It’s not a level playing field [for women]. So get over it. Just believe in yourself and get it done.
– Debra Chase Martin, motion picture and television producer
Last year was the first time I had attended Lunafest. I admitted to Peggy Murphy, one of the founding members of the East Bay Lunafest Committee, which is bringing the traveling film festival to El Cerrito for the seventh year running, that I had outright deleted her e-mails about Lunafest in the past. Let me explain. November through February is the busy season for me at work, which culminates in this big annual conference that my company hosts. Everything falls by the wayside. Everything. But last year, I wasn’t required to go to the conference and I had freed up time, so I opened Peggy’s e-mail invitation to Lunafest. For some odd reason, I thought Lunafest was something else, but the idea of a short film festival “for, by and about women” was inspiring to me in the same way that funding breast cancer prevention and other local nonprofit organizations was inspiring, as well as empowering and a wonderful exercise in building community. I went with good friends. I laughed, I cried, and then . . . I joined the committee because I wanted to get involved more. I wanted to be a part of putting together an event that was magical and transformative, celebrating women’s creativity and their determination to come together to fight and overcome cancer.
Since the fall I have been going to monthly meetings and helping to plan an event that is quite expansive in scope. As part of the 12-women committee, I saw how devoted and hardworking they all were to bringing to our community a wonderful evening that is meant to inspire and empower. So heading into the big night, this Saturday, March 8th, I wanted to honor their efforts. Some wanted to remain in the background and focus their energies on Lunafest itself. Others graciously shared their thoughts about their passion for Lunafest.
Leading the charge
No committee can move mountains unless it has a strong leader behind it. As chair of the East Bay Lunafest Committee, Joann Steck-Bayat serves her role with admirable vigor and humor, and has been active in the community for many years. “The East Bay Lunafest committee loves organizing this film festival,” she said. “We love seeing family and friends enjoying the movies. We love the movies every year. We love meeting monthly to eat, drink, and plan all the details that are needed to pull off the event. We love the new friendships that are formed or strengthened each year.
“But what we love the most about this evening is the opportunity to teach you all about breast cancer prevention,” she added. “All of us have been directly or indirectly affected by the consequences of this disease.” Joann, who calls El Cerrito home, entreats everyone to Google “The Breast Cancer Fund” (or click here) and learn more about the organization, including its Pure Prevention program and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, lobbying efforts, and successes. She asks that we be educated on The Breast Cancer Fund’s vision of identifying and eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer, making treatment the standard and available to everyone, and holding government and businesses accountable for “contaminating our bodies and the environment.” Joann emphasized, “Remember to educate not only ourselves but the next generation of women as well.”
Spotlight on committee members
Peggy Murphy is another founding member of the committee and fellow parent at Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito, where our kids are currently in fifth grade. She joined the committee upon Joann’s request, but her participation is in support of her mother, who is a breast cancer survivor and who continues to battle the disease. Peggy is a big supporter of The Breast Cancer Fund and its mission to eliminate the environmental causes of cancer. Since joining the committee seven years ago, she said she has “become very attached to my fellow committee members and look forward to working with them all each year.”
Beth Weil, who grew up in Berkeley, was a musician by night (acoustic bluegrass bass player) and a graphic artist by day. At the age of 39 – 22 and a half years ago – she was onstage with the Good Ol’ Persons, on tour, and on the last note of the last song of the set when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. She was hospitalized for three months and ended up being paralyzed on one side. “I am on this committee because there are no stroke-related events of this kind,” Beth said. Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 54, “so I’m doing it for her,” she added.
Anja Hakoshima had been a fan of Lunafest for many years before joining the committee in 2010. She lives next door to Joann, who had encouraged her to join. “The funny, smart, and supportive group of women has kept me engaged in Lunafest ever since,” Anja said. “We all bring different strengths, ideas, and perspectives to the mix, and together we put on a successful event each year.” Anja brings her prowess as a publicist at Fortune PR to the committee, focusing her efforts on marketing and PR – “something I really enjoy,” she added. When she’s not working, Anja is “running around” with her nine-year-old son, cycling in the Berkeley hills, “climbing fake rocks at the gym,” and making jewelry.
“Lunafest has been such a powerful and positive experience for me as an audience member that I am delighted to help spread the word to my community and share my enthusiasm for this amazing, inspiring evening with as many people as I can,” Anja said. “The mission of Lunafest also resonates with me as I have numerous friends and family members who have had to deal with breast cancer. I wanted to be a part of The Breast Cancer Fund’s efforts to identify and eradicate the environmental causes of this disease.”
Meet these energetic and inspiring women and the rest of the Lunafest East Bay Committee this Saturday when Lunafest comes to town, March 8th, at 7:30pm at the El Cerrito High School’s Performing Arts Center (540 Ashbury Avenue, El Cerrito). Doors open at 7pm. You can purchase your tickets by contacting me, purchasing them online via EventBrite, or at the door. Hope to see many of you locals there!