George Koster

VOC/COS Episode 2 Transcript

From Bankruptcy to Reinvention –

The City of Stockton


Episode 2: Owning Your Own Destiny

Listen Now | VOC Producers | Share | Episode 2

A transcript, lightly edited for clarity and length, follows.

Show Guests: Nicholas Hatten, Founder/Executive Director of San Joaquin Pride Center

Series Introduction: Welcome to Voices of the Community, which explores critical issues facing Northern California communities.  We introduce you to the voices of community thought leaders and change makers who are working on solutions that face our fellow individual community members, neighborhoods, cities and our region. This is George Koster your host.

Series Introduction: This episode is part of our documentary series From Bankruptcy to Reinvention -  The City of Stockton. The documentary series attempts to provide listeners with the insights, points of view and personal stories from the various voices of change makers working to Reinvent the City of Stockton. The interviews were conducted from August to September 2016 leading up to the election of Mayor Michael Tubbs who is our central character in the series. The interviews in the documentary series have been edited to fit into our show format. The unedited full interviews will be posted on my web site along with each episode of the series.

Nicholas: You noticed um that the resources that were aah in the Bay Area for LGBT people, were missing here. Um, and so I started doing research and tried to encourage people to step up. And no one would and actually um, I was watching Oprah Winfrey's last show Um, and one of the last lines she said was that “You Have To Own Your Own Destiny” and it was that which became my calling card. That's when I realized rather than complaining, I had to do something about it. And um so I called on, you know, people within the LGBT community and within months, we raised enough money to open our doors.

Show Host George: In this episode we feature the voice of Nicholas Hatten the founder and Executive Director of the San Joaquin County Pride Center as well as the former campaign manager, advisor and friend to the Mayor of the City of Stockton, Michael Tubbs. Nicholas shares the issues facing the LGBTQQIA community in Stockton and surrounding communities as well as his work with community leaders and Michael Tubbs in the development of support services to support the community.

George: I'm here with Nicholas Hatten the executive director of the San Joaquin Pride Center and Nicholas welcome to Voices of the Community.

You have to own your own destiny and it was that that was my calling card.
— Nicholas Hatten, San Joaquin Pride Center

Nicholas: Thank you.

George: I was hoping you could  start off by sharing with the audience your background in the community and working in Stockton. I know you're a longtime friend of Michael Tubbs and have been a community organizer here in Stockton. So when did it start? Why did you get engaged?

Nicholas: Sure, so I was born and raised in Stockton. Um, like many individuals, I felt that I had to leave um in order to make something of myself and so um at 23 I moved to the Bay Area. Um, I lived out there for 13 years and loved it. Um, one of my experiences was volunteering for a Congressional Candidate Jerry McNerney. Um, and he was the underdog, no one expected him to go far, but we ended up wining our primary. Um, and he asked me to stay on um as his full-time fundraiser. Um so that was my entryway into Civic Engagement. And um when he won I found myself often traveling to Stockton because San Joaquin County was half of his district and I was the only person on his team who had a background in in the valley. Um, and so I discovered or rediscovered my hometown through that work and after a few years of working with Jerry, I um wanted to come back. I realized that you know, while the bay area is great and um, you know, the community is thriving and progressive voices are being heard, I could make a much bigger difference in San Joaquin County in my hometown. Um, and so I moved back and here I am.

George: And then what led to you to the creation of the San Joaquin Pride Center?

Nicholas: Yeah I would have to say naivety is one of my strongest assets, laughter. I didn't know what I was doing. All I knew um is that there were people who had rallied against Prop 8. Um, and you know despite their best efforts, I think that San Joaquin County it was something like fifty four percent that voted in favor of ending gay marriage. And so I just called on those people that I had seen in action while I was working for Congressman McNerney and asked them to be a part of my Coalition. And I told them that I believed that the larger Community was receptive. I think there was some hesitancy. Um, you know, we had just elected Susan Eggman (the first Latina and Lesbian) into the City Council. Um, and so while I knew that um, you know, things were changing I still didn't see that um there was a big enough change, to serve the LGBT community the way that it needed to be. Um, and so, you know, I called on people like Susan who had the political influences to raise the money. Um, but it was really the LGBT community coming together not the larger community to raise the funds to open the center.

George: And so what became the mission of the San Joaquin Pride Center?

Nicholas: So, initially the mission was just having a safe space. Um, and we thought that you know, the community would come and be served in our four walls. And we quickly realized that wasn't the case and that what our primary responsibility was to influence our community to shift their perception of LGBT people and create their own safe spaces. You know, I can't raise enough money to have a Pride Center in Lodi, Tracy and Ripon where it's needed even more so than in Stockton. You know Stockton was like the urban hub, very progressive, um, you know, um with a democratic population. But it's cities like Escalon cities, like Ripon, you know, where the LGBT community members are very isolated, that is where it's really needed. And the conservative values, agriculture values laughter of this um area still rein. Um, and so, you know, we reached out to school districts. We've reached out to churches in those cities and we found um individuals who are you know supportive of the LGBT community and we just work with them to encourage further acceptance. Um, one of the first school districts that we did ah sensitivity training at was in Linden. Now, you know, if I were to go to the Linden School Board I probably would get laughed out of the room. Um, but Educators get it. And Educators understand, you know that you need a safe space for everybody in order for children's education to thrive. And so we've been welcomed and really successful in building those coalitions.

George: If you would for a moment please provide an overview of the kinds of programs that you provide? There's obviously the safe space, and there's the outreach into the community?

Nicholas: So I will give you a perfect example of where um, there isn't support and that's you know in the institutions and the government agencies um in our County, um and mental health services. Usually, uh, when you have a Pride Center, the county will be supportive and collaborate and provide some funding. That doesn't happen in San Joaquin County. The money that's actually earmarked ah for supporting the LGBT community gets misdirected to other organizations that don't have the capacity Um, to provide the support. And so those are the fights that we're still today having to fight for funding. Um, but we do what we can with the limited funds that we have. And so we provide um clinician referrals. We provide legal referrals in partnership with California Rural Legal Assistance. Um, and we provide um, sensitivity training with school districts and we have ah a Youth Empowerment program, ah but that is funded primarily by again LGBT community members, you know private money. It's not um, you know, the money that you would think we would get because they're still is this stigma you know towards the LGBT community. There's still hurdles that we have to fight in order to get the services that our state legally is saying that need to be provided.

George: Is there a drive within your organization and the community at large to try to secure more government and foundational funding to execute your mission and the requirements?

Nicholas: Definitely, you know, and um, we have been um engaging in negotiations with the State Public Health Department, ah um and you know were are on the eve of getting funding, um substantial funding from the State. Um and Michael Tubbs, you know was very helpful in us securing that. We had a tour with the officials here at the Pride Center and I had a bunch of people lined up to speak and at the last minute I was like there's something missing there something missing. And so, I called Michael that morning and said could you be here at 1:00 p.m. And he changed his schedule and was here and spoke on the need um to support our community. And you know, it can be tough sometimes for African-American Community leaders, um to stick their neck out and and be supportive of the LGBT community. And if you look at some of the ugliness on social media towards Michael there's always a tinge of homophobia. And I think it's because he's willing to stick his neck out and be supportive. And uh, so, you know, we're doing things like that. We're also um using the El Cap process through our school districts for school funding and we've been very successful. We were able to get  Stockton Unified to earmark $100,000 for LGBT sensitivity training. The first school district in the State of California by the way to put specific LGBT language in their El Cap. This is more progressive than San Francisco and more Progressive than the Los Angeles. I'm very proud um of that and that was our lobbying and working with parents working, with students and going to the school board and going to um, the committee meetings and making the argument that we need to fund, you know sensitivity training for our educators.

George: Can you describe what EL Cap means for the listening audience?

Nicholas: So El Cap is um the local control funding formula. Um, it's the State's way of of loosening the purse strings with education funding but giving them instructions on how they have to go about getting feedback from the public, um and sharing information with the public to make sure that there's transparency. Um and having stakeholders involved in the process of determining what you do with your school funding

Show Mid Point / Show Host George: You are listening to Voices of the Community, which explores critical issues facing Northern California communities. This is George Koster your host and if you are just joining us, in this episode we are discussing the reinvention of the City of Stockton California. We are speaking to Nicholas Hatten the Executive Director of the San Joaquin Pride Center who is sharing his experience in working to educate the public and local government in tolerance and respect for all people within the LGBTQQIA community.

George: Let's turn back to Michael for a second. You've been a longtime friend and ally. Do you mind sharing with our audience a little bit about how he and you came together to do the City Council run?

Nicholas: Sure, It's funny I laugh because when I first started getting involved in politics, you know, I was the young guy. And when you say that, I've been friends with Michael for a long time, well, I guess for a kid like him I have um, but yeah, I've known Michael, um, gosh for going on five years now. And um, it started with Tama Brisbane um who I hadn't met yet. Um she suggested that um, Michael and I meet when he was considering running for City Council. And so I just got an email out of nowhere saying hey, you know, I'm going to school in Stanford and I want to talk to you about running for City Council. I was like, who is this snot nose kid, you know, but I soon learned, um that you know that this guy was going to be a change maker and um, I have supported him from the very beginning.

George: You spoke about him showing up and speaking in support of the Pride Center which, says a lot because as you know quite well no real change comes until you can actually engage government leaders as well as Community leaders to change policy, secure funding and of course you know execute. Did he also help in any of your fundraising work or any of your outreach work with the Pride Center?

Nicholas: So, um, Michael has been supportive from the very beginning. And as we were running his campaign, we were putting on our very first pride festival in Stockton. And now this is our year 5. And so he's you know, he's attended our fundraiser and he allowed me the flexibility to grow this organization as we were, you know, growing building his campaign. Um, you know, he speaks at our youth empowerment Summit every year. And the kids just look forward to it you know, he is such a powerful and dynamic, you know public speaker. Um and to have him come and participate and he sat on the ground with these kids on their level and talked to them, you know about the importance of education and the importance of community. Um I think has been extremely helpful. And every year, um, our kids say is Michael Tubbs coming is Michael Tubbs coming? Um, so we always have to invite him back. Um, he has been a huge champion on the City Council, you know, um his first year in office. They passed a resolution, um supporting and calling for the support of the LGBT community.

Um, and we're very proud of that, you know. Just publicly a few years prior even when State Assembly member Eggman was on the City Council it would probably have been tough to get something like that past um. And Michael was very on hands with that resolution and then he's been there, you know, when things have been tough. Um, we've had a lot of ugliness since gay marriage passed. And I don't know what it is about Stockton that um, you know, we've had about four or five incidents now that have um reached national press um including, you know, uh, a Stockton Police Department uh  Lieutenant coming out against gay marriage after it was all done, all said and done in the Supreme Court. He thought it was time for him to you know, get ugly with our community and uh. Michael's always attended, um events when we had um ah an event mourning the Orlando victims, Michael was there and he does that when there is a lot of ugliness. When you do have individuals that go to the City Council meeting, um, and just spew this homophobic anti-LGBT religious rhetoric. And you know a lot of times Michael's the only one, you know demanding that the Mayor shut down, you know the comments and you know, that's appreciated.

George: Let's turn back to the LGBT  community in San Joaquin County and you just spoke a little bit about outlining small communities like Escalon for example, could you describe to the listening audience, some of the issues that are faced by the LGBT community? And an example of that is in my conversation with Michael. He stated that 50% of LGBT members in the community are homeless, obviously these are teens that leave the house or are pushed out of the house but, describe who the center serves and what are the issues that are faced by, LGBT community members here in San Joaquin County?

Nicholas: So we talked a lot about um intersection. Um and the fact that, the challenges that Michael is facing and the youth that he's working with um are the same youth that I'm trying to help. In that Um, you know, the same youth that fathers and family are trying to help, you know, we are trying to help. And it took a few years um despite, you know, the closest that Michael and I have with our relationship. Um, I often found myself on the outside saying well, you know, how can we be a part of this Coalition? And I don't think if any of us realized the overlap up until you know recently. Um, and then these statistics started coming out that yeah forty to fifty percent, of  homeless identify as LGBT. Um the fact that um, what is it 40% of women in prison identify as LGBT. And then I really started taking a look at what was happening in San Joaquin County. Um, we reached out to ah foster agencies and we soon realized that the majority of the foster agencies in San Joaquin County ah are backed by religious organizations. And so then it started to click. Well that explains why you know LGBT youth are the most disproportionately represented in the Foster agency because they are not being placed in homes and stay in the Foster system longer.

They're not getting the support they need and get shifted from home to home because they're not being accepted. That is because these religious organizations are recruiting their own members. They are doing a great job by the way of taking these kids in. But, the challenge is when their Bible is telling them, you know to not be supportive of LGBT people and now they have one in their home. I end up seeing the kid who gets kicked out of the foster home for wearing the pink T-shirt. I get the kid who gets you know kicked out for wearing something that upsets the religious foster parents. Um, and by the way, they're not telling the Foster system. These religious foster parents aren't telling the system that they're kicking these kids out. But they are still taking the money. But they kick the kids out nonetheless and they end up at my door. Um, because you know, the kid is wearing, you know lipstick.

You know, what are we saying, you know to these kids um, and to each other when we do that? And so again, you know, we as an organization are trying to encourage more tolerance and more acceptance. We try to show um these parents statistics, you know that, if you're not supportive of your child, you know, you're going to increase their likelihood that they're going to become a drug addict. You are going to increase their likelihood that they're going to end up on the streets homeless. Um, you're going to increase their likelihood that I'm going to have to deal with them as an adult and they're not fully functioning individuals. Uh, and and so that's some of the work that that we do here um is really trying to shift, you know, the perception of acceptance and tolerance.

George: From the combination of Michael running for Mayor and the coalition what appears to be changing within Stockton and the San Joaquin Community? What would be an outcome of where the community comes together and that crossover, that intersectionality you talked about?

Nicholas: aaaah oooh that's a tough question because every time we reach a milestone I think things are getting better. And then you know, then it feels like there's something that will happen that it feels like we are taking two steps backwards. So I don't know. Um when  Michael got elected, um to the City Council there was AB 1266, which was the bathroom privacy Rights bill. Um as the bill was working its way through the Assembly and Senate, there was a coalition of African-American Community leaders locally who were holding ah Community Forums against the assembly bill. Um so I decided to go to to one of the meetings. And here I was embraced and loved by this community just a year prior, um when helping Michael get elected. And the same people were treating me as though I was the enemy and actually one of them stood up and said how dare you come into our community. In speaking to their rhetoric which was one of tolerance and acceptance you know and I just looked at myself and I'm like, is my skin not brown just like yours? How am I not part of our community? I was a year ago.

Um, and so, you know if Michael is elected mayor, I would hope um that our cause is given the same urgency that other causes are here locally. I would hope that I would be given the respect um that I think I've earned in this community. And it's interesting because that respect is there from a certain segment. Ah but when you look at the old culture here, the Old Power here, you know, Michael still gets heat for having, you know, a Gay Black Mexican political consultant. It's 2016 we have an African-American president. And yet I can't be smart enough to get a young 22 year old elected on the City Council. You know I can't be smart enough you know to run an organization that's making a difference because of who I am. So, my hope is that it'll be one more barrier that's knocked down symbolically and that we will get to a place where you know true representation aah and true diversity is respected. Um because until it is we're not going to be able to address these issues that all of our organizations are fighting for.

We get pennies compared to the larger organizations here in San Joaquin County and you know not to be egotistical or anything, but sometimes we'll get together cause we're you know all part of aah funding program and they require us to go to Merced or Fresno or somewhere far off. We'll find ourselves sitting around a table and you know, talking about how we're making the world change and yet the funding opportunities aren't there for us like these large organizations here who have the power and so, you know, hopefully that'll shift

George: I talked to Sammy Nunez yesterday, and then you've got Fred over at STAND so, Fathers and Families and STAND it seems like there's a great intersection there. It's the same needs housing, social and mental services. Do you feel like there's ah Grassroots Coalition within Stockton and San Joaquin County that can come together and create, perhaps a new vision to develop a network of social justice organizations?

Nicholas: Definitely and that's what's really, you know fascinated to me about um the work that Michaels doing. And that, you know, I had a political background and I can talk about campaigns. It's like I can look at numbers and I could um strategize on how to get somebody elected. I've never seen somebody make change the way that Michael has outside of his official office and it's the coalition that he's built with these nonprofit organizations and the nonprofit organizations that he created himself.

Um, and then the work, that we've been able to do. I don't think he gets enough credit for you know, the fact that he came to that meeting and pleaded with the State of California officials that the funding for my organization, um was extremely needed. Um, and then we got that funding. You know, the fact that he's been able to introduce our organizations to you know larger organizations like the California Endowment, and the Sierra Health Foundation. Um, that's you know, providing us with really opportunities that we wouldn't have had you know, otherwise. And you know, I look ah at the individuals in particular that Sammy and Father's and Families are serving and you know, I hear the testimonials um, from these young youth and adults whose lives have been forever changed and um for the amount of money that that they're spending to do that change, its phenomenal work that they're doing.  

George: So final question, What is something about yourself that most people don't know about?

Nicholas:  Oh, man...Uh something about myself that most people don't know? That I danced on stage with Prince burst of laughter,

George: Nice

Nicholas: Yeah, uh, I was a big fan of Prince um, my whole life, I feel like ah yeah, he's been an influence on me and we happened to um, go to a concert in the Bay Area. And Marva King was his backup singer at that time during that tour. He said find a freaky guy to freak with and she points directly at me. Laughter… Yeah!

George: So you were able to be the freaky guy to freak with on stage with Prince and his group?

Nicholas: Yeah, Yeah, that's gonna, that's gonna be when I die. That's the one thing that's gonna be on my

George: Headstone

Nicholas: My proudest moment, laughter... I am making changes in Stockton but my proudest moment was dancing on stage with Prince. Yeah, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Laughter…..

George: Thank you Nicholas.

Nicholas: Thank you.

Episode Outro: That’s, it for this episode of Voices of the Community. You have been listening to Nicholas Hatten, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Pride Center, regarding his and his team’s work to reinvent the City of Stockton and surrounding communities. Voices of the Community is a labor of love.

Series Outro: This documentary series on the City of Stockton’s reinvention is a tribute to my mother, Josephine Koster Wyllie who grew up in South Stockton and passed away during the production of the documentary series. My mom was a first-generation Italian immigrant whose family migrated to Stockton and owned a motel on the old charter way now renamed Martin Luther King Blvd in the heart of South Stockton. Mayor Michael Tubbs also grew up in South Stockton with his single mother Racole Dixon and is both creating new organizations and working with community members to reinvent South Stockton as well as the greater Stockton community.

Series Credits: I want to thank my associate producers Eric Estrada and Nick McClendon as well as advising producer Malcolm Cecil. Please go to to check out our next episode of From Bankruptcy to Reinvention - The City of Stockton California documentary series as well as our archived past shows which feature community voices working on solutions to critical issues facing Northern California communities. Please rate us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts and share this story with your friends. Follow us on twitter @georgekoster and email us at  I'm George Koster in San Francisco and thank you for listening.

In memoriam of Jo Koster Wyllie

This has been an Alien Boy Production.


Copyright © 2016-2019 Voices of the Community / Alien Boy Productions All rights reserved.

Voices of the Community transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Descript  This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of Alien Boy Productions’ Voices of the Community’s programming is the audio record.