Malcolm Margolin proves again and again himself as a beacon to all manner of creative genius. Earlier this week, he gathered a cadre of so many remarkable souls from around Northern California and beyond to join him on the South Fork of the American River for an evening and a day of camping and rafting. I was honored to be among the invited. What ensued was a flurry of love, light and networked connectivity that surely comes around only once in a great while. What follows is an collection of my photos from the trip, along with a reference-biography to each of the marvelous characters in each photo. I was unable to get pictures of everyone, so I’ve included their bio at the end, as one was written for each member of the expedition. In fact, it was Malcolm who asked us all, in order to speed along the introductions, to pen our own and then he edited them all. After the photos, I conclude with some other key facts and features regarding the man who I am so honored to call a friend as he is certainly also to me, a hero. – Obi
Stephanie Sy-Quia. Stephanie has recently finished college in England, majoring in English Literature. Born in Berkeley but raised in France and the UK, she is currently writing a book about luminaries of the Bay Area.
Toby McLeod. Through the Sacred Land Film Project, which he founded in 1984, Toby has worked intimately with indigenous communities throughout the world. He has walked the narrow line between the political need to gain support for native land rights by publicizing the power and beauty of indigenous spiritual practice to the world at large on one hand and on the other hand an awareness of native sensibilities about exposing dearly-held sacred rituals to outsiders. More than a list of films and awards—however many and prestigious they may be—the respect, gratitude, and affection with which indigenous people throughout the world have for Toby is the true measure of the heroic work he has done.
Peter Wiley. A San Francisco writer and publisher, Peter retired as chairman of Wiley Publishing in 2015, but remains involved in his family’s business. Peter served for many years on the boards of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, the University of California Press, and the Library Advisory Board at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He was one of a collective of activists who founded a political review called Leviathan in the 1960s, also working as an editor and writer at The Bulkhead, an anti-war broadsheet distributed globally to GIs during the Vietnam War. Peter started a newspaper column called Points West with his co-author, Bob Gottlieb. Gottlieb and Wiley authored two books on the American West. Peter went on to write three more books including a history of the San Francisco Public Library and the National Trust Guide to the History and Architecture of San Francisco and served as lead writer and editor of Knowledge for Generations: Wiley and the Global Publishing Industry, 1807 to 2007.
Marty Krasney. Marty directs the Dalai Lama Fellows, an organization he created in 2010, to train enlightened leaders for the next generation. Before that, he was the first director of the Aspen Institute Seminars, the founding president of American Leadership Forum, executive director of The Coalition for the Presidio Pacific Center and program director of the National Humanities Series. He serves on the board of Heyday Books. He also writes fiction, and—beyond institutional affiliation—his social grace, wisdom, irrepressible playfulness, and love of a good party have made him a welcome and beneficial participant in many and diverse aspects of the Bay Area’s cultural and political life.
Penda Toure. Penda is visiting from her native Senegal. Multilingual in European and West African languages, She has been engaged in the processing and distribution of shea butter, derived from an African nut and valued from ancient times to the present for its cosmetic, medicinal, and nutritive properties.
Bridget Huber. Bridget is a writer and radio producer living in Berkeley, but originally from Maine. She’s best known for her work in food production, environment, and science. She’s written and made radio for Public Radio International, The Lancet, Al Jazeera, the Nation, the California Sunday Magazine and NPR, among others.
Esailama Diouf. Esailama began her professional career as a performing artist with Diamano Coura West African Dance Company in 1989 based in Oakland, California. As a scholar—she has a PhD—she has lectured throughout the United States and conducted long–term teaching and performance residencies in India, South Africa, Barbados and Trinidad-Tobago. She is the Founding Director of Bisemi Inc., supporting African-derived cultural artists and serves on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), the Silicon Valley African Film Festival. She is also a former board member of Good Work Network, an organization helping minority- and women-owned businesses start, grow, and succeed by providing business development services.
Nettie Hoge. Nettie has many years experience in nonprofit and government administration. She is currently on the board of Heyday, serving as co-chair and guiding it through a period of transition. Recently retired from the California Department of Insurance, where she was Chief Deputy Commissioner, she describes herself as “a bureaucrat who found the door to freedom and won’t look back.”
Julie Mushet is the Executive Director for World Arts West in San Francisco, where she has directed hundreds of world dance and music events over the past 15 years, including the annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. She began her career in the arts at Cal Performances while a student at UC Berkeley, where she graduated with a Natural Resources/Conservation Resource Studies degree and organized campus Earth Day celebrations.
Ed Bernbaum. A mountain climber and trekker, Ed has scaled challenging peaks in the Himalayas and around the world. He is also a scholar of comparative religions and lectures widely on the relationship between mountains and human culture. He has worked with the National Park Service and is active in seeking World Heritage status for a multi-national area of the Himalayas. His book, Sacred Mountains of the World, won a gold medal from the Commonwealth Club and was the basis for a Smithsonian Institution exhibition. A few months back, Ed’s son, Jonathan, died in Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire. To honor Jonathan’s memory, as well as the memory of others who died in that tragedy, Ed is creating an organization, Vital Arts, to fund safer work/live spaces for artists.
Marcia Donahue. Marcia, ‘sculptor and devotee of flora,’ moved into her house on Wheeler Street, Berkeley, 37 years ago. Here she created a backyard garden of lush, jungle-like plantings with a pond. Several breeds of chickens run through the garden, and everywhere one finds sculptures of various materials that delight the eye and refresh the mind. This oasis of joy, playfulness, and beauty is open to the public on Sunday afternoons. It is a place of pure enchantment.
Claire Greensfelder. Claire is a lifelong environmental activist who has worked at an executive staff level or as a consultant with Greenpeace and over four dozen other NGOs. She seems equally at home, effective, and good humored whether working with international organizations at the center of world power or local grassroots groups cobbled together for a limited goal. She presently serves as Policy and Organizational Consultant to the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative and to the international, multi-media exhibit—“Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change.”
Faith Cushman. Worked as a Registered Nurse for 35 years, ICU, Public Health , and then various pilot projects at Kaiser the last 20 yrs of my career. First went rafting in 1978 and have loved rivers and rafting ever since.
Dale Djerassi. Dale Djerassi is a founding trustee of the Djerassi Resident Artists program in Woodside, California. The program was created by Dale’s father, Carl Djerassi, after the death in 1978 of his daughter, Dale’s sister, Pamela. Dale has been active in sustaining this program and expanding it into one of the premier artist residency programs in the country. Dale is also on the board of the San Francisco Film Society. He is an accomplished film director and producer. Among his best known films are Oil and Ice, and Koko: The Talking Gorilla.
Mark Dubois. A leader in the environmental movement, Mark was co-founder of Friends of the River (1973) and the International Rivers Network (1974). He was International Coordinator for Earth Day, 1990. A defining moment in his life, a deed that put him on the front pages of newspapers around the country, came in May, 1979, when he temporarily stopped construction of the New Melones Dam by finding a hiding place on the Stanislaus River and chaining himself to the rocks. The river has been his teacher, and the lessons he has learned from decades of rafting and advocacy work are imbedded deeply in his mind and heart, worked into his very muscles. “This rafting trip was his idea, a great and unexpected gift to me and to all of us.” – Malcolm Margolin.
Obi Kaufmann. Poet, artist, and naturalist, Obi’s monumental 600-page California Field Atlas, now at the printer, is due out from Heyday Books in September. Working out of his Oakland office, Obi does paintings on commission, volunteers for a number of land conservation organizations, and illustrates for several magazines and research organizations. Deeply knowledgeable about California, he characterizes Lotus and the South Fork of the American River as “two of my favorite, most precious moments in all of California’s grand portfolio.”
Ralph Benson. Ralph has had a long and productive career in land conservation. For 12 years he served as executive Director of the Sonoma Land Trust, and before that he was with The Trust for Public Land for 25 years. He served on the board of Save the Bay, and was board chair for many years. He has also served on the board of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Ralph is currently working on a Chile/California Conservation Conference, which will bring Chilean conservation leaders to California this September, with a follow-up meeting in Santiago early next year.
Lenore Goldman. A native of Detroit and a former resident of Santa Fe, Lenore has a strong background in the arts—especially dance. She’s lived in Berkeley for 25 years, working for a number of cultural and social justice organizations as a consultant on strategy, capacity, and impact. She’s currently on the Steering Teams of Indivisible Berkeley and the campaign to save the West Berkeley Shellmound site from development. For the last half-year she has been working with Malcolm to create a new, post-Heyday organization (California Institute for Community, Art, and Nature) to further and expand his vision.
Ralph Lewin. After many years with the California Council for the Humanities, Ralph took the post of Executive Director of The Mechanics Institute in 2014. With a splendid collection of books, old and current, the Mechanics Institute is the oldest lending library in California. Its chess club has world renown, and for many years it has had a history of dynamic programming for members and the general public. Under Ralph’s guidance, the historic building now houses some of California’s premier literary institutions, and rather than sink into venerability and live in its past, the Mechanics Institute has taken on a quality of freshness, innovation, and vision.
Jim Quay. Jim was for twenty-five years the Executive Director of the California Council for the Humanities. His tenure was marked by a number of significant public programs, many of them seeking to better understand what it means to be a Californian. Since his retirement, he has worked to facilitate meetings, run retreats, and lead discussion groups for the Center for Courage and Renewal.
Felicia Herron. Felicia manages the environmental stewardship program at the Djerassi Foundation. Sponsoring one of the most distinguished artist residency programs in the country, the Djerassi Foundation offers artists of many genres a retreat at their extensive and spectacularly beautiful ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Born in San Francisco, raised in La Honda, with a degree in environmental conservation and restoration ecology from Sonoma State University and with a special interest in California natural history, permaculture, and mycology, Felicia takes great delight in her role at Djerassi.
Clare Dubois is the founder of TreeSisters, a feminine nature-based organization inspiring the world’s women to take shared leadership around tropical reforestation. And, an aspiring whitewater boater. (Next to her husband, Mark Dubois).
Athena Bonneau. A youthful Native American visual artist from eastern British Columbia, with interests in drawing, printmaking, and sculpting, Athena is visiting the Bay Area, where she is doing an internship with the Cultural Conservancy. She is the granddaughter of the well-known and widely respected Okanagan artist, author, and political and cultural activist, Jeanette Armstrong.
Fletcher (river guide)
Clare Greensfelder (see above)
(standing) Bob Cushman. “I started rafting in the late 70s shortly after moving to CA from New England. My first real trip was on the Stan, and I joined Friends of the River the week after that trip. After 40 years of rafting and retiring from running my own mortgage company, I now spend time as a board member of FOR trying to save the rivers that have given me so much over the past 40 years. My wife and I live on the river in Lotus, travel a lot, and spend time with our 2 sons, their partners, and 3 grandchildren.”
Ralph Benson (see above)
Sarah Mitts. Sarah works for Earth Island Institute, helping the nonprofit activist organizations that Earth Island sponsors with guidance, communication, managerial, and accounting matters. She brings to her job great zest and experience, in the U.S. and abroad, in grassroots community organizing.
Colin Carpenter is a builder, river aficionado, musician, and father. He is fortunate to live in Point Reyes, where he shares his (magical) home-made tiny house with his partner and their 3 year old son. He feels most alive on the river, in the mountains, and in the midst of musical collaboration.
Penda Toure (see above)
Bill Somerville. Known for his radical approach to grant-making, Bill created the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation in 1991 to test new ideas. In his book, Grassroots Philanthropy, he urges program officers not to relate to the world through cumbersome procedures, applications, and reports, but to get out of the office, visit those people and organizations they would like to fund, and get to know applicants personally. Now over 80, he is uniquely grounded in the specificities of place and people. A native of Berkeley, he has lived in the same house all his life. He is also the father of Frank Somerville, a Bay Area television celebrity.
Caren Quay. Caren recently retired as Communications Manager of Kaiser Permanenti, Northern California, where she had worked for 40 years. She has spent the last several months engaging with family, seeing friends, and practicing yoga. She and Jim Quay have been married for 55 years.
Susan Moffat. Susan is project director of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative at UC Berkeley, a program that studies global cities through the lenses of the arts and the humanities as well as architecture and urban planning. She had previously worked as a journalist in Asia and Los Angeles. She is currently spearheading a campaign to create an “Art Park” at the old East Bay landfill site known as the Albany Bulb.
the flotilla getting towed to days’ end on the impressively full Folsom Reservoir.
An interview with Malcolm Margolin from Bay Nature Magazine, July 2016. (click on each to enlarge)
My collection of books by Malcolm Margolin.