I’m taking the 21-day challenge!

Dr. Eddie Moore

Eddie Moore shared with participants at the March 11 SEED Showcase his 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge as a way for us to keep track of our efforts in fighting for racial equity. (The Interdependence Project adapted it and based a Facebook event on it earlier this year.)

I put my own spin on it and created what I’m calling a social justice action log. It definitely includes fighting for racial equity but is more inclusive.

I began on March 21. Each day I write down at least one way that I promoted social justice, even if it’s just reading an article that will help me be more aware of the struggles that I don’t face as a white cisgender person. Because activism starts with oneself, right?
Prompted by Dr. Moore, I’ve tried to vary the types of actions, which so far have included attending a rally to support whistle-blowers (subject for a future blog post); watching 13th, Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary on race in America since the 13th Amendment; reading articles, (e.g., Jenn Jackson’s “Square Peg at a Round Table: On Jessica Williams and Why Black Women Are Not There to Save You”); and signed several online petitions.

As part of my campaign to stay “woke,” I’d already signed up to receive alternative news sources, which made finding material to read easy. I get the Root, “The Daily WTF,” Bitch Media’s “On Our Radar,” Daily Kos, and a list of “Weekly Acts” from Wall-of-Us. Plus, now that I’ve written to so many of my legislators, I’m on their mailing lists—from my district’s representative on Berkeley City Council to my state senators.

Tonight (Day 6 of my challenge) I attend my second Indivisible Berkeley event, “Welcome to Activism,” a two-hour introduction to organized resistance.

I hope that if I can continue to write something down in my social justice action log through Day 21 that I’ll have formed a habit of promoting social justice in my daily life. Then I’ll just need to keep it up until the day I die…

Cross your fingers for me, okay?


How To Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective

Well written and thoughtful, this piece speaks to me and should be widely shared. There has been so little of this news in the mainstream media that I feel compelled to spread this news in whatever way I can.

Transformative Spaces

14247963_10154406248820309_1976289082_o Water Protectors gather after a day of prayer and direct action. (Photo: Desiree Kane)

This piece is very personal because, as an Indigenous woman, my analysis is very personal, as is the analysis that my friends on the frontlines have shared with me. We obviously can’t speak for everyone involved, as Native beliefs and perspectives are as diverse as the convictions of any people. But as my friends hold strong on the frontlines of Standing Rock, and I watch, transfixed with both pride and worry, we feel the need to say a few things.

I’ve been in and out of communication with my friends at Standing Rock all day. As you might imagine, as much as they don’t want me to worry, it’s pretty hard for them to stay in touch. I asked if there was anything they wanted me to convey on social media, as most of them are maintaining a…

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The Real World- Theater Edition: Interview with William H. Bryant Jr. and Skyler Cooper

This looks like fascinating and important theater. Thanks,Skyler & BJ for your work, and thanks, Pianofight, for creating a place for it.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Barbara Jwanouskos interviews the creative team behind Every 28 Hours.

Every 28 Hours is a piece that was created by linking one-minute plays based on the staggering statistic that every 28 hours, a person of color is murdered by a police officer, vigilante, or security guard. This is a piece that hits deeply into the legacy of white supremacy that our culture has been built upon and asks us if we are willing to look at ourselves to build a way of living and interacting where black lives matter.

I had the opportunity to speak with two of the actors in the Every 28 Hours production here in the Bay Area. Their names are William H. Bryant Jr. (BJ) and Skyler Cooper, and I feel fortunate that we were able to connect to share their experiences working on such an intensely powerful theatrical production.

Every 28 Hours is produced by…

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A historical plaque, critter encounters, and going under a street

I know it means “Garden of the Heart,” but I don’t know what it refers to.
the northern steps to the west entrance of Rose Walk

Today I tackled Rose Walk (#102), La Loma Steps (#103), and Rose Steps (#104). Having already walked La Loma Path and Rose Glen Alley, I’m feeling like some of these paths could be renamed to better distinguish them…

I walked up what has to be the grandest of all entrances to Berkeley paths, with two sets of steps that merge  just above the cars whizzing by on Euclid Avenue. At the top of the first tier of stairs is a handsome street lamp. When the steps end, a wide concrete walkway with an easy incline takes you through sunny gardens that have smaller paths to individual dwellings. The path acts as a common courtyard, allowing residents to have their front yard face a quiet path rather than a noisy street. I decided it would be a nice place to live.

Beyond the garden, the path continues, bordered by a rustic wooden fence with an uneven top on the right, juniper and other shrubs to the left, and lots of shade above from trees on both sides. Near the top is another set of wide concrete steps, which end in the shady curve of Rose Street where it becomes Le Roy Avenue. There’s no sign to indicate the eastern entrance, and in fact, I recall walking this same stretch of Rose Street after traversing nearby Tamalpais Path and seeing this end and wondering if it was one of the paths. It was!

west entrance to La Loma Steps

From there I headed south on Le Roy until I came upon the western entrance of La Loma Steps, which features a lovely trellis doorway covered with white blooms. The steps were apparently designated a historical landmark in 1995, according to the informative plaque at the entrance explaining the path’s origin and which I will quote from extensively here:

When the La Loma Park subdivision was created in 1900, the streets were laid out in harmony with the natural contours of the land as advocated by Berkeley’s Hillside Club. The rustic quality of the stone walls, brick paving, pergola and benches along the steps reflects the Club’s “building with nature” philosophy. Adjacent property owners donated land to create this public pedestrian pathway, one of many in the Berkeley Hills. The new steps allowed easy access to the streetcar line which had opened on Euclid Avenue in 1903.

After the 1923 Berkeley Fire swept through the neighborhood, the steps remained standing on a hillside of ruins and ashes. Features of the steps were rehabilitated after the Fire and again in 1992.

I saw this sign outside a house on Rose St. but I saw no strange dogs…

Thanks, Berkeley Historical Plaque Project!

On the Path Wanderers website, I found a link to an article in the Daily Planet that goes into more detail about the fire and the consequent reconstruction.

The brick path zigzags at right angles partway through and provides a few small benches and even a roof of greenery, where several properties seem to converge. Fences and a chain clearly mark the pathway that continues from LeRoy up to Buena Vista Way.

Just a few steps to the left, or north, is Greenwood Terrace, where I heard an older man’s voice and assumed he was conversing via Bluetooth on his hidden smart phone. I was delighted to discover that he had been talking to Milly, his eight-year-old canine companion, whom I got to pet.

img_2316Along Greenwood Terrace I found a tree-lined path next to a perfectly manicured green lawn with what would be a gorgeous view on a clear day. My map  showed it as Greenwood Commons, and some low chains and a few signs declared the area private and insisted on no dogs. Milly would have to walk the streets.


the entirety of the Rose Steps

After Greenwood Terrace dead-ended on Rose Street, I headed right, or east, where I came upon a young, gray tabby named Mitts, who mewed rather insistently and didn’t mind my attention but didn’t seem to want her picture taken, judging by her constant movement that resulted in several blurry photos.

I was confused by my map, which seemed to indicate that Rose Street turned into the Rose Steps, which continued in the same direction and became La Loma Avenue.

At the end of Rose Street, you are eye-level with the cars’ tires as they speed by on La Loma Ave.

The truth is that Rose Street comes to an end beneath La Loma where it curves south, and the Rose Steps are located near the eastern end of the street on its south side. This short path allows one to reach La Loma Avenue by foot. But first I trekked to the very end of Rose Street to see where it led. On the left was a tall solid fence that abutted a house that had no windows on two sides and faced a steep canyon.

Under the curve of La Loma Avenue

Beyond that was an empty lot that was for sale, which faced the canyon on one side and the industrial structure that supported the bend of La Loma on the other. I think I understand why the house didn’t bother with windows on its south side…

I think that because of the yet-to-be-built paths and one that I walked earlier (out of numerical order!), I have only 28 more paths in Berkeley to go. To reach my goal of walking them all in one year, I just need to do two per week through December. I can totally do that, right?




A six-path day in the Berkeley Hills: Part II

IMG_1994Maybe it’s cheating to count Glendale as three paths, but it has been assigned three numbers (82, 83, 84) for the different sections broken up by Queens Road and Fairlawn Drive. And each section is certainly distinct.

IMG_1981Before I reached the entrance, I spied a Cabbage Patch doll sitting on a fence tucked among the ivy. I hope she finds her way back home.

I worked my way from the bottom of Glendale Path–where Glendale Avenue ends on Campus Drive–to its top on Grizzly Peak. The west entrance is marked clearly, and the path is made of level, concrete step, and has a metal railing on both sides–so, quite the opposite of Scott Newhall Path, which I’d taken earlier.

IMG_1987Early on I saw a tree trying to escape from its owner’s back yard through a handy hole in the fence. Or maybe it’s just curious and wants to see what’s happening on Glendale Path. . . . Not much, actually.

Along the path I found two placards provided by an organization called Friends of Five Creeks, which apparently has been around since 1995. The first one pointed out something that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise–a small dip in the land next to the path that is one of the sources of Codornices Creek. The sign had pictures of wild strawberries and the California rose, I suppose because they could be found along the trail. But I didn’t see any. It also touted the benefits of creeks, which IMG_1992included managing floods and erosion, “providing habitat for wildlife, and giving people the opportunity to experience nature in the city.” Sounds good to me.

Because it’s August in the Bay Area, I saw my fair share of naked ladies. Not that kind! This is the height of blooming season for Amaryllisbelladonna, or, as I’ve always known them–naked ladies. I assume the “naked” refers to the lack of accompanying leaves. When I see a single stalk, I think it looks particularly naked.

IMG_1991The path looks less official and more makeshift along the middle section, sometimes using a range of materials that look as if they may have been found or donated. At one point, the fence on the north side had all but collapsed and was being supported by surrounding flora. But it was all perfectly safe, I’m sure. I survived without a scratch!

The second placard informed hikers of local geology. It compared the age of Pinnacle Rock in nearby Remillard Park to the land beneath the sign, the first being over 100 million years old, and the second being a mere one to two million years old. Which, okay, is a huge difference. I’m sure the comparison signifies something important beyond the numbers, but I’m no geologist, so I didn’t ponder it for long.IMG_1998

The final section began with a precipitous climb on solid concrete steps that, luckily, had a railing. But toward the middle, it flattened out a bit and turned into railroad ties and earth, surrounded by grasses, more naked ladies, and a few trees along a wooden fence. The end was less scenic, as it was a dark, narrow passage that bordered someone’s bins for trash and recycling.

Somewhere along the way I saw this license plate. It wasn’t addressing me, I’m sure, because I was very quiet.

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Age Cannot Wither Her

Since most of my friends are over 50 (and several over 70), I found it refreshing to read a piece about aging from the perspective of 29-year-old who is also a fellow playwright.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Marissa Skudlarek, growing old thoughtfully. 

In the two weeks since I turned 29, I completed a draft of my first new full-length play in five years, and discovered a secret place to pick blackberries.

If I’m being honest with myself, the blackberries sometimes feel like an even better achievement than the play.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time passing lately: cycles, parallels, how the present moment feels like a tiny, dainty pinprick caught between the vastness of the past and future. (The main character of the play I just completed does a lot of thinking along those lines too, as the director of my staged reading pointed out. Well, I put a lot of myself into her.) My birthday is in the summer and I moved to San Francisco in the summer too, nearly eight years ago. People are moving away, or moving on to different projects

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Harold and the Boys work magic

master harold
Sam demonstrates his ballroom dancing moves to the young Harold. Andrew Humann, L. Peter Callender, Adrian Roberts (courtesy of Aurora’s website)

Afrikaner playwright Athol Fugard wrote often about the effects of Apartheid. “Master Harold”. . . and the boys, set in 1950 South Africa, was initially banned in his home country, no doubt for daring to expose the poor treatment of the black majority by the white Afrikaners in power.

Fugard’s first name is actually Harold, and the play is autobiographical. It captures a moment from Fugard’s teen years that he always regretted. His mother ran St. George’s Park Tea Room, just as the title character’s mother does in the play. And, like Harold, Fugard was close to the two black men who worked for his mother. One of them, Sam, practically raised Fugard, whose father was disabled. L. Peter Callender’s rendition of Sam is heartbreaking and is alone worth the price of admission.

“I wrote the play, I suppose at one level, in an attempt to try to understand how and why I am the man that I am.”

-Athol Fugard

Emotions run high in Aurora’s production–gasps and tears were plentiful–but the audience is in good hands with the excellent cast that also includes Adrian Roberts as Willie and Andrew Humann as Fugard’s younger stand-in. It was no surprise that the audience expressed appreciation with a hearty standing ovation.

If you have the chance to see “Master Harold”. . . and the boys, directed by Timothy Near, do so.