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The Peace in the Streets Global Film Festival offers young people around the world an opportunity to share their experiences and ideas about creating peace—by making films.

Carole Krechman, a 12-year resident of Rancho Mirage, is the driving force behind this transforming project, which is sponsored by her group, The Peacemaker Corps, a non-governmental organization established as a result of Carole’s experience as chairman of the board of the Friends of the United Nations.

Carole took a rather circuitous path to this endeavor. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School and went on to study architecture at UCLA. She spent many years redoing homes for famous people in the entertainment industry (she can drop names with the best of them!) before moving her specialty to roller-skating rinks, and then in the 1990s, to “family entertainment centers” including ice rinks, bowling alleys and so on.

“I’m especially proud of working in the late 1970s to establish the World on Wheels in South Central Los Angeles,” she recalls. “After the Watts riots, there was a need to rebuild the community. We convinced local politicians and the police that we could provide a safe environment for kids to come. We installed metal detectors, and ended up with a place that was safe and self-integrated, where young people could find companionship and community.”

Carole spent nine years working on projects in China, and as a result was asked to join the board of the Friends of the United Nations, a nongovernmental organization. In 1995, she was made chairman of the board.

“That was the year of the 50th anniversary of the UN,” she says, “and our role was to tell the world what was going on at the UN, to disseminate information that would help to build civil society around the world.”

Carole remembers the impact of listening to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. “He called for a decade of peace and tolerance,” she says, “and the Friends of the UN thought about creating a tolerance award. I left Friends in 1997 and spun off the Peacemaker Corps as a stand-alone NGO specifically focused on young people and those goals.”

Carole was able to secure a grant from Department of Housing and Urban Development and worked in partnership with malls around the country to offer restorative justice programs for youth.

“Our goal has always been to bring people together as colleagues instead of enemies,” she says. “We use education to empower youth to be actively involved in peacemaking in their own communities. When they attend mall events, they can download a free app to participate in global networks and activities.”

The Peace in the Streets Global Film Festival allows young filmmakers to use any technology available to share their own stories. Entries must be no more than five minutes long, and are judged in three categories: age 8 and under, 9-13, and 14-18.

“It hits my heart,” says Carole, “to get a film done on a cell phone from a young boy in a refugee camp, talking about the conditions and expressing his hope for a better life.”

Among the 2015 award winners are two local films made by participants in the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs. Ashelly Alvarez, of the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, took second place in the 8 and under category with her film, “Coachella Valley Peace in the Streets.”

Tiwahna Whyte, Vanessa Ledezma and Hayden Poulain of the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs won third place in 2015 in the 14-18 category. Their film, “Finding My Strength,” is a powerful personal statement by Tiwahna, who was bullied; she shares the way she handled her reactions. She first talks of confronting a bully and opening a dialogue that led to them becoming friends.

“All I did was stand up for myself. It was the first time I felt powerful. I said, ‘This is how I feel, and you can’t do anything about it, because I’m still going to do what I’m put on earth to do,’” she says in the film. Later, when she was again subject to bullying, she developed coping skills that included writing and sharing her feelings. Her film is a compelling testament to the difference it can make for youngsters to learn from others facing similar situations.

I urge you to go to the film festival website or scroll down to the end of this article to watch the amazing award-winning films submitted by young people from all around the world. The messages include one young man’s response to bullying: “Turn around and look at yourself.” A young girl walked around the streets of New York asking, “If you could change the world in one sentence, what would it be and why?” and submitted responses that vary from eating healthy to making peace. Another boy’s film, depicting physical confrontations, concludes, “You always have a choice, and it can change your own and everyone else’s lives.”

Carole Krechman has created and nurtured a wonderful organization dedicated to educating young people about their ability to influence each other to make a better world.

“I want kids to know they can walk anywhere in the world and know they’re not going to die, that violence won’t end their life,” she said.  

What have you done lately to make a difference? Supporting the Peacemaker Corps might be a good way to start.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Some columns are more difficult to write than others. This one will attempt to transcend partisan politics while I examine my unexpectedly overwhelming emotional reaction to the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president.

In June, I wrote about the reactions many local women had as they voted for a woman for president in the California primary. However, voting in a primary is not the same as actually watching a major party select a woman to be its candidate. That was history being made in real time, and many women I know—as well as some men, and many of my Republican friends—were similarly astonished at the intensity of their emotions while watching the Democratic Party officially nominate Hillary Clinton.

The gains achieved by the suffrage movement have always been incremental—countries where women were allowed to vote locally but not nationally; situations in which women could vote but not run for office; places where voting rights were granted only to certain races or classes. For example, Britain granted unmarried women who were “householders” the right to vote in local elections in 1869, expanding that to include married women in 1894.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to grant full equal voting rights to women. Australia followed with women receiving incremental suffrage between 1895 and 1908, based on where they lived in the country.

Finland adopted full female suffrage in 1906; Norway followed in 1913, and Denmark and Iceland in 1915.

In 1917, when the czar was overthrown in Russia, universal suffrage was declared. Great Britain was still struggling with class distinctions in 1918, empowering women based on being older than 30, or those with a university degree or those who owned certain property. (All men 21 and older were then given the right to vote.)

The United States finally granted women the vote in 1920, when on Aug. 26, the state of Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment. It’s worth acknowledging that this occurred less than 100 years ago.

Black women didn’t gain full suffrage in South Africa until 1994. Qatari women received the right to vote in 2003; Kuwaiti women followed in 2005. In 2011, King Abdullah issued a decree ordering that Saudi Arabian women be allowed to stand as candidates and vote, but only in municipal elections. Their first opportunity did not come until December 2015.

Today, many women still do not have the right to fully participate in their government. In Brunei, there are no national elections at all, although there is universal suffrage for those 18 and older in elections for village leaders. In the United Arab Emirates, just a small percentage of men and women were allowed to vote for the national advisory council in 2011—in fact, one woman was elected to the council—but neither men nor women can vote for the nation’s leader.

There are women we know here in the Coachella Valley who were born before the right to equal agency was achieved here in the United States—and now they have seen history made again. While my own story has always included the right to vote, it has not always included things we now take for granted, such as getting credit in one’s own name, have access to birth control without anyone else’s consent, qualifying for a loan even if one has children, or being able to apply for any job for which one is qualified (as opposed to sex-segregated “help wanted” ads that were the norm when I graduated high school).

Given all of this history—both my own and that of women around the world—I was still not prepared for the overwhelming intensity of my reaction when Hillary Clinton’s name was announced as the official candidate for president by a major political party. Whether you support her or not, she made history—and that’s worth savoring as indicative of how much has changed in a relatively brief period of time. In evolutionary terms, 100 years is a drop in the bucket.

There are still those who resist the idea that a woman can be president, including a 50-ish woman I saw interviewed on television who said, adamantly, “The president has to be a man. Women have hormones, so it has to be a man.”

In other words … we still have a long way to go.

The impact of the nomination of the first woman as a serious candidate for president is not ultimately of importance merely because it is a “first.” It’s important because, whether Hillary wins or loses, never again in America will any little girl have to set her sights lower than any little boy.

That is what brought my unexpected overflowing tears. I admit to having been taken aback upon realizing how much it mattered to me.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that transcends politics.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Rancho Mirage resident Bill Marx is known both for being the eldest son of Harpo Marx (the mute, harp-playing Marx Brothers star) and for his own talent as a composer and performer. He and his wife, Barbara, are among those named in bold print as attendees at many local charity functions, and Bill is often a featured performer, combining his piano-playing talent with comedic stories about growing up Marx.

Raised in Beverly Hills, Bill became his father’s prop man at age 12 and his arranger/conductor by the time Bill was 16.

“Dad couldn’t read a note of music,” he says. “I’d write the notes in letters, and he could feel the rhythm and harmony.”

Bill’s dad decided that Beverly Hills was “too pretentious” and moved the family to the desert. Bill went on to study at the Juilliard School in New York and then settled in Los Angeles. While Bill’s father helped him hone his natural musical talent, most people don’t know how much his mother, Susan Marx, influenced who he is as a person.

Bill moved permanently to the desert in 1992.

“I wanted to look after my mother, and I took over the trusteeship of my dad’s estate and professional identity,” says Bill. “But instead of looking out for her, she had to look after me, as my shaky second marriage broke up. I thought I could always go back to living in Los Angeles, but when we started being together without my dad, (my mom and I) developed the best damn absurd relationship, so I decided to stay.”

Susan Marx was something of a trailblazer in the Coachella Valley. She had been in movies and was a Ziegfeld Follies girl before she married Harpo. They became parents to four adopted children; Bill is the oldest.

“When dad died, on their 28th anniversary in 1964, she had no ‘role’ to fulfill anymore,” says Bill. “She had no desire to remarry, although she was courted by lots of wealthy guys. She literally decided to ‘invent’ Susan Marx as a separate person.

“Mom broke into the Old Boys’ Club here, at a time when an outspoken feminist Democrat was not the norm,” Bill says. “She had an opinion on everything and wasn’t afraid to share it. She was the first woman on the board of College of the Desert and served on the board of Palm Springs Unified School District. She even ran for state Senate, endorsed by the local papers, and lost by only about 1,000 votes.”

Susan Marx had always been interested in education and preferred to give her support without fanfare. “Once, they wanted to honor mom by changing the name of a middle school,” says Bill. “Mom didn’t want her name on a building, but she said she didn’t mind them putting a small plaque on the door of the school library. She was just like that.”

When Susan died in 2002, Bill had already established himself in the desert, along with Barbara, whom he met in 1994.

“I had ‘de-citified’ myself,” he says. “Besides, I was doing Marx trustee work and playing a lot down here.”

While Bill is known for playing jazz and standards at various local venues and charity events, most people don’t realize the extent of his musical accomplishments. He is a classical composer whose work has included writing for movies, television and ballet; he’s also created concertos performed in major venues. He is the curator of the Marx Brothers’ legacy, and well known as a local “celebrity.”

“Celebrity isn’t what you create,” Bill says, with typical humility. “It’s what other people create about you. It’s my name value that has counted, more than who I am. I always knew I had a magical name, not just because of my dad, but also because of my mom, but she always said it was important that I get known not just for being my father’s son. I figured that when you have talent, you can use that talent rather than just giving a check or volunteering your time, so the best way I could help others was also my way of fitting into society down here.”

Bill has been using his talent for a greater purpose for more than 20 years. He has actively supported numerous causes, including ACT for MS, established by his old friend, local columnist and personality, Gloria Greer, who died in 2015.

“Mom had said to me early on, ‘There’s one person you need to know here, and that’s Gloria Greer.’ She asked me to be on the ACT for MS board, and I have been ever since.”

Bill currently performs for the public twice a week at AJ’s on the Green in Cathedral City.

“I was given the gift of music, and I like to keep testing my capability,” he said. “It keeps my brain alive, and I love the camaraderie and interaction with the audience. I had nothing to do with the gift I was given, but I do have to honor it. I think I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

Bill has a large group of local followers, including other performers, who often show up when he is appearing. I was recently in the audience when jazz singer Diane Schuur, now a local resident, jumped up onstage with him and blew away the audience.

Bill has advice for young people: “It’s not enough just to have a door opened, even though it helps: You have to deliver. Set out to do something, and see it through—finish it. Don’t think of it as creativity; think of it as self-discovery. Everybody has a unique means of self-expression within them; it’s about how they choose to express it that makes the difference. When it comes out, it becomes unique to the one doing it.

“Trust your own instinct to find your talent. That’s the gift. I was just lucky enough to know what mine was.”

Lucky for us, Bill Marx is still discovering new ways to explore his gift and share it.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Imagine coming to the desert to start a new small business, put down roots and make a mark—with no existing ties to the community.

That is the story of Nikhil Mehta, a native of New Delhi, India, who relocated to Rancho Mirage last year to start Home Care Assistance, supplying trained caregivers who offer innovative approaches—so badly needed in this aging retirement community.

Mehta, 59, came to the United States at age 24 with his wife, Kavita. They went to college together in India, and although she then came to the U.S. with her parents, she returned to India, where she and Nikhil married 35 years ago. Mehta attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a master’s degree in business. He and Kavita have two children: Arjun, 32, living in Los Angeles, and Jaya, 29, in residency at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

Mehta’s long and successful career includes 15 years at Xerox, where he was the vice president of finance for North America; he also had a stint at Citibank.

“I didn’t enjoy the banking culture,” he notes.

In 2000, Mehta moved to San Diego to be the chief financial officer of a biotech company. “We grew human skin for injuries,” says Mehta. “After Sept. 11, we sent a whole planeload of tissue out for victims of burns.”

Mehta moved back to Los Angeles and joined a company as a vice president for corporate development, and later took positions as a chief financial officer and chief execitive officer at a company in Ventura.

After riding out the Great Recession, he decided he needed to make a change.

“It just wasn’t a joy anymore,” says Mehta. “I got burned out. I was looking to do something on my own, specifically in the health-care industry,which had always resonated with me. In the corporate world, you’re not your own person. You have to answer to a board and shareholders. I wanted to be in a situation where I was my own boss.”

In 2014, Mehta began exploring small-business opportunities. “I asked a franchiser to show me some businesses in health care-related fields,” he says. “They presented a franchise with Health Care Assistance, so I went to Palo Alto and was blown away. I’ve been in many companies, large and small, and I know how to judge management talent. I was impressed.”

Mehta began to investigate the whole industry. “I realized that as society is growing older, especially with baby boomers retiring, this industry has only one way to go—up. So many people need this support, especially since 90 percent want to grow old in their own homes.”

He initially hoped to open a location in the western portion of the Los Angeles area. “I was so impressed with their business model. I told them I could help them expand their growth and raise money. They may have thought I was crazy,” he says.

The franchise company decided to keep that location under corporate ownership, but they offered Mehta the Palm Springs area.

“I felt so passionate about how we can help through this business that I decided to move away from the coast and come to the desert,” says Mehta. “This business approach goes so far beyond industry standards; I believe we are really unique in what we offer.”

How do you move to an area where you have no real contacts and start a new small business?

“It’s been a challenge,” says Mehta. “Gaining acceptance when you’re new to an area is tough. The Coachella Valley is very self-contained, especially in the health-care industry. Everybody knows everybody else. It takes time. I had one potential contract turned down with: ‘If you last a couple of years, we’ll take you seriously.’ It’s also hard finding good talent locally, and we won’t hire anybody without at least two to three years of experience. Then we put them through a training program so they can deliver our service professionally. Our standards are very high.”

With many established caregiving agencies already in the Coachella Valley, what does Mehta think sets Home Care Assistance apart? “We offer more than just routine caregiving,” says Mehta. “We have a cognitive therapeutic method that includes physical activities and brain-exercise routines that can actually re-establish brain connections and are designed to delay the onset of dementia or slow down cognitive decline.

“Caregivers work one-on-one in clients’ homes with a series of activities that go beyond just memory-training. We also focus on the executive functions of the brain relating to language, attention and visual/spatial perception.”

Despite high hopes for his business, Mehta sees challenges here in the Coachella Valley.

“I’m glad to see that there is now four-year higher education available locally,” he says. “Once this area is recognized for providing that kind of opportunity, more people will come here and want to stay when they finish school.

“From a business perspective, we need more investment in specialized training. The Coachella Valley is definitely growing, so we need to provide incentives for more businesses to locate here—and that requires having an educated and trained labor force.”

Like any new small businessperson, Nikhil Mehta is reaching out through chambers of commerce and social events to establish local connections to others in the local health-care community.

“It takes time and effort,” he says, “but it’s worth it for something you believe in. We’ve seen tremendous lifestyle improvements in our clients. Besides, our methods make it fun for the caregiver and the client.”

Nikhil Mehta is just one example of the talent and experience we have here in the Coachella Valley. We need to attract more people like him—people who are willing to make an investment in making a difference.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

You feel it in your gut—that uncomfortable feeling of being stereotyped. A prejudicial belief that people with a particular characteristic—race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, etc.—are all the same means we don’t have to recognize others as individuals. It’s the ultimate guilt by association.

I was about 12 when it first happened to me. I used to pick up the evening newspaper for my dad every day at the guard shack at the old MGM Studios in Culver City. The guard and I had gotten friendly and exchanged pleasantries each day. One day, when my Culver City High School was slated to play a football game that evening against our arch rivals, Beverly Hills, the guard asked me if I was going to the game.

“I can’t go this time, but I hope our team wins,” I said.

“Well,” he said, “one can only hope you beat the kikes.”

I’m Jewish, but I had never before heard that term, nor had I experienced overt anti-Semitism. I lived in an area where many of my friends were Jewish, but just as many were not. I didn’t know how to respond to the guard—but I could feel in my gut that what he’d said was offensive, and that it somehow included me.

The word “kike” apparently comes from the time in U.S. history when there were lots of Jewish immigrants coming through Ellis Island. Many of them couldn’t complete the entry forms using the common English alphabet, and they didn’t want to sign with an “X,” because it seemed to represent a cross, so they signed with an “O.” The Yiddish word for “circle” is kikel, so the immigration inspectors came to call anyone who signed with an “O” a “kike.” However it began, use of that term to derogatively refer to Jews exists to this day.

Being blonde, and therefore not fitting the stereotype of what Jewish women are supposed to look like, I have often heard negative stereotypes about Jews casually thrown into conversation—things that clearly wouldn’t have been said in front of me if the speakers had known my identity, as if that should make a difference.

We’ve all had that experience, when a friend or family member drops some negative stereotypical term into conversation—“beaner,” “rag head,” “jungle bunny,” “Uncle Tom,” “chink”—usually without even knowing where the term originated. We can feel it in our gut.

All of this came to mind during the flap caused when the Trump campaign re-tweeted a post that had originated on an anti-Semitic website, depicting Hilary Clinton with a six-pointed Star of David against a background of money. It was subsequently explained and justified as “merely a star, like a sheriff’s badge.” There was no recognition by Trump nor his campaign that using an image representing an anti-Semitic image of Jews and money was, at the very least, worthy of recognition and apology.

If you don’t understand the history of how this image came to be associated as a negative stereotype of Jews, it’s easy to accept Trump’s explanation that “it was just a star.” In the Middle Ages, when the Church dominated European societies, people interpreted the Bible as prohibiting Christians from loaning money. Jews, however, were allowed to loan money, with interest. Many Jews at that time were prohibited from owning property or engaging in most means of making a living, so some of them became money-lenders. The stereotype was typified by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice in his character, Shylock, a term now associated with loan-sharking. As banking took off in Europe, Jews were able to finance everything from wars to exploration. However, when the time to repay arrived, some governments passed laws that non-Jews did not have to repay, or, as in England under King Edward I in 1290, the entire national population of Jews was expelled (and incidentally not allowed back as a community for more than 300 years).

This negative stereotype associating Jews with money has, obviously, survived. For anyone not to recognize the negative connotation of such a stereotype is just ignorant. For anyone implicated by such images, it’s hurtful. You feel it in your gut.

Concerns about Black Lives Matter and attacks on police officers have highlighted yet other stereotypes: police power as synonymous with the abuse of authority, and race as synonymous with criminality. We are born into a national culture that has, from its inception, valued some lives more than others, yet we react as if this isn’t a truth that needs to be addressed.

If asked to identify the ethnicity of one who is extremely good at math, you’re likely to say Asian. If asked about athletic prowess on the basketball court, you’re likely to say African American. If I mention a national identity associated with drunkenness, you might immediately respond “Irish.”

Organized crime translates to Italian. Blondes are dumb. Muslims are potential terrorists. Native Americans drink and gamble. Black men are well-endowed and barely evolved from animals—hence depictions of our president as a monkey. Hispanics are illegals.

Asians are secretive, easily depicted as devious or spies. Germans, despite more than 70 years since their involvement in World War II and the Holocaust, are as militaristic. Latinos are lazy—think of the pictorial image of the sombrero siesta, or depictions of Latinos as unwilling to learn English and assimilate, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Gays do not generally mince around with limp wrists, but when that stereotype is portrayed, they feel the negative characterization in their gut.

When leaders or public figures use discriminatory stereotypes to characterize political opponents or members of the general public, they are either indicating their ignorance of the historically negative implications—or they know and just don’t care.

Either way, we can feel it in our gut.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Born in the Coachella Valley toward the end of the Generation X demographic, Tizoc DeAztlan, at 37, is the embodiment of all of the best Gen X stereotypes: individualistic, entrepreneurial, tech savvy, goal oriented—and wanting to make a difference.

DeAztlan is a Coachella Valley native, born to Roberto, a lawyer, and Amalia, a social activist and feminist (and someone I’ve known for more than 25 years). He has two older sisters.

“Yes,” he acknowledges, “I was the baby in the family.”

DeAztlan says he was born into politics. “My mom instilled in me the need to see justice, and to not just settle for conditions in the community as they are, or for less than is fair.”

A graduate of La Quinta High School in its first graduating class, DeAztlan went on to graduate from Fordham University with a degree in communication. He lives in La Quinta with his wife, Briana, whom he met when they were both in high school.

DeAztlan has been actively involved in the world of politics, working on the campaigns of locals like Congressman Raul Ruiz, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez and former Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez. He remembers campaigning with his mom back when he was in the fifth-grade, and his dad driving him around before school to put door hangers on people’s homes.

“I’m involved in party campaign politics and in nonpartisan community organizing,” he said. “I see politics in everything. It’s up to each individual how much to engage. It doesn’t matter your position; there are so many ways to be who you are and play a role.”

DeAztlan’s first job, at the age of 19, was doing field research for the RAND Corporation in Los Angeles County, interviewing people about their lives, access to health care and other personal and community issues.

“It was the first time I saw issues on both a micro and macro level, and saw how research can affect people’s real lives,” he says.

DeAztlan’s latest venture—in coordination with Hugh Van Horn, former president of the Coachella Valley Young Republicans—is Perspectives, a nonpartisan discussion group that held its first meeting in Indio in June.

“Hugh and I are friends who always have discussions about lots of issues,” says DeAztlan. “It’s so easy to fall into ‘talking points’ that often miss the point. We realized people may have more in common with their neighbors than they realize, and wanted to provide a place for people to discuss and share information in a hopeful, compassionate and responsible manner with mutual respect.”

The first Perspectives meeting drew 30-40 people and a lively discussion. A few designated people shared their ideas or feelings on the topic, and then others volunteered to participate; this was followed by small group discussions involving everyone present.

“We want to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their own perspective,” says DeAztlan. “It’s important that if someone has something they want to say, they have a place to share it.”

DeAztlan hopes to tackle issues like income inequality, race, guns and the role of government.

“I think we have a responsibility to listen and learn others’ perspectives,” he says. “Groups like this happen more in urban areas, but here, we are so segregated by walls and geography. I’m confident people want an arena for discussion without restrictions. We want the questions to be open and give people the ability to learn more that will enable them to back up their opinions. It’s very sobering the effect that being around your peers in the community can have. It goes way beyond talking points. It’s worth much more than just reading about something or hearing it on television. You can’t eliminate the politics around lots of issues, but we want to eliminate ‘labels,’ and we want people to interpret for themselves.

”We’re often told to think a certain way about some issue, but our own lives can make us realize something completely different. You know, just because someone’s a Republican doesn’t mean they’re not a compassionate person. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t be prejudiced against others. We all need to listen and learn from each other.”

No date has been set for the next Perspectives gathering, but they plan to announce a date and topic soon. Meanwhile, Tizoc and Briana have started an event production business that allows them to be involved in major events.

While Tizoc and Briana decided to return to the Coachella Valley after college, many young people do not, and yet others who do return have difficulty building their lives locally. Tizoc hopes to see a Coachella Valley future that includes more access to small-business loans, expansion of local education (like the four-year program now at Cal State’s campus in Palm Desert), more local development of technology, and access to jobs.

“Young people need to feel empowered that whatever their skill set is, there’s a local market for it,” says DeAztlan.

Tizoc DeAztlan is an excellent example of a generation that has felt the obligation to do something—and which is inheriting the power to get things done.

“Some choose to ignore, others feel the obligation to do something,” DeAztlan says. “I believe you have to want more than what is right in front of you.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Those of a certain age will remember Ish Kabibble, the zany cornet player with the strange haircut who played with bandleader Kay Kyser in the 1940s and 1950s, appearing on radio, television and the big screen.

Kabibble was born Merwyn Bogue in 1908 in Pennsylvania. According to his daughter Janet Arnot, a Palm Desert resident, he originally studied piano, but didn’t like it—however, he liked the sound of the trumpet. Bogue got one when he was 12, and learned on his own how to play “God Bless America.” Hanging around speakeasy clubs, Bogue fell in love with Dixieland jazz.

While in his third year of pre-law studies at West Virginia University, Bogue was playing with small bands. At a dance in 1931, bandleader Hal Kemp asked from the stage, “Is there a trumpet player in the audience?” Bogue sat in, and within months, he heard from Kay Kyser, an old friend of Kemp; he asked Bogue to try out for first chair in Kyser’s band. Musician friends told him he had to know how to triple-tongue; he learned, practiced and played without a hitch. Bogue got the job.

“He got this telegram,” says Arnot, “saying, ‘No whisky, no mustache, clean cut.’”

His father agreed he could drop out of school and pursue music, but he had to promise he would someday complete his degree—a promise he finally kept at age 70.

One of the comedic songs in the Kyser repertoire was a song, “Isch Gabibble,” taken from a mock-Yiddish expression meaning, “What, me worry?” (Yes, it’s the same slogan adopted by Mad Magazine.) When Kyser became host of the popular ’30s radio program Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge, Bogue portrayed a silly character called Ish Kabibble, called down from the bandstand to join Kyser on the stage as a comic sidekick. Bogue wore his dark hair with funny bangs, and dressed like a bumpkin. He would tell funny jokes and poems, and is known by music-lovers of the time for his chant, “boop boop dittem dattem whattem chu,” in the band’s hit “Three Little Fishies,” which topped Billboard’s pop chart in 1939.

In spite of the funny persona, Bogue was a standout soloist with Kyser’s band for nearly 20 years, and he served as the business manager for the orchestra.

One of Ish Kabibble’s poems flows easily from Arnot:

I sneezed a sneeze into the air.

It fell to earth I know not where.

But you shoulda seen the looks on those

In whose vicinity I snoze.

As for family life, “Dad met my mom (Janet Meade), when she was 17, and he was 21,” says Arnot. “She was with a date at a dance where he was playing. He saw her in the audience and said it was love at first sight. They started dating, but her father was upset that she was involved with someone in show business. She snuck out to see dad secretly, a daring thing to do at 17.”

They married a few years later. He had a gig in San Francisco that would pay no money, but would provide food and lodging and get them to California. He played at small places along the way, and by the time they arrived, he had 17 cents in his pocket—and some Lorna Doone cookies.

“They had to wait for another band member to show up to get enough for the toll to get across the bridge,” says Arnot. “They stayed married for over 60 years, dying within eight days of each other in 1994, and every year on their anniversary, he always gave her a box of Lorna Doones.”

Arnot is the youngest of Bogue’s three children.

“I was really too young to experience much of his time with Kyser,” she says. “After Kyser retired, dad teamed up with Mike Douglas (before he became a big talk-show host) doing something like a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis act. They had summer bookings all over the U.S., so we traveled in the back seat of a Ford woodie station wagon. For us kids, it was an adventure.

“In 1955, after he and Douglas split, he started a six-piece Dixieland group called The Shy Guys. He was often gone five months at a time, but whenever he was home, we were his priority. He was easy-going, caring, kind, a devoted father and husband. Mom was a trouper, but it was hard.”

When Arnot was 12, her dad was booked to play throughout Nevada.

“I was already enrolled in school. Mom said we were selling our house, putting stuff in storage, and going to be with my dad,” she said. “I remember once he was playing the lounge at the Fremont Hotel in Las Vegas. Kids couldn’t go in there, but sometimes, they would let us go behind the curtain. I would peek through a rip and watch his show. I especially remember one night after the show, we went to a restaurant with the rest of the band, and dad let me order a bowl of chili. Imagine, chili at 2 a.m.!

“That tour ended in Lake Tahoe, and mom decided she wanted to travel with dad, so we stayed with friends and went to school there,” says Arnot. “At 16, I was acting up so they sent me back. My dad greeted me with, ‘Whatever happened up there, you’re forgiven for being a troublemaker ... but you’re grounded!’ He was so trusting. I realized he deserved someone who would respect him. I turned over a new leaf.”

When Bogue was drafted in 1944, no less than Gen. Douglas MacArthur tapped him to join Kyser in entertaining the troops.

“He always felt a little guilty,” says Arnot, “because other guys were getting killed, and he was playing. But he brought so much joy to the troops.”

As for Arnot’s life: After a brief stint as a nun, she married, raised three daughters, and is now the grandmother of eight. Arnot was attendance clerk at Nellie Coffman School for nine years. Her parents were desert residents when they passed away.

“My dad was always happy when he could make people smile,” she recalls. “He was so compassionate. When I was 12, in my third junior high school, I remember crying to him that I didn’t have any friends. ‘I will always be your friend,’ he said. And he was.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

The current flap about Hillary Clinton playing the “woman card” is nothing short of ridiculous.

As a woman, I know what it feels like to be trivialized (called “honey” and “girl”), talked down to (“mansplaining”), ignored, talked over, interrupted and denied a seat at the decision-making table.

I also know what can happen to one’s career if one stands up for oneself or responds in kind. So much for the “woman card.”

Why aren’t we talking about Donald Trump playing the “man card”? After all, he’s trying to be some sort of alpha male by appealing to other men who wish they had the guts (and the money) to just say whatever they want. You know—a guy who puts down women based on looks, presumes women have less stamina to pursue their ambitions, makes unwanted physical advances, bullies to get his way, ignores a woman if she’s not a “10” and prefers to hire women without children—all while telling everyone how he respects women. (Trump not too long ago said: “[A female employee] is not giving me 100 percent. … She’s giving me 84 percent, and 16 percent is going towards taking care of children.”) An alpha male never makes apologies or excuses his behavior. He is self-focused, self-justifying—and believes that everyone else is there to help him, serve him, entertain him and sleep with him. It isn’t that the alpha male doesn’t provide opportunities for smart and capable females; it’s that he’ll only do it when it benefits him—and he can’t help seeing women with sexist presumptions about how they should look and act.

If merely being female is playing the “woman card” and gives women some kind of advantage, then why are there so few women in positions of power? Only 12 percent of seats on corporate boards in America are held by women. Women have headed their governments in the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Lithuania, Liberia, Bangladesh, Denmark, South Korea, Norway, Chile, Poland and many countries—but not in the United States. Less than 20 percent of congressional seats are held by women, and we are actually losing ground on getting into elected office at the state and local level. In 1998, we ranked 59th in the world in the percentage of women in our national legislature; in 2014, we were 98th, just behind Kenya and Indonesia, and barely ahead of the United Arab Emirates. Less than 25 percent of statewide offices are held by women, barely higher than in 1993.

Women make up half of California’s population but hold less than 30 percent of state, county and local elected offices. Of more than 400 cities in California, only 51 have female majorities on city councils, and 69 cities have no women serving at all. That’s actually better than most other states.

While we’re used to seeing lots of women heading charitable functions and raising money for good causes locally, the statistics on women holding public office here in the Coachella Valley are depressing. In both Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, just one of the five councilmembers is a woman. Coachella has one of four; Desert Hot Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta and Indio each have two women out of five councilmembers. As for Cathedral City and Indian Wells … not a single woman can be found on their city councils. At the Riverside County level, there are no women on the Board of Supervisors.

This lack of women in political positions has consequences. Arend Lijphart, a former president of the American Political Science Association, says there are “strong correlations between more women legislators and more progressive policies on issues like the environment, macroeconomic management, support for families, violence prevention, and incarceration.” Worldwide studies that have found women legislators introduce more bills than men regarding civil liberties, education, health, labor and other important issues affecting day-to-day life. In addition, research indicates that nations that elect women to key national leadership roles enjoy increases in economic growth, largely based on a more participatory style and the ability to manage difficult situations requiring cooperative approaches.

Hey, that “woman card” sounds pretty good!

When Donald Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of playing the “woman card,” and attacks her for “enabling” her husband’s womanizing, keep in mind his own philosophy about marriage, as written in Trump: The Art of the Comeback: “I tell friends whose wives are constantly nagging them about this or that they’re better off leaving and cutting their losses. I’m not a great believer in always trying to work things out, because it just doesn’t happen that way. For a man to be successful he needs support at home … not someone who is always griping and bitching. When a man has to endure a woman who is not supportive and complains constantly … he will not be very successful unless he is able to cut the cord.”

Compare that mentality to the fact that Clinton found a way to work through public humiliation to keep her marriage and her family intact. She was supportive in making her husband successful. If the woman card means not living by the alpha male philosophy, then I don’t mind voting for a woman just because she is a woman.

Meanwhile, my woman card apparently got lost in the male.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Let me bring you into the world of Sharon Katz, a South African by birth, a music therapist by profession—and, in the words of musician Pete Seeger, “one of the people who is saving the world.”

She was born in Port Elizabeth (now called Nelson Mandela Bay) under apartheid—the rigid racial/social ideology system that required citizens to live by race designations (black, colored/mixed race, Indian, white) in segregated areas of the country, with restrictions about who could go where and when.

“We lived in a conspiracy of silence,” she says. “South Africa was a prison for everybody.”

As a young woman traveling with her family, Katz saw how others barely survived in their segregated communities, and she became obsessed with finding a way to support change. “How can this be my country?” she asked herself. “Seeing all of that changed me forever.”

In her teens, she would sneak out to the “blacks only” townships by hiding under blankets in the back seat of a friend’s car in order to get past identification checkpoints.

After getting her education as a music therapist, Katz began her mission to bridge the country’s artificially imposed racial barriers through music. After Nelson Mandela was released from prison, but before the promised national elections were held, Katz came up with a revolutionary idea: She would form an integrated children’s choir to bring together young people from across South Africa, to show that they were all the same when their voices were blended.

“I saw music as a way to transform the system,” says Katz. She traveled throughout the country teaching the same songs and dance routines to students in their individual segregated schools.

In 1992, Katz brought 500 children to Durban, where, for the first time, they were grouped by voice, regardless of race, and practiced together for their first concert. One of the student participants said, “Being in the group made me believe I could do anything with my life.”

Expecting a small audience response, Katz was overwhelmed when the hall was overflowing—and those attending somehow overcame traditions about integrating as an audience.

“There were so many people,” says Katz, “that they not only sat together, but people actually had to sit on other people’s laps. It was truly something to see.”

Enter Marilyn Cohen, executive producer of When Voices Meet, the film that documents Katz’s work. Cohen helped raise money to procure a train that became known as the Peace Train, which toured throughout South Africa in 1993 with the children’s choir, dancers and musicians. The government and protesters did not make it easy, but these remarkable women prevailed.

“It was music that brought the disparate groups together,” says Katz, “and the harmony of their voices became emblematic of the New South Africa.”

At each stop along the route, they performed their concert and encouraged people of all races, cultures, ages and political affiliations to put down their guns and hostilities, and to prepare for the country’s transition to a peaceful democracy. Mandela was elected president several months later.

Actress and filmmaker Shari Belafonte is on the advisory board of Palm Springs Women in Film and Television (PSWIFT). She saw the documentary at a film festival in Washington, D.C., and was so impressed—not just by the film, but by its subject matter and its “star”—that she encouraged PSWIFT to find a way to bring the film to Palm Springs.

I attended the PSWIFT-sponsored screening in the evening, shortly after 120 students from Palm Springs High School had seen it. The film, first released in 2015, is powerful and uplifting, and has won awards throughout the world. Its staff, crew and supporters represent an integrated coalition of cultures.

The local audience was spellbound, with many in tears. Both Katz and Cohen attended. Afterward, Katz brought her guitar on stage, answered questions and led us all in song.

Cohen spoke about their upcoming project, “The Peace Train 2016 Tour Across America: Diverse Voices Singing in Harmony,” which will begin on July 4 in Ferguson, Mo., where local youth, arts educators and police are working together to coordinate the kickoff events. It will then make its way to St. Louis, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and end with performances in Washington, D.C., on July 17 at the Washington Monument, and July 18 at the South African Embassy.

“We received impassioned calls from throughout the U.S.,” says Cohen. “The film has inspired people to re-examine the issues currently dividing Americans and to do something constructive about improving human relations and social justice.”

Many of the Palm Springs High School students hope to get on the train, and opportunities exist for chaperones and parents to accompany them. Katz and Cohen are traveling around the U.S. to show the film and garner support for the project. The cost per person is $1,800, which includes choral training before the tour, train fare, meals, hotels and performances. Tax-deductible support can be offered through the project’s website, www.GetOnThePeaceTrain.org. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for some of our local students if corporate sponsors came forward to help?

Cohen is reverent in describing Katz: “There are angels who walk among us. There are those who choose the selfless path for the good of those less fortunate, especially children, and who dedicate their time on this earth to doing that work.”

Katz is most eloquent when speaking about her fellow South Africans.

“It’s an incredible spirit, a spirit of optimism and love and openness to something new,” she said. “If we could infuse the whole world with the spirit of the South African people, we would be living in a wonderful place now.”

Every once in a while, I meet someone who revives my faith in the idealistic notion that one person can make a difference that changes the world. I now humbly add two names to that short list: Sharon Katz and Marilyn Cohen.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

The Paris Peace Accords, which were supposed to end the Vietnam War, were signed Jan. 27, 1973. The United States pulled what American troops remained out of that country.

Congress then passed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 cutting off all military aid to South Vietnam’s government in Saigon. As the North subsequently advanced effortlessly toward Saigon, President Gerald Ford ordered the evacuation of all American personnel, including the removal of as many refugees as possible who had been friendly toward America. The U.S. Embassy was not intended to be a major departure point, but many became stranded there, including thousands of South Vietnamese hoping to claim refugee status.

I still remember the iconic pictures of those evacuation efforts through the night of April 29, 1975, and that last American helicopter taking off from the roof with people hanging off the sides—and many still lined up, unable to get out. At 3:45 a.m. on April 30, President Ford issued direct orders for the evacuation efforts to stop.

When North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon later that day, 30 years of war in Vietnam finally came to an end. More than 58,000 Americans were killed in the war, with more than 300,000 wounded and more than 2,000 missing in action. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of casualties in the South’s armed forces, it is estimated that more than 1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong died in action, with millions more wounded. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese civilians killed range into the millions.

Vietnam has come a long way in the 40 years since then. It has transformed from a rice-producing farming economy into a service economy, dominated by the tourism industry with manufacturing, construction, mining and transportation.

However, in the area of Quang Tri Province and what was known as the DMZ (demilitarized zone), remnants of the war are still blocking full-scale development and threatening people’s health and safety. The area was the focus of what has been described as the heaviest bombing campaign in the history of the world. Weapons that failed to detonate were left behind and pose dangers similar to landmines.

These dangers led to the formation in 2001 of an effort in Quang Tri Province called Project RENEW. Palm Springs resident Sally Benson; her husband, attorney Steve Nichols; Palm Springs philanthropist Gayle Hodges; and part-time resident and author Myra MacPherson have all worked through the Chino Cienega Foundation, started locally by Nichols, to help support the work of Project RENEW and other worthy non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Part of Project RENEW’s mission is to locate and reduce explosive remnants of war (ERW) to a level where local people can live without fear, and development is not impeded.

Benson, originally from Massachusetts, was an elementary teacher when she volunteered to teach English at the National Institute of Administration in Saigon in 1967. She met Nichols, a third-generation descendant of two prominent Palm Springs founding families (the Stevens and the Nichols), while he was also a volunteer, teaching with International Voluntary Services.

“Like a number of others, including many veterans, we have stayed engaged with the problems and people the war left behind,” says Benson. “Through the family legacy foundation Steve started here in Palm Springs, we were able to financially support projects we knew about, including ProjectRENEW.

“Gayle Hodges’ friend, (Vietnam veteran) Chuck Searcy, had the vision, along with the Vietnamese, to do this work. We helped support the building of their visitors’ center and have supported their Mine Risk Education Center, where Vietnamese children learn, through plays meant to entertain and educate, how to identify ERW and report it to the emergency hotline so teams can immediately respond.”

Project RENEW claims that more than 850,000 square meters of land have been cleaned up and released for safe development, with more than 30,000 cluster bombs, grenades, landmines and other ordnance safely removed and destroyed. However, the group also estimates that in Quang Tri Province alone, 83 percent of the land still has landmines and other unexploded ordnance. Benson says it was originally expected that it would take as long as 100 years to remove and/or disarm all remaining ERW, but through the work of Project RENEW and its 3,000-4,000 demolitions each year, they estimate that within 5-7 years, almost every square meter of Quang Tri Province will be safe.

“Do you know what a cluster bomb is?” asks Benson. “It’s made up of small components, each of which is a separate little ‘bomblet’ designed to disperse and kill. I remember a lovely school with walls covered with bright painted pictures in one village. At the edge of the playground, a couple of the boys pushed through a wooded area and spotted something. One stayed there so no one else could get hurt while the other boy ran back and reported it through the emergency call system. When the call came in, we got to see how they broadcast through the local area to keep people away, and then the Project RENEW team mobilized to retrieve it and explode it harmlessly.

“It’s frightening to think what could have happened to those children, and rewarding to see how the educational outreach program makes a difference.”

Quang Tri alone has had 8,000 casualties from ERW accidents, and 31 percent of the victims are children. They also claim that Quang Tri alone has more than 15,000 victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, including 5,000 children born with birth defects.

Benson has visited Vietnam more than 15 times. “We’re so proud of the work being done to help the people,” she says. “They had been bombed for so many years and left with a shattered economy and a shattered society. We and other volunteers wanted to do what we could. Lots of veterans have also gone back and been inspired to be involved, doing things like planting ‘peace trees’ to reclaim deforested land.”

Project RENEW claims to have provided new, artificial limbs for 1,000 amputees injured by bombs, and to have assisted almost 700 disabled bomb-accident victims to earn income from raising animals and crops and making products.

“We expect Project RENEW to be a model for other provinces,” says Benson. “We can’t forget that there are still bombs throughout the rest of Vietnam as well.”

Perhaps the most compelling part of this story is Benson’s experience of the Vietnamese people.

“Most people are stunned by how open and forgiving the Vietnamese are,” she says. “They say it was our government that caused what happened there, not the American people. And Project RENEW is doing its work with educated and highly committed young Vietnamese whose own families have suffered from the war. I have such a sense of satisfaction at being involved in something like this.”

My mother always used to say: “If you made the mess, you clean it up.” Benson, Nichols, Hodges, MacPherson and so many others are setting an example of the difference accepting that responsibility can make.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors