Month: May 2015

peace movement faith interfaith

Public Movement for Change Starts Here

Peace often comes about through banal procedures. Paperwork. Meetings. Minutes. Clean up. These everyday acts of movement building bear the slow, steady unraveling of prejudice and hate.  For several years, a church, a temple and an Islamic center have planned and rallied the way toward beauty and understanding. Last month we were there at the opening of the 3rd Interfaith Art Exhibition Biennial. We promised to share more photos of the show as it came to a close. Based in the East Bay, the Faith Trio of Montclair Presbyterian Church, the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California and Kehillah Synagogue put together an exhibit of more than 100 works of art.  This year’s theme – “We Are the Bridge” – aimed to reveal how artists creatively envision themselves, their culture, faith, community, and art as a bridge from conflict to resolution and reconciliation. Organizers, including Ziya Art Center, hope to compile photos into an upcoming book. (Photos: Haleh & Raeshma)

kids summer activities

Attention, Little People

Summers when I was 9 in Aurora, IL, we were out in the street on our own. Our parents said go outside and find something to frickin’ do. We had a lot of freedom. We played in each other’s yards, on the street, we rode our bikes, roller skated, ran through sprinklers, slid on the Slip’n Slide. For a little more structure we would take cheap kids classes at the parks and rec. Many times these were at the neighborhood grade school.  Then there was the bookmobile that would come out. We would take our wagon, stick my smallest sister in it and wheel off for a mega haul of books. Now I face the summer as Number 1 Auntie to two little girls. They don’t do the things I did the way I did when I did them so many years ago. Life and play are so much more planned, protected. Allow me to brainstorm my way through a list (that’s how I sort out life) of things I might do with these two …

Choo-Choo, Boom-Boom

The rail trestle between the John Muir House and Mount Wanda (named after his daughter) glows at sunset. Not as quaint as a covered bridge, the elevated line shines gold and rust and reminds me of the old West. Its likeness appears in murals around tiny Martinez. An icon, a landmark, and one that may blast us to high heaven. The rail line running through Martinez, Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland and all points down to San Luis Obispo has become a blast zone. A local landlord says I’m alarmist. But after hearing Andres Soto of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) run through the dangers of crude-by-rail, I feel justified in my fear. Presenting to a citizens’ gathering in Concord, Soto explained the risks of transporting highly volatile crude oil from North Dakota and Alberta in ill-equipped rail cars, over shifting rail lines. Soto, a native of Richmond, a saxophonist and grandfather of four, began his talk in front of an image from hell. The audience recognized the explosion as the 2013 destruction of …

Outsiders Find Home

Where is home for the outsider?  What would have happened if Duke Ellington’s right-hand man, the composer and lyricist Billy Strayhorn, went on a road trip to Isfahan with a popular Iranian actress? Golden Thread Productions joins forces with the African-American Shakespeare Company (AASC) to present the world premiere of Isfahan Blues, a new memory play from TorangeYeghiazarian inspired by Duke Ellington’s 1963 tour of Iran. With an original score from Marcus Shelby, Isfahan Blues is what might be called—to use a musical term often employed by Ellington —a “fantasia.” It aims to shed light on a little-known historical moment when a uniquely American art form inspired generations of young Iranian musicians. What would it be like for a black musician and lyricist, inspired by the life and character of Billy Strayhorn, to leave the tour and strike out on a road trip to the legendary city of Isfahan with Bella? And what was it like for an Iranian woman in the early sixties to touch a third rail in her own culture, by insisting …

tenderloin neighborhood development

Finding Shelter in the Storm

Imagine trying to find an affordable place to live in San Francisco. Imagine you are homeless, or close to it, and trying to find one. You are a carpenter with multiple sclerosis who can no longer afford your rent. You are an under-employed worker who lost your apartment of 30 years when the landlord passed away. You are a family struggling to stay together and stay housed. Since 1981, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation has been providing affordable housing and services for low-income people in the Tenderloin and other San Francisco neighborhoods. Now, it has 30 buildings for 3,000 of the poorest residents and continues to grow. In addition to housing, it integrates services, including afterschool programs, social work, community organizing and a community garden, services that keep people in their homes. For some residents, TNDC has provided the strength and motivation to give back. TNDC does this all in the face of an economic storm: a drastic drop in funding for housing, more people in need, and a staggering rise in real estate costs in …

Imagining Health Solutions

Can a simulation program, a kind of imagined space, help fix real world problems? The healthcare industry is widely considered one of the least functioning in the American economy. A Sunnyvale-based company, i-Human Patients, aims to promote high quality and cost effective care by providing e-learning products to healthcare professionals. I had a chance to sit down with founder Craig Knoche and CEO Norm Wu to discuss their passion to make a difference in the world. Gohar. What events lead to the idea of i-Human? Craig. My wife and I participated in a medical training course for mountain climbing a few years ago and realized that the book learning part of medicine and the actual performance, even in a simulated environment, were very different. Since we both had backgrounds in the software development industry and this intrigued us, and we thought that our background might help address this need. After further research we found out that the medical education community is largely underserved by software technology. We kicked this idea around for a number of years …

BayMo reads book review

BayMo Books: San Francisco’s Jewel City

Whizzing by the Nut Tree on I-80 reminded me of what it used to be – a mini theme park. As kids, we sat in the back hoping Mom would stop there or at the putt-putt golf at Cordelia Junction. But no. Much later, as an adult, I finally entered the Nut Tree to meet my aunt and uncle for lunch. It looked like a hopped-up Howard Johnson with a sprawling “general store” offering country-style gifts. I wish I could remember whether the employees wore costumes. Everyday we walk into imagined spaces. Businesses and homes with intentional décor serve us up a universe, complete with soundtrack. These purposeful environments make us feel things. Sofia asked a couple of weeks ago what that means for us. In a way, we enter somebody’s stage. When a place is a crazy, dressed up fantasy world we might call it a Disneyland or a Times Square. At the other end of the spectrum, a museum curates its own classier world. There was a time when the World’s Fair set …

Imagining the Cities We Want

What is a city people want? Let’s begin with the basics: health, housing, justice and jobs. Dignity starts there. Transit that’s cheap and streets free from congestion. Add to this beauty, clean air, water and land, community and public commons where we meet each other and talk about building this ideal city. In the Bay Area, our cities struggle to meet the basics. It’s hard to imagine imagining more when the foundations of dignity go missing. The statistics locally prove it (as we have written), and nationally, as George Packer has chronicled in The Unwinding, the wave began crashing years ago. A full house at SPUR gathered to imagine “Making Cities People Want,” a discussion of how “to create magnetic urban centers that support economic integration as well as civic engagement.” The panel’s premise: the space for engagement, the public commons, could be the mechanism for moving from imagination to action. The talk marked the announcement of the Gehl Institute and an infusion of $1.6 million in support from the John S. and James L. …