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Decolonize Oakland

On the Morning Mix Tara Dorabji discusses global movements to protect our food, including a CA ballot measure to require GMO labeling. Then an interview with Will Parrish about California’s biggest forest to vineyard conversion proposed on sacred, indigenous land. Also some on the movement to decolonize Occupy Oakland with Morning Star Gali, December 19, 2011.

Elisabeth Venturini A Celebration of Life

July 11, 1919 – November 21, 2016


Neighbor, friend, Omi to many, Elisabeth passed away quickly and peacefully at 97 years old. She left with her hair done and her heart open. She was at peace. She was the head matriarch of our family. I was honored to be in her house on the day she died and received the stories, hugs, and tears of her friends. Her Memorial Service and Mass were a celebration of her life and a testament to her grace. Her legacy lives on in us.

Below are some of the words shared during her Memorial Mass by the three generations of women who she nurtured and created. I did have to throw down with the Church for the time to speak, and was so proud of my girls, Kali and Ixchel, who took the mic for the first time at the podium of the Catholic Church.

The reception at Omi’s house was one of the best parties I’ve thrown. The house was full of laughter, babies and of course the staple of excellent food. I am so grateful to all who came from Salinas to Sacramento to Santa Cruz to San Francisco to Oakland, you are my tribe, you are my people. I thank you for celebrating this day with us as family. We were particularly touched by the babies that came, two wore Omi’s hand knit sweaters. I hope you enjoy sharing in these photos, words, and memories.


Elena’s Eulogy to her mom, Elisabeth Venturini,
who transitioned with peace and dignity on November 21, 2016 

Seventeen years ago I spoke here at my father’s funeral to express my deep gratitude for the outstanding job he had done as the head of our family of five strong women. But my dad fully shared his job as parent and grandparent with his wife, my mother Elisabeth Venturini, whose passing we are eulogizing today. Together they made a formidable team that allowed us, their beloved family, to flourish.

After my dad’s passing, my mom continued to nurture and support us as our numbers grew to include her great granddaughters Ixchel, Kali and Kula. Known to the younger generation as Omi, my mother was always interested in reaching out and really connecting with young people. She was involved in her granddaughters’ and great-grand daughters’ lives on a personal and ongoing basis. Even as she became more frail the last few months of her life, she enjoyed more than anything keeping abreast of their activities via phone calls and skype.

My mom was a cosmopolitan woman of many talents whose presence was felt in the world, her community, her neighborhood and her family. She will leave a large hole after 97 years on this earth.  I salute her.


Zarine’s Eulogy for Omi

My name is Zarine, I am Elisabeth’s eldest granddaughter. She was always “Omi” to me. It is my belief that the important people in our lives come to us for a reason, so that we may teach each other valuable life lessons. I learned some important values from my grandmother; in this way, I can grow from our relationship, and honor the journey that we took together. I learned from my Omi how important it is to have meaningful relationships. Family was at the center of her life, and she gave all of herself, generously, and in every way she knew how. I grew up witnessing her profound love and commitment to my grandfather – they shared a truly special, enduring, and romantic bond. For as long as I can remember, Omi had a circle of people that were close to her heart. Her friendships were loving and genuine, and how enriched her life was, by her close friendships, especially with her neighbors. She picked good people to be close to, and loved them fiercely.

I learned from my Omi that a beautiful garden is a resting place for the soul. She took great pride in the sensuous unfolding of her roses, the delicate scent of citrus flowers, and the bursting blooms of her begonia’s and azaleas. Omi sweat, toiled, and worked hard in the soil, taking tremendous pleasure in the beauty that manifested from her sheer determination. Nothing could approach the peace and renewal she felt, when being in her garden. Nothing could approach the delight our family felt when eating the fruits and vegetables she grew, or the canned goods she made from her garden.

I learned from my Omi that you can live a fuller life by overcoming your fears. After a terrifying childhood experience with a dog, eventually she moved from a place of terror, to a place of loving dogs, and then being unable to live without them. After a lifetime of being a passenger in a vehicle, at 76 years old, I watched her slide behind the wheel of a car, and once again learn to drive. Now that is determination.

I learned from my Omi that cooking and baking can be an extension of the heart. With each meal she made and each loaf of bread she baked, Elisabeth showed the people in her life, that she cared. She took the time to make good food, from scratch, and with love. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren follow her footsteps. Slow food, real food, good food – that has become our family motto! For this, Omi, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I learned from my Omi some very harsh lessons, too. She taught me the pain that comes when prejudices take hold, and grows between loved ones into a great, heart-breaking divide. How rough that journey can be, to find a way to remain connected and to still love deeply, while building a bridge to reach the other one’s side. I learned about the importance of taking responsibility for my own life choices, and how the choices I make impact others. And in the process I learned that sometimes, looking away is not the answer, and that some silences simply are not OK. From my relationship with Omi, I learned that there is a profound grace that comes with living your own life, and letting others be, to live their own.

But this is what we do in our families. We embrace each other, we suffocate each other, we teach each other to grow. We learn about the kind of people we wish to be. And I learned from my Omi a very big – and a very simple lesson – that I am a gift. And when I give of myself to others, I am giving them a gift that matters. The story is too long to explain here how this happened, but I am profoundly grateful that she taught me this truth. Because I am me, there are some gifts that only I can give – and that is exactly why I should give them freely. Sometimes, my gift can be the candlelight in someone’s darkness.

I cherish the relationship that I had with my grandmother. I am deeply honored to have had such a connected relationship with her. I feel truly blessed that she was such a significant part of my life, for so many years. My dear Omi, Elisabeth, is now laid to rest, next to the love of her life, Domenico. May they both rest in peace.


Words from Tara

Thank you all for joining us today. We gather as friends, as family, as living testament to the dignified, feisty and strong woman that Omi lived as. When I think of the person that I am, of who I am becoming, so much of my strength comes from what she taught me. She gave me a capacity to move mountains and an inner wisdom to appreciate that which blooms. Omi was dedicated to her family. She knew how to charm, and she approached even the greatest hardships with all the dignity she could muster. She will live on in me. She lives on in all of us.

The last years were difficult. Perhaps some of her most challenging times. I want to thank a few people that join us today who gave to her in the deepest of ways. I thank Celeste for her optimism, delicate nurturing and for finding Omi her favorite walnut bread and cream puffs. Sometimes it is the smallest details that bring the greatest joy. I thank Cheng, for being with Omi at the end. For shepherding her through her fear, for having strength when Omi’s fear turned to anger. I’d like to thank Matie who helped Omi for years. She became Omi’s hands to make jam and feet to climb ladders, so that even the apricots highest on the tree would turn to jam. And to Maryanne, Omi called you her guardian angel. The last time I saw her she said that you are her favorite person in the world. You demonstrate the endless possibility of human kindness, showed steadfast care, and became the center of Omi’s world as you visited with her every day.

Omi taught me so much about beauty, about love and in her last days she showed me the way through hardship. She called me and said goodbye. She ended her life in dignity. She moved through her fear and found her peace. She taught me about death. About the beauty that death can bring if our grief is not laden with fear, if we don’t carry guilt in our hearts.

Omi died with her heart open. Her blessings bloom from her garden and deep within each of our spirits. She leaves us gifts. She leaves us a promise of beauty even in these dark times. She offers us the simple truth that some hard roads don’t end. Sometimes, it is OK to stop walking and spread our wings to fly.

I am so grateful to all of you for coming here to live in her wishes and in her blessings. I am honored to carry forth her legacy and hope that like Omi, hardship will breed beauty inside of me.


Ixchel’s Reflections

All day I have been thinking, “Why are we gathered here today?”

Well, we are gathered here today to celebrate Elisabeth Venturini, my great grandmother.

I invite you to celebrate her with me and my family.

I remember the first time she met my adorable little cousin, Kula. She completely fell in love.

One of my personal favorite memories was when she snuck us chocolates even if my mother said we had enough chocolate.

Another one of my favorite memories was when she put dog treats in her glasses case. When no one was looking, she would feed them to her little dog Goldie.

Omi taught me that it is very important to die peacefully.

En paz descanso. Rest in peace, Omi.


The Rose of Our Family Garden

By Kali Dorabji-Reyes*

You’re the rose of the garden

Your petals stretching high

You’re the life of the garden

Every year you become more beautiful

You’re a rose, yet you have no thorns

People try to pluck you out

Your roots are too strong

So they never succeed

Just remember one thing

Don’t be ashamed

You’re the life of the garden of our family

*Written for Omi for her birthday July 11, 2016


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