, you’re
talking about the Sunbelt and, you know, the South, it’s like the sheer amount of people
who have already died. And that is just sort of been a blip on the radar is just wow. I mean,
so many people have died and it just it that isn’t even like the biggest story anymore. It’s
just like a tally mark.
DeRay [00:42:11] And I think the history here will remember this moment both as a
moment people uprising and a moment where the loss was so immense that we didn’t
even have language for it. Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
DeRay [00:42:26] Believe it or not, dehydration occurs daily and three out of four people,
ya’ll I’ve never been more hydrated in my life, but with Liquid I.V., you really do have the
fastest, most efficient way to stay hydrated. Each serving helps you get as much hydration
as two to three bottles of water. Now you need to be properly hydrated for your immune
system to work. It can boost your immunity. And I am sold on Liquid I.V ya’ll. The fastest,
most efficient way to stay hydrated. I started drinking Liquid I.V.. I don’t know, probably
seven weeks ago. It felt like at the beginning of Covid and I have never drank this much
water in my life. I have never wanted to drink this much water in my life. I am more
energetic. It is better sleep. There’s no aftertaste. Yea. I’m sold. I’m sold.
Kaya [00:43:07] Liquid I.V. contains five essential vitamins. More vitamin C than an
orange. And as much potassium as a banana is healthier than sugary sports drinks. No
artificial flavors or preservatives and less sugar than an apple. Liquid Ivy is donating two
point three million servings in response to Covid-19. Products are being donated to
hospitals, first responders, food banks, veterans and active military.
DeRay [00:43:30] My only advice to you, I put mine in a 32 ounce water bottle and it is
amazing, but I’m sold. Liquid I.V Is available nationwide at Costco and Target. You can get
25 percent off when you go to liquidIV.com and use code "people" at checkout. That’s 25
percent off anything you order when you use promo code "People" at LiquidIV.Com. Get
better hydration today at liquidIV.com promo code "people",.
Kaya [00:43:54] When we take multivitamins, do we really know what we’re taking?
Kaya [00:43:58] We all deserve the truth about what we put into our bodies. And that’s
where Ritual comes in. The health brand created by skeptics,
Kaya [00:44:05] For skeptics.
DeRay [00:44:06] When Ritual of reimagined the multivitamin, their formula started with
transparency. Then they work with top scientists to develop a product with clean, traceable
DeRay [00:44:15] So I started taking Ritual as a supplement to my diet because I wanted
to make sure that I had all the nutrients that I could need, all the vitamins that I could need.
And it was in looking at the 18 and over men’s Ritual pill that I found what I needed. So it
had been good for me and helped me along the way.
Kaya [00:44:31] Ritual always delivers. This subscription based supplement is easy to
start, an easy to snooze. It’s around a dollar a day and delivered right to your door. Help fill
nutrient gaps in your diet to help support foundational health and Ritual is offering our
listeners 10 percent off their first three months. Visit ritual.com/people to start your ritual
today. That’s 10 percent off your first three months at ritual.com/people.
DeRay [00:45:00] And now, Netta tell us what’s on your mind.
Netta [00:45:03] Hey everybody, what’s up, it’s Netta. And thanks for tuning back in. You
know, this week, July 17th, that’s usually a very special day for me. It’s my grandmother’s
birthday and she’s absolutely one of my favorite people on the planet. Probably the three
seconds of patients that I do have, I would say absolutely come from her. She’s one of the
most patient women I have ever, ever encountered, especially with me as her first
grandchild. I can only imagine how this has gone for her. So happy birthday, Grandma.
And I wish I was home with you. Love you. Miss you. This Sunday was also the day we
lost two giants. The Reverend C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Robert Lewis.
Reverend C.T. Vivian was a foot soldier in the civil rights movement. Vivian kept his work
rooted in the field and organizing sit ins and marches and other forms of civil disobedience
with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference alongside John Lewis and Martin
Luther King Junior. Could you imagine if John Lewis and Martin Luther King Junior reduce
your regular ass homeboys like these are the people you’re doing the work with. These are
the people you are having your principled arguments with. These are the people you get to
debate strategies with and you all are just people like did that register to them like were
like 18, 19, 20, 21, 25? Do you recognize you’ve linked up with people who are put in your
path to change the course of history? I don’t know. That’s just seems like such a gigantic
idea. I don’t think my mind would be able to understand or fathom it. And I wonder how
how did that land for them? And while in recent years, as my own public work put me in
conversation with the civil rights hero such as Congressman John Lewis, to even be able
to weigh in on something that he was involved in, whether aligned with my own personal
politics or not, was truly an honor. I hope the ancestors gave them both the most loving
Netta [00:47:07] There are daily examples of police being unable or unwilling to police
themselves. And we were given an especially violent reminder of that last week, last week
during the Black and Indigenous Solidarity rally. Miracle Boyd, an 18 year old youth leader
with Good Kids, Mad City, had several teeth knocked out after being sucker punched by a
Chicago police officer. Her infraction: filming police officers tear gassing and pepper
spraying and arresting protesters. To date,
Netta [00:47:37] The officer’s name hasn’t been released. And as I’ve said here before,
every incident of police violence committed against Black women and girls hits home
because I see so much of myself in them. I could be them. My 20 year old sister could be
them. My friends could be them, my grandmother. Chicago is a reminder of the hill that we
still have to climb. Whether it’s Eight Can’t Wait, full on police abolition or somewhere in
between. We have a lot of work to do. We live in a nation outfitted with and deeply
invested in maintaining white supremacy. This current nationwide movement for police
accountability is like pulling a loose thread from a tattered sweater.
Netta [00:48:18] If you pull the thread, the entire piece falls apart. Yes, we need police
accountability. We also need a societal overhaul. Defunding or abolishing police only to
invest the money in other harmful structures just reshuffles the chair of the white
supremacy Titanic. And the reality is, as much as public education and mental health
services are starved for resources due to bloated police budgets, those institutions are no
less anti-Black and racist as law enforcement. That was fully on display this week in a new
report from ProPublica, published in collaboration with Detroit Free Press and Bridge
magazine. A 15 year old girl named Grace in Michigan was incarcerated during a Corona
virus pandemic after a judge ruled that not completing her schoolwork violated her
probation. "It just doesn’t make any sense," said her mother. Instead of knowing and giving
this child the resources she needed to best manage online learning during the pandemic,
her school, law enforcement and the legal system punished her. Judge Mary Ellen Brenan,
presiding judge of Oakland County Family Court Division, found the child guilty on failure
to submit to any schoolwork and getting up for school, and also called Grace a threat to
the community, citing her previous assault and theft charges. Is Grace a threat to the
community or is she simply experiencing this pandemic in an already weak public
education infrastructure crumbling around her? The expectation that Black girls are made
to live up to to outperform, even during the most extraordinary of circumstances, is
exhausting. This is an example of how insidious, systematic racism and lack of empathy
are. Even and especially during a once in a generation pandemic, grace deserved
compassion. She got cuffs. Covid-19, is killing people with no regard to ideology, race or
class. We also know that detention centers are virus hotspots, and sentencing this girl to
detention for failing to do homework isn’t upholding public safety. It’s a potential death
sentence. Not doing homework has never been a capital offense. This is the school to
prison pipeline dressed up as tough love. Grace deserves better during this time and all
time, but it won’t get better until we demand better. The passing of John Lewis, who is the
last surviving speaker of the March on Washington, is a stark reminder of the cruelty of the
life cycle. We’re losing a generation of Americans responsible for so many of the freedoms
my peers and I have sometimes taken for granted. And in the last month, we lost John
Lewis, C.T. Vivian and Emma Sanders, an original member of the Mississippi Freedom
Party, as our elders take their well-deserved risks, after a job well done, a baton has
passed. The race for liberation is a relay. Struggle is our inherence. We run knowing that
the race may not be won in our lifetime, but we run so that the Grace’s and the Miracle
Boyd’s of the world won’t have to fight identical fights 20 or 30 years from now. Thanks,
everybody, and I’ll see you all next week. Bye.
DeRay [00:51:41] Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere.
There’s more to come.
Kaya [00:51:45] It’s called the Lie That Binds. And it’s a deep dove into the history of how
the radical right weaponized abortion to hijack our democracy. The series helps listeners
make sense of how we got here and how we get out of this mess. The lie that binds
unpacks the terrifying rise of the anti-choice movement from its surprising roots in school
segregation to the election of President Donald Trump. Abortion rights are dwindling in
many states, despite public opinion swaying strongly in favor of reproductive freedom. If
you’re wondering why that is, this is the series for you. It features NARAL Pro-Choice
America president Ilyse Hogue, along with leaders, activists and experts like Stacey
Abrams, Loretta Ross, Wendy Davis, Imani Gandy and so many more. Don’t miss this one.
Check it out wherever you get your podcasts.
DeRay [00:52:39] Now on the world outside is hectic. Your home is everything, and it’s
easy and affordable to turn your home into even more of a sanctuary where blinds.com
Blinds.com makes it simple to shop top quality blind, shades and interior shutters from
home with easy online ordering and free shipping and ya’ll i’ve been looking at for blinds
and this. I thought it was really complicated until I got to blinds.com
Kaya [00:53:00] I call the experts at Blinds.comcom understand that window treatments
are one of those household items you just don’t think about. But they can make a huge
impact on the look and feel of your home. You don’t need to do a full renovation by simply
changing what’s on your windows. You can change the way light comes into your home
and create a totally different feel.
DeRay [00:53:19] Go to blinds.com and just take a look at all the options. From foax wood
blinds, cellular and roller shades. Even outdoor shades. And if you’re nervous about trying
them, there’s really no reason to be.
Kaya [00:53:29] Blinds.com has helped millions of homeowners through the process. Plus,
they guarantee the perfect fit. Whether you DIY or have them measure and install
everything for you, go right now and see how much you can save at Blinds.com, rules and
restrictions may apply.
DeRay [00:53:46] Going Through It features 14 notable black women, including
Representative Ilhan Omar, Lena Waithe, Angela Davis and so many more, discussing a
pivotal moment when they decided it was time to make a change and turn things around.
Kaya [00:53:57] To check out Going Through It,
Kaya [00:53:58] You can subscribe and listen now on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or
wherever else you listen to podcasts.
DeRay [00:54:07] And here’s my conversation with Elise Buik, who runs the United Way of
DeRay [00:54:11] I was fascinated to learn about all the work that’s happening, especially
with regard to homelessness. We have a lot more work to do ya’ll Elise, thanks so much
for joining us today on Pod Save the People.
Elise [00:54:20] Thanks for having me.
DeRay [00:54:21] Now, I’m interested to have this conversation because there’s so much
that I don’t know. And you are the [00:54:27]presidency [0.0s] of the United Way of
Greater L.A.. Can you talk about how did you find your way to this role? And then what is
Greater Los Angeles? Is that L.A. City? I don’t know. For those of us who do not live in
California or have not lived in California, what is that geographically?
Elise [00:54:42] Greater L.A. refers to L.A. County. And that makes up 88 cities. So while
there’s a lot of focus on the city of Los Angeles, which is an important and big city within
the county, as we look at issues, we often are dealing with all 88 cities, Long Beach, Santa
Monica, Pasadena. So it does make some of our work challenging. And, you know, the
county of L.A. is population is 10 million people. So we’re bigger than probably forty two
states. I think it is. So anything we look at, DeRay we have to look at through the lens of
DeRay [00:55:21] Got it. And how did you get to the United Way?
Elise [00:55:24] Well, I’m originally from Atlanta and I was in the private sector and my
background was in marketing. And I transferred to Los Angeles with a job, was with a
medical software company. And one day I woke up and I just said, you know, I don’t care if
I sell another computer system. And I joined the United Way 26 years ago, which is going
to date me as the head of marketing. And I just fell in love with the organization and I got
to know the community. And then in 2005, the CEO role opened up. And I have very mixed
emotions because I was always the kind of the behind the scenes person. But I said I’ve
put 10 years of my heart and soul into this place and I think I have a vision for what it could
be. So I became the first female CEO of the United Way for L.A. in 2005.
DeRay [00:56:14] There we go. Can you talk about some of the work that the United Way
does? I want to talk about some of the homelessness work that you do. But, yeah, what
else is going on?
Elise [00:56:24] This, United Way, we will celebrate our hundred year anniversary in 2022.
United Way is a global network. We have United Ways all across the globe now, which is
exciting. I’ve actually visited with the United Way of Korea and the United Way of Mumbai,
but it’s very locally based. But I would say our DNA in the past, as we, you probably know,
is for these thermometers. And we raise a lot of money and we give it out to a network of
nonprofits. And, you know, when I became CEO in 2005, we just realized we had to do
more, that the community needed us. We actually did a report called A Tale of Two Cities
that really showed the income inequality in this region. We’re home to a lot of wealthy
people, but half of our population is working poor below. And so we really we named a
new plan called Pathways Out of Poverty. Believe it or not, in 2007, us using the word
poverty was considered controversial. And I think the biggest shift for this United Way was
we realized if we were going to have an impact, we would have to move into policy and
advocacy, that we would have to take positions on things and really advocate for change
and advocate for different levels of investment. And so that was pretty controversial at the
time. United Ways, we’re always known for being neutral. And so, you know, we began to
really look at big issues and so are three areas we work on in the community are economic
mobility, education and housing. But I would say our deepest work is in homelessness and
we’ve been really hard core in that for the past decade because we are the homeless
capital of the nation, unfortunately.
DeRay [00:58:09] Can you give us some context about what you mean when you say that
homeless capital of the nation? What does that mean?
Elise [00:58:15] We do an annual homeless count and the count continues to go up. And
this year it homelessness went up almost 13 percent. So we have more than 66,000
people who are experiencing homelessness in L.A. County. And, you know, that’s just
DeRay [00:58:32] And can you how do you define homelessness? Is it. I’ve always been
curious, like, how do we define it? Is it people who have transitory housing and people who
have no housing? Is it people in between housing? Like, what is the when we say the
homelessness count, like what does that actually mean?
Elise [00:58:49] Yes, I mean, it’s a great question. It’s people who’ve experienced
homelessness during the course of the year. And so to your point, and in that number just
to give you to kind of break it down. What we see is about 75 percent of that population,
are people who are in and out of homelessness due to economic reasons and, you know, I
think we find most people are surprised when they hear that, but that’s really the state of
what working families are dealing with right now. They’re spending way too much of their
income on housing, and that’s gotten really worse in greater Los Angeles. But we’re seeing
it all across the country. We know that, you know, there’s a whole bunch of reasons
around that. And then we have 25 percent that are more of what you might think of as
people that are chronically homeless. Chronic is described as you’re homeless for a year
or more and you have some type of other condition. And so those are our most vulnerable
people on the streets. You know, many of them have mental health issues. They may be
using drug or alcohol to cope with that or to cope with trauma. They often have health
issues. So it breaks down about 75 percent economic, 25 percent chronic.
DeRay [01:00:03] There we go. And do we know anything about the racial demographics,
Elise [01:00:06] We do. And this clearly is a is a much bigger discussion. And I think in this
moment, it gives us an opportunity. We have this myth of personal responsibility and
choice, and we know that people don’t choose to be homeless. And as you break it down
by race, you know, it tells a different story. So in L.A. County, which is different than a lot
of regions. Eight percent of our countywide population is Black, but 34 percent of people
experiencing homelessness are Black and 50 per.
DeRay [01:00:41] Wow.
Elise [01:00:42] Fifty-six percent of families are Black.
Elise [01:00:45] You know, I would say in the past, people look at the demographics. They
may hear those stats, but I don’t think that we have taken the appropriate steps to deal
with it and to name it for what it is, which is more around structural racism. And I think
that’s the moment that this opportunity gives us. And you’re right. It is. Wow. It really
shows you the manifestation of how broken our systems are that we have such a
disproportionate representation of people on the streets.
DeRay [01:01:12] Wow. That is, that is so dis. So what can we do about it?
Elise [01:01:19] We have under invested in this issue for decades and we’re paying the
price. Our systems are not aligned. Our jails are now taking care of most of our mentally ill
folks in our communities. This conversation that we’re having in America right now about a
reprioritization of budgets that, you know, gets articulated through a defund the police
mantra. I mean, I absolutely think it is the right conversation we should be having because
we know what works. I mean, in L.A., I have to say so the United Way back in 2016, we
led to efforts with different community partners and electeds. We know that when we
house people and we give them services, they can thrive. They come in off the streets.
They turn their lives around. They get the treatment they need. We just don’t have the
funding to do it. And so in L.A. County, I’m really proud to say that we ran two measures,
one in the city of Los Angeles called Measure Triple H, which was a one point five billion
dollar bond that allowed us to build 10000 units of desperately needed housing and in the
county six months later, the voters passed Measure H, which is three point five billion
dollars for services. So people get this and voters get it. But I would say this to you. We
can’t just do it at the local level. You really have to have alignment of city, county, state
and feds. And I would say to you, the feds have really walked away from their investment
in housing and in helping people. They’ve decreased rental subsidies by half over the past
couple of decades. So this is the moment for all of us to really weigh and on while we want
to see are public dollars go and how we want to support people with housing and services
and not jails and incarceration. And I think that’s the conversation that is being had across
America right now that’s encouraging to me.
DeRay [01:03:24] Now, I’ve always wanted to know who’s against addressing the
DeRay [01:03:29] Is there like a lobby you’re up against? Like, what’s the is it or is it?
People say there’s no money. I don’t know, what barriers do you run into?
Elise [01:03:35] While we see elected officials who may care about this issue, people that
experience homelessness are not a big voting bloc. So this is an issue that always goes to
the bottom of the list. And so you really do need organizations to lift up that this has to be
an important issue. Even after we got the money to help fund this housing, we were
running up against neighborhood fights and we call it NIMBYs we call it. Not in my
backyard people. So people who are like, yeah, I want those folks off the streets and, you
know, I will even raise my taxes to help pay for housing. But I don’t want it in my
neighborhood. And we launched two years ago an effort called Everyone In where thanks
to the generosity of a donor. We have community organizers that are going out into
neighborhoods to really educate people that we actually want this housing in our
neighborhoods. It’s a good thing for us. And these are our neighbors and they deserve to
live in neighborhoods all throughout this county. You know, I did hear your podcasts where
you were talking about just the racism and mortgage property taxes. I think that we’re just
really starting to see that what that is code for of not wanting that type of housing in
neighborhoods. And you know that NIMBYism is more racism and that has to be called
out. And I would say there’s a lot of housing policy that has just gotten embedded over
time that really makes us being able to build housing in neighborhoods all throughout
America hard. There’s a lot of zoning laws across America that restrict the development of
apartments. You know, most people now are renters and live in apartments. Why would
we keep multi-family housing out? You know, this battle between single family housing and
multifamily housing? This whole intersection, I would say to you of housing policy, of
racism of over policing and incarceration. I mean, that perfect storm. It really shows up in
how people end up on the streets for a very long time.
DeRay [01:05:46] What do you do to the NIMBY conversation? Like how do you navigate
that, is there, you know I’m sure there are people listening who have been around people
who fall into that camp. How do you respond to that?
Elise [01:05:57] It’s tough because some of them are pretty sophisticated. I’m not going to
lie to you, especially in the more affluent liberal neighborhoods like where we’ve had some
of our hardest fights is Venice, California, which, you know, has always been a stalwart of
liberalism. And so when people are well-funded, they slap lawsuits on us, you know, so it it
is not for the faint of heart. But I would just I would say to you, I think there’s a lot of myths
and fear around people that experience homelessness and we try to break those down.
We do a series called Stories From the Front Line, and we bring people who are housed
now to tell their stories and they’re very powerful. You know, it’s people who’ve been on
the streets for decades and how they got housing, how it turned their lives around. And I
think when people hear those stories and meet those people, you know, what we want to
convey to them is, yes, I would like to have that person as my neighbor. So we just try to
scale that. And then I got to tell you, it is good old organizing and really fighting the NIMBY
forces because housing is done at the local level. And so we know there’s very well
organized homeowner associations and neighborhood groups. And so everyone and
campaign is really organizing people who are saying, yes, we want this housing in our
neighborhood. We find that people do want it, but they’re just not as organized as the
opposition. And so that’s what we’re striving to do right now in neighborhoods all
throughout L.A. County.
DeRay [01:07:32] Got it. That makes a lot of sense. I wanted to know, too. And you sort of
touched on this a little bit. What do we do about the rent crisis that’s happening or about
the mortgage crisis, like the fact that Covid people are not working as much as people still
have bills to pay. Do you anticipate we’re going to see an uptick in homelessness? What’s
going to be the cost of the housing crisis in a moment like this?
Elise [01:07:53] You know, every time the first of the month comes around, we’re just so
worried. I mean, you know, L.A. and the governor have done a decent job on putting a
moratorium on evictions and people are getting unemployment and that’s allowing them to
stay. But, you know, to your point, I do think we’re going to see levels of homelessness
rise in this pandemic. And with this housing crisis that we’re seeing and that is all across
America, that’s just not in Los Angeles. And I think what makes me nervous is we know the
feds could step in, but we just have a lot of concern that this administration will not do that.
We’ve got to really change how we think about housing and rental assistance and even
just the changing nature of where our policy goes. You know, there’s just too much federal
funding right now that’s on the wrong end of the spectrum. A lot of our tax incentives and
other things are really geared to homeowners. And that leaves behind a lot of people who
rent. And, you know, we know that right now, we’ve got three and four eligible low income
renter households, they don’t receive federal renters assistance. They’re eligible, but we
don’t have enough funding in that bucket. So, you know, unfortunately, I think to get to the
scale that we need, we’re going to have to see an investment by the feds. And we know it
works. Under the Obama administration, they really put a focus on veteran homelessness.
They put a lot of what we call housing vouchers for veterans on the streets. And we were
able to decrease veteran homelessness. So I think it’s a combination of our priorities at the
federal level of how we’re assisting it. The policies that we change and then what we can
do at the local level to change zoning that makes multi-family housing more accessible. In
L.A. County, we just did a report with McKinsey where half a million units short of
DeRay [01:10:04] Whoa.
Elise [01:10:05] I know big numbers. What we’ve seen in L.A. and across the nation is
we’re building at the high end, but we’re not building at the affordable end. And we have to.
And the only way you can do that is with government subsidy to make the numbers work.
DeRay [01:10:20] Got it. That’s rough. I know that the United Way in some ways was seen
as a charity before and not as mission driven. It doesn’t seem like that’s the case and that
that’s change. Is that true?
Elise [01:10:30] It is true. I mean, you know, the thing that’s great about the United Way is
we are all very local and autonomous. But you’re starting to see those changes happen
across the United Way network. It’s the right thing to do. I mean, if we’re going to truly
have impact in our communities, we have to be more of a social change organization.
DeRay [01:10:53] Got it. What are some of the other issues that the United Way of L.A. is
focusing on as it continues to do work in community?
Elise [01:10:58] We always look at our work through the lens of equity. Another big area
that we look at is education. We’ve looked at it for a very long time. L.A. Unified School
District has 600,000 kids, the majority of whom are on free or reduced lunch. And our
black and brown students. And so, you know, we really have to hold the districts
accountable to making sure that our students are getting a quality education. And I’ll tell
you, in the context of this pandemic and L.A. Unified just decided to go to all virtual
learning for the upcoming school year. We know a lot of our students are getting left
behind. And that manifests in two ways, it manifest in terms of how much access they
have to technology and Internet and computers. It shows up with crowded housing
environments that are not conducive to learning. Working parents that can’t help their kids
because they’re working. And then it also shows up in making sure that there’s a standard
of teaching time that’s happening with the students. And so, you know, when we went into
the pandemic, there was more of a focus on making sure that students had meals and
making sure they were safe. And those things are important but we want to make sure that
they are not slipping behind in terms of learning. So I definitely know that’s going to be a
big area of focus for us in this upcoming year.
DeRay [01:12:30] There we go. And you touched upon this a little bit, but how have you
seen the issue of homelessness addressed differently by the administration? Has it, has it
been a severe rollback under Trump or has it just been no action under Trump? Or is it is
he just like not really paid attention to it at all and we’re sort of thankful that he’s not paying
attention to it?
Elise [01:12:49] I think they just haven’t paid attention to it. But they are starting to put in
place some policies and rollback some things that are detrimental to moving forward. I
mean, you know, the biggest things that we need right now are more housing vouchers,
more Section eight assistance. Right now, federal rental assistance makes housing
affordable for almost 10 million people. Four million of those are children. And as we were
talking about, I mean, you absolutely have to have federal assistance to help make the
numbers work in terms of ensuring that people have access to housing. We get better
outcomes in our communities when people are housed. I do think that this administration
there’s a little bit of we blame the person. And what we experienced in L.A. County is that
our families are, they’re working, but they’re spending way too much, a high percentage of
their income on housing. And it’s not sustainable. And I personally believe we have to look
at housing as an entitlement and as a right. And I think we have to figure out how we can
help families do that. But that will be a substantial overhaul of policies and incentives and
investment that we need to make at the federal level to really augment what you’re starting
to see happen at the local and state level.
DeRay [01:14:12] Well, thanks so much for joining us on Pod Save the People, we can’t
wait to have you back.
Elise [01:14:15] Well, thank you, DeRay, for having me. And thanks for what you’re doing.
It’s really important getting the word out. So we, we’re just honored to be a part of your
DeRay [01:14:26] Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this
week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure that you rate it wherever you get your
podcasts, whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. And we’ll see you next week.