Scenes from the Bank of Marin’s 2021 Spirit of Marin Awards, honoring MV City Manager Alan Piombo, at top center,
and the owners of the Mill Valley Market, at top right, among others.
On a gorgeous Friday afternoon on Children’s Islands at the Marin Center in San Rafael, more than two dozen people were honored by the Bank of Marin for their “tireless efforts in support of our community” at the 2021 Spirit of Marin Awards, including Mill Valley City Manager Alan Piombo and the owners of the Mill Valley Market. For many, it was a day of open-air smiles and hugs in the midst of an unrelenting pandemic and the economic and social turbulence of the past 18 months.
The event’s guest speaker, Marin native and Washington Post writer Jason Rezaian, delivered poignant context for the celebratory afternoon. In 2014, Rezaian, then the Post‘s Tehran bureau chief, was arrested and accused of spying for the United States, charges he assumed were a simple misunderstanding given his focus on human interest stories and political analysis.
A 544-day prison sentence followed in which Rezaian was blindfolded at all times, prevented from communicating with other prisoners. People all over the world rallied on Rezaian’s behalf.
Rezaian says he drew resolve a number of sources, particularly his Marin roots, at a time when he had only himself to find some semblance of calm and inspiration amidst a hellish experience. “My memories brought me right back here, growing up in Los Ranchitos, walking to a Beastie Boys concert at the Marin Center when I was 16,” Rezaian said, noting that Dave Perron, his then-teacher at Marin Country Day School and now the Executive Director at Bread & Roses, helped him “embrace a sense of humor and the world around him.”
Rezaian recalled a 2019, post-release visit to Marin in which Perron took him to San Quentin State Prison, a visit that “was neither easy nor cathartic.” An inmate told Rezaian, “I met you through Anthony Bourdain – I traveled the world with that man,” a nod to the late globe traveler’s “Parts Unknown” show, and specifically the episode in Iran in 2014 featuring Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi.
“I knew exactly what he meant,” Rezaian said. “The world is vast but it is so connected. This place we all call home has a ton of heart. There’s a reservoir inside of all of us that we don’t even know is there until we need it. But even moreso, it is the strength we find in our communities”
“And there’s no place I’d rather call home (than Marin)” he added.