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Berkeley Icon & Family Man Needs Your Help

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Perhaps the best known face on Berkeley’s famed Telegraph Avenue is veteran street vendor, Tamai.

Tamai has been vending his unique handmade arts in Berkeley and at festivals for nearly 40 years. He is a father, friend, comedian, role model, and considered by many to be a Berkeley icon. 

Tamai will lend an ear, voice his opinion, and then have a joke ready at the end. But things have not been great lately for Tamai’s family and now they are asking for your help.

Due to the Covid pandemic and cancellation of festivals and other events, Tamai has not been able to vend his artwork, which is crucial to his family’s survival. Internet sales are near non-existent in these frugal times and the family is feeling it hard. From home loans owed to the bank, to accumulated credit card debt, simply making it day to day is a horrible struggle with a massive financial burden hanging overhead.

In addition to the massive financial struggle, each family member has medical problems which add to the difficulty of trying to survive.

Tamai’s wife Teri, mother of their 3 children, suffers from a plethora of diagnoses, including COPD from being exposed to toxic chemicals from a nearby government waste dump during her early days as an archaeologist intern. She also suffers from Diabetes and severe rheumatoid arthritis which affects her joints and limits her mobility.

Middle child Rasai is Autistic and has his own struggles that come with Autism, but to complicate things, he also has a severe spinal condition called Kyphosis which causes the spine to bend at 90 degrees and collapses the lungs. He has had several spinal surgeries over the years, and even endured a near fatal infection in his spine.

The oldest and youngest children, son Jahnai and daughter Jahrena, work full time to help support the family while also enduring their own health issues. Like their brother Rasai, both Jahnai and Jahrena have inherited spinal conditions. Jahrena has Scoliosis which affects her ability to bend, and Jahnai suffers Spondylosis, aka Degenerative Disc Disease, which severely limits his physical mobility. Due to this, his weight has reached morbid levels which have caused permanent damage to his liver, and which requires life saving weight loss surgery, which was put on hold during the outbreak of the pandemic.

At this point, just when things couldn’t get any worse, they did. The Matriarch of the family, Gramma Irene, passed away at the age of 97, after an 18 year battle with Alzheimer’s for which the family provided her care for the entire duration. Tamai’s mother Irene was one of the first woman Marines during WWII, earning several medals and commendations for her service. She was buried with military honors and is now at rest, but the pain lingers for the family among the many burdens they already face.

The Pearson family finds it extremely hard to be asking for help but the hard times are just getting harder, and hole keeps growing deeper and deeper. We are a blessed family that has much to be thankful for, but the long time struggle to make ends meet has come to a head, and we desperately need your help. Anything you can do to help is most sincerely and graciously appreciated beyond what words can describe. Thanks for your time, and much love to you all.

The Pearson Family


  • Nicole Y Magnuson
    • $20 
    • 1 yr
  • Brenda Benson
    • $50 
    • 4 yrs
  • Colleen Dunne
    • $40 
    • 4 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $100 
    • 4 yrs
  • Carl Ristaino
    • $40 
    • 4 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Jahrena Pearson
Berkeley, CA
Thomas Pearson

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