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Oakland Promise – Michael Franti

Last month I photographed the 2020 Oakland Promise “Party for the Promise” fundraiser. Michael Franti performed as part of the event that featured many bay area leaders who support education. Oakland Promise is a college scholarship program for “cradle to college.”

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Toward the end of Franti’s performance, his wife Sara joined him on stage. Michael Franti shared a story about how their engagement led to one of his more famous songs.

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As I remember the story, Michael and Sara were engaged on Valentine’s Day. Their engagement day went well, but they had some small life struggles the following day. When Michael woke up the next morning, he picked up the guitar, and begin humming a melody and signing the chorus to the song that would become “Life is better with you.”

It is a good message to share with the audience too.

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Michael mentioned that he makes an effort every morning to start his day by acknowledging his wife before engaging with the outside world. Even though he is tempted by his phone, he does better when he remains connected to the people around him. Life is better that way.

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I really enjoyed reconnecting with some old friends. Photographing a benefit concert is special, because I feel as though I am doing something important for the community. I also have the benefit of great access.

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When I woke up the next morning, I was still humming, “Life is better with you.” I have been singing the last two weeks while editing and reviewing photos. I have also made an intention to be more present when I wake up in the morning. It seems obvious, but what we put into our head matters.

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I tend to want simple solutions, and I suspect that other people want quick fixes too; however, big problems require effort. This should not diminish music, but elevate it. We need to learn how to work together and dance together. We need to know, that no matter how bad it gets, life is better with each other.

Stay connected my friends.

more photos of the fundraiser and concert

 

California’s Bloodless Bullfighting

Earlier this month, I traveled to a small Central Valley town for my first bloodless bullfight. The weekend was part of a series of Portuguese American events that occur throughout “the valley.” The bullfight was also sponsored by the Carlos Vieiera Foundation to raise money for autism.

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Portuguese California Bloodless Bullfighting Photo Gallery

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I attended the bloodless bullfight, the same weekend that two American towns experienced deadly mass shootings. The crowd acknowledged those lost in El Paso with a minute of silence. Our crowd had not yet learned about Dayton when the evening started. I wouldn’t learn until much later that evening.

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California allows bullfighting, as long as the contest is “bloodless.” As I understand the law, the animals are not allowed to shed blood. From what I learned, the people who attend these bullfights support the law.

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The humans may still poke the bull, but humans use velcro sticks.

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The bulls horns are covered with leather to protect the horses. Portuguese bullfighting emphasizes the horse rider’s skill more than the Spanish version of bullfighting that emphasizes the matador. In older Spanish bullfights, horses were often killed by bulls.

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I was impressed how the community promoted the culture, tradition and heritage of bullfighting, and yet changed the future by creating a bloodless bullfight. I am especially impressed this month. I had already decided to write this post today, before I learned about yet another mass shooting in America. Our country is struggling to learn how to keep our traditions and move towards a bloodless society… and yet it can be done.

Maybe we need to learn from Small Town, USA.

Overnight Walk San Francisco

I have been thinking about this post for weeks, and I have wanted to write something organized and transformative about suicide, but sometimes life and stories don’t work that way.

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Earlier this month I attended the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in San Francisco. I volunteered to photograph the event this time. Three years ago I walked with my two children.

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I don’t know if the camera helps me connect or if it keeps me isolated.

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There are two national walks each year. This year the walks were in San Francisco and Boston. Father’s Day was on the weekend between the two walks. I lost my father to suicide the year I became a father. The last several weeks, I thought about him often, and I thought about what it means to be a father..

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I was surprised this year that I struggled. I struggled to write. I struggled to be grateful on Father’s Day. I probably started struggling in May. Because I did not know why I struggled, I struggled more… but I am not sure if that is the real reason.

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I have met many friends through this journey. I can often connect quickly with people who have experienced this type of loss. I am more comfortable when I am in the company of fellow travelers, even though it reminds me that I often live in a culture that does not deal well with all of the stages of grief.

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I took some good photos, but the connections were more important… as much for me for the other people.

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Ten years after my father died, I spent the day mindful of the anniversary. When I wrote about the experience, I became grateful. I wanted to write something similar this time.

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On May 10th, I wanted to attend a concert in San Francisco, but I was afraid. I was afraid to walk the same streets that I walked when I wrote this post in 2013. I wasn’t afraid of the streets. More recently, I became afraid to express myself. I thought that I would be reminded of being too vulnerable.

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A few years ago, I had been more brave, but I also had more to say.

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One of these days, I will have more to say again. Maybe it will be something profound. Until then, I will keep showing up. I will find safe people and be a safe person for others.

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… and leave some things unfinished.

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and here is the photo gallery from the overnight.

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NOTE: I edited this post in July. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it wasn’t that good either.