Light in the darkest corners

Joey Garcia

Dear readers: Did you feel the cultural shift? This year, stores began decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving arrived. That’s right, the day set aside to give thanks has been eclipsed by Consumermas (the holiday formerly known as Christmas). But together we can tip the scales back by using our time and money to inspire light in the darkest corners of the human heart. Let the handy shopping list that follows be your guide:

For the racist or psychotherapist on your list:

Brian Copeland’s one-man show, Not a Genuine Black Man, is a startlingly insightful, brutally honest and deeply moving experience. The Copelands were the first black family to move into San Leandro, Calif., in 1972. Brian Copeland deftly inhabits an astonishing variety of characters to relate the hostility of his neighbors and the impact on his family, including his own bouts with depression and a suicide attempt during a peak point in his career. The host of shows on KGO radio and TV, Copeland has a unique marketing hook: Licensed psychotherapists can earn continuing education credits by attending a post-performance seminar he co-facilitates with a therapist. Copeland performed in Sacramento earlier this year, but if you missed him or can’t convince the racist in your life to join you for a Bay Area performance, gift the book. Website:

For the friend who drops random rhyming words on a page and calls it poetry:

Hand-letter a gift certificate inviting the wayward soul to a Monday night reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center. For a small donation you can both savor the work of poets like Ruebi Freyja Jimenez. Here’s an excerpt from her poem “Lions and Lambs”: “Let me remind you that you are not alone / and of how alone you really are / how no one can come with you / how everyone cares for you / how all you need do is reach out your hand to touch another / how all you need do is reach out your hand to find the stair dropped out beneath you …” Website:

For the helicopter parent or workaholic teacher:

Know a high-school student whose parents hover over every activity, fearful the teen won’t be admitted to the “right” university? Invite them to a screening of Race to Nowhere, the documentary that details the psychological and physical damage done to kids by adults with impossibly high expectations. Race reveals the sleep deprivation, drug use, cheating, anorexia and other negative coping behaviors students embrace to align with the status-centered values of parents, teachers and high-school administrators. The documentary also makes a strong case against the four to six hours of homework most teens face each night. Homework may help teachers feel useful, but studies reveal it rarely reinforces learning. Website:

For the FarmVille addict:

The virtual world is no match for reality, so put your pal’s laptop to sleep and get some fresh air. Starting in March, Capay Organic farm offers trailer ride tours, live music, art workshops for kids and harvesting activities (strawberries and sweet peas start the season). It’s all free, so the real gift for your digitally inclined friend is face time with another human being. That’s priceless. Website:

For the egotist:

Have a buddy with no time for anything except work and working out? Who never has money to contribute to those in need but is always just back from a fabulous getaway or showing off a shiny new toy? Slip an invite to Best Friend Fridays into his or her holiday card. This low-key Sierra 2 Center event includes wine, hors d’oeuvres and raffles that benefit a different nonprofit each week. Website:

Have a blast not shopping, my friends! Happy holidays!

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