Perspectives KQED's series of daily commentaries by radio listeners and is one way in which KQED Public Radio works to keep the "public" in public radio.



KQED's series of daily commentaries by radio listeners and is one way in which KQED Public Radio works to keep the "public" in public radio.

Most Recent Episodes

Marilyn Englander: Future Self

Marilyn Englander's procrastinating, last-minute self had to adjust to the pandemic but with relaxing restrictions her old self may make a comeback. A big challenge for me as a teacher was trying to get the kids to have empathy for their future selves. Every day, we'd devote 15 minutes to making a schedule for completing assigned work. The kids would place next to nothing on tonight's "to-do" list, but pile up tasks for the nebulous, limitless weekend. I'd beg them to imagine how they'd feel Sunday night, confronting the heap of all they'd postponed. No luck. Everyone believed in a future self who was superhuman, needing no sleep, immune to pain. Yet, I've spent years struggling with the same issue myself. Who hasn't? Why do now what can be postponed for the rosy future in which all is possible with zero effort? It's taken a lifetime to begin to get it. The pandemic did nudge me along. Things I formerly would procrastinate now had to be scheduled: grocery shopping in an empty store at 8 a.m., picking up a book at the library within an assigned 15-minute time frame. Worse, reserving a lap lane at the pool required planning two weeks out. I laid out the garden on paper in January to minimize trips to the nursery and monitored household supplies to leave time to order them online. I even stockpiled birthday cards and stamps; sprinting to the post office last minute was out of the question. How orderly my life began to feel. Just as poor grades on a report card often were the catalyst for my students to develop paced work habits, this year seared the same lesson into me. I lovingly cared for my future self. But now, of course, I'm off the leash. Sadly, I can feel myself reverting to my old ways. I procrastinate with abandon, run out of Tylenol and printer ink, rush to the pool just before closing time, plan meals last minute and have to dash to the store. In the mirror, Future Me looks back, craving a lot more. With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander. Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.

Connie Champagne: The Year That Got Away

It's been a tough year for San Francisco's eclectic entertainment community, but Connie Champagne hopes better times aren't just somewhere over the rainbow. I've been part of Bay Area music for 40 years. In the 70s, I discovered the Mabuhay Gardens. This North Beach restaurant-by-day, punk-rock-club-by-night hosted that decade's legendary musicians and in my ripped Iggy Pop T-shirt, I was hanging around with the best. By the 80s, I'd sung in about 10 bands, some for years, others for days. As the 80s became the 90s, I stumbled into the San Francisco drag counterculture, singing alongside artists who had a genius for style and witty lines. The brilliance of many of these performers was lost to the ravages of AIDS. So by the time the aughts rolled around, I kept singing, but with all those names crossed out in my address book, I felt a little too sad to rock out anymore. A nightclub owner suggested a Judy Garland cabaret act. It was a hit, and I've been performing as Judy for over 20 years. But live cabaret doesn't play with COVID, and I haven't had a gig in more than a year. These days, I work in a high-end grocery store, performing for an audience of one in my checkout lane. I've gone from counterculture to checkout counter — a grocery store Auntie Mame. My youngster co-workers love hearing stories of the 70s, at least I hope they do, when this city was filled with outrageous originality, not total e-business solutions. I didn't think 20 years as Judy Garland would help me get through a pandemic, but they have. And I'm hoping we all wake up from this bad dream soon, to hear that clang, clang, clang of the trolley again. And you'll be there and you and you ... and you'll be there ... With this Perspective, I'm Connie Champagne. Connie Champagne has been an actor, singer and entertainer in San Francisco since 1980.

Leticia Monroy: There Is No Perfect Child

For young families, especially those of color, early childhood learning problems can be especially stressful as they try to juggle school, work and family. Leticia Monroy has this Perspective. I received many calls from my son's preschool asking me to pick him up early. His challenging behavior was disruptive, and they had tried every resource available to support him as best as they could. With interrupted days in care, he missed valuable time in school. The whole situation was stressful. I thought about the cause of his behaviors. Many "what if'" scenarios overwhelmed my thoughts as he faced risk for being removed from preschool. Suspended? At age 3? Was that possible? I wondered about my options without care. As a full‐time student and worker, I had to think about what financial cuts I needed to make to care for my child. Fortunately, the center my child attended provided social‐emotional support. With the assistance of his teachers and mental health consultant, we addressed his needs. He stayed in school and my son thrived. My experience made me reflect on other children and families of color in early learning programs today who are at risk of suspension or expulsion. It's alarming to learn from the U.S. Department of Education, that Black and Latinx children — specifically boys — are expelled or suspended at higher rates than whites in early learning programs due to challenging behaviors. Black boys make up 18% of the male preschool enrollment, but 41% of male preschool suspensions according to the Civil Rights Data Collection. The national Survey of Children's Health found that an estimated 50,000 children under five were suspended, and 17,000 were expelled, across the nation in 2016. For a family, removing services that they rely on to support their basic needs creates more problems. It adds additional stress when looking for alternative care and affects parents' capacity to maintain a job when they have to balance parental and financial obligations. This pressure can develop harmful effects on children and damage parent‐child relationships. I believe that creating strategies that keep children in school start with helping them learn to identify and respond to their emotions. This will form healthier relationships with other children and adults. I trust that meeting these needs early in life can form the foundation for a healthy adult life and a successful educational path. With a Perspective, I am Leticia Monroy. Leticia Monroy is a first generation Latinx graduate student at UC Berkeley who also works in an early learning program serving children and families across the Bay Area.

Ali Shah: America, The Super League

Ali Shah says that when a planned super soccer league crashed and burned spectacularly, it marked a rare defeat for American-style elitism. If you're not a fan of international soccer, you probably missed last month's sudden rise and fall of the Super League, a grab for ever more bucks and entitlement by a dozen of the richest clubs in Europe, half in England. Conspirators included a Russian oligarch, an Emirati Sheikh and several billionaire Americans. The Super League bypassed the normal competition for entry to the European club tournament known as Champion's League, allowing its members to play each other in big-money games without the inconvenience of earning it by finishing near the top of their domestic leagues. Those leagues use a system that is virtually unknown in America. Every year, the worst performing clubs are demoted or "relegated" down to the minors, while top minor-league teams are "promoted" up to take their place. It's meant to prevent a permanent aristocracy, which is exactly what the "Super League" tried to create. The subsequent uproar from English fans in particular turned into a rare defeat for the owners, who quickly and shockingly capitulated within two days. Unsurprisingly, this rich-get-richer scheme reportedly had American roots. Despite the up-by-the-bootstraps American mythology, our social mobility compares poorly to other developed economies. Going from bottom to top is rare, but it's even harder to move down from the top. Why? Because not only are U.S. sports leagues free from the concept of relegation, our social, economic and political systems are too. Our tax code allows generational wealth to pass untouched, admission to elite colleges favors legacy applicants and the offspring of wealthy donors, our property-tax based system for public education cements rather than mitigates social gaps, and on it goes: the justice system, campaign finance, the healthcare system, access to capital. The USA is the Super League's dream realized at a national scale: a permanent upper class where the only thing relegated is the uncertainty of dropping out of it. Who would have figured the home of Buckingham Palace would reject the Super League's Royalism, while our rogue Republic, alongside sheikhs and oligarchs, would be the very embodiment of it. With a Perspective, I'm Ali Shah. Ali Shah is an attorney. He lives in Sunnyvale.

Alice Chen: Other

Alice Chen says anti-Asian racism has a peculiar bias, one that constantly positions Asian Americans as "other." They say happiness is good health and a poor memory, perhaps more accurately the ability to gloss over bad memories. As a Chinese American, the recent wave of violence against Asian Americans has surfaced some of those memories. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, when my mother went to enroll me in school, she was asked to select my race: white or colored. Through a brief process of elimination, she checked colored, but the nice white lady corrected her form, exclaiming, "Oh no, you're not colored!" That encapsulates much of my time in Alabama: as "other," never quite fitting in, neither Black nor white. I'll be honest, I don't remember much from my elementary school days. If I concentrate I can hear echoes of "ching chong" and "chink" and "jap" accompanied by the pulling of eyes. In middle school I was deemed smart, quiet, mostly invisible, sometimes a curiosity. In high school I remember a friend coming over, expressing shock upon lifting the lid of a big pot to find a whole beef tongue sitting upright. And a more permanent reminder in my high school yearbook, with a caption under my sister's photo, "How do you blindfold a Chinese person?" Answer: with a piece of dental floss. I saved a recent email from Berkeley's school of public health dean Michael Lu for his pithy summary of anti-Asian American racism. He wrote: "We are made fun of for the way we look. The way we drive. What we eat. What we wear. How we speak. How we parent. We are treated like perpetual foreigners no matter how many years or generations we have been in this country. A guest in our own home." These are the experiences that led me — like so many other Asian Americans I've met — to migrate to California where I've had the luxury — unlike my Black friends — of not thinking about my race on a regular basis. Until recently. The attacks in the Bay Area have been jarring. But the silver lining may be that we are finally having a conversation about what it means to be Asian American. With a Perspective, I'm Alice Chen. Alice Chen lives in Berkeley and her favorite cuisine is still Southern food.

Kevin Cool: More Than a Poker Game

A poker game is a common social activity formerly taken for granted. Not any more. Kevin Cool has this Perspective. Nearly every month for 20 years I drove to my friend Seth's house in San Francisco for a poker game. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost. Either way, I always left feeling lucky. Because those evenings were only partly about poker and mostly about the friendships. Along with the laughter, we have seen each other through deaths and divorces, the arrival of grandkids and the onset of retirement. Our nights together always started in the kitchen, devouring Seth's quesadillas while we talked about sports and TV shows and random topics such as who was funnier, Richard Pryor or Robin Williams. And then we played cards and made fun of each other for three hours or so. My poker crew is a community I treasured even in good times, and never more so since we stopped playing 14 months ago, locked down by COVID‐19. I've missed those guys all the more because of the other losses I've experienced. I was laid off last July and four months after that my 83‐year‐old mother contracted the virus in the nursing home where she lived. She died two weeks later with only an attending nurse at her bedside. We buried her the day after Thanksgiving. The pandemic has robbed me and so many others of things we cherished, but it also has underscored what we value most. As a result, the primary emotion I experience these days is not regret or despair, but gratitude. I've remained healthy, along with the rest of my family and friends, including my poker buddies. And now we're all vaccinated. Conversations have begun about scheduling a game, maybe this summer. Putting that poker game back on my schedule would feel like a different kind of inoculation, a shot of normalcy. It's been 14 long, hard months, but I still feel lucky. And I am eager to play again. With a Perspective, I'm Kevin Cool. Kevin Cool is a freelance writer and editor in Half Moon Bay.

Olive Savoie: That's So Gay

In today's Perspective produced as part of Youth Takeover week at KQED, Olive Savoie stands up to confront a bigoted phrase uttered by her peers. "That's so gay," joked the boys at the bus stop. It was raining buckets, and, umbrella-less, our hair was matted to our faces. Freezing water dripped from atop my head down my cheeks, but no rain could compete with my blood's temperature, which ran cold. "Oh sorry," he stammered trying to redeem himself. "I didn't realize you were here." I ducked my head down and tucked my short, stubborn hair behind my ear, a defense mechanism I use to hide. "The boy sees me as gay. That is all. Nothing more. In his mind, I am just gay. Never mind that I am an empathetic human, regardless of my sexuality," I thought. The downpour intensified, as my anger did. "What do you mean by that?" I snap at the boy. "And why would you say it, regardless of if you're standing next to a gay person or not?" "Hey chill out! It was just a joke!" he digressed. Just a joke? I'm not buying it. "Just a joke" makes a whole audience laugh, not just the straight people. "Just a joke" is objectively funny, not cruel. "Just a joke" is not "that's so gay." It can't be! To use "gay" to describe an action or a look makes zero sense. Why do I so often hear that a haircut is gay, or a person's walk, or dancing? Is a haircut attracted to a haircut of the same sex? Does a person's walk spend hours in the closet, hiding a crucial part of itself from loved ones? Does a dance feel shame? Does it know pride? Saying something or someone is gay as an insult strips the word from its oppressive history and erases the experiences of truly gay people. "That's so gay" is a weaponous phrase meant to demean and generalize. It pushes people back into the closet and is never "just a joke". Confrontation is critical when entire groups of people are put down. Next time you hear "that's so gay " I invite you to be a change-maker by simply asking, "What do you mean by that?" Chances are, like the boy at the bus stop, the speaker will be shocked by what they learn. With a Perspective, I'm Olive Savoie. Olive Savoie is a graduate of Lincoln High School in San Francisco. Her Perspective was produced as part of KQED's Youth Takeover week.

Luke Thomas: Turning Emotions Into Art

The pandemic has given a lot of us a new lens on the world and our lives. For YR Media's Luke Thomas experiencing the last year from behind a camera brings new insights. Photography started as a way to creatively kill time during quarantine, but now, a year later, it's my favorite hobby. The past year has been an unbelievably stressful one. Online learning, simply put, is hard. It can be boring, repetitive, and stressful. To cope, I started going on long walks and taking photos of anything that caught my eye. I've been taking photos for as long as I can remember. Working my way up from a Dollar Store quality, hot mess of a camera to an iPhone 11. My obsession with photography drove me to explore the Bay Area, capturing images from the powerful Black Lives Matter murals in Downtown Oakland, to neon signs advertising cheap liquor, to the colorful candy-lined aisles of a grocery store. My favorite photoshoot has to be my trip to the then-brand new Salesforce Transit Center, in downtown San Francisco back in May, when I was just beginning to feel very, very trapped. I did my best to capture both the cavernous size of the three-story building, and how empty it was due to COVID. I took about a hundred shots that day, two of which now hang prominently on my bedroom wall. With a worldwide pandemic and virtual learning, everyday is difficult, but photography has been therapeutic. What's going on in my life definitely affects what my photos look like; if I'm in a good mood, I'll take bright and colorful photos, if I'm sad, stressed, or bored, they'll be dark and lonely. My best shots happen when I'm feeling overwhelmed. They are chaotic and messy explosions of different colors. Seeing the world through my camera has given me a new sense of appreciation both for what surrounds me, and what's inside of me. In many ways, my camera has been my companion this past year. The process of taking a picture, editing it just right, and getting it printed for my bedroom wall is very rewarding. It's a way to both document this crazy pandemic world, and express myself. With a Perspective, I'm Luke Thomas. Luke Thomas lives in Albany. His Perspective was produced by YR Media as part of KQED's Youth Takeover week.

Kimberly Higareda: Not Ready For Real Life

Kimberly Higareda feels pressured to take on adult responsibilities she may not be ready for. Here's her Perspective. Parents often think that kids should be introduced to 'real life' at a young age but I'm not so sure about that. My mom always tells me about all she did for me and for herself. She came to the United States and made it on her own. She often tells me to try my best and about all the advantages I have because of having papers at birth. I was seven when I first remember my mom having that talk with me. I was young and still a child. I felt pressured to be just as strong as her. Introducing kids to what parents think is real life is harmful at least in my case. When I was a 7-8 year old I was put to clean after my brother and take him to school, I didn't get to be taken care of and till this day I still take care of everyone around me like my two-year-old sister. My mom and many more parents who do this to their kids could be more clever on how the lessons of 'real life' are introduced to children. Being patient and kind to the mistakes their children might do is key. Kids need hope and encouragement, not pressure. Some parents even threaten to kick their kids out as soon as they turn 18 to learn real life skills. I can't imagine how terrifying that would be. As the daughter of a very strong woman I have seen the challenges that being a parent has brought upon my mom. The hope she gives me to keep going and achieving all she has hoped for is a part of my life I'm always going to carry. Even though she puts pressure on me, she has taught me the valuable lesson of standing on my own two feet. She tells me she appreciates how I'm the kid that helps keep our lives running. I understand that everyone else needs attention, and while I also need attention, I know that my independence is a gift my mom has given me that will serve me in life. Thank you mom. With a Perspective, I'm Kimberly Higareda. Kimberly Higareda is a 10th-grader at Fremont High School in Oakland. Her Perspective was produced as part of KQED' s Youth Takeover week.

Karen Chau: You Only Live Once

One lesson from the pandemic learned by teenagers like Karen Chau is to never let an opportunity — from the mundane to the exceptional — slip away. The term YOLO means "you only live once." I have heard this term thrown around so many times but I've never really taken the phrase to heart. As a teen, I thought there was still so much time. I was scared to have fun but ever since corona hit, I wish I could go back in time when everything was carefree and exciting. Sitting in my dark familiar room, I was looking at the photos hanging on my wall from all my fun memories and wondered when can all this happen again? In middle school, during summer breaks my family would always go on trips to new places, but as I got older we went on less trips because school got harder and more time consuming. After six hours of school, I had volunteering, clubs and other commitments to focus on. I never seem to have time for fun anymore. I'm either swamped with school or working for experience. It seems like my teen years are slipping away. 2020 was the year that I wanted to allow myself to experience new things. But then COVID ruined my plans. It closed everything down and I haven't even been able to see my friends. With all of my junior year being online, I hope I could have the true senior experience. I regret not going out more. I don't want to grow up so fast. I want to have fun while I can. I want to travel every continent in the world, go cliff jumping, go scuba diving and wake up really early to watch the sunrise. I know that all this is possible, but I've been too consumed with work to step out of my comfort zone. This pandemic has taught me to value every moment with my friends. If there's an opportunity to do something new, do it. You only live once, so why live with regrets. With a Perspective, I'm Karen Chau. Karen Chau is in the 11th grade at Washington High School in San Francisco. Her Perspective was produced as part of KQED's Youth Takeover week.

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