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Your Child Is My Child

Your Child Is My Child

(Originally published in the San Diego Reader April 4, 2012.)

The first time I try to meet up with Makeda “Dread” Cheatom, she doesn’t show. I leave her a note. An hour later, she calls to apologize, and we arrange a new time for later that afternoon. Ten minutes after we hang up, she calls back.

“What time did we say — 1:00 or 3:00?” she asks.

I remind her that we said 2:00.

But once we’re finally seated on the perfect-for-sitting tree stump in front of the WorldBeat Cultural Center, the organization of which Cheatom is both founder and executive director, I have her undivided attention. Or, rather, she has mine.

“George Harrison was mad at me, because I wouldn’t let him smoke,” she says over the sound of drums coming from inside the center. “I had the first nonsmoking restaurant [in San Diego].”

The restaurant to which she refers is the now-closed Prophet International Vegetarian Restaurant, opened in 1971 at 4461 University Avenue.

“We were multicultural, and San Diego didn’t have that at that time,” she says. “We were Mexican, Japanese, white, black. We thought we were cool.”

A little bald baby wobbles out of the water-tank-turned-cultural-center in Balboa Park, across Park Boulevard from Balboa Hospital. He has escaped from the kiddie drum class inside. A half-second later, a man hurries out and scoops him up.

“He’s making a run for it!” Cheatom calls to the man.

The man laughs and carries the kid back inside.

“So, anyway,” she continues, “George Harrison comes in. It was probably ’75 or ’76. They were Krishna people who brought him in. At that time, I think he got into the Hari Krishnas, who don’t eat anything that grows below the ground. So he goes, ‘Well, you got mushrooms. You serve mushrooms and onions and carrots.’ And I’m young and arrogant, and I’m like, ‘I don’t care who he is. He still can’t smoke in my restaurant.’”

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