The Old Mole Variety Hour for October 15th, 2018

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Air date: 
Mon, 10/15/2018 - 9:00am to 10:00am
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Health, Class, & Energy; Accessibility and Activism; Protest & Corporations



Densie Morris Hosts this episode of the Old Mole, which includes these segments: 

  • Bill Resnick speaks with Patricia Kullberg MD MPH about how premature disease, disability and death affects people of color, low income and immigrant communities in Portland, how the health gap between those who live in privilege and those who don’t is driven by social conditions; why these same communities will suffer the most from the ill effects of climate change; and how the Portland Clean Energy Initiative could mitigate some of those effects and help build healthier neighborhoods.  
  • In the second of a two part-interview, Desiree Hellegers Interviews deaf activist Philip J. Wolfe about the ground-breaking work of providing nearly continuous access to deaf and hard of hearing activists at OccupyICEPDX, and about the struggles that deaf and hard of hearing people in Portland. A candidate for city commissioner in the 2018 primary, Wolfe is a commissioner with the Portland Commission on Disability, a former chair of the Community Oversight Advisory Board and a past president of the Northwest Rainbow Alliance for the Deaf. A transcript of the interview is available below. Video coming soon.
  • Thabiti Lewis queries what the national anthem debate tells us about America and democracy and raises questions regarding the sincerity of the recent ad campaign supporting Kaepernick and how powerful forces in our society work to neutralize activist voices and profit from them as well.

For the whole show, use the download link or the play button below (scroll down below transcript). For individual segments, follow the links above.

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Transcript of broadcast interview with Philip J. Wolfe:

DH: Philip, can you talk a little bit about how you got involved in Occupy ICE and what
what drew you down to the camp in the first place because you were there almost from the start of the encampment?
PW: Right yeah first off, thank you for having me.Occupy ICE, you know, obviously we had a lot of concerns that we were dealing with. We were protesting the imprisonment of families, the abuse and sexual abuse and sexual violence against people, the detainment of children, the starvation of people, the deaths... none of that was acceptable for me and for anyone else there. And the fact that Oregon is supposed to be a Sanctuary City, a place where we can can have any person be welcome and be safe here, and to have ICE set up in a city like this... it is unconscionable.And so Occupy ICE was incredible. It was exciting for me; I wanted to go right from the get-go because I believed in what we were doing and really what made me, you know, join right off the bat was because of my experience with other protests. Being involved with Don't Shoot Portland, Portland Resistance, March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, and other varieties of groups that have occupations and protests here in the city. There's a lot of groups where I feel safe and so this was another place where I knew that I felt safe because there are people that I was familiar with. And of course when I showed up, I saw a lot of people from these various groups that were there together. And I know that Portland really got nationwide, and actually international attention just right off the bat, and taking advantage of that we wanted to bring attention to accessibility. And so between me and Andrew, one of the interpreters that was there, we talked about trying to set up an accessibility team of interpreters that worked together with the teams that the camp already had, like a medical team, an accessibility team, that you know, the camp split up into mental health, and engineering, and everything. And so we kind of offered our services and our knowledge and said that we know money can always be an issue, but it doesn't have to be in the situation. We brought together a team of volunteers who are willing to provide accessibility for accessibility’s sake and to support what the camp was doing and what they needed. If a Deaf person, you know, wanted to come into the camp, you know they had accessibility. And this is incongruent with the activity of the government. If a Deaf person or Deaf immigrant is detained, there's typically not accessibility given to them at any part of that experience. And so I really vehemently wanted to support that cause there and bring the accessibility and apply it to that. Language barriers about spoken language between just Spanish and English is the same concept of me as a Deaf person not being able to speak English or spoken English and needing American Sign Language. So we have intersectionality of these problems and we should be pulling together our resources. I see a lot of movements around the city and around the world where people are live streaming, but this is typically a problem because there's no captions or no accessibility. So often times Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, or other non-English-speaking communities have to depend on transcripts or even the media where often information is not completely given and the full story is not provided. And so at times you would have the interpreters or even me, myself, explaining what we see... what's going on in ASL so that the Deaf community can see it for themselves and discern that information for ourselves. If a community member sees someone that they know, then maybe they get excited and want to, you know, get in there too! And feeding the Deaf community with knowledge and empowering them with what was going on - because again, the world was watching Occupy ICE in Portland - and so it was a moment where we wanted to really take the opportunity to expose the world and educate them to how crucial it was to provide accessibility during these movements and these sort of actions. And so that's what really attracted me in to the camp in the first place. And during the second and third weeks I had schedule conflicts, so I wasn't there as much as I would have liked to be, but definitely in the beginning we set that bar and it was amazing.
DH: Yeah, and I gather… This is the second part of our interview, and we started talking with Andrew earlier ,and I gather that this was a really nationally… certainly a nationally groundbreaking move towards creating that access and that nearly continuous translation. That sounds like it might have been potentially an internationally groundbreaking move is that…?
PW: Absolutely. Because I, and other members of the Deaf community got together, and wanted to talk to the different people in camp. And they were so willing to talk to us, too, you know? There were other people that were there, even during interviews. Just, you know, conversations! We got to hang out with camp and see what it looked like because of the accessibility that was there, you know? We got to interact with people on a personal level and that was amazing. That  opportunity really opens our mind to know how these people are interacting with each other, how can we actually support each other, what does accessibility truly,  truly look like. And so that's where we got to develop that empathy, that awareness, that relationship with each other, you know? Because again, if you're going to depend on media information there might be a spin, there might be sensationalized stories that don’t match actually happens. And that would happen with Occupy. You know, a lot of the stories that came out really sensationalized us to sound violent, or a lot more active than we were. But we really provided interpreters for vigils, interpreted for speakers who were sharing their stories. It wasn’t that they were just there for one or two speakers or one hour, but they were really there to give us the chance to interact with other people there and to see the truth for ourselves, and to learn the information for ourselves. And speaking nationwide, I'm hoping that other protests and other actions are are inspired by what happened and they will think of us in Portland and what we did and how successful we were at providing that. And that every time they go to make a movement and to do something else that they think of us. And these are just seeds that we're trying to plant nationally and internationally in hope that they grow and are cultivated by people in other cities. Because you know it's not just about providing accessibility for a protest but that then leaks into, you know, the importance of accessibility in any sort of police interaction. So it's important have accessibility at a protest because what if officers show up and there’s an escalation. You know, in the Deaf community, we’re at such high risk of harm and miscommunication and misunderstanding, and often times we don't go to these types of protests because we're scared of police activity and lack of accessibility. Even having the opportunity with an interpreter to interact with the police on my level, at my time, in my way... it was a huge step for our involvement and hopefully we'll just continue to see it grow from there.
DH: Yeah, I mean you have been laying the foundation for this kind of wall-to-wall accessibility for a long time, it sounds like, through your activism. I know you noted... you spoke to a number of movements that you've been involved with and, do you want to talk more about kind of how this is been…how the seeds were planted for this pretty big leap that you took with Occupy?
PW: Yeah. I would say... well first off, I'd never experienced really leading a true protest. I've been involved in a lot of protests that were inaccessible, where I would catch some information. But there was no interpreter so I would catch, you know, some words on the mouths of some people. Or if someone was willing to text it to me, or just give me that information. And I'd have to work double and triple as hard just to get half the information. Reading articles as they, you know, release information through the media. So, that's what kind of led me to my fervor and in wanting to be more involved. So I actually did recently host a protest myself. I did that successfully and I was hoping that that would make change. And I knew that it's not just a one-time thing, it would require me to show up again and again to show my commitment so that the community would show their commitment back to me and hopefully provide resources and prepare for that. My repeated presence just built a trust with these groups and it led to the point where, you know, when Occupy started we already had a team of interpreters that were ready and willing to go. We had leaders that were willing and ready to make that happen and support us. And I think that that fire really happened when I last fall led my protest. We had ASL Interpreters that spoke through a megaphone for me as I was signing to the crowd. We marched in the streets. We signed... I had signed permits. We followed all the city codes. I contacted officers so that they knew what we were doing so that everyone who is there would be safe. And that experience was incredible. Being able to show the city that leading a protest is not just for hearing people. Me, as a Deaf person, I can lead an action. I can provide access and interpreters myself - it's possible! And all of these other hearing people and all of these other leaders who don't provide access, I hope that this would be a wake-up call for them that it is possible and it is easy. And so that was really truly inspiring moment for me. Very, very powerful. And that carried on through Occupy.
DH: And that protest centered around…?
PW: My protest was actually about ending police brutality. So that was, you know, a very sensitive topic and a very heavy, heavy issue in our city, and around the nation. So I think it takes a lot of guts for people to step forward and lead something like that. And especially, you know, me as a Deaf person, it was historical.
DH: Yeah, do you want to talk more about how you feel police brutality is particularly impacting the Deaf Community and the Hard of Hearing Community in Portland?
PW: Absolutely. So I want you to tell me,actually, I have a question for you. Um, and maybe the public who’s thinking this could think for themselves, as well. When the police fail to deescalate a situation with an able-bodied person, how can we then expect an officer to de-escalate when someone has a disability? It's scary to think about. From my perspective just interacting with police I've had a number of communication barriers that lead to immediate escalation that have led to traumatic situations. It's for me and a lot of other Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people. Especially here in Portland, where our Deaf Community has not yet had high visibility with our officers. Our officers are not trained in interacting with the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing members the our Portland Community. And I was fortunate enough to have the Department of Public Safety Standards training invite me to be there for 6 months as a role player working different scenarios with officers as a Deaf person. So as new officers came in, they didn’t know that i was Deaf. It wasn't until the actual role-play scenario where they found out and had to, you know, work around and figure out what to do in that situation. So it gave me an opportunity to give direct feedback. Say “imagine if I'm Deaf, but I also have a mental health crisis. What are you gonna do? Do you have resources? Do you know? What does your training say about that? And a lot of times the officers didn't have an answer and that's not okay with me. I should be confident and know that my officers have resources and have solutions ready for me. And so when I can see for myself that isn't readily available, I don’t feel safe. What if a Deaf person is otherly-disabled and then also is blind? A DeafBlind person is very different than someone who is Blind, and someone who is Deaf. What if they are Deaf but they're also Black or they are, you know, any other person of color? It's a huge, huge concern. Especially now! We see in Portland our new chief of police Danielle Outlaw and her leadership… it’s very concerning for me. I feel like she does not align with my vision of what Portland should be. We're on very, very separate pages, it feels like. Again and really I want to emphasize that's not just police, but it really leaks into any First Responders. Do we have firefighters who are ready to respond to a Deaf person in a fire? I myself spoke to my landlord and said okay “How many alarms do we have?” He said “Four”. I said “you should have alarms ready with lights. And you should have people who you know that you can contact before anything else that can be prioritized to come and take care of the situation and warn people”-- You know, "Here’s how your systems can improve." I gave them feedback of exactly how to talk to the First Responders that he would be calling so that they knew that that Deaf people were there. That people with other disabilities were there. This is also ambulances and hospitals. You know, all these issues of accessibility leak into each other in terms of even employment and otherwise. So you know, I love Portland, please don't get me wrong. But Portland is one of the worst places for a Deaf person to live because of just accessibility in general. Accessibility to public transportation, employment, hospital and medical, police, fire, you know? Any emergency situation, you know? And now the political field is very hot we have a lot of sensitive topics that are that are working their way through the Portland community, and live streams and videos of police activity and politician activity, and the elections coming up, and everything that's going on in the world is often not accessible and doesn't have captions. So when we're talking about public events, when we're talking about anything being inaccessible, were talking about leaving the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community out of those dialogues entirely. And so I'm really trying hard to tackle each one of these at the same time, and push each one of them to understand that they are interconnected. And that was one of the platforms that I ran on for City Council as well, was the accessibility on that level. Here in Portland, do you know... maybe you and other people don't know... but we have absolutely no Mental Health Services specifically for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community. None. So if a Deaf person is growing up with language deprivation, and oppression through the education system, and just systematically in general? You know, 90% of Deaf Americans are raised by hearing parents. So this is, you know, a situation where they're growing up in a world that maybe doesn’t accept them as a Deaf person, depriving them as of language, keeping them from their cultural identity, oppressing them, discriminating against them. Their inability to get the education leads to an inability to find a job. Maybe they’re houseless. Maybe there's, you know, an encounter with a police officer and then they’re in a mental health crisis. So you know, every level of the system fails them. And every level of the system is not transparent. And every level of the system is broken. And so the way that it affects the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community is very unique and specific. And it's hugely concerning for me.
DH: Can we talk a little bit about, back to Occupy for a few minutes here. Just tell me a little bit more about, for you, what were some of the most memorable moments? How was that for you to be in a situation with Department of Homeland Security? There was a lot of violence against protestors in that movement. Do you have particular memories that really stand out about that?
PW: Yeah… yeah. Uh, I have both good and bad memories and I would say they're both equally important and relevant. Of course it was scary to have DHS officers there with firearms directly pointed at us. Standing on the roof, standing on the streets. There was a point at one time when I walked up to the police line with my hands up, and I just wanted to talk to whoever was in charge. I had an interpreter there and I brought them there. I wanted to ask “What are you doing here? Why do you have guns? Why are you armed? Why are you standing here like this? You're yelling and I'm Deaf and you have a weapon pointed at me I want an explanation because your talking is inaccessible to me. So I went out with my interpreter I asked right up against the police line. They’re pointing in their guns at me I had my hands in the air through my interpreter trying to explain “I just want to talk to somebody! I just want to ask a question!” So finally, some guy that was in charge came up and briefly let me explain who I was. I said “I'm very very, calm.” I was acting as calm as I could. But my heart was racing because I knew that any miscommunication could lead to an escalated situation, I could have been shot, you know? So I got to ask him, “Why are you doing this? Why are you here?” And his answers were just… you know, it was just so easy to see how disassociated he already had been. He just already was answering and working through his mindset and didn't care what I had to say. So I backed myself up. But the moment of having those weapons pointed at my face was terrifying. Another memory I have, actually, is talking with someone who was on the loudspeaker, one of the Occupiers. And I said “Do you mind if I sign? And my interpreter yells for me?” and so they said that's fine, and so we watched each other, and I watched that person's lips and then tried to get with the pacing of their talking. And teaching the sign language to the crowds so that we could all sign together and chant together. And having powerful moments like that where there was both languages going on to have a whole crowd join me and speaking my native language while I was working around their native language. Obviously they saw something in me because I had been at the protests. They trusted me, they knew my passion and I saw theirs. I saw their passion and their heart and, you know... we're just trying to make the world more equitable for all of us. And so having that ability to interact and experience with people. To be at their house, to invite people to my home, to have just, community experiences. If I see someone now in the street or in the store or at City Hall you then we get to wave to each other. This is more people in the community that I know that I had this connection with that I was able to develop there and it really helped me get to the point where I am today. And we have a lot of people who are watching and listening to this and I just love all of them who did that.
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