Tuesday, July 21, 2020

LGBTQ Connection Seeks Nominees for Youth Leadership Teams

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2020 at 4:14 PM

One of LGBTQ Connection's youth leadership teams participates in a recent Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Conference. - VIA LGBTQ CONNECTION
  • via LGBTQ Connection
  • One of LGBTQ Connection's youth leadership teams participates in a recent Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Conference.
Since forming in the spring of 2011, LGBTQ Connection has grown from a small support group into a comprehensive, multi-county initiative fostering healthy, diverse and inclusive communities in the North Bay.

From the beginning, young emerging leaders have driven the organization, which annually engages 3,500 LGBTQ people, their families and their community and trains providers from local organizations across Northern California to increase the safety, visibility and wellbeing of LGBTQ residents.

This fall, LGBTQ Connection invites the public to nominate individuals age 14 to 24 to join the organization’s youth leadership teams and continue the community-wide work to create positive change in Sonoma and Napa counties.

Each semester, LGBTQ Connection recruits interested and motivated youth to work with the youth leadership teams in five- or six-month cycles in Napa, Santa Rosa, Calistoga or Sonoma.

This upcoming semester, these teams will be meeting virtually to maintain social-distancing practices in the wake of Covid-19. Without any transportation barrier, LGBTQ Connection plans to connect these once-separate cross-county teams into one virtual ensemble.

This past spring and summer, LGBTQ Connection was forced to cancel all in-person events when the shelter-in-place orders went into effect in Napa and Sonoma counties last March. In place of those events, the organization has transitioned into online programming via video or telephone services.

This programming includes weekly online meet-ups for youth and young adults, twice-monthly video check-in meetings for older adults, free online counseling appointments with LGBTQ-friendly therapists, wellness calls for youth and seniors, LGBTQ information and referrals for all ages and much more. All of these services are offered in English and Spanish, serving the entire community.

Together, this fall's youth leadership teams are responsible for creating more virtual events and internet-based initiatives that advocate for increased awareness, visibility and wellness of North Bay LGBTQ youth.

In partnership with LGBTQ Connection, these teams give young people the opportunity to learn how to be a part of a team and to be community leaders. Each team meets once a week for five intensive months.

“That intensity is what we’ve found that it takes to come together as a team and organize impactful projects and events for our community,” LGBTQ Connection organizers write in a statement. “These projects bring people together across generations and cultures to build a stronger, more vibrant, and more inclusive LGBTQ community.”

This fall, the youth leaders chosen to participate in LGBTQ Connection’s cross-county teams will work on one of two initiatives. First, a community connection team will work on a project centered around community building and creating inclusive spaces; in addition, a community change team will work on a project centered around advocacy and systems change. In response to current events regarding police protests and the Black Lives Matter movement, both team’s projects will include racial justice as a primary focus.

“The modern LGBTQ movement erupted through uprisings against police brutality led by Black and Brown transgender women. We will work to remain connected to their legacy … throughout the many months ahead,” LGBTQ Connection organizers wrote in a statement last month. “LGBTQ Connection was founded with the goal of listening to and lifting up underrepresented LGBTQ voices, changing unjust systems, and investing in community leadership—especially with our youth, people of color, elders, transgender people, and people from rural areas. Today, we recommit ourselves to those values, to continue to be in relationship with our communities, and to let our actions speak as loud as our words.”

LGBTQ Connection is a program of On The Move, a nonprofit that partners with communities and mobilizes emerging leaders to take action in pursuit of social equity. Those interested in learning about becoming a Fall 2020 youth leadership team member can attend an information meeting hosted by LGBTQ Connection via Zoom on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 3pm. If you know a youth that would benefit from being on this team, nominate them. If you’re a youth, apply now.
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Thursday, July 16, 2020

One Night, Many Voices: Festival Napa Valley Presents Virtual Concert

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2020 at 9:34 AM

The Young People's Chorus of New York City lend their voice to Festival Napa Valley's online event on July 25. - STEPHANIE BERGER
  • Stephanie Berger
  • The Young People's Chorus of New York City lend their voice to Festival Napa Valley's online event on July 25.

Founded in 2006, Festival Napa Valley celebrates the region’s beauty and bounty and makes performing arts accessible to all through world-class concerts and events each summer and year-round educational programs for North Bay students.

This summer was meant to be Festival Napa Valley’s 15th summer of shows, which annually features dozens of classical and chamber concerts, wine and food spectaculars and more featuring internationally-renowned performers.
Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the festival to press pause on its planned 10-day schedule.

In place of in-person events, Festival Napa Valley will bring the stars to you with a free virtual concert event, “One Night, Many Voices,” on Saturday, July 25, at 7pm.

The online showcase will include performances by festival favorites such as violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, as well as the Young People’s Chorus of New York City and Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán and his band among others.

“We are thrilled to bring together some Festival favorites for a special night to celebrate the healing power of music,” Richard Walker, President and CEO of Festival Napa Valley says in statement. “We hope this concert will provide connection, hope, and inspiration to music lovers everywhere.”

Recorded especially for this occasion, “One Night, Many Voices” will pack the festival’s wide array of musical offerings into a singular experience with familiar faces offering never-before-seen performances.

Violinist Joshua Bell is one of those familiar faces. He’s a frequent performer with Festival Napa Valley, and for good reason; his career spans more than thirty years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and conductor and he is one of the most celebrated violinists of the modern era.

This summer, Bell has become one of the busiest performers on the web in the wake of Covid-related concert cancellations. For this concert, Bell is performing with soprano singer Larisa Martínez, who he recently collaborated with on the Emmy-nominated PBS special, Live from Lincoln Center: Seasons of Cuba. For the last two years, Martínez has also toured with Italian singer Andrea Bocelli throughout North America, South America and Europe.

Internationally-recognized pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is also performing as part of “One Night, Many Voices” on July 25. Like Bell, Thibaudet has spent three decades performing as a soloist and in chamber and orchestral groups. Born in Lyon, France, Thibaudet is a noted interpreter of French music, and his creative collaborations span music, film, fashion and visual art.

Other voices appearing as part of Festival Napa Valley’s virtual concert include soprano Nadine Sierra, who recently portrayed Juliet in San Francisco Opera’s production of Romeo & Juliet, and tenor Michael Fabiano, who was scheduled to portray Rodolfo in San Francisco Opera’s now-canceled production of La Bohème this fall.

The Young People’s Chorus of New York City is also slated to appear on July 25. The chorus mirrors Festival Napa Valley’s educational commitment to make arts accessible by offering programs at Napa County public schools year-round, hosting a tuition-free summer music academy and donating concert tickets to families in Napa Valley.

“One Night, Many Voices” will crescendo with a performance by brilliant Cuban classical pianist Aldo López-Gavilán, who performs both traditional Afro-Cuban jazz and offers improvisational interpretations of classical music repertoire. López-Gavilán will appear with his band from their home in Havana, Cuba, capping off the global-inspired virtual concert.

To add to the festive evening, Festival Napa Valley invites Napa restaurants to produce curated to-go menus, and the festival’s many partner wineries will provide special offers on select bottles to enjoy with show. Participating restaurants include Heritage Eats, Mustards Grill, Solbar, Tre Posti and V Sattui.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the North Bay through the summer, Festival Napa Valley is planning to expand its fall and spring concert schedules. The festival is also looking ahead to providing distance learning arts curriculum should Napa Valley public schools remain closed, creating original digital content with its roster of artists and community partners while social distancing remains in effect.

‘One Night, Many Voices’ streams virtually on Saturday, July 25, at 7pm. Register for free at
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Thursday, July 2, 2020

‘Peanuts’ Gang Goes Back on Display This Month in Sonoma County

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 2:11 PM


UPDATE (JULY 13): After a brief reopening last week, the Schulz Museum is temporarily closed again due to the latest state and county COVID-19 safety orders. The museum will be closed through August 2, and until further notice thereafter.
Fans of the  “Peanuts” comic strips have something to look forward to this summer, as the popular Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, July 8.

Following guidance from the State of California and the County of Sonoma as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Charles M Schulz Museum will reopen with several Covid-19 safety measures in place to provide a safe, low-risk environment for all visitors and staff. When the doors open, the public is invited to view several new features, including new exhibitions and a selection of rarely seen items from the Museum’s archives.

“In this time of daily unease, we are grateful to be reopening our doors and providing a place for people to have a joyful escape,” said Jean Schulz, widow of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz and museum board president, in a statement. “I think we could all use some good cheer right now.”

The museum closed its doors to the public on March 16 when Sonoma County issued the shelter in place order in accordance with the state’s efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. That sheltering order is now eased for indoor museums in Sonoma County allowing them to reopen with safety guidelines in place.

As such, the Charles M Schulz Museum is implementing policies such as requiring visitors wear face coverings and maintain social distancing rules that will be denoted in the museum’s high-traffic areas by Snoopy paw prints on the floor.

Current exhibitions at the museum include “Lucy! Fussbudget to Feminist,” the first exhibition to focus exclusively on “Peanuts” character Lucy, and which opened just one day before the museum’s temporary closure. Also on view is “Greetings, Charlie Brown! The Peanuts-Hallmark Connection” and a new exhibition, “Girl Power in Peanuts,” that opens at the end of July.

The Charles M Schulz Museum also hints that a new addition is also on the way and will be revealed in mid-July in the museum’s Biographical Gallery. For now, the museum is only saying that four large cases with built-in drawers will be installed to allow more artwork, correspondence, and personal effects from Charles Schulz to be shared with the public.

“We’re taking this opportunity to curate the cases from scratch,” museum curator Benjamin L. Clark said in a statement. “In the nearly 20 years since the museum opened, new objects, stories, and information have come to light, giving us a better understanding and a more complete view of Charles Schulz. These updated cases will reflect our best and latest research in a way that we’re excited to share.”

The museum also reopens under new leadership, as outgoing museum director Karen Johnson recently announced her retirement after 15 years heading the institution. Gina Huntsinger, the current general manager of Snoopy’s Home Ice for the past three years and the Museum’s marketing director for 12 years prior, will be stepping into the role of director.

“While this is an unusual way to start my tenure as the museum’s director, I am so excited to return to my roots of celebrating the legacy of Charles Schulz and his art,” Huntsinger said in a statement. “During the temporary closure, the staff took the opportunity to deeply clean and revitalize the building. We are looking forward to welcoming the public back and sharing some laughs—even if under the cover of our masks!”

For those who are high-risk for Covid-19, or limiting travel and out-of-house activities, the museum has also increased its online offerings, including a ‘Schulz Museum at Home’ webpage full of free resources and activities to enjoy from home.

The museum has also introduced online art and cartooning classes for kids, teens and adults that allows students to join artist instructors virtually from many different locations and time zones. Those classes include a new “Peanuts” live drawing series led by staff artists that continues with a class on “How to Draw Woodstock” on July 13 and “How to Draw Snoopy” on August 10. In addition, the museum hosts an online panel discussion on July 27 on the topic of “Exploring Intersectional Identities Through Queer Comics.”

“This fall marks the 70th anniversary of Peanuts,” Huntsinger said in her statement. “Whether you join us in person or online, we invite you to connect with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the 'Peanuts' gang and see why this comic strip has endured for so many generations.”

The Charles M Schulz Museum reopens, Wednesday, July 8. For more information on hours and safety protocols, visit
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Monday, June 29, 2020

Several North Bay Fall Events Already Planning Pandemic-Related Postponements

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 1:50 PM

The Gravenstein Apple Fair is one of many North Bay events canceling their plans this fall due to Covid-19.
  • The Gravenstein Apple Fair is one of many North Bay events canceling their plans this fall due to Covid-19.

Last March, Covid-19 forced California to cancel most social gatherings and events through the spring of 2020. Soon after, it was clear that summer 2020 would follow suit as fairs, festivals and other fun events were postponed or called off in the wake of the virus’s continued spread.

Now, autumn 2020 looks to suffer the same fate socially as the last two seasons. Many North Bay–based events and harvest celebrations are postponing their fall gatherings before July even begins, as Covid-19 continues to gain ground in the state and the Bay Area with increasing numbers of new cases each week.

In Sonoma County, fall traditionally begins prior to Labor Day—which is scheduled for Sept. 7 this year—as harvest-related events get rolling in August. One such event, now canceled, is Sebastopol’s popular Gravenstein Apple Fair.

Agricultural organization Farm Trails hosts the fundraising fair that celebrates the locally grown Gravenstein Apple. On the fair’s website, the Farm Trails team writes, “Though we can hardly imagine August in Sebastopol without the Apple Fair, we are fully on board with the County’s decision to cancel large gatherings. We are so grateful for the health care workers and first responders on the front lines and for all of the essential businesses (farmers/producers, nurseries, grocery store workers, postage and parcel services, etc.) who continue to sustain and support our lives during these unprecedented times. We are also appreciative of the sacrifices our entire community is making by staying at home to help flatten the curve.”

The fair organizers also note that Gravenstein apples will still be falling in Sonoma County this fall, and they hope to find ways to mark the occasion with virtual events or DIY activities.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that Farm Trails continues to make good on its mission to preserve farms forever in Sonoma County,” says Farm Trails Board President Vince Trotter, in a statement. “With our main fundraiser off the table, we’re certainly facing some financial challenges this year, but our farmers are fighting through this, and so will we. We’re cutting our expenses to the bone and looking at some creative ways to bring in revenue and make the 2021 fair better than ever.”

Other popular harvest and culinary events canceling their 2020 gatherings include the massive Taste of Sonoma wine-tasting extravaganza, the annual Heirloom Expo of food providers and enthusiasts best known for its giant pumpkin contest and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s Grand-Tasting and World Championship Grape Stomp Competition—though the Harvest Fair’s professional wine and food competitions will still be held remotely.

In Marin County, the arts are often a major part of the fall season, with festivals and fairs showcase both international and local artists and crafters.

One of Marin’s largest gatherings each fall is the Sausalito Art Festival, taking place on Labor Day weekend for more than 60 years. This year, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation will pause production of this signature event due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and other current challenges associated with event production. On the festival’s website, the Foundation says it will plan a new iteration of the event “to meet a shifting arts and entertainment landscape.”

In addition to pandemic concerns, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation writes that restrictions to access of the waterfront venue, competition for headlining musical talent and increased security costs and concerns are also factors in their decision to reimagine the event for 2021.

Another Marin fall staple, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, also recently announced its 2020 fest would be canceled due to Covid-19.

“For over sixty years our little festival has been a wonderful celebration of Mill Valley’s unique culture and community,” says festival executive director Steve Bajor, in a statement. “This year the responsibility to act prudently to ensure everyone’s safety is our top priority. Like so much we are missing, we are hopeful that the festival will return next year for us all to enjoy.”

Artists previously juried into the 2020 show will instead be featured on the festival’s website and will be invited to show their work in person at the next event, now scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19, 2021, in Old Mill Park.

Other fall arts events in the North Bay forgoing 2020 include Open Studios Napa Valley’s self-guided art tours, usually planned for two weekends in September, and the Sonoma County Art Trails, normally scheduled for two weekends in October. Still other major events canceled this fall include the Sound Summit music festival that celebrates Mount Tamalpais State Park each September at the historic Mountain Theater, and the Napa Valley Film Festival that was slated to happen in November.

“We appreciate the tremendous support and well wishes from our community during these uncertain times,” said Cinema Napa Valley Chairman Patrick Davila, in a statement. “Rest assured we will use this time to strengthen our commitment to our mission and develop new avenues to fulfill our vision. I look forward to seeing all of you in 2021 for our 10th year anniversary.”
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Thursday, June 25, 2020

North Bay Protests Continue to Call for Social Justice

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 10:28 AM


It’s been one month since George Floyd’s death on May 25, after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.

In the weeks that have followed, a nationwide movement of protest against police brutality and social and racial justice has spread to all 50 states.

The North Bay’s ongoing protests and rallies have hit major cities like Santa Rosa and San Rafael, as well as the smaller locales such as Healdsburg and Mill Valley, with events honoring Black lives, celebrations of Pride month and other socially conscious movements.

This month-long wave of protests is not slowing down, and the final week of June is packed with a schedule of peaceful events in Marin, Sonoma and Napa County.

The gatherings get started today, Thursday, June 25, with a Mill Valley Peaceful Protest beginning at 1:30pm. The protest march will kick off at the Safeway parking lot at 1 Camino Alto, and move down Miller Ave near Tamalpais High School, before traveling downtown to Old Mill Park. The event encourages participants to bring Black Lives Matter signs, and guest speakers are slated to appear. Face coverings are required and water and snacks will be provided.

Also today, June 25, the Spahr Center hosts a Rally for LGBTQ+ and Racial Justice at 4:30pm in downtown Fairfax. The Spahr Center is Marin County’s only nonprofit serving the LGBTQ community and everyone in the county living with and affected by HIV. Today’s rally takes a stand against incidents of racism and transphobia that has occurred in Fairfax recently.

Notably, 17-year-old transgender teen Jasper Lauter was verbally harassed last Saturday in Fairfax by a man and a woman who were also harassing a Black Lives Matter bake sale. The incident was caught on video and shows the man and woman mocking and insulting Lauter, who posted the video to his Twitter account.

Today’s Rally for LGBTQ+ and Racial Justice begins at the downtown steps in Fairfax and participants are asked to wear face coverings and follow social distance guidelines. Following the rally in Fairfax, the Spahr Center is leading a caravan of cars to San Rafael, where a peaceful gathering to stop racism is happening at 1050 Court Street.

Other North Bay protests planned for the week include a Black Lives Matter Meet-up on Friday, June 26, at Walnut Park in Petaluma. The protest begins at 1pm and participants are to wear all black. Protest signs are encouraged and face coverings are mandatory.

On Saturday, June 27, Santa Rosa’s Junior College campus once again becomes the scene for a major protest event. The Cycle for Life will be peaceful Critical Mass-style bike protest that plans to ride from the SRJC lawn on Mendocino Avenue through town to Old Courthouse Square in a yet-to-be-determined route of approximately six miles. Non-bikers can also attend, and the event kicks off with a protest sign-making session on the SRJC lawn at noon before the 1pm ride and march.

Once the ride is over, speakers, performers, and vendors will be on hand in Old Courthouse Square to keep the event going strong into the evening. The Cycle for Life will support Black Lives Matter and Pride, and the family-friendly event is also requiring social distancing and face coverings to be mindful of Covid-19.

Also on Saturday, June 27, the Bake Sale for Social Justice is back on in Fairfax, happening at 100 Bolinas Road near the Fairfax Community Farmers Market from 4pm to 6pm. All money raised at the bake sale will be donated to the Equal Justice Institute, The Spahr Center and Trevor Project. Organizers ask that people wear a mask and follow state social distancing guidelines.

Sunday, June 28, begins with Pride Is a Protest, a rally and march in Napa organized by The Peoples Collective for Change. Meeting at Napa’s City Hall at 10:30am, the rally is in honor of LGBTQ demonstrators who essentially founded the gay rights movement with the Stonewall Riots, which took place in New York City beginning on June 28, 1969.

The Napa protest will also stand in solidarity with black, brown and Indigenous people, and PCC Napa hopes to demonstrate that LGBTQ people and their allies are committed to racial and social justice.

Also on Sunday, June 28, Fairfax Parkade is the setting for an afternoon Anti-Racism Rally to reimagine public safety and stop the spread of racism locally. The rally begins at the Parkade lot between Sir Francis Drake Blvd and Broadway Boulevard at Noon with a community discussion and guest speakers and performers.

Sunday, June 28, wraps up with an evening Black Lives Matter Vigil at Mill Valley City Hall. The event begins at 9pm and is followed by a movie screening, and organizers ask participants to bring blankets and sleeping bags in addition to face coverings.
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Friday, June 19, 2020

Six Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth in the North Bay

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 9:43 AM

The Juneteenth Flag, a symbolic representation of the end of slavery in the United States, is the brainchild of Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.
  • The Juneteenth Flag, a symbolic representation of the end of slavery in the United States, is the brainchild of Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation.

may not be an official national holiday in the United States, though it is one of the country’s longest-running celebrations.

Since 1866, June 19 has marked the end of slavery in the country, as that was the date in 1865 that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and federal orders to free the enslaved. Today, 49 of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a day of observance. The only state that does not recognize Juneteenth is Hawaii.

Juneteenth is often a local community celebration that honors Black freedom and Black people’s unique contribution to the struggle for justice in the US, though the day is taking on new meaning in 2020 as the movement for Black Lives Matter and the protests against police brutality gain strength in every state, even as the Covid-19 pandemic is turning many in-person events into virtual gatherings.

In the North Bay, today, June 19, is a chance to address systematic racism and lift up black voices, and local group Uplifting Black Leaders of Sonoma County opens the day with a Juneteenth Festival at Pioneer Park in Northeast Santa Rosa from noon to 6pm.

Uplifting Black Leaders is the same group that has organized recent protest marches at the Santa Rosa Junior College, and today’s Juneteenth Celebration will have food vendors, black owned business vendors, games, kids activities, music, performances and speakers coming together to celebrate the emancipation of slaves. The free, family-friendly event is open to all, and organizers ask participants to wear face coverings.

In Petaluma, a Defend Black Lives event will converge at 208 Petaluma Blvd North, on the corner of Petaluma Boulevard and Washington Street today, June 19. The event is part of Six Nineteen, a nationwide series of events organized by the Movement For Black Lives (M4BL).

Six Nineteen will see major marches in cities across the US, and Petaluma’s event, beginning at 1pm, will begin with participants taking a knee in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for that length of time.

After the initial remembrance, Petaluma’s event encourages people to stay and display signs as long as they want, and organizers ask that all participants wear masks and observe social distancing.

In Napa County, Calistoga’s Pioneer Park has seen several Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the last month, and local group Calistogans for Change is hosting a Juneteenth Peaceful Protest today, June 19, at 3pm. Masks are required and social distancing rules are encouraged.

On the Calistogans for Change Facebook page, organizer Nicole Sierra Drawsky writes, “The goal of this demonstration is to show ongoing support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Our end goal is to support the changing of systems that allow for brutality and racism, and to raise awareness for those who have been harmed or killed every day because of institutionalized racism.”

Marin City has been the epicenter of Marin County’s Black Lives Matter movement, and today’s Juneteenth Rally in Marin City’s Rocky Graham Park continues to bring the community together. Today’s event, beginning at 3pm, is all in on spreading knowledge and power, and the rally’s highlights include guest speakers, black-owned business vendors and more.

San Geronimo Valley is the scene of another Marin County gathering this weekend in support of Black lives. On Saturday, June 20, the Rally in the Valley meets up at the intersection of Nicasio Valley Road and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at 1pm. Organizers suggest bringing signs supporting Black lives and calling for an end to police brutality, and masks and social distancing will be required.

One of the biggest Juneteenth events in the North Bay this year will be held on Zoom, as the Sonoma County Juneteenth Celebration goes online due to Covid-19.

Mrs. Marteal Perry originally founded the Sonoma County Juneteenth Celebration as Santa Rosa’s Juneteenth Celebration in 1954. A staple in the Santa Rosa community, Perry worked tirelessly for the local underserved community, heralding social causes like clean water issues, child welfare and many more.

This year’s virtual Sonoma County Juneteenth celebration, taking place Saturday, June 20 at 1pm, will feature a program of diverse and inclusive entertainment and education led by Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow Foundation. Formed in 2006, the foundation works toward improving the education of students surrounding Sonoma County and the North Bay.
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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Neal Casal Music Foundation Launches with Online Fundraiser

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 11:45 AM

Late guitarist and songwriter Neal Casal is remembered and celebrated by the new nonprofit Neal Casal Music Foundation. - PHOTO BY JAY BLAKESBERG
  • Photo By Jay Blakesberg
  • Late guitarist and songwriter Neal Casal is remembered and celebrated by the new nonprofit Neal Casal Music Foundation.

Last year, on August 26, 2019, the music community lost Neal Casal, a multi-dimensional songwriter, singer and guitarist who was both beloved as a solo artist and a band member of several acclaimed ensembles.

In the North Bay, Casal was best known for his involvement in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood as well as his many appearances on stage and in studio with the likes of Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Vetiver and the Skiffle Players.

Heavily influenced by bands like the Grateful Dead and The Rolling Stones, Casal was also a member of bands Hazy Malaze, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, GospelBeacH, Hard Working Americans and Circles Around The Sun. Casal’s extensive body of solo work, features more than a dozen albums, and Casal was also a record producer and an avid photographer.

Now, the newly formed Neal Casal Music Foundation is officially launching as a nonprofit organization and is hosting a Kickstarter campaign online to raise funds for the purpose of honoring Casal’s memory and sharing his musical legacy and the body of work he left behind, including an extensive archive of unreleased material.

The nonprofit foundation is also funding a series of charitable initiatives, beginning with a program to provide instruments and music lessons to students in New Jersey and New York state schools where Casal was born and raised.The organization will also be making donations to mental health organizations such as MusiCares, Backline and others that support musicians in need. In fact, the foundation has already donated over $25,000 to MusiCares from it’s preliminary tribute concert fundraiser that took place at the Capitol Theatre in New York on September 25, 2019; one month after Casal died by suicide.

Casal’s longtime manager Gary Waldman, along with a team of Casal’s closest friends is spearheading the foundation.

“In a note left behind, Neal told the story of how he got his first guitar when he was 13,” Waldman says in a statement. “As he explained it, ‘I remember the day on one of those drives where dad asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said an Atari, and he said 'c'mon Neal, you can do better than that. I always see you with your radio playing music; do you want more records? Do you want to play an instrument? I want to get you something useful. I sheepishly said I like guitar, and his eyes lit up and he said, sure I’ll get you a guitar, at least you'll be learning something.’”

With that idea in mind, the foundation’s concept is to shine a light on Casal’s artistry and provide resources to raise money for positive change though music. For the foundation’s Kickstarter fundraising campaign, donors can choose to pledge $10 to $1500 or more, and the campaign is providing two primary donation packages as a reward for donating; a tribute album, Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal, and a coffee table photography book, Tomorrow's Sky: Photographs by Neal Casal.

The double CD/triple vinyl tribute album, featuring more than 30 of Casal’s songs, is being co-produced by Dave Schools of Widespread Panic and Grammy-winning producer and engineer Jim Scott.

Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal features almost 30 artists and bands, including Billy Strings, Jaime Wyatt, Circles Around the Sun, Vetiver, Cass McCombs, Shooter Jennings, Leslie Mendelson, Warren Haynes, Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Jason Crosby, Beachwood Sparks and many others.

The photography book, available now for pre-order on the Kickstarter campaign, comes from one of Casal’s last wishes; that a book be made of the photographs he took over the last 20-plus years while on the road as a musician and global explorer.

Tomorrow’s Sky is a stunning hard cover book that features over 250 of Casal’s beautiful photographs. Broken up into six sections covering travel, surfing, music and more, the book is essentially a biographical document of where Casal was at various points in his life, with photos of him backstage with his bands, in a recording studio with Willie Nelson, on an empty stretch of highway, or on the beach with a surfboard.

Photographer Jay Blakesberg is producing the book, and photo archivist and editor Ricki Blakesberg is curating the images using Casal’s Instagram, Tumblr and photo albums as a creative guide.

On the Kickstarter site, the Foundation writes, “These projects are intended to continue expanding Neal's artistry and to give the Neal Casal Music Foundation a proper kick-off. Our hope is that the foundation will inspire future musicians and also provide access to mental health support for musicians already on the path. And let these projects bring comfort to the many fans of Neal who miss him every day!”
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Friday, June 5, 2020

Join the Conversation With These Timely Online Discussions

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 1:45 PM

Acclaimed poet Nikky Finney appears in a virtual conversation on "the Witness We Bear" today, June 5, at 7pm as part of Bay Area Book Festival  #UNBOUND virtual program. - FORREST CLONTS
  • Forrest Clonts
  • Acclaimed poet Nikky Finney appears in a virtual conversation on "the Witness We Bear" today, June 5, at 7pm as part of Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND virtual program.
It seems that everywhere one looks in America today, there is unrest.

Police brutality has been on full display for over a week, with videos, photos and reports of peaceful protesters being met with batons and tear gas from police forces across the country. Those reports include Santa Rosa—where an unknown law-enforcement officer reportedly shot a plastic grenade at a protester less than 15 feet away on Sunday, May 31, fracturing the protester’s jaw, splitting his lip and knocking out four teeth—as well as a young man who was shot and killed by Vallejo police early on Tuesday, June 2.

Covid-19 had already created a tense situation before this week’s nationwide protests against police, having kept people isolated since March and causing massive spikes in unemployment as businesses across the Bay Area closed their doors due to the pandemic.

Add all of that to a country that has already endured three years of unprecedented presidential lying and social division from a former reality-TV star, and it’s a no-brainer that Americans’ mental stresses are at never-before-seen levels.

This week, several organizations are taking to the web to help those dealing with mental, social and health problems through online lectures, conversations and discussions that are sure to go a long way in opening up meaningful dialogue and affecting social change that benefits us all.

Today, Friday June 5, the Mental Health Association of San Francisco hosts a virtual event, “Real Talk: A Discussion About Police Brutality and Racism,” at 5pm via Zoom.

MHASF originally planned to facilitate a discussion with mental-health activist and writer Leah Harris on Friday, but due to current circumstances, they are instead facilitating this new discussion with the hosts of its ongoing "People of Color Support Group,” Dewonna Howard and CW Johnson. The support group regularly meets to discuss issues, coping strategies and resources relevant to people of color in the local community.

“This will be a safe space for anyone and everyone—especially our Black community members—to speak up, vent and talk through their feelings, thoughts and emotions surrounding the suffering and destruction taking place in our country,” wrote MHASF in an email sent out June 4.

Also today, June 5, the Bay Area Book Festival is rearranging its schedule of online events to present a timely discussion, “The Beautiful Witness We Bear,” at 7pm as part of the festival’s #UNBOUND virtual program.

The thought-provoking conversation will feature two acclaimed poets, Pulitzer Prize–winner Jericho Brown (The Tradition) and National Book Award–winner Nikky Finney (Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry). Twenty years ago, Brown was Finney’s student, and while much has changed since those days, their mutual dedication to bearing witness to hard truths through art remains ever-present.

In this conversation, the poets will share their own responses to the murders of George Floyd and other Black Americans, and they will discuss the protests against police brutality and the power of poetry to capture these human experiences. The conversation will be moderated by Ismail Muhammad, reviews editor for The Believer, board member at the National Book Critics Circle and Program Committee member at the Bay Area Book Festival.

Tomorrow, June 6, Book Passage hosts an enlightening conversation on women and politics with New York Times reporter and author Jennifer Steinhauer and New York Times Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper, presented online at 4pm.

Steinhauer’s latest work, The Firsts, begins at the November 2018 midterms, in which the greatest number of women in history was elected to Congress. The book then chronicles the first-year experiences of those women, detailing their transitions from running campaigns to their daily work of governance.

Looking ahead, Point Reyes nonprofit group Black Mountain Circle hosts a Zoom Virtual event on mental health and well-being featuring Florence Williams, journalist and the author of The Nature Fix. The event, happening on Thursday, June 11 at noon, will make the connection between spending time in nature and our health, especially in the wake of a two-month stay-at-home order that’s kept many people in isolation. Now that some parks and beaches are reopening, Williams will discuss the role nature plays in making us happier, healthier and more creative.

Anna O'Malley and Donna Faure will join Williams on June 11 for this virtual discussion. O’Malley is executive director of Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine in West Marin, and Faure is the executive director of Point Reyes National Seashore Association. The event is co-presented by Point Reyes National Seashore Association, Mesa Refuge, Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine, and Point Reyes Books.
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More North Bay Summer Camps Are Going Online

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 10:19 AM

Kids (and even adults) of all ages can virtually learn the art of bookmaking with award-winning artist C.K. Itamura through the Healdsburg Center for the Arts this summer.
  • Kids (and even adults) of all ages can virtually learn the art of bookmaking with award-winning artist C.K. Itamura through the Healdsburg Center for the Arts this summer.

Summer has started for thousands of students in the North Bay, but many families are struggling to figure out how to spend the season, as the usual array of kids’ camps and outings is largely canceled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Last month, several Sonoma County arts and education organizations such as the Alexander Valley Film Society, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and Transcendence Theatre Company announced their plans for offering virtual summer arts camps in lieu of in-person programs.

Now, many other North Bay groups are jumping in the digital pool to provide their own virtual art experiences for kids in Sonoma, Marin and Napa County.

Healdsburg Center for the Arts is one of many nonprofit arts hubs that are temporarily shut during the stay-at-home orders related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Center also cancelled many fundraising events in the wake of the pandemic, including the beloved Healdsburg Earth Festival, the Healdsburg Art Festival and a number of popular art classes for adults and children.

“The past ten weeks have given us an opportunity to reflect on the benefits a community art center provides and we’ve had the opportunity to re-think about the future of the organization”, said Diana Jameson, Healdsburg Center for the Arts Board Member, in a statement. “We have discovered there is great interest and enthusiasm in the community for Healdsburg Center for the Arts to continue its creative endeavors, even during this public health crisis.”

To that end, the center is now offering online Bookmaking Summer Camps through a partnership with Book Arts Roadshow, co-founded by award-winning artist and former HCA board member C.K. Itamura. The camps are run over Zoom and offer the opportunity to explore the art and craft of making books while at home. The online sessions run select dates, June 27 to July 26, with sessions for ages 5–7, 8–12, 13–18, and even adults.

Bookmaking materials for the online sessions are provided by a grant from the Bill Graham Foundation. Packages of bookmaking materials will be mailed to registered participants ahead of the workshops.

“An online Bookmaking Summer Camp series for adults is included,” Itamura said in a statement. “Because bookmaking can be stress-free and fun and we’re pretty certain most adults can use a dose of that right about now.”

In addition to the Bookmaking Camp, local artist Jean Warren reformatted her popular Watercolor & Journaling workshop to make use of Zoom. Warren will guide students through watercolor painting lessons via video and email at a to-be-determined date. Register for camps and get more information at

When most people think “summer camp,” they think of the great outdoors, and usually the North Bay is a haven for kids to backpack, hike and explore in natural sites like the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

This summer, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation knows that gathering, even in nature, is problematic in the face of a pandemic, so the group is inviting kids to join the Laguna Explorers @ Home program to explore the wonder of nature in their own backyards.

Aimed at kids ages 6–11, Laguna Explorers @ Home includes at-home activities that engage the senses, ignite curiosity and increase environmental literacy. The activities are designed for children to do on their own without much need for parent’s interference. The program also incorporates online meetings and circle time for discussion, play, and sharing with other children and Laguna camp staff.

Environmental explorations will run July 6–10 and July 13–17. Each Monday, explorers will pick up a pack at the Laguna Environmental Center, the pack comes with the materials needed for the week, including custom field journals, nature craft supplies, activity instructions, naturalist tools, game cards and more.

A Parent Pack will also be provided with instructions, website links and supplementary materials including “rewards” for participation that parents can give their child each day. Get more details and register for Laguna Explorers @ Home at

Now in its 15th year of operation, the Napa School of Music has provided thousands of lessons to families in Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, with approximately 400 students taking lessons every week from 16 top-notch teachers. In addition to private and group lessons, the school engages budding musicians in Music Camps, which are going virtual this year.

Beginning June 8–12, and running several subsequent weeks through August, the Napa School of Music’s camp schedule is packed with small-group sessions in guitar, ukulele, music recording and other classes that are designed for all ages and all skill levels, with instrument rentals available.

Beginner guitar, bass guitar and ukulele virtual camps will start aspiring musicians on the right foot with instructions in fundamentals and exposure to a repertoire of songs they can play with minimal skill.

Advanced virtual camps, designed for older tweens and teens, take the basic concepts of guitar, bass and ukulele to another level with new strumming concepts, advanced arrangements of popular melodies to learn and more. Other virtual camps include Musical Theater Camp and Songwriting Camp. Get details and sign up at

In Mill Valley, the Marin Theatre Company is renowned not only for their stage productions, but for their commitment to community engagement. That includes the company’s Drama Conservatory, which provides classes, camps, workshops and performance opportunities for Bay Area children and teens. Approximately 8,5000 students participate in the company’s programs each year, and while the MTC’s doors closed in March due to Covid-19, they continued to engage with young actors and playwrights remotely in online classes through the Spring.

Now, MTC is introducing a new concept, Summer Camp in a Box, which was created as a way to bring summer camp activities directly to younger students so they can participate from the safety of home. The format is literally a box of theatrical supplies that can be picked up or dropped off. Boxes range from $50-$75, and scholarships are available.

Each box is themed and targeted at Kindergarteners-through fifth graders, and each box includes instructions and materials needed to complete drama activities, arts and crafts, games, recipes and more.

Themes range from “Living Literature,” which lets young ones act out classic kids books like The Magic School Bus, The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Dr. Seuss stories, to boxes based on Disney movies like The Secret Life of Pets and Frozen that let kids run wild with their imagination.

In addition to the Summer Camps in a Box for the young ones, theater kids in middle and high school can sign up for summer camps conducted virtually through Zoom, with an emphasis on acting and improvisation. All virtual camps for tween and teens are $100 and, again, scholarships are available. Register for MTC’s summer camps and boxes at
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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Music Industry Goes Silent for Blackout Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2020 at 6:56 AM


Tuesday, June 2, is going to be a quiet day meant to send a loud message from those in the music industry. On this day several major record companies and artists join a national media movement, Blackout Tuesday, that intends to shine a light on the “long-standing racism and inequality” in the music business and American society in general.

With participants ranging from producer Quincy Jones to MTV, Blackout Tuesday is a daylong planned media blackout led by The Show Must Be Paused, an initiative created by black music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang in response to the killings of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of police.

For the last four days, Black Lives Matter protests have erupted around the country, beginning in Minneapolis where George Floyd, an African American, was killed in police custody on May 25. The day after Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis Police Department fired all four of the officers involved in the incident, and Hennepin County announced murder and manslaughter charges against Derek Chauvin, the officer who was filmed pinning Floyd to the ground by pressing his knee down on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Joining those Black Lives Matter protests, The Show Must Be Paused selected Tuesday, June 2, as Blackout Tuesday specifically to interrupt the work week for a day of reflection and conversation about “what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”

In addition, The Show Must Be Paused notes that the billion-dollar music industry has “profited predominantly from Black art,” and they want to hold the industry accountable for supporting those Black artists whose work has benefited others, writing “To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.”

Thomas and Agyemang note that Blackout Tuesday is not just a 24-hour event, adding that a larger plan of action will soon be announced. “In the meantime,” they write, “to our Black friends and family: please take the time for you and your mental health. To our allies, the time is now to have difficult conversations with family, friends and colleagues.”

Announced this last weekend, Blackout Tuesday has already gained major industry allies. On Instagram, producer Quincy Jones joined the movement, writing “It’s hard to know what to say because I’ve been dealing with racism my entire life. That said, it’s rearing its ugly head right now & by God it’s time to deal with it once & for all. My team & I stand for justice. Conversations will be had & action will be taken.”

Other high-profile musicians and companies participating in the June 2 initiative include Peter Gabriel, Billy Bragg, Mumford & Sons, Def Jam Recordings, Interscope, Sony Music and Columbia Records.

In the North Bay, where Black Lives Matter protests are entering their fourth day in cities including Santa Rosa and Napa, BottleRock Napa Valley announced on Twitter that it was joining Blackout Tuesday “for a day of reflection,” adding that it will not be airing “(re)LIVE BottleRock” online this Friday as scheduled.

Music-industry meetup group Balanced Breakfast, which began in the Bay Area and features Santa Rosa and Napa networking meetings for musicians and promoters, is also joining the blackout, posting on its Facebook page, “Due to recent events, please join us as we take an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change. As gatekeepers of the culture, it’s our responsibility to not only come together to celebrate the wins, but also hold each other up during a loss.”

The Show Must Be Paused website urges those directly impacted by police violence in recent days to take a break for Blackout Tuesday, writing “there is a lot going on and sometimes we all just need a minute. Take that minute.”

The website also directs visitors to links to help George Floyd’s family and others, and provides information on ways to donate to community bail funds for jailed protesters and additional anti-racism resources.
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