All posts by Nathalie Christian

June 2 is National Gun Violence Awareness Day and start of ‘Wear Orange Weekend’

[Note from BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian: You can follow the links or scroll to the bottom to see a list of nearby ‘Wear Orange’ events occurring the weekend of June 2-4, including one in Vallejo. If you’re of the opinion that wearing orange won’t solve anything soon, I would respond that any light we can shine on this horrific topic is good light, and worth shining.]

Wear orange this Friday and through the weekend to honor victims of gun violence

Wear orange June 2-4 and plan to attend events to honor victims of gun violence and bring more visibility to the epidemic of mass shootings in this country. | Photo by James Cullum/Gazette Packet.

From the Wear Orange and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund

Every year on the first Friday in June, members of our movement come together to honor survivors of gun violence and demand a future free from this crisis. We wear orange throughout the weekend to show our support—in every state and every community across the country.

Make sure you’re ready to join us on June 2–4 for this year’s National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend. Find an event near you and share it with your friends!

Wear Orange originated on June 2, 2015—what would have been Hadiya Pendleton’s 18th birthday. Just one week after performing at President Obama’s 2nd inaugural parade in 2013, she was shot and killed at the age of 15. In the aftermath, teenagers in Chicago who wanted to honor their friend wore orange to raise awareness around gun violence.

Today, Wear Orange honors Hadiya and the more than 120 people shot and killed every day in the United States, as well as the hundreds more who are wounded . Together, we’ll use this moment to help build a future free from gun violence. Find a Wear Orange event near you and be a part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day!

Thank you for being a part of this movement. We can’t wait to see you wearing orange in just a few weeks.

– Wear Orange and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund

Local events:

Saturday, June 3, 11 am
CA-Oakland-Wear Orange
Oakland Moms Demand Action Table at Futures Fest
Deep East Oakland – Along the Scraper Bikeway
90th Avenue (Holly-Birch St.)

Saturday, June 3, 12 pm
CA-Vallejo-Wear Orange
Community event at Richardson Park (RSVP for details)
325 Richardson Drive
Vallejo, CA 94590

Sunday, June 4, 11 am
CA-SF-Wear Orange
Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
Rally starts at Marin Vista Point

Wednesday, June 7, 7 pm
CA-Martinez-Wear Orange
‘Wear Orange’ Proclamation at Martinez City Hall
525 Henrietta St
Martinez, CA 94553

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Songs of Truth: Honoring Holocaust Survivors through Music and Multimedia at Benicia Clock Tower this Friday, June 2

Songs of Truth honors and humanizes Holocaust victims and their enduring legacies through music and multimedia storytelling. | Image by Luke George Photography, provided by Larnie Fox.

Submitted by Larnie Fox, May 30, 2023

Join the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and its Benicia Chapter chorus at Benicia’s Clock Tower Friday, June 2, 2023, at 7:30 pm. Click HERE for tickets and more information.

Songs of Truth is a collaborative project between the orchestra, Citizen Film, Holocaust Music Lost and Found and the Benicia Performing Arts Foundation. This initiative aims to promote Holocaust awareness, celebrate the spirit of those who persisted, and inspire action against antisemitism and hatred in all its forms.

A Tribute to Resilience

The concert program features heartbreakingly beautiful music, much of it written in WWII era concentration camps, performed by the full orchestra and both the San Francisco and Benicia Choruses. Most of this music has never been performed by an orchestra before. Songs of Truth seeks to humanize the victims of the Holocaust and honor their enduring legacies.

Multimedia Storytelling

To enhance the impact of the music, multimedia documentary storytelling will be interwoven throughout the concerts. Kate Stilley Steiner, co-founder of Citizen Film, will provide historical context and tell the life stories of the composers through a suite of documentary media clips. Her husband, Urs Leonhardt Steiner is the Founder and charismatic Conductor of the Golden Gate Symphony.

Beyond the Concert Hall

The Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and its Benicia Chapter chorus will perform at Benicia’s Clock Tower Friday, June 2, 2023, at 7:30 pm. | Image by Luke George Photography, provided by Larnie Fox.

In addition to the concerts, Songs of Truth has extended its impact beyond the stage by engaging with Bay Area schools, libraries, and community centers. Small ensembles from the GGSOC have been performing program excerpts and leading facilitated discussions, free of charge. These events, performed at venues such as the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Benicia High School and many others, aim to foster dialogue, educate younger generations, and inspire action against antisemitism.

Looking Ahead

Songs of Truth is not just a one-time event but a project with a lasting impact. After its premiere, the initiative will be made available to other organizations across the nation. The music will be distributed to youth orchestras and choruses, enabling young musicians to perform these powerful compositions and learn about their historical context. A classroom curriculum is being developed in collaboration with Holocaust Music Lost and Found to further promote Holocaust awareness and inspire critical thinking.

Promoting Inclusivity and Unity

The Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus have a long-standing commitment to creating an inclusive atmosphere for diverse audiences. In line with this mission, for their San Francisco concert, offering a limited number of free tickets to underserved communities, ensuring that Songs of Truth reaches as many individuals as possible.

Resilience and Creativity

Songs of Truth stands as a testament to the resilience and creativity of Holocaust survivors and victims. Join the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for a transformative experience that celebrates the strength of the human spirit and fosters a more compassionate and tolerant world.

To learn more about Songs of Truth, or contribute to this important project, please visit the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra’s website at

Clock Tower – Benicia – June 2, 7:30 pm
Herbst Theatre – San Francisco – June 4, 2:00 pm

Tickets and information:

Stephen Golub: Don’t Let Duck Hunting Ruin Benicia’s ‘Great Day by the Bay’

Fish and Game Commission, Don’t Let Duck Hunting Ruin Benicia’s Great Day by the Bay

By Stephen Golub, May 29, 2023
Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land

As many know, Benicia’s catch-phrase is “A Great Day by the Bay.” Well, that great day – and great years, lives, livelihoods and life savings – is endangered by a practice that puts at risk the things that make Benicia great.

I’m talking about duck hunting, which in effect takes over much of Southampton Bay and potentially all Benicia residential shoreline waters for a good part of the year. It figuratively threatens to blast away the well-being of kids, seniors, all residents, boaters, kayakers, bicyclists, strollers, folks fishing, business owners, employees and visitors within earshot of their buckshot or otherwise harmed by the activity.

To be clear, I respect duck hunters and their enjoyment of the sport. As I’m sure most Benicians do, if the hunting takes place in appropriate, secluded, safe spots.

But we’re talking about thousands of Benicians already affected in their far-from-secluded homes, and potentially thousands more, by a relative handful of hunters.

Here’s why:

For at least the past several decades, and maybe much longer, Benicia had no history or tradition of duck hunting in its residential shoreline waters. But that changed in late 2020, as a few such hunters started doing their thing here, typically setting out from the 9th Street pier. Their shots can be heard at dawn and other times of day by hundreds of households nearby.

The duck hunting season runs from October through January. There is even the possibility that it could be extended.

Imagine waking to gunfire. And not knowing exactly when it might echo through your neighborhood. The shooting can reverberate very loudly. Think of how well many of us can hear Amtrak, all the way across the water. Then compare that with the sound of shots much closer by.

That’s a reality for many residents living near Southampton Bay.

It’s also a potential reality for many more of us. There’s nothing to stop the hunters from parking themselves on the waters near 1st Street or any other waterside location that we might reside near or otherwise enjoy. Or many more descending on Benicia in years to come.

However, this problem could end if enough of us act quickly enough.

A petition to change this situation was submitted to the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) in January of 2022. Its core request was, “Make duck hunting off limits and not permissible along the shoreline of Benicia, the Benicia State [Recreation Area] waters, or the Southampton Bay waters.” Numerous Benicians have since contacted the Commission to back the petition.

On Tuesday, the Benicia City Council passed a unanimous resolution asking the FGC to approve the petition’s request at its upcoming meeting. In person or via email, about three dozen Benicians backed the move. A few folks emailed in opposition to it, though it’s not clear whether they all hailed from Benicia.

No one who spoke opposed duck hunting in general. But the practice steps on the freedom of Benicians and their children to enjoy peace, quiet and security in and around their homes. In addition, as demonstrated by various studies, excessive stress can have a demonstrated negative impact on the health of children, seniors and everyone in-between.

This activity also can block Benicians’ ability to benefit from their investments (even including their life savings) in their homes. If they sell their houses, they may be forced to disclose the fact of regular gunfire nearby or otherwise see their value plummet. That could even affect property values throughout town.

And what about the freedom of Benicians to own a business and earn a living? Benicia’s economy and vitality partly hinge on the many recreational, commercial, cultural, historic, entertainment and other attributes that make it special. Several months a year of nearby duck-hunting could damage all that, either directly or by harming the city’s reputation.

Again, in contrast with thousands of affected Benicians, we’re talking about a relative handful of hunters who can enjoy this pastime at any number of places in far more secluded areas, not too far a drive away. I’m sure that most duck hunters would not dream of firing their guns near their neighbors on a daily basis.

Nor would they want that done to them. Nor do we want it done to us.

I could raise other potential issues relating to this matter, such as the risk of a water sport enthusiast getting shot, or gunfire close to shipping lanes, or buckshot maiming ducks that don’t get killed.

But let’s leave it at that for now.

If you’d like to weigh in on this matter, here’s what you can do:

Contact the Fish and Game Commission

Contact the Fish and Game Commission, stating your support for petition number 2022-01, which seeks to prohibit duck hunting near Benicia. It would probably be useful to include that petition number and description in an email’s subject line. The FGC’s contact information is:
(916) 653-4899 or (916) 653-7229

Crucial FGC discussions of whether to ban duck hunting in Benicia’s waters could be occurring right now. So if you’re interested in taking action, it makes sense to reach out to the FGC at this time, as well as the following officials.

Contact Governor Gavin Newsom

Contact Governor Newsom by googling “Contact Governor Newsom,” which takes you to a link and then a form for emailing him. You can also click this link to reach the same form:

Contact our elected state representatives

Contact State Senator Bill Dodd. His Capitol office can be reached at (916) 651-4003 and his Vallejo office at (707) 551-2389 . You may also send Senator Dodd a message via web form by clicking this link:

Contact Assemblywoman Lori Wilson. Her Capitol office can be reached at (916) 319-2011 and her District office at (707) 438-7359. You may also send Assemblywoman Wilson a message via web form by clicking this link:

Contact our county supervisor

Contact Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown, at (707) 784-3031 or

Supervisor Brown has been extremely supportive of Benicia’s situation. Senator Brown and Assemblywoman Wilson have also been laudably sympathetic, but may be holding off on weighing in until the FGC makes a decision. Hearing from constituents could help buttress their positions now and down the line.

For what it’s worth . . .

For what it’s worth, I don’t live near or hear the gunfire myself.

And again, no one wants to interfere with duck-hunting in general.

But, as opposed to A Great Day by the Bay, we don’t want Benicia to become known as A Bad Day by the Buckshot.

We just want Benicia to remain a great place to live, work and visit.


[A version of this article first appeared in the May 28 edition of the Benicia Herald. Stephen Golub also writes about national and international affairs at his blog,]


New details in federal investigation into Martinez’s ‘toxic shower’ event

[Note from BenIndy contributor Nathalie Christian: This article covers the FBI/EPA joint investigation of the Martinez Refining Company’s ‘toxic dustfall’ in much more detail than what I posted yesterday. Remember to save the date of June 13 for Valero’s Benicia Refinery CAP’s community presentation on its own incident response and air monitoring programs. Valero does not operate the Martinez refinery that released the toxic materials last year, but its incident response efforts at our own Benicia refinery should concern all Benicians. The flyer for that event is at the end of this post.]

FBI, EPA investigating hazardous chemical release from Martinez refinery

A picture of Martinez Refining Company in the distance with residences in the foreground.
The Martinez Refining Company (in the background) is very close to residential neighborhoods (in the foreground), much like Valero’s Benicia Refinery is close to Benicia’s own residential neighborhoods (and schools). | Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group

Mercury News, by Katie Lauer for the Bay Area News Group, May 28, 2023

MARTINEZ — Federal agents have started asking questions about the 24 tons of toxic, dusty residue that showered down on neighbors living near the Martinez Refining Company last Thanksgiving.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice started assisting the Environmental Protection Agency investigate the November 2022 incident this week, going door-to-door to survey residents about their experience, according to news reports and a news release from a community spokesperson.

For now, the tens of thousands of residents who found a fine, white substance blanketing their cars, porches and plants over the holiday continue to wait for answers about if – or to what extent – the community was poisoned more than six months ago.

Shortly after the incident, the company said on Facebook that the ashy grit was a “non-toxic”, “non-hazardous” and “naturally occurring” catalyst dust expelled from its 860-acre facility, which is located at 3485 Pacheco Blvd. on the city’s northern industrial corridor.

But within a few days, the Contra Costa County Health Department alerted residents that the dust — a byproduct of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel refined at the facility — actually contained aluminum, barium, chromium and other hazardous metals. Those chemicals are linked to nausea, vomiting, respiratory issues, immune system dysfunction, cancer and even death.

County officials said that the company failed to immediately inform them of the chemical release, which is required by law.

Heidi Taylor, who moved to Martinez with her family in August, said her son and husband first noticed the spent catalyst the day after Thanksgiving, finding an antique dresser that was left outside covered with a chalky, white dust, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Initially thinking the substance was soot from wood burning, Taylor’s son wiped his hand across the top of the furniture, which sent dust into the air.

“That memory is just seared into my brain and it freaks me out,” Taylor told the Los Angeles Times, adding that she also ate homemade applesauce and peppermint tea from the family’s backyard trees and garden. “I understand that may sound a little crazy … but people don’t understand what it’s like to live in this constant fear and anxiety of not knowing what these toxic metals will do.”

The Martinez Refining Company, owned by PBF Energy, is aware of the federal inquiry, but declined to comment on details of the ongoing investigations, according to spokesperson Brandon Matson.

We are cooperating with all relevant agencies, including with respect to any ongoing investigations related to the incident,” Matson said in a statement. “We would, however, like to take this opportunity to once again apologize to the Martinez community for the spent catalyst release on November 24, 2022. We have thoroughly investigated the incident to identify appropriate corrective actions and we are committed to implementing them.”

Representatives from both the FBI in San Francisco and EPA Region 9 confirmed that the joint investigation is ongoing, but declined to comment further.

Soil samples collected the first week of May are expected to yield more specific results about the town’s contamination by early June, county health officials said.

Toxicologists with TRC, a Concord-based environmental consulting firm, are analyzing samples taken from 14 different sites neighboring the refinery — evaluating the extent of contamination residents were exposed to through skin contact, inhalation or consumption of food grown in the ground, according to Laura Trozzolo, a senior human health risk assessor with TRC.

She said the soil sample locations — reaching as far as Benicia and El Sobrante — were chosen based on a map of where the plume of particles likely landed, using models from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, residents’ observations and wind simulations.

Trozzolo said that neither the five-month delay in data collection — due to the county’s lengthy contracting procedures — nor the recent historic storms that drenched the area should negatively impact lab findings.

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office opened a case in January on the refinery’s failure to notify hazmat officials about the hazardous release, according to Matthew Kaufmann, the county’s deputy health director.

In the meantime, the county is still recommending that residents impacted by the toxic dust avoid eating any produce planted in the soil. However, gardeners are also encouraged to plant new seeds, in the event that soil samples don’t uncover any hazards.

Valero CAP Announcemnet
Click image to enlarge.



Save the date! Valero’s Community Advisory Panel invites Benicia residents to learn about air monitoring and incident response at Benicia Refinery




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