80 days… and counting / “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” (part 3 of 4 / 100 days of Sheltering In Place)


“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.”  ~ james baldwin 

a pandemic? COVID-19?  it’s amazing (and almost shocking, though that’s how media and our minds work) how quickly we can change direction and seemingly forget our focus. gone is sheltering in place and staying six feet away from anyone outside our households and suddenly we (as a country) take to the streets and engage in such close contact and physical proximity that the past months are (possibly) erased. but it was time… when we look around us and see this moment as a tipping point, a point of no return, a throwing away of any sense of normalcy ~ the one thing that can happen in the blink of an eye, forcefully, is reflecting on purpose ~ on coming to our why, not only individually but collectively ~ as a community, as a nation, as a people.

the question of identity, race, ethnicity and how we interact with it, is something close to my heart… from my own personal relationship to it growing up half guamanian half italian in a not so diverse part of Massachusetts, to living and raising my children in West Oakland, and transitioning 3 years ago through the tunnel to Orinda.  the shade of your skin, the slant of your eye, the sound of your tongue announced to the world difference and Other. it has seeped into my research over the years right through to my most recent work at Apple ~ from my graduate work on “Hollywood in Britain” (being an American in England) and dissertation “Jamaican Art Worlds: Encounters, Transformations, Metamorphoses” (identity politics in the Caribbean and diaspora), to my most recent work at Today at Apple ~ guest programming Apple Union Square ~ which included PRIDE, a focus on Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom at OMCA, Black History Month (below), or Contemporary Muslim Fashion at the De Young, Native American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, International Women’s Month… the moment we are in is up close and personal, making us reflect even more deeply on how we want to engage with each other, with the Other, and with our own selves.


my last post, Day 55 ~ was May 10th… globally there were 4,024,973 cases and 279,321 deaths; and in the USA 1,328,201 and 78,794 deaths. 25 days later ~ by June 5th  there would be 6,823,680 cases worldwide, 397,343 deaths globally;  and in the USA 1,952,676 with 111,373 deaths. change like contamination is swift ~ from no virus and freedom of movement, to millions of cases, and restrictive engagement, from being alive and healthy to sudden death in days or weeks. and a week ago protests and riots began in the (more obvious) major cities, with each new evening an additional city that soon bled out to the suburbs.  there are patterns in the way humans behave, the way viruses spread, the way transformation can happen.

in Gavin Newsom’s noon briefing today he said “we have work to do…” and we do ~ lots.. not just with the twists and turns of the coronavirus, but how we as a country are going to heal…so ~ how are you going to live your dash??? what is your life brief???  it’s an ideal time to reflect thoughtfully and commit to words and action, in whatever form is meaningful to you. we have the time, especially with so many of us jobless, in an awkward stasis that can be paralyzing.

some of us cook and sew, write and paint, translate and transform; others teach and march, challenge and protest, reflect and perform. pick your medium and motion and press play. now, go. from March 17th to the 31st (first 2 weeks), and April 1st to May 10th (first 55 days), to May 11th to June 5th ~ 80 days (more or less) sheltering in place ~ we’ve come along way in our isolation, distraction and fear ~ turning inwards and outwards from self to community ~ emotions bottled up exploding … our country on fire. Just one week ago the protests started and how far do we feel we have come? and how much further do we have to go? Gauguin reflects on his 1897 image above, which we can look to as both mirror and a window into the possibility of the future we want to unfold ~ asking: “Where does the execution of a painting begin, and where does it end? At the very moment when the most intense emotions fuse in the depths of one’s being, at the moment when they burst forth and issue like lava from a volcano, is there not something like the blossoming of the suddenly created work, a brutal work, if you wish, yet great, and superhuman in appearance? The cold calculations of reason have not presided at this birth; who knows when, in the depths of the artist’s soul the work was begun unconsciously perhaps?”  

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.”  – Aristotle


below / left to right: artist + mentor bryan mcfarlane and I in venice, italy; bryan’s “artist eating paint”; ceramicist gene pearson in his studio in kingston, jamaica (in 1999 as part of my ph.d. i spent a year doing fieldwork in kingston, jamaica and spent months living amongst and working with bryan and gene, as well as a dozen other artists. much of my work focused on identity formation, race relations, power and social structure in the art world. 



below, the writer James Baldwin and anthropologist Margaret Mead (drawing on right by Wendy McNaughton for Maria Popova’s BRAIN PICKINGS) /a summary of their conversation from August 25, 1970 in NYC entitled “A Rap on Race: Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s Rare Conversation on Forgiveness and the Difference Between Guilt and Responsibility”



“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ margaret mead 


Learning / Reading / Watching / Eating / Doing / Listening / Obsessing / Supporting


~~~ Learning / sign of the times / voices + images from the past + present ~~~

 Bonnie Wan’s My Life Brief / Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why ~ how great leaders inspire action”

James Baldwin’s UC Berkeley speech 1979 / MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech August 28, 1963

 Kurt Vonnegut’s Shape of Stories /  Shack 15, sign up for conversations /  Daily Overview / Parlay House 

Masters of Scale ~ “Rapid Response“: COVID + the gig economy, Thoughts on a Crisis, The power of a neighborhood

Jamaica Kincaid on “how to live + how to write” / Ken Light’s new book Midnight La Frontera / Bay Area Book Festival 

Stranger’s Guide ~ “Constant State of Emergency: The Jamaica that Goes Unseen” / The Criterion Channel “Black Lives”


~~~Learning, redux / more masterclasses ~~~

after completing 12 classes in the first 55 days, the past 25 days I finished another 12 ~

~ in food + gardening: Alice Waters / Ron Finley 

~ in fashion + design: Marc Jacobs / Diane von Furstenberg / Kelly Wearstler / Jeff Goodby + Rich Silverstein

~ in storytelling / history: David Sedaris / Malcolm Gladwell / Judy Blume / David Mamet / Neil Gaiman / Doris Kearns Goodwin


one of the highlights this time around was LA-based “gangsta gardener” Ron Finley who inspires with words like  “growing your own food is like printing your own money, ” “you’ll be surprised what soil can do if you use it as a canvas” and “sometimes you can see best with your eyes closed…” (check out his TED talk and Ron Finley Project as well)

“to me, gardening is gangster. soil is gangster. air is gangster as fuck! you can’t get no more gang-ster than air. Mother Nature serves us all, so we have to have respect and help Mother Nature do what she do…” ~ ron finley


~~~ READING ~~~

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar / Alain de Botton’s Art as Therapy / Phyllis Grant’s (dash + bellaEverything is Under Control

Ayelet Waldman’s A Really Good Day / Robert McKee’s Story / Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind

Shep Gordon’s Supermensch / Grant Faulkner’s Pep Talk for Writers / Larry Smith’s Six Word Memoirs on Jewish Life (w/Piper Kerman)




Halston / DRIES / Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf’s / Crip Camp / The Doors: Feast of Friends / WACO

SCORE / Rememory / SAFE / Marcella / Broadchurch / What Lies Beneath


~~~watching / sign of the times ~~~

Do The Right Thing13thBlindspotting 

GET OUT / Mudbound / The Central Park Five

Waves / Moonlight / Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Step / The Hate U Give / Hidden Figures

The Gospel According to Andre / I AM NOT YOR NEGRO / 12 Years a Slave

Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask  / Sorry to Bother You / Fruitvale Station


~~~ watching / top 10 films /  facebook challenge ~~~

“there’s nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered” ~ nelson mandela (for me, this type of challenge to recall the films that had the most impact are all the more important when viewing them again, a remembering where you were, who you were, when you first watched them and how much you’ve changed, and the world has changed since then… my passion for dance ~ both more formal and interpretive ~ is clear in my love for Dirty Dancing, Funny Face and Pina; the transformative power of clothes in Pretty in Pink, the yearning to travel in Sans Soleil, the potency of a soundtrack in Magnolia and Moonlight, the experience of the Other in Le Jetee, E.T., Moonlight and realizing our own sexuality in Dirty Dancing, Moonlight and of course 9 1/2 weeks, which definitely (along with Last American Virgin and The Postman Always Rings Twice ~ shaped my early teen hood)… what are your top 10? 


magnolia / funny face / dirty dancing / pina / E.T. / pretty in pink / sans soleil / 9 1/2 weeks / la jetee / moonlight


~~~ EATING / cookbooks~~~

Harold McGee’s The Curious Cook / Alice Water’s My Pantry / David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen

Amy Sacco’s Cocktails / Lapham’s Quarterly FOOD / Also Sohm’s Wine Simple 

Rose Nader’s It Happened in the Kitchen / Mark Bittman + Jean-Georges’ Simple to Spectacular / Ralph Nader’s Family Cookbook




nectarine gazette (recipe below) / zucchini, mushroom + ricotta galette / kalamata olive bread / ricotta gnocchi with bolognese / coq au vin blanc

** empire waist vintage brocade cari borja coat, made June 4th… made out of fabric i collected from Oakland’s White Elephant Sale 2005. the two textile sculptures to the left are a mixture of tulles, satins, metallic silk, indian embroidery, silk peau de soie and chiffon….**

(below, apple galette recipe from Alice Waters’ 2010 In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart)




Martin Marquet’s The Final Passage (journey into 36,000 year old Chauvet painted cave), narrated by Mariane Faithfull

The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds / Olafur Arnalds, performance / Olafur Arnalds, Broadchurch 

Jamaica ~ 1978, One Love Peace Concert w/Bob Marley, a clip  / Bob Marley, WAR

Mahalia Jackson, with MLK Jr / Johan Grimonprez’s DIAL H-I-S-T-O-R-Y 

Ray Lustig + his “latency canons” / Carmen Amaya’s “Original Gypsy Dances” / boston terriers + balloons


~~~and in the NEWS, OBSESSING / coronavirus + protests/riots/#blacklivesmatter~~~

  1. May 11 2020 Julia Marcus’s Quarantine Fatigue is Real  in The Atlantic
  2. May 20 2020 Erin Bromage’s The Risks ~ Know Them ~ Avoid Them 
  3. May 31, 2020 / David Remnick’s An American Uprising: Who, really, is the agitator here? in The New Yorker
  4. May 2020 / Uri Alon’s A COVID-19 “exit” stratega to end lockdown and reopen the economy / TED2020
  5. May 29 2020 / Elizabeth Hinton’s The Minneapolis Uprising in Context in Boston Review Magazine
  6. June 5 2020 / Good Black News’ “Acknowledging Your Privilege and Becoming an Ally: a Guide to Resources for White Folks” 
  7. BBC’s “The People are Revolting ~ The History of Protest
  8. ** From July September 8, 2017 ~ a VERY IMPORTANT read, especially for our children (and since the idea of “white privilege” is being brought up a lot these days) ~ Lori Lakin Hutcherson’s “My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to be Honest”… in Yes! Solutions Journalism.
  9. June 1 2020 / NPR’s “The History of Protests in LA: What Has Changed Since the Rodney King Riots” on All Things Considered
  10. Dec 20, 2019 / Jake Silverstein’s “Why We Published the 1619 Project” in The New York Times Magazine



(i’ve been dying to buy, anything… my weekly rituals of stopping by Radbird and Crossroads, and peeking in Maison d’être, searching the stack at Moe’s or Pegasus, and CD’s and DVD’s at Amoeba, strolls down 4th street Berkeley to the Gardener and Sephora have left me searching for other ways to engage with that unpredictable purchase. below are just a handful of things i’ve come across, most local ~ that have made me smile…. (and, since some have asked ~ a link to old school cari borja pieces. you can ping me if you’re interested in the cashmere and knit baby/toddler/adult hats or the new textile sculptures (i have close to a full series of 13 pieces that range from 6”x6”, 8”x8” to 8”x12″)

Maison d’être / RADBIRD / HEROSHOP / MARCH / sustainabar / oaklandish / stonemountain & daughter

paxton gate / jered’s pottery / george (for dogs) / katherine summer (masks) /  heath ceramics / sola lucy  / urban indigo

the gardenerALI GOLDENcari borja / McMULLEN / rue atelier / dish / everlane / theRealReal / century 21




Youth Radio Media, Oakland / REEL STORIES, Oakland, summer classes / BAYCAT, San Francisco

Marc Bamuthi Joseph + Rika Iino’s Sozo Vision /  San Jose Art Museum / Gray Area, San Francisco

Oakland Museum of California + Black Power  /Isaac Julien’s “I Dream a World,” Looking for Langston

Metropolitan Museum 360 Project / The Spaces, Botanical Gardens Tours / She-Can GLOBAL / POP-UP Magazine

The People’s Conservatory, Oakland / Alphabet Rockers / National Novel Writing Month / 826LA + 826 Valencia

UC Theatre Concert Career PathwaysThe Women’s Wisdom Initiative / Chris Colin’s “Six Feet of Separation”


“There is really nothing more to say-except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.” ~ toni morrison

above ~ our community gathering at Today at Apple for Oakland-based Blindspotting (2018), directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, with actors Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs (above)… our programming also included Oaklandish’s Angela Tsay, Oakland Museum of California, journalist + cultural historian Eric Arnold, Youth Speak’s Darius Simpson, Jada Imani, Kaly Jay + Frak and rapper Clyde Carson who opened the evening with his Slow Down (which was used in the movie’s trailer).

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