Friday, July 22, 2016

In the streets

Apartments in refugee neighborhood
Cambodian children - cold in the apartments
The way it worked was I would take clinical groups of community health nursing students into refugee communities. There were nearly always 8 students/group, so initially we had 4 teams of 2 students and me. Later as our reputation spread, we had volunteer and then paid translators and community health workers, like promotoras de salud. Still later in the process we developed clinics with medical (primary care, psychiatry, gynecology, pediatrics, etc.) and other services, which were integrated into the district health scene. But for now, I’ll describe the straight district health end of things.

We started in one apartment building (about 40 units), where a lot of refugees lived (as well as other poor people). We went door to door, finding health and related problems. On the first day, two of students helped deliver a baby – so we knew things were going to be interesting. Every time we’d find a problem, one of the student teams would stop to help the people solve the problem. Some problems were straightforward and readily solved, some took semesters to solve, and some were never completely solved. Often, one thing would lead to another and we’d work with the people over time. And Leslie was working with us (what an education for students that was!). It was never, ever about referral. It was always about helping the most underserved people be served – solving problems (pregnancy, primary care, depression, hunger, family violence, cancer, and on and on and on). 

In the day we sweat it out in the streets
of a runaway American dream

Community garden outreach
Agape Clinic waiting room
When we got through the first building, we left a team in that building to continue working through problems and went through the same process in the next building. Then we left another team in the second building and started working through the third. And so on. Over time, over semesters we had all the buildings covered in about an 8 block area (which was a lot). And we also had classes and other outreach (health screening, vaccinations, etc.) going on in schools, churches, and community gathering places; for awhile we were doing intake assessments for children who had been removed from their homes because of abuse; and we added the medical, etc. and expanded clinic hours.

Estevan Garcia, MD and Charles Kemp, FNP
Much of what we accomplished was through partnerships and cooperative relationships with community organizations, from grass-roots groups like the Association for Salvation of Cambodian Refugees to Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas County Health Department, National Council of Jewish Women, Dallas Police, and a number of foundations, churches, and religious organizations - and of course, the Agape Clinic.

We said we would take responsibility for this community and we did that. Far out vision, isn’t it. With dignity and justice for all in the real world. What an education for students it all was!

It lasted in one form or another for about 30 years and parts of it (East Dallas Health Center, Agape Clinic) continue through today
Refugee children on Carroll Street
and are seeing more patients now than ever before.

We didn't have a TV in the waiting room. Instead we had books - especially children's books and a children's play area.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Vancouver, Big Sur, the girl with far-away eyes, Anna Madrigal

Redwood from our bed. At night the stars!
If you’re downright disgusted
And life ain’t worth a dime
Find a girl with far-away eyes
Anna Madrigal at age 92: “Help me up, dear. Just for a second. While we still have the light.
It’s been another almost indescribable time.

David and Charles flew Jean and me to Vancouver, BC. We stayed in a boutique hotel, the Opus in Yaletown, two blocks from the harbor. It was my first time flying first class and first time in a hotel like the Opus.

We walked all over town, visited some of Jean’s colleagues on Granville Island (island like a tribal gathering place – my tribe), went to the brilliant anthropology museum, hung out in good times at the botanical garden, visited a great little market (Vancouver is a seriously friendly place), hung out at the New Amsterdam CafĂ©, had meals beyond belief (I’ve never had a tasting menu before – Ay Caramba!), Had a lovely birthday dinner for Jean, and had wonderful, wonderful times together. I am deeply grateful to David and Charles for this. What an incredible thing to do! What a beautiful time!
David Kemp and Charles Kemp at Hawksworth in Vancouver
Back to Bay Area, we spent the night in The City, then drove south toward Big Sur – driving along the highway listening to Astral Weeks, crying along the highway.

We stopped for Jean to say a prayer at Esalen where her husband’s ashes were placed six years ago.

In another time, in another place.
Big Sur

Then Jean and I met Steve and Susan, Andy and Marita, and Bob and Ann at a secret hollow space in Big Sur, where we slept two nights outside among the redwoods by a mountain stream, watched the shimmering light on the leaves, saw an incomparable sunset in good fellowship, had lovely meals in a clearing in the forest, hung out around an old table cross-cut from a huge redwood (it was cut long ago – the people who invited Jean are serious about preserving the wilderness), sat on a beautiful beach watching the sea otters, walked in the redwood forest, and became younger and more beautiful.
Golden land sunset over the beautiful Pacific

A woodland-nymph with far-away eyes
Lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
To be born again
In another world
In another world
In another time
Got a home on high
Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world
I'm nothing but a stranger in this world
I got a home on high
In another land
So far away
So far away
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
In another time
In another place
In another time
In another place
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
We are goin' up to heaven
We are goin' to heaven
In another time
In another place
In another time
In another place
In another face

(Van Morrison)

While we still have the light

Love Wins!

Dyke March - Love Wins!

Originally posted June 2016. Re-posted July 2016

David and Charles, and Jean and I started Pride weekend with a birthday dinner for David at my apartment, including the last bottle of champagne from their wedding. There were tears for the 49 people murdered in Orlando. There were stories of David’s epic John Muir Trail trek, reminiscing, Berkeley, San Francisco, music, good food, just being together. It was a beautiful evening. 

The Dyke March started at Dolores Park on Saturday afternoon – a huge gathering of Shiny Happy People dancing, loving, laughing, being, and sweet, sweet vibes – including Jean and me. I’m blown totally away by this freedom and love vibrating through so many people. An unimaginably beautiful repudiation of hate and negativity and judgment. And an all-time great party! Jean pointed that this was a be-in. It was – a fine and true Human Be-In, a Love-In!

Dolores Park - Dyke March
We left the park before the march started. People were still just pouring into the park. We went back to my apartment, then met David and Charles on the corner, where we talked for awhile and a half block away Market Street was packed with marchers. We tagged on to the end of the march (Bom!) and I couldn’t stop dancing onward to Castro where these/us truly shiny happy people blocked the intersection of Market and Castro to dance and talk and BE and the police stood back and gradually the crowd dispersed. It was intense.

The end of the march
Sunday we went to a Pride Parade viewing party above Market Street. There were lots of people and drinks, food, music, two men in brief briefs dancing on tables. On the street below the parade kept coming and coming and coming. We went out to the street to be closer to an endless stream of people saying again and again “No!” to oppression and fear and prejudice and all of that.

Saying again and again Love is Love is Love is Love – there were Dykes on Bikes, SF Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band, Cancer Survivors (one sign said “Fuck Cancer” and another said, “I Don’t Have Nipples” – cheers of love all down the street), Transgender Veterans, Age On (“Life’s a Stage”), Oakland Fire Department Stands United With Orlando, Naked and Sacred, Google, Apple, “Eat me – try Vegan,” Facebook, Oracle, (“Be proud of who you are”), all the tech companies, Walmart(!), a gay couple who had been together 50 years, Lesbian and Jewish/Gay and Jewish/Bi and Jewish, Muttville Senior Dog Rescue (“Muttville Pride”), and so deeply moving – all the flags of the countries of origin of the people killed in Orlando. And more and more and more…

And as they kept on coming, there was a growing sense of overwhelming power and Love is Love is Love is Love is Love!

On the train (N Judah) back to the apartment a bunch of people piling in at the Montgomery stop and it’s getting very crowded and one of the people who just came in has a cool little music player with decent bass and the music starting and 4-5 people dancing on the other side of the couple kissing and kissing next to us and the guy with mental illness getting really excited, laughing and yeah, me too. This IS the train. (Everything happened exactly as described, but it's also allegorical.)

Charles Kemp and Jean Cacicedo
The Sunday afternoon at the end of Pride, Jean and I went to Duboce Park a half block from the apartment to take a nap, lying on sarongs under a tree in shifting sun-dappled shade with a background of happy voices, laughter, N Judah train rumbling past, music somewhere up the hill, leaves in the wind, bouncing ball, opening my eyes seeing four people playing a gentle game of bocce – “O00hhh,” they were saying when someone made a good throw – and 20 feet away a woman dancing barefoot in the grass, breastfeeding her baby.

Duboce Park