Progress and Equity: It Takes a Village During a panel discussion on policymaking in the Trump era, local leaders advocate for targeted community action rather than relying solely on mass protests  

By Aaron Julian

Determination and the call to purposeful action were primary themes at UCLA Luskin during “Equitable Policymaking Under a Trump Administration,” which featured local leaders whose work presses for the rights of minority and underrepresented groups in the greater Los Angeles community and beyond.

“The work we are doing now is more important than ever before. If there is a bright light [of the Trump election], it is that a lot of people have been mobilized to do something,” said panelist Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation.

Furthering Ali’s point, Romel Pascual, executive director of CicLAvia, shared the message imparted to his staff the day after the election of President Trump. “Our work is so much more important than ever before. Because what we do is we bring people together,” he said.

Sonja Diaz MPP ’10, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was the moderator of the May 11, 2017, event and discussion. The Equitable Policy Symposium was hosted by Policy Professionals for Diversity and Equity, co-chaired by Emma K. Watson and Jessica Noel, second-year students in the Master of Public Policy program.

Diaz directed the conversation with questions about how to ensure that the rights of minority communities are protected and how each panelist’s work has changed in the wake of the presidential election. A sense of community, paired with organized mass mobilization, was the panelists’ unanimous response.

Funmilola Fagbamila, activist-in-residence for the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin and arts and culture director for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, pressed that the work of an activist has not changed, instead it has become more amplified. Fagbamila also noted that the same protesting and organizational techniques employed by Black Lives Matter were being used nationwide in resistance to the election’s outcome.

“Be willing to have conversations with folks in your own communities who don’t get it,” emphasized Fagbamila. “We need numbers, and in order to get numbers … we have to be willing to be in communication with each other.”

Immigration reform was a pillar of Trump’s presidential campaign, and Los Angeles has been a battleground site in the wake of executive actions by the president.

Jordan Cunnings of the Public Counsel’s Immigrant’s Rights Project discusses the communal effort and work of countless activists since the election. Photo by Les Dunseith

Jordan Cunnings, an Equal Justice Works fellow for the Public Counsel’s Immigrant’s Rights Project, gave her perspective on the local reaction, including spontaneous protests. “Everyone came… It was very powerful to see everyone coalesce,” Cunnings said about protests at LAX that followed the first of the Trump administration’s immigration bans. The communal effort and work of countless activists has made a difference, she said.

The LGBTQ community has also been impacted, said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. She has led the Los Angeles LGBT Center through an era of “unprecedented growth,” which has significantly increased the center’s ability to serve the Los Angeles community.

Jean noted an evolving strategy since the election. “Marching is great, gathering is great… but that is not enough,” she said. While resisting legislation and initiatives proposed by the Trump administration, the center has also been active in allying with groups such as labor to push for positive change.

Panelists said positive change can have different meanings, ranging from effective reform to making communities safer to spreading awareness of socioeconomic disparities between ethnic and social groups in areas such as imprisonment and poverty.

“Resources should go into places that influence people into coming together and not just straight to putting a cop on the street,” Pascual insisted. More policing does not necessarily build community or safety, he said.

Torie Osborn, principal deputy for policy and strategy for Supervisor Sheila Kuehl of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, noted that the Affordable Care Act had added coverage for the mentally ill and people with drug addictions. A repeal of the ACA, and the aid that came with it, would negatively impact many people with the greatest need, she said, including the homeless and those recently released from prisons.

“We have got to look at the unlikely allies who we do not think will be under our tent,” Pascual said about the need to be resourceful. “The takeaway I have gotten from my experiences is to build a big tent.”

During a Q&A that followed the panel discussion, topics included weighing the relationship between safer communities and gentrification, and the current state of the two-party political system in the United States.

The Lost Shtetl In a new book, Professor Emeritus Jack Rothman chronicles his journey to find the forgotten village in Ukraine where his family had lived for generations

By Zev Hurwitz

With the advent of the internet and Google Maps, searching for virtually any town in the world is just a few clicks away. But for Luskin School of Public Affairs Professor Emeritus Jack Rothman, planning a visit to his father’s birthplace, Butsnevits, was a little more challenging. The biggest issue: No map seems to acknowledge the existence of such a place.

In a new self-published book, “Searching for Butsnevits: A Shtetl Tale,” Rothman sets off to find the titular shtetl, a word for a small Jewish village, of which his father would speak fondly about.

After writing some 25 other books with more traditionally academic prose, Rothman’s latest publication takes on a much more personal feel. Described in the introduction as “part autobiography, part social history, and part detective story,” Rothman pieces together clues to the shtetl life of his family in early 20th century Ukraine.

He describes the book as an encounter with the past, with the history of his family and the region, and what has happened since to the people and the place. No Jews are left in the village anymore. They were decimated by the Nazi destruction machine during WW II. Women work the fields now, and men do maintenance and repairs. Most youth leave for work in the cities. And the old Jewish cemetery has no defining walls left and almost all the stones are gone.

“I wanted to tell the story of my trip and what I experienced, and have the reader accompany me on the journey,” Rothman said. “I wanted the reader to learn what I learned when I learned it.”

His interest piqued growing up with a family that referred to Butsnevits as “der haim” (“the home”). As a researcher at UCLA, Rothman plowed through the records at the UCLA Jewish Library and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, neither providing any hint to the location of Butsnevits.

The book tells how Rothman, in 1995, tacks on a side trip to Ukraine while in Europe for a speaking engagement in Poland. After changing planes in the bustling airport of Frankfurt, Rothman finds himself further and further removed from modern luxury as he teams up with a local tour guide and driver and sets off to Letichev, which a family member had told him was in the general vicinity of Butsnevits. The rural journey continues only through clues such as a beautiful nearby lake and an old mill, and interviews with locals. Rothman writes about staying in Kiev in a hotel with “cardboard simulations of towels” and navigating towns without running water.

In addition to recounting the journey through rural Ukraine, Rothman also sets the journey and the shtetl in question in the context of the Russian Revolution. As made famous by the film “Fiddler on the Roof,” Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe were threatened by attacks called pogroms from anti-Jewish nationals.

Rothman says he typically tries to avoid focus on the tragic nature of large parts of Jewish history.

“I didn’t start off with a strong intention to deal with anti-Semitism,” Rothman said. “The thing I didn’t like about my Jewish education was dwelling on all of the tragedies that took place. I sort of longed for a Jewish history that was a little brighter.”

In writing “Searching for Butsnevits,” Rothman found it impossible not to contextualize the shtetl’s history and decline without taking into account the history of Eastern Europe. There were the Khmelnytsky massacres of 1648, the Czar Alexander III repressive May Laws of 1882, and the Nazi invasion starting in 1939. The chaotic civil war in the region following the Russian Revolution was also an important element of the oppression of Jews.

“The anti-Semitism hit me in the face,” he said of learning the backstory for Butsnevits. “I had to give it a good deal of play.”

Rothman said that he didn’t face any sort of anti-Semitic interactions during his trip and noted that every interaction with locals — save for a xenophobic innkeeper — was very pleasant. The people in the village were honored to have a visitor from America, whose family had lived among them, and gave him the utmost courtesy, he said.

In the second part of the book, Rothman includes a harrowing firsthand depiction of a violent pogrom attack on the shtetl as witnessed by his older cousin, Sally, who lived in Butsnevits as a child. Rothman had relied heavily on Sally’s description of the shtetl prior to his trip in 1995 and included her firsthand account, recorded in 1973, of an attack on the village and her family’s home.

“I thought of Sally’s narrative as simply being documentation of what many, many people experienced. This is an on-the-ground story of the antipathy and violence experienced by Jews and how it caused this family to pick up and leave this place that they had been in for generations.”

Sally, who was 8 when she and her family fled Butsnevits for the United States, was Rothman’s sole source of information about Butsnevits when he was planning his Ukraine trip. Rothman says that his search for the shtetl and learning about shtetl life has given him new admiration for the family that pioneered life in the United States.

“When they came to the United States, they were what people called ‘greenhorns,’” he said. “They spoke only Yiddish and had no education. It was painful for them to learn how to navigate institutions like hospitals and schools.

“They came from a tiny and isolated rural village and crossed a wide ocean into the frenzy and complexity of tumultuous New York City. I don’t know how they did it — surviving and raising families that even the Rotary Club would admire,” Rothman said. “After visiting the postage-stamp-sized Butnevits, in my mind, they skyrocketed from ‘greenhorn’ immigrants to heroes.”

Rothman is a former social welfare professor at UCLA Luskin, where he focused his research on community organizing for social change. (“I was a community organizer before President Obama,” he said with a laugh.) He previously taught at the University of Michigan and has held emeritus status at UCLA since retiring shortly after his visit to Ukraine.

“Searching for Butsnevits: A Shtetl Tale” is available for purchase from Amazon.

Memories — and Lessons — from 1992 UCLA Luskin participates in weekend of remembrance 25 years after the Los Angeles riots, examining how the civil unrest changed the city, its institutions and some of the people it impacted most  

By Les Dunseith

Today, Los Angeles is celebrated as an inclusive city known for tolerance, diversity and a welcoming attitude to immigrants from around the globe. Just 25 years ago, however, it was a city seemingly afire with racial distrust, anger and violence.

Things have changed so much for the better since the L.A. riots. Haven’t they?

That question was the focus of a weekend filled with reflection, debate, education and artistic interpretation as the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs joined with several partners to sponsor a series of special events marking the April 29, 1992, anniversary of the start of civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four white LAPD officers in the videotaped beating of a black man, Rodney King. On that day and for five days to follow, looting, arson and violence led to dozens of deaths and $1 billion in damage in and around South Los Angeles.

The memories of those days vary starkly depending on an individual’s perspective and background, a fact that was highlighted by Dean Gary Segura during his opening remarks at one of the panel discussions co-sponsored by UCLA Luskin as part of Flash Point 2017, which was held on the UCLA campus and in Little Tokyo on April 28-30.

“L.A. uprisings. L.A. civil unrest. L.A. riots. L.A. rebellion. Indeed our very language captures the idea that the perspective that different communities have on the event, and what they understood about its causes and consequences, really depended on where you sat at the moment at which it occurred,” Segura said.

One of those unique perspectives is that of the Asian community, particularly people of Korean descent. Korean immigrants and Korean Americans who could only afford to set up shop in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles owned many businesses in low-income areas that were predominantly black at the time.

“When you look at one specific story out of 1992, the story of Korean Americans is that they are a dynamic community that was undergoing really dramatic demographic and political transformation,” said Taeku Lee, professor of law and political science at UC Berkeley. He was keynote speaker for a session that took place at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center on the opening day of the anniversary series, which was coordinated by the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

In 1992, cultural and language barriers, plus racial mistrust in some cases, had led to simmering resentment among some African Americans toward Koreans. In the riots, resentment turned to rage, and looters and arsonists disproportionately targeted Korean businesses. Today, Lee pointed out, the Korean words for April 29, Sa-I-Gu, hold great cultural and historical significance to all people of Korean descent.

The Korean perspective of the 1992 unrest was also important to Saturday’s events, held in conjunction with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.

Segura noted that the enterprise represented an expansion of an ongoing speaker program known as the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture series to also include other types of programming on topics of historical and political significance. In this case, the weekend included speeches, panel discussions, art and multimedia exhibits, and the screening of two different films related to the 25th anniversary of the riots.

“The three-day Flash Point program is exactly what I had in mind when I asked to expand the Luskin Lecture Series into a series of public forums, and we at the Luskin School are proud to be a sponsor of this thought-provoking examination of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising,” said Segura during his introduction of filmmaker Dai Sil Kim-Gibson.

Her documentary film, “Wet Sand: Voices from L.A.,” offers a look back at the causes of the riots from the perspectives of various ethnic groups. It also speculates about whether some of those causes linger just below the surface today.

“Things have changed since the 1992 L.A. riot, and the aftermath; I think it stimulated people to think. So racism, overtly, went away a little bit. But the danger was that racism went inside of the people,” Kim-Gibson said during the panel discussion that followed the film. “Overt racism is sometimes easier to deal with than the racism that is inside. So we have to really follow up and talk about what really happened after the L.A. riot and what we still have to do.”

UCLA Luskin’s Abel Valenzuela, professor of urban planning and Chicano studies and director of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, moderated the panel discussion.

“From destruction, from ashes, we can see rebirth and growth,” Valenzuela said of the progress that has been made since 1992. “There’s lots to be proud of, though we still have lots of work still to do.”

Only through greater understanding can progress result, said panelist Funmilola Fagbamila, the winter 2017 activist-in-residence at UCLA Luskin. She noted that distrust between blacks and Koreans at the time was often rooted in similar struggles just to survive, to provide for their families.

“We need to talk about unity that addresses the difficulty of power relations among different communities of color,” said Fagbamila, an original member of Black Lives Matter.

“It means looking at the role of anti-blackness in the way in which Korean Americans and Korean immigrants were in conversation with each other during this time. We have to be critical in how we are engaging each other,” she said. “But also loving. Our attitudes need to change in order to change the issues.”

Another panel on Saturday focused on the evolution of communication since 1992 to today’s world in which people with a story to tell can go directly to their audience via YouTube or social media rather than relying on mainstream news outlets.

Panelist Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography and director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, said the media narrative quickly became about interracial and interethnic conflict during the 1992 unrest. The same might not hold true today.

“We are at a slightly different moment. This is perhaps the success of Black Lives Matter,” she speculated, “that it has drawn attention to the ways in which we cannot see these moments of violence as those of individual participants, but we’ve got to see them as structural violence. We’ve got to see this as our liberation being bound up with the liberation of others.”

Today, she said, “even mainstream media has to pay much more careful attention to state violence, in particular police violence, in a way that I do not recall in the 1992 coverage.”

UCLA Luskin also served as sponsor of a screening of the feature film “Gook” on Saturday, during which a packed auditorium of attendees witnessed a fictionalized story of two Korean American brothers, owners of a struggling shoe store who have an unlikely friendship with a streetwise 11-year-old African American girl. Then the Rodney King verdict is read and riots break out.

Filmmaker and lead actor Justin Chon was on hand to introduce his film and answer questions about it. He was joined on stage by cast members and others who participated in the film’s production.

On Sunday, an artist talk in Little Tokyo featured works by Grace Lee, Grace Misoe Lee and Patrick Martinez. Among the works was “Ktown92,” an interactive documentary in process that disrupts and explores the 1992 Los Angeles riots through stories from the greater Koreatown community.

Flash Point 2017 and the weekend’s other events were produced in partnership with the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications, UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, UCLA Department of History, UCLA Institute of American Cultures, UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Visual Communications.

Dean of UCLA Luskin Takes the Long View on Political Rhetoric Gary Segura sees parallels between California history and current national debate over immigration. He tells crowd at UCLA Advocacy event that Latino voters will again be key to a resolution.  

By Les Dunseith

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, thinks that Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may seem all too familiar to Latinos and others in California who endured a similar campaign against undocumented residents a couple of decades ago.

The current effort could backfire on Trump and his supporters, suggested Segura, an internationally recognized expert on the Latino electorate, during a presentation March 21, 2017, to a packed room of citizens, policymakers and fellow educators. The UCLA Advocacy event, co-hosted by UCLA Government and Community Relations and the Luskin School, featured introductions by Chancellor Gene Block and Keith S. Parker, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations.

Segura reminded the crowd at Cross Campus in downtown Los Angeles that a GOP-backed ballot initiative in 1994 known as Proposition 187 sought to establish a citizenship screening system in California and prohibit undocumented immigrants from using many public services. It passed, but soon was found unconstitutional and never took effect.

The lasting result? “It created a tidal wave of Latino registrants” that tipped the balance in California elections strongly toward Democrats. “It’s known as the Prop. 187 phenomenon,” Segura told the enthusiastic audience of more than 100.

“What’s less known is that between 1980 and 1994, if you looked at the California Field Poll, the share of Latinos identifying as Republican went up in every year,” Segura noted. Latino voters had been trending toward the Republican party for a decade and a half before Proposition 187 sent waves of Latinos to the Democratic side. For the GOP, the measure amounted to “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said.

It’s too soon, of course, to know whether California’s pivot away from anti-immigrant policies will repeat itself nationwide. But providing this type of perspective about modern-day political controversies is an important role that Segura has embraced as the recently installed dean at UCLA Luskin.

“It’s a dazzling school that needs extraordinary leadership, and that’s what we have here,” Block said of Segura during his introductory remarks. The event served as a first opportunity for many of those in attendance to meet and hear from Segura, who relocated to Los Angeles in January after serving as a professor of political science and former chair of Chicana/o-Latina studies at Stanford University.

“We are introducing a true partner with Government and Community Relations and the university’s greater engagement with Los Angeles,” Parker said. “When Chancellor Block came to UCLA, one of his priorities was to increase our engagement with Los Angeles. In our discussions with Dean Gary Segura, that’s one of his priorities as well.”

A widely published author and a frequent interviewee by print and broadcast news outlets, Segura is also a principal partner in the political research firm Latino Decisions. His presentation, formally titled “Population Change and Latino Prospects in the New Era” but sarcastically dubbed by Segura as “Being Latino in Trumplandia,” drew heavily from polling results and other research gathered by Latino Decisions.

Click to listen

“Latinos became deeply involved in this election in a way that they had never been in the past,” Segura said. “This was their highest level of turnout.”

Segura said this fact strongly refutes a narrative picked up by several media outlets based on an Election Day exit poll. That poll showed more Latinos voting for Trump than would have been expected given his anti-Latino rhetoric, including repeated calls to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“There is not a shred of statistical evidence consistent with the exit poll,” Segura said. “In fact, precinct analysis shows that Latinos actually voted more Democratic than they have in past elections. From actual precinct data, we estimate that Donald Trump won about 18 percent of the Latino vote,” not the 29 percent shown by the exit poll.

Results in other races also belie the presidential results, Segura said, noting that Latino voters were critical in electing a record number of Latinos to Congress.

“The Latino surge was real,” Segura said. “There’s lots of evidence for this. And, nationally, we estimate that about 51 percent of eligible Latinos cast a ballot, up from the last two elections.”

The political views of most of those Latino voters are at odds with the conservative policies of the Trump administration, Segura said. Polling of Latinos regarding issues such as gun registration, equal pay for women, higher minimum wages and climate change consistently lean toward a liberal viewpoint.

At this point, those views do not hold sway in Washington. The right-wing — mostly Anglo voters who tipped the 2016 presidential race to Trump — tends to be an older demographic, Segura explained. But Latinos are younger, and fewer are registered to vote. “That’s a disadvantage, but it’s also an opportunity. Latino advocates could, in fact, mobilize more voters.”

In 2016, 27 million Latinos were eligible to cast a vote, and it’s estimated that about 14 million were registered to do so. If Latinos had the same registration rate as whites and African Americans (roughly 70 percent), then 19 million would have been registered voters. That’s 5 million additional Latino voters.

And the country’s evolving demographics — fed primarily by Latino birth rates, not immigration, Segura noted — will continue to swell that potential voter pool.

“The number that it is important for you to leave here with tonight is that 93 percent of Latino residents under age 18 are citizens of the United States,” Segura told the gathering, which included prominent Latino officials such as UC Regents John A. Perez and J. Alberto Lemus, as well as Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the L.A. Community College District.

“What that means is the passage of time alone will dramatically enlarge the Latino electorate. The Latino electorate will double in the next 20 years,” Segura said, citing estimates that 73,000 Latino citizens turn 18 and enter the eligible electorate every month.

During a question-and-answer session that followed his talk, Segura was asked by moderator and UCLA Luskin lecturer Jim Newton to address the fact that such statistics are seen as threatening by many Americans, particularly in rural America where lower-income white voters helped sway the election to Trump.

Segura expressed sympathy for those voters, acknowledging the legitimate concerns of people in communities hit hard by job losses.

“That pain is real,” but he said it’s wrong to blame illegal immigration for the country’s economic problems. “They are being told that reality is being caused by someone else. The actual evidence suggests that there is very little labor market replacement between Latin American immigrants to the United States and native-born U.S. workers.”

There are some historical exceptions, such as in the textile industry, “but as a large-scale measure, immigration really has very little to do with labor market turnover in the United States,” Segura said.

Newton also asked Segura to talk about whether the immigration issue is really of much importance to most Latinos voters. They are U.S. citizens, after all. Like other voters, aren’t they more concerned about crime, good schools and jobs?

“All of those statements are true, but the conclusion is incorrect — that immigration doesn’t matter,” Segura responded. “Both parties have gotten this wrong because they don’t understand that Latino families are mixed status. You might be a born citizen of the United States. Your wife might be naturalized. But your brother-in-law might be undocumented.”

In polls of Latino voters conducted by Segura and Latino Decisions, one-quarter of respondents know someone who has been detained or deported. “And 60 percent of Latinos who are registered voters know someone who is undocumented. In more than half of those cases, that person is a relative of theirs.”

Segura noted that “86 percent of all U.S. Latinos are within two generations of the immigration experience. So when you talk badly about immigrants, you are talking about members of my immediate family.”

‘Day of Remembrance’ Blends History and Activism Panel at UCLA Luskin marks 75 years since Japanese American internment camps by advocating resistance to modern-day efforts that target immigrant populations

By Les Dunseith

Marking the passage of 75 years since a presidential executive order that led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs hosted a panel discussion on Feb. 23, 2017, that took place at a time when many U.S. citizens believe history is in danger of repeating itself.

The session was opened by moderator Lisa Hasegawa, a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow and one of two alumnae who are activists-in-residence on campus for the winter quarter. She told of her Japanese American family’s experience of being unjustly forced into internment camps in 1942. Hasegawa likened that long-ago situation to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January that sought to bar entry into the United States by immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“All of us in different generations are trying to figure out how we learn the lessons from the past and figure out how we activate those lessons in our daily lives,” Hasegawa said of the correlation between these two historic and controversial presidential actions.

The desire for activism amid a political climate that many people find fearful was a dominant theme of the panel discussion, which included five activists and filmmakers. Several showed clips from documentary films and other video projects that they have helped create in response to the Trump administration and its efforts that seem to target minority populations, particularly Muslim Americans.

“When Trump got elected, it was definitely very devastating to the Muslim community. I think we were all in shock,” said panelist Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed MPP ’07, who co-hosts a popular podcast titled “#GoodMuslimBadMuslim.”

But Ahmed has since been heartened by the showings of support that have taken place at protest marches and rallies around the country, including a sit-in at LAX that united various ethnic communities in opposition to the immigration ban.

“It is super-powerful as a Muslim to go into these spaces and to see non-Muslim people of color coming together in solidarity,” Ahmed said.

The mass protests in January at Los Angeles International Airport were also the subject of a “rough cut” clip for a documentary film shown by panelist Tani Ikeda, a filmmaker and member of imMEDIAte Justice. Her video focuses on two women (one Muslim, one Japanese American) from a grassroots solidarity group known as Vigilant Love that helped organized the resistance effort at LAX.

Ikeda said her father, who had been incarcerated as a draft resister when he was young, inspired her involvement in political activism and her pursuit of filmmaking as a career. Ikeda said she struggled with frustrations about societal and educational hurdles related to her minority status when she was young, but her father advised her to find strength, not despair, in those moments.

“Everything that makes you different is what gives you this unique perspective on the world, and that’s so needed,” Ikeda said her father told her. “So start making art.”

Also joining the panel, which was sponsored by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, was Sasha W. from the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. She seeks to “redefine security” by helping more people understand why many U.S. residents, especially those at the margins of society, don’t always feel safe.

For example, she was recently involved in a project in which average U.S. citizens were approached on the streets under the pretext of an opinion survey, but then were asked the sorts of questions that someone being racially profiled would hear.

Two other filmmakers also joined the panel discussion. The team of Mustafa Rony Zona and Koji Steven Sakai are working together on a documentary about the experiences of a young Muslim girl and her mother who recently relocated from Syria to Los Angeles. And they are in the development stage of a feature film about what might happen if new terrorist attacks sparked a modern-day effort to round up Muslim Americans in a manner similar to what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.

They hope to make a film that would lead people to recognize the parallels of the internment of Japanese Americans 75 years ago and anti-immigration efforts today.

“Today it’s Muslim Americans, Arab Americans. But tomorrow we don’t know who it is,” Sakai said. “It’s not about Muslim Americans; it’s not about any other group. It’s not even about Japanese Americans. It’s just making sure it doesn’t happen to anybody, ever again.”

Language, Power and What Resistance Looks Like Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs co-sponsors talk by UC Berkeley scholar Judith Butler

By Stan Paul

“We are the people. The mighty, mighty people. Fighting for justice and liberation …”

Signs and songs preceded the talk at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Photo by Aaron Julian

Signs and song — the trappings of traditional protest — served as prelude to a talk by UC Berkeley scholar Judith Butler at a gathering titled, “This is What Resistance Looks Like,” on Feb. 15, 2017, at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

For Butler, the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at Berkeley, contemporary resistance in a time of “shared uncertainty” may not look exactly like your parent’s or grandparent’s form of protest.

“The de-politicized public needs to be re-politicized,” she said, arguing that “the people have to consent … and have the power to withdraw consent.”

Citing the recent presidential election’s low overall voter turnout, Butler emphasized the importance of figuring out how to “bring the non-voter back into politics.” For her it raised further questions such as, “Who are the people and what is the popular will?”

Butler, who is active in human rights issues, as well as gender and sexual politics, also joined a panel of scholars to provide her “thoughts in progress” about the possible forms that resistance might take in a new political era.

In pondering this, Butler said traditional protests and the presence of large crowds in the streets — such as during the January Women’s March on Washington — may continue, but resistance may also come from unexpected places. “We will have to fight for a very strong freedom of the press,” she said, noting that news media have been under attack from the new president.

UC Berkeley scholar Judith Butler spoke about the resistance movement and recent political events. Photo by Les Dunseith

“Opposition is one term that suggests that our political structures are basically intact,” she said. “Now we’re in some different kind of trouble. The fear we have, I think, is that we’re actually fighting now for the conditions in which oppositional parties and movements still make sense. … That’s why the name of this fight has to be resistance.”

The other panelists who joined Butler after her talk are all members of a UCLA faculty group known as RAVE (Resistance Against Violence Through Education): Gil Hochberg, professor of comparative literature and gender studies at UCLA; Laure Murat, director of the Center for European and Russian Studies at UCLA and professor in the Department of French and Francophone Studies; and Ananya Roy, professor of social welfare and urban planning and director of the Institute for Inequality and Democracy at the Luskin School.

“Authoritarianism finds its home in language but has not yet found itself in law and policy,” Roy said. “How should we think about the ways in which we have already, in these first few moments, come to rely on the law or come to rely on the lack of accomplishment of authoritarian power in law and policy? It’s a broad question.”

 

Luskin Lecture Peers Into Future of an Aging America AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins urges society to ‘disrupt aging’ with a fresh outlook on the nation’s increasingly older population — and how society must change as a result

By Les Dunseith

The number of Americans age 85 and older now constitutes the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

The second-fastest growing age group? Those age 100 and older.

The impact on society of increased longevity thanks to advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles was a centerpiece of a presentation by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series held Feb. 7, 2017.

Jenkins, whose bestselling book “Disrupt Aging” also served as the title for her lecture, talked about the necessity to rethink how we view the aging process in the years ahead.

“It’s not just about adding years to the end of life. It’s about changing the way we live throughout our lives,” Jenkins told a crowd of more than 200 people at Skirball Cultural Center. “Our ability to live longer, healthier and more productive lives is one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. And yet we don’t see it that way. We often view it as a problem rather than an accomplishment.”

She urged the audience to think about a youngster they know today, perhaps a child or grandchild around 10 years old. Current research thinking predicts that child will have about a 50/50 chance of living to be 100.

She also noted that gerontology experts speculate that the first person who will live to be age 150 has already been born. “In this audience,” she joked, and the room erupted in laughter.

Her point, of course, is that increased longevity for a significant portion of the population not only impacts healthcare and public policy and the infrastructure of communities, but also the way people deal with the aging process and its impacts on their loved ones and themselves.

“The way people are aging is changing, but our attitudes and our stereotypes have not changed,” Jenkins said in an interview prior to the lecture. “I would like for us to be this ageless society. So that regardless of your age, you are judged on the quality of your mind and what you bring to the workplace, or what you bring into the environment. And that it’s not about being a particular age.”

Coping with the societal impact of the demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”

New policies and approaches are needed to successfully adjust to an aging population. “Older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”

Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has about 38 million members over age 50.

The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins was also an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.

“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” Torres-Gil said in advance of the lecture. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”

AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA and its research, educational and planning capabilities. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”

People at UCLA in fields of study such as medicine, gerontology, public policy and urban planning “have an enormous opportunity to rethink the course of life,” Jenkins said. “If we are going to live to be 100, how might that change the way we educate — not only the youth, but all of us — throughout the lifespan?”

California and Los Angeles, in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents, particularly those in minority populations.

In a question and answer session that followed the lecture and was moderated by Torres-Gil, he asked for Jenkins’ perspective on diversity given the fact that so many of those entering old age are from ethnic minority populations.

“We at AARP have a huge role to play in showing how nonprofit organizations ought to be community partners at the local level,” Jenkins responded. “Our goal at AARP is to be in your life every day, concerned about the issues that are important to you, not just necessarily about what’s important to AARP. And that absolutely includes diverse communities all across this country.”

Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of rethinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of “Disrupt Aging.”

“We ought to accept our age and feel good about where we are in life,” Jenkins said. “Among our members, many of them are not retiring. They might be leaving a particular job, but it’s to do something different.”

Still, she noted, American society is obsessed with age. When people are asked what they are most likely to lie about, age is the top answer. “But what if we could eliminate our preoccupation with a number? For example, what if we decided that middle age started at 65? What would that do to your own preconceptions?” Jenkins asked.

“It’s not our own aging that we need to fight against,” Jenkins said during the lecture. “It’s the ageist attitudes and perceptions that permeate society and play such a huge role in our culture.”

She acknowledged that aging does create challenges that older Americans wrestle with every day. “As we get older, many of us find things that we have always taken for granted more difficult to achieve,” she said. “Our wants and our needs change, but our environment does not always adapt to address those changes.”

In her view, the capacity to deal successfully with that reality is an issue that impacts individuals, governments and businesses in equal measure. “We blame ourselves. Instead of changing our environment to fit our needs, we bemoan getting older,” she said.

Efforts by AARP and by researchers such as Loukaitou-Sideris seek ways to make communities more livable for an aging population. Jenkins cited a research example that focuses on the fact that many older people have trouble getting in and out of a car.

“We attribute it to the weakening of the leg muscles and the loss of sense of balance rather than considering the inadequacies of a car seat that does not swivel and allow us to emerge straight forward rather than trying to slide out of the car sideways,” Jenkins said. “Car seats were not made with a 75-year-old in mind.”

The idea of refocusing our thinking to better accommodate an aging population also applies to communities and housing. Today, more people are living into their 80s and 90s and want to stay in their homes as long as possible.

“Basic access should be built into the homes, just like wiring and plumbing,” Jenkins said. “Living in a community with services nearby and having a home that accommodates our needs are tremendous assets for those of us who want to age in place.”

2017 Gilliam Winners Tackle Issues of Inequality Recipients tell how the Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Award will benefit and create opportunities for their research projects

By Yasaman Boromand

The 33 recipients for the second Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Social Justice Award have been announced. Classified in 10 projects of various topics, these scholars’ outstanding research, some done singly and some in teams, reflect the legacy of UCLA Luskin’s dean emeritus.

The program supports student research and community projects with a racial equity focus. The goals are to encourage students to analyze how racial equity intersects with other complex policy issues, to work with community-based organizations and real world clients, and to show that the School and the faculty intellectually value research and community projects that focus on race.

The program is infused with probing analysis of the roots and branches of inequality, at home and abroad, and the students embrace their roles as agents of positive change.

The winning project by Gus Wendel, a second-year master of urban planning student, sheds light on the issue surrounding LGBTQ individuals’ feelings of comfort about being themselves in public. Wendel employs an intersectional approach to examine the various physical and social characteristics of public spaces, as well as participants’ other characteristics including race, age and class.

“There has been a lack of discussion around this issue, specifically LGBTQ issues, in urban planning,” Wendel said.

Wendel’s interest began from thinking about displays of public affection, how those displays are masked and under what circumstances.

“Having to navigate those feelings in public spaces, even in more progressive cities that are considered LGBTQ friendly, is an issue for planners who seek to create a more inclusive public realm,” Wendel said.

Part of Wendel’s research is participatory ethnography in which participants, using either a disposable camera, a video or another kind of documentation method of their choice, will get to go out and actually document the everyday spaces they come across.

“The award is providing really important assistance in terms of being able to fund those certain aspects of the work. It also helps with travel costs to go to different locations around the city to conduct interviews. I’m truly grateful for the support the award provides,” he said.

The project by C. Aujean Lee, a doctoral candidate in urban planning, seeks to understand how racial/ethnic place-making and neighborhood resources affect home buying behaviors and broader urban spatial patterns of inequality and intergenerational wealth. Through semi-structured interviews, Lee examines homeowners who live in white and ethnic neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

“I am interested in learning more about neighborhood segregation and racial/ethnic place-making as they simultaneously provide ethnic-based resources and may affect intergenerational wealth for several reasons,” Lee said.

Through personal experience and work with several immigrant-serving non-profits, Lee understands the significance these neighborhood and ethnic-based resources can have to improve housing outcomes and asset-building opportunities.

“At the same time, much of the scholarship on ethnic neighborhoods emphasizes how ethnic neighborhoods are associated with lower home values,” Lee said. “I am balancing these perspectives with my dissertation by focusing on middle- and upper-class Latino and Asian segregation patterns.”

“I appreciate that the Luskin School has this award. As academics in applied fields, our research should serve as a bridge between informing the larger public about issues in our cities and work to enhance the well-being and lives of its residents and promote the overall socioeconomic health of everyone,” she said.

Lucero Ramos, another master’s student in urban planning, examines the equity of educational services among youth living in affordable housing. The purpose of Ramos’ research is to investigate how supportive services serve as an educational tool among marginalized youth, ages 13 to 17, and promote educational equity.

“Growing up, I would see my parents work long hours and come home late after a hard day from work,” Ramos said. “Today, they each continue to work long hours and rent continues to increase faster than wages. I know many families struggle on a daily basis to pay off rent. The stress falls heavily on low-income families, veterans, homeless people, etc.”

Having worked as a site leader in the past, Ramos believes that housing is imperative for the well-being of a child’s developmental and social growth.

“When I connected with Jamboree, an affordable housing developer in Irvine and my client for my capstone, I knew I wanted to work on a project that intersected my narrative and my experience in the field,” Ramos said.

Ramos’ research complements existing affordable studies on how housing may alleviate economic obstacles.

“I wasn’t sure what this looked like until I started reading more on topics of after-school programs in affordable housing sites,” she said.

Studying an issue of a similar nature, the winning group project by four master’s students in public policy, Ahmed Ali Bob, Cameron Burch, Karen Law and Susan Y. Oh, evaluates the current policies of rent control and their effectiveness, and what is known as just-cause eviction in protecting the vulnerable communities in South Los Angeles.

“As is evident in the news headlines locally, we know that there is a serious lack of housing that is affordable for the average renter. Rent burdens are at an all-time high as well,” Law said. “These factors in conjunction with development pressures have put pressures on communities that are more vulnerable to being displaced,” she added.

With a new approach to gentrification and the possible displacement it causes, the project focuses on vulnerable groups such as low-income, minority renters who are at risk of being displaced and unable to afford the increasing price of rent driven by market demand.

“We look at the Rent Stabilization Ordinance that is in place in L.A., L.A.’s version of rent control, to see if it’s benefiting low-income renters either by keeping rents low, giving them more protections from unjust evictions,” Law said.

“The award has helped us with funding the transcription of our qualitative stakeholder interviews with various tenant advocacy groups, city officials and real estate professionals,” Law said. “It also helped us purchase a software extension for Excel that enables us to geocode addresses for rental units allowing us to map the data too,” she said.

“I personally think that the award has provided yet another simulation of a real-world experience we can all expect in our near futures. We are grateful for the support and the opportunity to have applied,” Law added.

According to Luskin’s description of the fellowship program, “the faculty review committee considers the intellectual/academic rigor of the project, the community impact and strength of the partnership, and how the project addresses racial equity.”

The other recipients are Delara Aharpour, Kasee Houston, Diego De La Peza, Eve Bachrach, Estefania Zavala, Kelsey Chestnut, J.C. De Vera, Jessica Noel, Sam Blake, Emma Huang, Barbara Spyrou, David Ou, Natasha Oliver, Takashi Omoto, Gina Charusombat, all master’s students in public policy; Xochitl Ortiz, Jacklyn Oh, Ryan Shum, Amman Desai, Julia Heidelman, Carolyn Vera, all master’s students in urban planning; Miya Chang and Matthew Mizel, doctoral candidates in social welfare; Lawrence C. Lan, a doctoral candidate at UCR. Recipient Antoinette Bedros is a joint MPP/law student.

Message From the Dean UCLA Luskin joins University in supporting those impacted by an executive order that blocks citizens of seven nations from entering the United States

To the Luskin Family:

As you have no doubt heard, the President issued an executive order last Friday blocking citizens of seven nations from entering the United States for at least the next 90 days.  Parts of this order have been enjoined by the federal courts in New York and Virginia, but at this writing, the administration appears to be continuing to enforce the order, in its entirety or in parts, at several ports of entry into the U.S.

The University is recommending to anyone holding a visa or who are lawful permanent residents but who hail from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Syria not to leave the United States until this matter is resolved. 

The President of the University, in conjunction with all of the chancellors, has issued a statement of strong support for these students and colleagues, and for our longstanding principles of inclusion.  The Luskin School of Public Affairs stands with the UCLA Chancellor and Provost in their view that “the executive order directly challenges the core values and mission of universities to encourage the free exchange of scholars, knowledge and ideas.”

For those with questions about the evolving legal environment and its effects on students, please contact the Dashew Center, which is working tirelessly to stay up on events as they occur and to help inform students of their rights and their options.

Sincerely,

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

 

 

 

Public Policy Organization’s Volunteer Day Highlights Community Service AMPPS brings together students, staff, and faculty to mark presidential transition in a non-partisan way and ‘do good where it is needed’

By Stan Paul

Amid angst and uncertainty over the U.S. presidential transition, a group of students, faculty and staff from the UCLA Luskin Department of Public Policy volunteered a Saturday to help needy people throughout Los Angeles.

More than 30 members of the Association of Masters of Public Policy Students (AMPPS) arrived early in the morning on Jan. 21, 2017, at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in Vernon for a day of community service, where they sorted, packed, stacked and combined bins of food onto pallets for distribution to partner organizations that serve thousands of people.

“This is cool. So many volunteers, even on a Saturday. … I like it,” said Siynan Meng, a first-year MPP student. Meng, who is originally from China, said she wanted to experience U.S. volunteer work.

“This is important for us to give back as a cohort and to the community,” said Nikki Lewis, also a first-year student.

She joined with her peers on a fast-moving assembly line adorned with multi-colored stickers indicating the foods to be sorted and packed. Juice, rice, pasta, vegetables and a variety of canned goods were gathered into bags, then placed into bins stacked together to form large cubes.

Joining the effort was the chair of the Public Policy Department, Mark Peterson, who displayed his knack as a natural “wrap artist” by securing large bins of food atop pallet after pallet, circling at a brisk pace to surround the red and blue cubes in swaths of plastic. The pallets were then quickly fork-lifted away.

“Joining with our MPP students and Public Policy Department staff for a Volunteer Day at the L.A. Regional Food Bank warehouse was, to me, truly inspirational,” Peterson said. “Their dedication, spirit and camaraderie were simply infectious.”

Video by Yasaman Boromand

After a few hours of work that went by quickly, the clatter of pallets and frenzy of activity ceased. In total, the morning’s group assembled more than 5,100 units of food for distribution. According to the nonprofit organization’s website, the food bank serves more than 320,000 individuals each month in Los Angeles County.

“A single day packaging food at the food bank will not transform the world, but what these individuals and others like them do each day going forward unquestionably will,” added Peterson. “There is real clarity in contributing to direct and concrete action that will enhance the lives of families and individuals most in need in our own community. “

“This was something everyone can get behind,” said second-year MPP student Ahmed Ali Bob, who served as the group’s student leader for the day. He said the food bank had a strong record of serving the community and helping the homeless and the needy population who live in “food deserts” across the region.

Originally from the Bay Area, Ali Bob said the group wanted to find a non-partisan way to “do good where it is needed, right now.”

“Given the tensions of the recent election, AMPPS wanted to provide an opportunity for people to give back to their community,” said Sydney Ganon, a second-year MPP student and AMPPS member who helped organize the event. “We thought kicking off the winter quarter with an opportunity to do good would be a great way for students and staff to come together, as well as emphasize our personal commitment to improving the world around us.”