Author Archives: Guest contributor

Longtime Berkeley resident Henrietta Harris turns 100

Henrietta Harris
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By Erika Shaver-Nelson

Henrietta Harris celebrated her 100th birthday June 15 with a leisurely morning. She had breakfast in bed and then got her hair and make-up done to get ready for her day. She and her close friends had a picnic in the back garden at Chaparral House, where she lives, with fried chicken, potato salad, carrot salad, fruit salad and lemonade. Residents, staff, family and volunteers of Chaparral House gathered to celebrate with chocolate cake.

Everyone really enjoyed R&B/Soul vocalist Kymi, who sang at Henrietta’s party. Kymi and Henrietta sang “Summertime” together and Henrietta danced with her guests. Henrietta received numerous birthday cards, wishes, gifts and flowers. She received a very special birthday letter from the current president of the University of California, Janet Napolitano. Kris Welch sang happy birthday to Henrietta at the beginning of her show, The Talkies on KPFA. The archived link to her announcement can be found here.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High’s Ultimate Frisbee team turns out winners – and haikus

The BHS Ultimate Frisbee team playing at the USA Ultimate Western HS Championships on June 5, 2016. Photo: John King/  UltiPhotos.com.
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By Geoff Holton with Finn Collom and Elizabeth Wells

On the weekend of June 4th and 5th, Berkeley High School’s club Ultimate Frisbee team, the Berkeley High Coup, piled into vans and traveled to the USA Ultimate Western Regional Championships in Corvallis, Oregon. Conditions there were grueling — temperatures hovered near 100 degrees both afternoons – and tournament directors moved final matches on Saturday into the early evening in an unsuccessful attempt to beat the heat.

Led by a close-knit group of 14 seniors, and standout performances across the board, the Coup persevered, and went 4-2 on the weekend, making the finals against the defending champions, Roosevelt High School of Seattle. As they have all year, the Coup played with skill, spirit and speed in the final. They brought a deep roster, a balanced attack, great coaching and a positive, pumped-up sideline presence, but eventually fell to Roosevelt 13-10 in a physical, emotional match. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley writer Yaa Gyasi adjusts to fame, accolades for debut novel ‘Homegoing’

Yaa Gyasi. Photo: Michael Lionstar
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By Frances Dinkelspiel and Mal Warwick

Yaa Gyasi had just returned to her Berkeley home after a whirlwind tour of bookstores around the country to promote her debut novel, “Homegoing,” and she sounded a bit tired Tuesday on the phone.

Her book, which starts with the tale of two half-sisters in Ghana in the 18th century and then follows 12 of their descendants for 200 years throughout Africa and the U.S., was published in early June to extraordinary reviews. The New York Times wrote about it twice (with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson calling it a “hypnotic debut) as did scores of other media outlets, including NPR, Time Magazine, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Slate. Mal Warwick said in his review for Berkeleyside (which appears at the end of the article) that Gyasi has a “marvelous way with words.”

After Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the mega-bestseller on race, “Between the World and Me,” finished the book he exclaimed his delight on Twitter: “Finished Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ yesterday. Thought it was a monster when I started. Felt it was a monster when I was done.”

Of course, the fact that the book was sold for about $1 million in 2015 after 10 publishing houses competed to buy it increased the hype factor.

Gyasi, 26, who moved with her boyfriend to Berkeley in August, said she has been surprised – and a bit exhausted – by the attention. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why Airbnb is so popular among Berkeley homeowners (A cautionary tale on renting space in your home).

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Berkeley City Council is attempting to promote creation of long-term housing by reducing restrictions on “granny flats” and “accessory dwelling units” (ADU’s). The state of California similarly has Government Code Section 65583(c)(1). But something crucial is missing: social protection for homeowners.

Operating an ADU or granny flat is socially quite different from owning an apartment building. An ADU or granny flat tenant may share a driveway, a mailbox, laundry or part of a garden with the house. The … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley’s fiscal condition is not good. Really

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Berkeley’s fiscal condition is analogous to the global climate condition — not at all good, moving in the wrong direction, and portending eventual disaster. The City however, has somehow managed to develop a comprehensive and intricate Climate Action Plan (!) but not a Fiscal Action Plan.

For the last ten years at least, there have been numerous fiscal warnings and analyses from a wide variety of sources — City Managers Kamlarz and Daniel, the City Auditor, concerned citizens including myself, … Continue reading »

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In short film, Berkeley High students talk race, diversity

BHIS video
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Berkeley International High School (BIHS), one of Berkeley High’s small schools, held its senior graduation Friday. While the ceremony was upbeat and celebratory, some students on stage brought up sensitive issues relating to the lack of diversity within the learning community. Earlier that day, Kian Broder Wang, a junior in BIHS, submitted to Berkeleyside the short documentary below — scroll down to watch it — that covers similar ground by talking to students of color and teachers about their experience at BIHS.

The video is timely, as Berkeley High School is considering a proposal to redesign its schedule and classes with a view to addressing some of these issues. During a conversation with Berkeleyside, members of the Design Review Committee, including BHS principal Sam Pasarow, expressed concern that certain learning communities in BHS are not diverse. There are few African-American students in BIHS and few Caucasians in AMPS, the Academy of Medicine and Public Service, members of the committee said. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Keeping our teachers close to home

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In a housing affordability crisis such as the one settling in on the greater Bay Area, we immediately think of the very poor and the chronically homeless. And rightly so. Their needs are immediate and tangible. The City Council has recently spent countless hours trying to grapple with the crisis, culminating in the unanimous approval of a suite of initiatives at the end of May (view the housing items). Among them is my Workforce Housing Affordability Plan, … Continue reading »

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Berkeley physician opens practice focused on aid-in-dying

Lonny Shavelson is consulting with doctors who have questions about California's "End of Life Option Act." He will also see patients after the law takes effect next week. (PhotoWords.com)
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By Lisa Aliferis /  KQED News

Few people have the unusual set of professional experiences that Lonny Shavelson does. He worked as an emergency room physician in Berkeley for years — while also working as a journalist. He has written several books and takes hauntingly beautiful photographs.

Now he’ll add another specialty. Just as California’s End of Life Option Act, a law legalizing physician aid-in-dying for people who are terminally ill, is set to take effect next week, Shavelson has become a consultant aimed at answering questions from physicians and patients about the practice — even becoming a physician to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives.

I first met Shavelson in 1996 as I was covering the reaction to Oregon voters’ approval of Measure 16, the state’s Death with Dignity Act.

Oregon was the first state to approve the practice, and in 1996 the law was held up in court. I turned to Shavelson as he had published A Chosen Death, a moving book following five terminally ill people over two years as they determined whether to amass drugs on their own and end their lives at a time of their choosing. He was present at the death of all of them. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley fumbles future: lacks long-term vision and financing strategy for our public commons

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Once again, as in an seemingly endless ‘ground-hog day’ loop, the Berkeley City Council is busy with its every-other-year ballot exercise, considering various bond financing measures for the 2016 November. Much is desperately needed in Berkeley, and many competing needs are being pressed by a large number of community groups.

The city’s neglect of adequate capital and capital repair financing of vital and central public spaces, facilities and services has left these essential elements in disrepair and in unsafe or … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley students build new bridge in John Hinkel Park

Blackberry Creek  bridge. Photo: Rene Davids
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By René Davids

This spring, as the result of a collaboration with the City of Berkeley, students enrolled in a multidisciplinary seminar at UC Berkeley’s Department of Architecture designed and built a pedestrian bridge for the upper portion of Blackberry Creek, one of the most attractive natural features in John Hinkel Park.

Located on a steep hillside in North Berkeley planted with oaks and other native species, the 4.9-acre park, which was donated in 1919 to the city by businessman John Hinkel, also includes a clubhouse, a large native-stone fireplace, a network of paths and a playground. The small bridge is intended to improve the safety of park visitors who were previously forced to either jump over the creek, or tread carefully across a slippery stone during periods of increased water flow.
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Obituaries

Norma Grayson, loving mother, adored by her friends

ma_the zias
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Josephine Norma Grayson (nee Josephina Norma Pozza) of Denver, CO., passed away in her sleep Thursday evening, May 13, 2016, after a prolonged illness. She was 79 years old.

Norma, as she was commonly known, was born May 7, 1937 in Sharon, Connecticut to Angelo and Clorinda Pozza of Lusiana and Santa Caterina, Italy respectively. She was the youngest of three daughters who grew up in Dover Plains, NY where her parents had settled.

Norma lived in New York, San … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: The public and library employees are being ignored by the Berkeley Board of Library Trustees

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In the home stretch of researching my latest book, I found myself consulting a 1969 issue of an anthropology publication archived in the Main Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, discovering what the people I had been writing about — the Juwasi (or San) of the Kalahari Desert — really looked like. Before leaving the library, I browsed the reference room. I came upon an atlas of women travelers of the 19th century. Whoopee, I thought. Research done, proofs corrected, I’ll … Continue reading »

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John Muir Elementary School celebrates 100 years

John Muir Elementary School. Photo: BUSD/Mark Coplan
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By Elise Proulx

For 100 years, the small school in the mock Tudor building at the top of Claremont Avenue has educated the students of Berkeley.

Along the way, there have been a number of milestones: the school hosted the first integrated classrooms in Berkeley Unified School District in 1969, and pioneered programs for hearing impaired children in 1986. The architecturally significant Arts and Crafts schoolhouse was even slated for demolition in 1976, until the community rallied to preserve the building and the historic murals by renowned California artist Ray F. Coyle that grace the school’s library walls.

This year, John Muir Elementary School is marking the school’s remarkable centennial anniversary with two days of activities.

First up is a traditional neighborhood May Fair on Friday, May 13, from 5-8 p.m., replete with games, food trucks, obstacle courses, a cakewalk, old-fashioned field games and a raffle (with a four-pack of tickets to Disneyland as the grand prize). Entry is free but the purchase of a wristband is necessary to participate in specific activities. … Continue reading »

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