The Bedari Foundation, established by philanthropists Jennifer and Matthew C. Harris, has given $20 million to the UCLA College to establish the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute.

The institute, which is housed in the division of social sciences, will support world-class research on kindness, create opportunities to translate that research into real-world practices, and serve as a global platform to educate and communicate its findings. Among its principal goals are to empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies.

“In the midst of current world politics, violence and strife, the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute seeks to be an antidote,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the UCLA division of social sciences. “Rooted in serious academic work, the institute will partner and share its research on kindness broadly in accessible formats. The Bedari Foundation’s extraordinary gift is truly visionary and we are grateful for its support and leadership.”

“The mission of the Kindness Institute perfectly aligns with that of the division of social sciences, where engaging the amazing diversity and social challenges shaping Los Angeles routinely inspires research that has the potential to change the world,” Hunt said.

To read the full UCLA Newsroom press release, click HERE.

Earlier this year, in collaboration with Dr. Melissa Chinchilla, PhD, MCP, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) presented a critical look at the unique experience of Latino homelessness in Los Angeles County, the jurisdiction with the largest homeless population in the U.S. Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County, identifies the social, political, and policy challenges facing Latinos. This report draws on two-dozen interviews with a cross-sector cadre of housing stakeholders to dissect the systemic issues that contribute to Latino housing insecurity and identify evidence-based policy solutions to improve opportunity and mobility for Latino families.

LPPI’s report finds that service providers struggle to serve limited English proficient populations and the current racially charged political landscape further discourages those most in need. “The issues affecting Latino homelessness mirror the societal issues affecting all but also are distinct to Latinos,” says Marco Santana, director of engagement at L.A. Family Housing. “There is the barrier of being a proud Latino and wanting to figure it out on your own, and the few times they reach out to access these societal safety nets, they’re met with the barrier of our current government and the fear of deportation or potentially being discriminated against by law enforcement.”

Latinos make up 48 percent of Los Angeles County’s population and 35 percent of the homeless population. Research and literature around homelessness finds that Latinos are likely to be undercounted in homeless counts because they rely on social networks rather than homeless services, are more likely to live in unstable and overcrowded households, and when living on the streets will settle in remote areas that are hard for service workers to reach. “The Latino Homeless community is one of the most vulnerable populations in Los Angeles that is often in the shadows and has not been a priority for many years,” says Raquel Román, program director at the Guadalupe Homeless Project of Dolores Mission in Los Angeles.

“Holding true to its mission to inform and improve the economic, political, and social landscape for Latinos, UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative’s new report – Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness: Lessons from Los Angeles County – is sure to spark conversation, research, and coalition-building. In the face of a pressing affordable housing crisis and unprecedented federal hostility towards immigrants, this report provides a first look at an under-studied issue and offers targeted recommendations for future action and policy interventions in the field,” shares Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Leveraging the knowledge and experience of experts in the field, LPPI recommends both short and long-term policy solutions to address the unique cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic needs of housing insecure Latinos. “There has been increasing recognition in recent years that in working to prevent and end homelessness, we must address the systems that perpetuate racial inequity,” stated Bill Pitkin, director of Domestic Programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Pitkin adds, “This report provides an important contribution to those efforts by highlighting the particular causes of housing instability and homelessness among Latinos.”

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/housing

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

 

  • UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative study finds that Latino students pursuing a medical career in California must overcome significant barriers to successfully become physicians. The main barriers identified are: financial and opportunity cost, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation and citizenship.
  • Barriers to the medical profession further exasperate the Latino physician shortage in California. Policymakers, advocates and stakeholders must address the barriers encountered by Latinos in the medical profession to meet the health care needs of all residents.

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), in collaboration with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, recently released its fourth installation of policy reports addressing California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Authored by LPPI Faculty Research Expert Dr. Arturo Vargas-Bustamante and Lucía Félix Beltrán, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Prospective discusses the main barriers and sources of support identified by a sample of Latino pre-med students, medical school applicants, Latino medical students, and recently graduated Latino physicians.

This report finds that, “the medical profession is de facto not open to everyone.” Specifically, unequal backgrounds and opportunities, diverse career trajectories, and various barriers in the medical profession, such as underrepresentation of Latinos in the medical field or academic disadvantages, are creating major difficulties for Latino students seeking careers as physicians.

“This analysis by Bustamante and Beltran provides a critically needed and comprehensive examination of the pipeline from high school, through college, and into medical school faced by Latinx students.  Importantly, it examines the multiple causes of leaks from that pipeline using an innovative methodology incorporating the experiences of those students.  It is these leaks that impair California’s ability to generate the diverse physician workforce needed to care for the State’s increasingly diverse population.” says Dr. David Carlisle, President of Charles Drew University, a private, nonprofit University committed to cultivating diverse health professional leaders who are dedicated to social justice and health equity for underserved populations.

In 2015, Latinos became California’s plurality population with approximately 15.2 million Latinos residing in the state. By 2050, Latinos are estimated to represent 44.5% of the state’s population.[1] While the Latino population continues to grow, the supply of Latino physicians has not caught up.[2] The scarcity of Latino physicians in California has led to a deficit of 54,655 Latino physicians that are required to achieve parity with Non-Hispanic Whites.[3]

Pipeline programs and mentorship platforms partly address the barriers Latino students face to become physicians with support such as tutoring, mentorship, and exposure to the medical profession. However, these programs alone are unable to substantially change the low representation of Latinos in the medical profession.

Therefore, California must reduce the barriers faced by Latino physician hopefuls throughout the state. The report includes policy recommendations that directly address the barriers that unnecessarily complicate the navigation of medical education for Latinos. Policy recommendations outlined in the report include, increasing financial resources available to students who do not qualify for existing programs, such as those that require citizenship, or addressing academic disadvantages by coordinating and expanding pipeline programs that support students from middle school until medical school.

The need to address this deficit is increasingly pressing as the share of the Latino population increases in California, and as the demand for health care increases with population aging. Every year that California does not work to increase access of the medical education for Latino students, already inadequate access to high quality care worsens, ultimately impacting the overall healthcare outcomes of the state.

 

This research was made possible by a generous grant from AltaMed Health Services Corporation.

Read the full report at: latino.ucla.edu/health

About the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative:

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is a comprehensive think tank that addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing communities of color in states and localities across the U.S. LPPI fosters innovative research, leverages policy-relevant expertise, drives civic engagement, and nurtures a leadership pipeline to propel viable policy reforms that expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more at: latino.ucla.edu

___________________________________________________________________

[1] DOF. Projections. 2018; http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Projections/.

[2] Sanchez G., Nevarez T., Schink W., Hayes-Bautista D. E. Latino Physicians in the United States, 1980-2010: A Thirty-Year Overview From the Censuses. 2015(1938-808X (Electronic)).

[3] Hsu P, Balderas-Medina Anaya Y, Hayes-Bautista D. E. 5 Centuries to Reach Parity: An Analysis of How Long it Will Take to Address California’s Latino Physician Shortage. Los Angeles, CA: Latino Policy & Politic Initiative; October 2018 2018.

The demonstration against government and corruption in the The demonstration against government and corruption in the Esplanada dos Ministerios (Marcello Casal Jr / Agência Brasil) (http://www.coha.org/combatting-grand-corruption-in-brazil/)

By Sergio Guedes Reis, UCLA Master of Social Science ‘18

Citizens all over the world consistently rank corruption as one of the most important public issues of our time. For instance, global market research firm IPSOS polled 21 thousand people from 28 countries and found that 35 percent of respondents cited corruption as the most important problem facing the globe today. A close second was ‘unemployment,’ which was mentioned by 34 percent of respondents.

In Brazil, a large-scale criminal investigation initiated in 2014 has unveiled a multi-billion dollar money laundering and bribery scandal involving almost every political party, as well as some of the major engineering and contracting firms and state-controlled oil companies. The subsequent political crisis ultimately led not only to the ousting of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016, but also a severe decline in people’s trust of institutions.

Interestingly, while narratives about the seemingly endemic nature of corruption in Brazil are widespread, polls suggest that actual levels of corruption may be much lower than the average rates found in other Latin American countries. That said, it is very hard to measure corruption, as it inherently happens under the radar. Taking this issue into account, watchdog organizations and survey companies usually look to gauge citizens’ perceptions of ongoing rates of corruption in their countries, ask local experts for their views on that matter, or even interview contractors about their experiences negotiating with public officers.

So in what circumstances do people accept engagement in corrupt activities or believe that corruption is positive? And why do Brazilians believe that corruption is their #1 problem, when polls consistently show that only a small percentage of citizens claim that they have had to bribe a public official themselves?

Based on this paradox, I decided to investigate what factors influence the tolerance for corruption in Brazil. After all, if so many people think corruption is a big problem in Brazil and nonetheless only a few admit engaging in corrupt practices, then it becomes crucial to understand whether certain conditions provide more room for corruption to happen than others.

In order to do so, I used two of the most recent Latin American surveys on public opinion, the 2016 Latinobarometer and the 2017 Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) surveys.

Then, I defined 3 basic forms of tolerance for corruption:

1) When citizens say they accept “corrupt, but efficient governments”

2) When they state that “bribing is sometimes acceptable”

3) When they declare that they do not feel personally obliged to report a case of corruption

There are several interpretations to why corruption exists in a society. For example, authors argue that people who advocate for authoritarian values are more prone to accept corruption, because they believe that being compliant with democratic procedures does not solve one’s own problems and thus people must take illegal, yet efficient action to achieve their goals. Others propose that low levels of trust (in other people and in institutions in general) are positively related to corruption, as discrediting others leads subjects to adopt more self-interested behavior to get things done.

I opted to test variables associated with these and other possible explanations in order to comprehend the issue at stake.

The most important findings I had were:

  • Depending on the type of tolerance towards corruption, a different set of factors was more strongly associated with it. Variables associated with authoritarian values and socio-economic and demographic attributes (such as low development, high income and inequality) were more correlated with acceptance of corrupt (but efficient) governments, justification of bribery, and low levels of trust with avoidance of reporting cases of corruption.
  • Individuals who trusted in people in general, had confidence in certain institutions or were well informed about them (the Parliament, political parties, and even groups from civil society) were also more prone to accept corruption.
  • Citizens who stated they believed in typical markers of the status quo (such as claims about the fairness in the distribution of income, the impartiality of the Judiciary branch or the existence of equality of opportunity among Brazilians) were also more likely to accept corruption.

Survey-based research can usually only capture subjects’ opinions regarding a given topic, and not their actual practices. So, it is not possible to state that a moral agreement with corruption would imply acting corruptly in a real setting. Nonetheless, a pro-corrupt attitude may represent an open door for the occurrence of rule violations if the context allows. In the Brazilian case, the presence of structural factors (such as inequality and developmental levels) as predictors of tolerance towards corruption suggest this issue to have deep roots in the country’s social fabric. It also indicates that anticorruption solutions need to be connected to welfare and redistribution policies if they are to become more efficient and effective.

Future research considering other countries, cultures and contexts may disentangle other factors and particular mechanisms through which corruption becomes an acceptable enterprise. For Brazil, at least, it seems that fostering democratic values, political accountability, social equality and education would offer a way out of the large-scale turmoil it currently faces.

 

Sergio Guedes Reis is a Federal Auditor at the Brazilian Ministry of Transparency and a 2018 graduate of UCLA’s Master of Social Science (MaSS) program.

By Lara Drasin

Read Part 1 of this interview HERE.

Bryonn Bain is a UCLA professor jointly appointed in the African American Studies and World Arts and Cultures/Dance departments, as well as a prison activist, spoken word poet, hip-hop artist, actor and author. He is the founder and director of UCLA’s Prison Education Program, which was launched in 2016 to create innovative courses that enable UCLA faculty and students to learn from, and alongside, participants incarcerated at the California Institute for Women (CIW) and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall (BJN). 

Rosie Rios is the administrative director of UCLA’s Prison Education Program. 

LD:     Many of the concepts behind Theater of the Oppressed sound a lot like improv.

BB:     Absolutely. The culture of “yes, and” is really about being solution oriented [by saying] “here we are, how are we going to make this work?” Being flexible and able to adapt in the correctional facilities is an essential skill. You cannot survive if you can’t figure out a way to deal with constant change.

I taught courses at Rikers Island over a 10-year period. The city jail in LA has more people than any other city jail in the country – or the world – but Rikers Island is the largest penal colony. It’s 10 jails on one island and there were between 14 and 15 thousand people incarcerated there when I first started teaching classes. I developed relationships with a lot of the folks inside and over that time, enough trust built up that I was able to work with them to do poetry, theater, and film classes.

They actually let me film Lyrics From Lockdown there. It was the last December of the Obama administration. Rikers Island rarely lets anyone film there, but we had been planning the shoot for nine months, and two weeks before we were going in to film, we got a call from the White House. The Obama administration invited Academy Award winner Tim Robbins and my crew to go there and bring the production. We were like, “That’s great! That’s amazing!! When?”

And they said December 17. That was the day we’d been planning to go to Rikers Island. So we turned down President Obama and the White House to go perform at Rikers Island. Of course, we showed up at Rikers and it was raining cats and dogs. We had a 20-person film crew covering their equipment with garbage bags so that it didn’t get destroyed. And as we get to the wing where we were supposed to shoot, the correctional officers come out and tell us that they actually had a lockdown. They tear-gassed the wing where we were supposed to perform and weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go through with the shoot.

In that moment, you can imagine the kinds of things I’m thinking to myself. But what are you going to do? “Yes and,” right? So we figured out how to adapt to the situation to make it work. After seven hours, we were able to go in and do the show and bring a little bit of hope and, hopefully, a little bit of joy to our brothers who were there and could use some of that at that time.

“Some of those people behind bars are our most talented folks and brilliant minds. We cannot forget they locked up Mandela and Martin and Malcolm and Socrates.” — Professor Bain

LD:     How did the incarcerated students you were working with respond to being asked to write poetry?

BB:     It’s overwhelmingly positive. There is sometimes some initial hesitation, especially the younger you go, for a range of reasons. But two experiences crystallize what I find most valuable about those experiences.

One was the first time I taught in a juvenile facility that was not predominantly black and brown, which most of the facilities in New York and LA are. I was in the Clark County Detention Center in Ohio doing a residency with Wittenberg University. I asked if we could do something at the juvenile hall since it’s right down the street and they let me bring in professors and students.

On a Monday, I performed there and hosted a workshop for mostly 15-year-old white boys. I’d never had a class like that, but I did my thing. They got really into it, so I decided to go back on Wednesday and do a poetry slam. There was this one student – named James, who was sentenced to 98 days at the facility and was scheduled to be released that Tuesday.

LD:     He stayed for the slam?!

BB:     He requested a 99th day so he could be in the slam on Wednesday — and then he won! So he left the next day a champion of language; of education; of poetry. He had a new relationship to literacy and his own sense of agency with the wind at his back.

Another situation that stayed with me is when we launched the NYU Prison Education program, the first for-credit program at NYU in 2013. We created an application process for all of our courses so they are taken very seriously. We asked every student, “Why do you want to participate in higher education while you’re in prison?”

One young brother looked at me and said, “I need to pursue college in prison because prison is like Medusa. If you focus on it too much, it will turn you to stone. I need to focus my attention somewhere else.” And that just gave me chills. All I could say was, “Please take my class!” That stays with me.

I think people in prison are some of the easiest folks to forget about. Part of the Prison Education Program’s mission is to make sure we realize that we have folks who are valuable members of our families, our communities, our city and country who are incarcerated. And some of our greatest minds — our greatest geniuses — are incarcerated. Look at the statistics, and it’s not even just 1 in 10, but as much as 1 in 3 or 4 of the folks in our communities are incarcerated, depending on which demographic you consider.

Some of those people behind bars are our most talented folks and brilliant minds. We cannot forget they locked up Mandela and Martin and Malcolm and Socrates.

Many in prison simply could not stay on the conveyor belt and do what everybody else did. Some folks made mistakes they should be able to learn from by being introduced to more humane interaction with others than prisons make possible. Others rebelled in a certain way, or just didn’t fit into the mold or the system, or simply made bad choices.

We have countless folks locked up for the use or sale of substances state governments have either since legalized, or should decriminalize since the Center for Disease Control determined addiction is a disease. It should be treated as a public health and wellness issue — not a matter for criminal prosecution or punishment. You can’t lock away addiction and the economies it generates and expect them to disappear. Prisons are an ineffective solution to this problem as they are most others. They only make it worse.  There is a trillion-dollar, global pharmaceutical industry turning profits by engaging in the practice of medicating to treat trauma, illness, and addiction that we are locked up for every day in this country — and the U.S. is the number one importer of pharmaceutical drugs in the world.

Countless others still are wrongfully charged and awaiting trial for stretches of time so long they are undeniably cruel. And others, like my friend Nanon Williams in Texas, are convicted of a crime they did not commit. He was thrown on Death Row at 17 for a crime even a federal judge says he didn’t commit, and has been behind bars surviving in cages for over 26 years.

So I think about the work we do not as for charity, but for change and transformation. It’s for creating opportunities not just to teach folks who are incarcerated, but also to learn from folks who are incarcerated and ensure more voices are heard and involved in shaping the direction in which the nation and the world are moving. If we forget about these folks, we are losing out on the invaluable opportunity to actually participate in learning with and from them.

LD:     I know that you work in facilities for both men and women, as well as boys and girls. What are the similarities and differences have you found in introducing your curricula in both male- and female-serving facilities?

BB:     We should ask Rosie — she just came directly from teaching the girls inside today.

RR [Rosie Rios, UCLA’s Prison Education Program Administrative Director]:     At the juvenile hall, a lot of the girls are coming from very, very traumatic experiences. Today, we asked about their neighborhoods. We were talking about how our neighborhoods are at night. You hear the helicopters and hear gunshots and you’re coming from this place of almost war, right? War between neighborhoods, and you have to survive.

The girls even wrote a letter to UCLA professors and students who are going to come into the facility saying, “Please understand where we’re coming from. It’s like we never got a chance to be kids. We never had a chance to really live. The only thing we know is how to survive.”

And that applies to both boys and girls. But I think the girls just need a lot of care and more therapy. Their focus is also very different, because they’re thinking about back home. A lot of them are mothers at a young age. So a lot of them are figuring out who they are, but also thinking about how they’re going to care for their kids.

LD:     When did you know you wanted to focus on prison education? When did you get involved with the arts, and how did that factor into your decision to go to law school?

BB:     I was always a student activist and involved in organizing, but I actually went into a prison for the first time not as an activist, but as an artist. I was a teenager when I was invited to perform inside by a sister named Paula Medina (Black Paris Productions, Middletown, New York). My brothers, cousins and I had a crew — a hip-hop, spoken word poetry crew. We sang blues songs and performed all over New York. Paula was the head sister in charge who helped young artists to get a platform — and we wanted a platform. She said to us, “If you come perform in the prison with me for the holiday show, then I’ll put you on!”

We didn’t want to act nervous, but in 1989, we were like, “Are we going to be okay?” We had all the assumptions of everybody who’s been fed misconceptions of what’s in prisons through television and movies. But the experience was so amazing for us — it was transformative. We performed; we sang; we rapped; I spit poetry; we banged on the tables. Then we broke bread, and the brothers in there looked like our uncles, cousins and fathers. They were us. And once we saw that they were us, it changed how we understood and thought about the experience of incarceration.

We went back every year for the next decade or so and performed during the holidays. The brothers inside were so grateful that we didn’t forget about them. A decade later in 1999, I had my own experience of being behind bars. And when it was NOT on a voluntary basis, I felt very differently about the situation. It makes a big difference when you have the privilege of going in and leaving at the end of the day.

So the shift in bringing activism into the prison space happened when I had my own experience with the NYPD and was locked up for a brief amount of time, but in several correctional facilities in New York City. My days inside can’t compare to decades of trauma experienced behind bars — or the 44 years in solitary one of our elders from the Angola 3 survived, but it was enough to change my relationship to prisons forever.

I finished law school and suddenly had a different kind of access to these institutions because I had this very elite, very privileged education. And so my thinking was, “How can I be of service to the movement we need to end this prison crisis? How can I leverage my skills and talents, the media, and my access to educational institutions to be an agent of change? To share resources up on the hills that universities gather them on to folks who have been denied access, but would do so much good with them? How can I bring together those in these vastly different spaces who have so much to learn from each other? I felt that would transform not only the lives of incarcerated people, but also the lives of folks in the university space, and the communities most of us ultimately return to after our experiences in either (or in my case, both). Building bridges between these spaces of extreme privilege and extreme marginalization I have been thrown into is a direct result of my life experiences.

But I also had a professor, Kellis Parker, who came and got folks out of jail when we were politically active in college. He was a law professor, and as an undergrad, I would sneak into his lectures. After graduating top of his class at Howard Law, he was the first black law professor at an Ivy League school. Tenured at 26, Dr. Parker — or “Doc” as we called him — taught classes at Columbia Law School with his trombone, using jazz principles, and it blew my mind. He taught law using slave narratives to talk about how when the American legal system did not protect the rights of enslaved Africans, the Indigenous, or immigrant communities of people of color, we had to find ways to create a sense of right and wrong for ourselves. Black folks actually used our stories and storytelling as a powerful tool to understand how should we treat each other.

The infamously dehumanizing Dred Scott case told us that you cannot go into court and expect your rights to be respected over any white person’s rights. So it was powerful for law students to get exposed to that. It was life changing for me to get exposed to that and his whole thinking about jazz as a metaphor for democracy and every voice being heard. At the same time, he helped me understand that improvisation is not just chaos. It’s not “anything goes.” It’s learning how to adapt to an ever-changing environment and develop that muscle.

I think this is a core piece of education that is missing in so many spaces today. We do not know what jobs, what world we’re preparing students for 10 years from now — even five years from now. The world is changing way too fast. You used to make a five-year plan and follow through. Now you have to change your five-year plan from week to week. Well, we do know that whatever the challenges are that we’re preparing students for down the road. They’re going to need creativity. They’re going to need adaptability. They’re going to need those improv muscles to be in shape.

LD:     Right. In order to create change, we have to first be able to imagine it. And we can’t do that without encouraging everyone to be creative.

BB:     We all have to find the artist within. Rosie and I just spent time in two prisons in the UK with two other UCLA students and several from Cal Poly Pomona. We spent days in workshops and building with staff, educators, and men incarcerated in the Brixton prison and the Whitemoor prison, where Cambridge University and the University of London just began offering courses. We are working to develop relationships with them like the ongoing exchange we have with the Center for the Theater of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

One of the English educators who we brought here last year is Ken Robinson. He came here as part of Professor Pedro Noguera’s conference on transforming schools. Robinson tells this revealing story about a young girl in England who was punished because she was misbehaving. She was seen as “badly behaved,” so the teacher said, “Get out of my class!” and told her mother to take her to a doctor to get her checked out for a mental disorder of some kind.  So her mother took her to a doctor who spoke with her for a while and then at a certain point said, “I’m going to sit outside and speak with your mother. We’ll be right back.” As he walks out of the room, he turns the radio on and as soon as the mother and the doctor walk out, the little girl stands up and starts dancing and moving to the music. She’s in the zone. The doctor peeks through the blinds, sees her, and shows her mother.

When they go back in the room, of course the little girl sits down because she’s like, “I got to be still now; there are adults in the room.” The doctor says to the mother, “Your daughter is not sick. She’s a dancer. She doesn’t need a hospital. She needs a dance school! Take her to this dance school and come back in a couple of weeks.” So they go to the dance school and a couple of weeks pass. They come back and the doctor says, “So how was it?” The girl says, “It was the most amazing place! It was filled with people just like me. People who had to move to think.

The little girl grew up and later became part of the Royal Ballet. She had a brilliant career as a dancer and then left to be one of the leading choreographers on Broadway for blockbuster hit shows like Cats. Had this little girl never been introduced to a doctor who could see her untapped potential — who believed in her capacity for genius — possibilities in her to do something beyond just “be a problem” (which is how she was written off initially) — she might have been seen as having ADHD. She might have been injected with psychotropic drugs, or given Ritalin, or otherwise misdiagnosed, just as I was when they didn’t believe that I could actually be who I said I was when I was unjustly arrested.

She went on to make millions of dollars, bring joy to millions of people’s lives, and by all measures, had a very successful career as an artist. And it was because of somebody who was not an artist, but still saw the value of her creativity and the value of imagining possibilities beyond those that had been imagined previously as within reach. I think that’s the role of artists: the artists in each of us, and of the arts in the social sciences and law. My mentor’s mentor, Paul Robeson, said “Artists are the gatekeepers of Truth.” I believe challenging folks to use imagination — to see a world that’s better than the one that we’re living in, one in which we find the common humanity in all of us, that is the greater vision of the work we do.

LD:     How do you decide to focus on systemic change versus focusing on maybe just making someone’s day better? Do you even decide, or do you focus on both?

RR:     It goes hand in hand, right? You can’t just choose one over the other. But even our going into a class once a week or once a day is going to turn into a long-term change. We never know which of these (incarcerated) girls are future senators. She will be making systemic change. I think there’s no one right place to start. Just start somewhere. It’s hard to see it, but especially with such personal work, eventually you will see the change.

That’s what keeps me going, too.  I see it and I have so much hope for these girls. Knowing that they’re not going to be in there for the rest of their lives. They’re going to be changemakers. They already are.

###

This interview has been edited for clarity.

On October 11-12, 2018, the California Center for Population Research (CCPR) commemorated its 20th anniversary. Its first session on Thursday engaged population research in Los Angeles on families and neighborhoods, schools, eviction and homelessness, and social policy. The Friday research symposium showcased an accomplished and collaborative group of CCPR alumni from around the nation. This event highlighted the exceptional research of faculty and former students within the Division of Social Sciences at UCLA. For more information about the event, check out the CCPR Research Symposium_Final Schedule.

The California Center for Population Research (CCPR) was established in 1998 and has since, been a leading research center for research and training in demography. CCPR is comprised of over 90 active faculty researchers from an array of academic disciplines, such as epidemiology, public policy, economics, sociology, and public welfare. CCPR researchers span several schools, including the College of Letters and Sciences, the Division of Social Sciences, the School of Public Health, the School of Medicine, and the School of Public Affairs, as well as academic departments within UCLA.

 

Dr. Karen Umemoto is a professor in the Department of Asian American Studies and the Luskin School.  She is also a UCLA alum, who has some big plans as the new Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.  We recently met up with Dr. Umemoto to learn about her experiences growing up in LA and how that has shaped her work to affect change in her home city.

LASS:     Thank you for joining us today. Please tell us about yourself.

KU:         I’m a third-generation, Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. I’m a proud Bruin, having started my college education here at UCLA and then returning for my master’s degree in Asian American Studies, and then returning now, after 22 years of teaching at the University of Hawaii. I’m happy to be back.

LASS:     I know you did some really important and impactful community-based research work while you were there. Can you talk about that and how you’re bringing that work to UCLA?

KU:         Yes, I have a strong interest in community-based development and I worked primarily with Native Hawaiian communities over the past 22 years while in Hawaii. I was heavily involved in building community-university partnerships, some lasting the entire two decades. I gained a lot of lessons there, about how people at the university can engage with communities in a way that is empowering for them, that is mutually beneficial in terms of a co-learning process, and that leaves a long-lasting, positive impact in communities. I’d like to apply that through my position as a faculty member, as an instructor, and as the Director, here at UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

LASS:     What plans do you envision for the UCLA Asian American Studies Center?

KU:         As the new Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the Asian American Studies Center, I’m working with our staff and faculty to launch a couple initiatives in the spirit of being relevant to the world and to our communities. One is a digital media initiative. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and we’ve collected a lot of primary source materials over the course of the last 50 years since we were established. I see our role as helping to push that out to the public over the next 50 years. We’ll continue the research and collection of historically important collections, but I really see the need to utilize the latest technologies and digital media to make this knowledge in Asian American and Ethnic Studies more accessible to the public and to the world.

The second initiative is focused on public policy. Though there is important work on Asian American and Pacific Islander policy issues being done at many universities, I’d like to see UCLA play a role in collaborating with others to further policy relevant research on Asian American and Pacific Islander populations. We have the critical mass of applied researchers here at UCLA. We have good models for policy centers that we can learn from. And, we have the strong infrastructure of UCLA and its standing in the public to be able to mobilize research efforts to make an impact on issues affecting our communities both in the realm of national public discourse and in local policymaking.

LASS:     What about your own personal research interests?

KU:         I’m working on several book projects, one based on the juvenile justice research and reform work I did in Hawaii and another on the history of urban renewal in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.  I’m also very interested in race relations in Los Angeles, which I’ve done research on in the past.

To me, community development issues and race relations are very interconnected. I grew up in Gardena in the 1970s, which was named the most diverse community in the country at that time. And the 1970s was one of the most prosperous times in Southern California. Race relations was relatively positive compared to other places and other periods. So I grew up in somewhat of a bubble, thinking that race relations with as good everywhere else. And when I left Gardena, I realized that it wasn’t.

Fast forward to graduate school when there was growing controversy over the concentration of liquor stores in South LA, many of which were Korean owned. And there was the horrific incident in which Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by a Korean American grocer, which was a precursor to the civil unrest in 1992. I remember sitting in my dorm room when the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating were acquitted. And I watched my community and my city go up in flames.  I had already been planning to study racial conflict at that time, but this sealed it.

So, when I returned to Los Angeles to do my dissertation work, I was really committed to understand racial conflict—how it escalates and how we could better handle it. But I was looking for a way to study day-to-day racial conflict, not necessarily explosive incidents, because it’s the day-to-day conflicts that then build up to these explosive moments. The most violent form of everyday racial conflict at that time was interracial gang violence, so I ended up studying a gang war between the Culver City Boys and the Shoreline Crips. I did a three-year ethnographic study of the gang war, which resulted in a book called The Truce: Lessons from an LA Gang War.

I think that many of the lessons from that gang war and from police and community responses to it are still very relevant today. I think we see a lot of problems today that stem from that same phenomenon where people are not able to see the world from other people’s point of view and work more collaboratively to address controversies that lead to racial tensions.

“I’m reminded of the period of history where my parents were incarcerated in US concentration camps during World War II. I think about all of the things that lead up to their incarceration and you see many of the same things happening today—the untethering of discourse from material realities, the demonization of different people from the top echelons of government.” – Dr. Umemoto

LASS:     So what types of challenges do you see out there and how do you hope to address it?

KU:         I think there are three major challenges many others here at UCLA, and I, are concerned about. One is the growing wealth gap and economic inequality of opportunities, between the haves and have not’s.

The second is the lack of better opportunities through which individuals and communities can engage in the civic decision making processes in ways that build capacity and lead to greater social justice.

And third, I think because of the tenor of national politics and national political discourse, we have a problem of people at the very top levels of government playing up racial divisions and implementing policies that target people of color and demean people of color and instill fear in communities of color.

I’m reminded of the period of history where my parents were incarcerated in US concentration camps during World War II. I think about all of the things that lead up to their incarceration and you see many of the same things happening today—the untethering of discourse from material realities, the demonization of different people from the top echelons of government. It’s the demonization of entire groups of people by those in the top levels of government, and the fanning of fear amongst the majority population about these groups, tapping the economic precarity that people feel, that leads to tragic consequences for the most vulnerable.

LASS:     So with all that in mind, what’s the impact, through your own work and through the Center, that you’re hoping to make?

KU:         I think one way that we can contribute to addressing these problems is to push out Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies—disseminating knowledge and educating students and the broader public about Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other historically marginalized communities. If we can nurture greater empathy, greater understanding, and greater respect towards all populations across society, then and only then is civic democracy and greater societal justice possible.

LASS:     With that in mind, any parting words?

KU:         Just that this is the only job I would have moved back home for. UCLA is the only university that I would have been interested in. I’m a strong believer in public education. I’m a product of the LA Unified School District. I’m a product of the California State University system and the University of California system. I think we play such a critical role in educating the next generation of thought leaders, changemakers, and citizens of the world who can make a positive impact. I think this is the right place to be at this time.

LASS:     That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your work and experiences with us.

 

Dr. Karen Umemoto was interviewed by Mike Nguyen, an assistant editor and contributor to LA Social Science.

Credit: Getty Images via Inc.com

By Sarah Gavish, UCLA Master of Social Science ‘18

In an era where adult Americans consume 12+ hours of media per day, the relationship between media and public perception has never been more complex – or fascinating.  Does media actually have potential to shape our perceptions?  If it does, how, and why?  Some studies claim that the news media is responsible for stoking our greatest fears.  I interrogated this claim, as well as existing literature and research methodologies, with the following questions:

  1. To what extent do Americans consume news media that caters to their fears?
  2. What are the factors that may influence this relationship?

My investigation began by looking at the top 10 fears in America as reported by Chapman University’s Survey of American Fears in 2017, a random sample of the fears and anxieties of the US population.  The ranking top 10 are listed below listed below:

  1. Corrupted government officials
  2. American Healthcare act/Trumpcare
  3. Pollution of Oceans, Rivers and Lakes
  4. Pollution of Drinking Water
  5. Not having enough money for the future
  6. High Medical Bills
  7. The US will be involved in another World War
  8. Global Warming & Climate Change
  9. North Korea using weapons
  10. Air Pollution

I examined the relationship between these fears and news consumption habits, considering individual consumption of three of the top news networks in the United States: MSNBC, Fox News and CNN.  Immediately I found that higher levels of fear of the Survey’s top 10 were associated with higher consumption of MSNBC and CNN, while lower levels of fear of these topics were associated with higher consumption of Fox News. To me, this very interesting finding begged further investigation.

Let’s consider timing: The 2017 Survey of American Fears was deployed and compiled in June of 2017, within six months of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, conservatives and Republicans watch more Fox News, while liberals and Democrats watch more MSNBC and CNN.  With that in mind, the study yielded two additional relevant findings: conservatives and Republicans (who watch more Fox News) say that they have little to no fear of the top 10 issues.  Liberals and Democrats on the other hand – who watch more MSNBC and CNN –  say they are afraid or very afraid of all of these things.

What we can determine, then, is this simple idea: both the news media and our fears are not only politicized, they’re partisan. 

It is important to note that conservatives and Republicans are not necessarily without fears altogether, is it simply that the top 10 fears in America in 2017 more closely mirror those of liberals and Democrats..  Further research might dive more deeply into the Survey’s sampling methods, or the sample population’s characteristics to understand if there were other socioeconomic or influencing factors pointing to specific fears, beyond political leanings.

I would hypothesize that there is an entirely separate set of politicized fears held by conservatives that are in turn stoked by the programming they regularly watch – namely, FOX News.

The screaming presence of division across party lines in our media and our fears is no coincidence, especially if you consider the content put out by these networks. Using keywords from the daily News Minute put out by the Associated Press and UCLA’s NewsScape database, I found that CNN, which bears a significant audience overlap with MSNBC, showed the most coverage of the top 10 fear topics. Fox News showed far less and, in some cases, the least.

I consider the results of my research a sincere call to action for conscious news consumption.  The “fact” of the matter is, if you watch, read, or listen to the same news sources all the time, it is very likely that you’re operating in a political echochamber of your own thoughts and fears.  It is important as individuals and as a society to recognize that our fears can be shaped by the news we consume, and that the news we consume is often airing topical programming that caters directly to our fears.

 

Sarah Gavish is a social scientist interested in solving humanity’s problems through conversation, collaboration, and an eventual upheaval of unquestionably flawed cultural institutions.  She also likes to meditate, cook, argue, and read books.  Sarah is not on social media and is happy to explain why (you shouldn’t be either) if you email her.

 

 

Credit: Caitlin McKown/UW Applied Population Laboratory, https://www.wiscontext.org/changing-faces-wisconsins-foreign-born-residents

Comparative historical sociologists, Professors Dylan Riley and Patricia Ahmed (UCLA alumni) and Professor Rebecca Jean Emigh (UCLA faculty) highlight the pitfalls of Trump administration’s current immigration and census policies, using historical referents. The Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, has pushed to include a citizenship question into the 2020 census. Opponents suggest that this will depress the count in regions with a lot of immigrants, thereby depriving those areas of federal funding. Proponents suggest that this will correctly count only citizens in the apportionment process. However, the census was never designed to count only citizens, as they show in their recent two volume work, How Societies and States Count. See the article on the citizenship question HERE.

 

Dylan Riley is Professor of Sociology at University of California, Berkeley. His work uses comparative and historical methods to challenge a set of key conceptual oppositions in classical sociological theory: authoritarianism and democracy, revolution and counter-revolution, and state and society.

Rebecca Jean Emigh is Professor of Sociology at University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on how cultural, economic, and demographic factors intersect to create long-term processes of social change.

Patricia Ahmed is Professor of Sociology at South Dakota State University. She specializes in structural adjustments and censuses.

Co-authors: From left to right, Professors Riley, Emigh, and Ahmed

By George Chacon

Dream Resource Center Project Manager, UCLA Labor Center

When people are allowed to tell their own stories, they can provide insight into and connection with groups of people we may not ordinarily interact with. But when other people tell those stories, they can be used to paint a negative and unfair picture. No one has done this more, and with more disregard for facts and hatred toward the immigrant community, than Donald Trump. Not a week goes by where he does not say something inflammatory about immigrants, and his supporters echo those stories. Thankfully, working for the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center (DRC) has provided me with opportunities to hear positive stories and experiences from my coworkers and community partners. Some of these stories are featured in the DRC’s Undocumented Stories exhibit, hosted by the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach.

MOLAA will be showcasing Undocumented Stories, a multimedia exhibit that lifts up the personal stories and experiences of immigrant youth, from August 4 to September 9. Undocumented Stories was curated by UCLA students, staff from the UCLA Labor Center and the DRC, and SolArt Media & Design. It includes personal stories, video, and photographs of unaccompanied minors and undocumented youth who built a movement to change US policies on access to higher education, immigration, and deportation. The exhibit aims to humanize the undocumented immigrant experience, empower the immigrant community, and incite critical conversations about the future of US immigration law and policy. Undocumented Stories has traveled to various locations around the country, including Washington, DC, and Boston through a partnership with the National Education Association.

The exhibit features the stories of people like Set Rongkilyo, who does communications for the ICE Out of LA coalition. Set and his family migrated to the United States with the hope of naturalizing their status through an employer. Unfortunately, Set’s family could not fulfill the extensive requirements, became undocumented, and were eventually separated. Set’s father had to return to the Philippines to care for his sick mother and will have great difficulty ever returning to the United States because of his undocumented status.

Then there’s Diego Sepulveda, currently the director of the DRC. I met Diego in 2009 when I was an undergraduate student at UCLA, and I remember how fearless and persistent he was as an undocumented student. The exhibit chronicles his experience as a transfer student attending UCLA and his advocacy efforts in LGBTQ and environmental issues.

My experience working at the DRC and with MOLAA has strengthened my commitment to the movement to ensure that all immigrants are treated with respect and humanity. By uplifting the stories and leadership of immigrants in these unfortunate times, the Undocumented Stories exhibit functions as a necessary and vital counter to the falsehoods coming out of the White House.

 

George Chacon is the Immigrant Justice Project Manager at the Dream Resource Center, where he guides immigrant leaders in developing rapid response networks for immigrant communities as they face increased threats of detention and deportation. He graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a BA in international development studies and a minor in education studies. He is an LA native and has worked on issues such as workforce development, health and wellness, and college readiness.