Recent Free Public Talks
January 2013-December 2013
A place to meet and talk unmediated by corporations, official spokespeople, religion, political parties, or dogma.
All events are free.
At 518 Valencia Street, near 16th, in San Francisco (close to 16th Street BART)
The seven young men who became iconic heroes of San Francisco's left and Latino political ferment in the 1970s were eventually acquitted of murder. While the campaign to defend them led to an explosion of social organizing, we know little about how these men's lives developed in the years that followed, losing track of real people in the mists of political legitimacy and hero-worship. Vero Majano takes a documentary look at what happened to Los Siete in the decades since the famous trial, and gives us a chance to ponder the relationship between "historic characters" and real lives, heroism and compromise, triumph and regret. Majano takes us on a subjective journey that illuminates the real history of the neighborhood in a way that most accounts gloss over, a conversation joined by Ray Balberan and Francisco Flores.
Poets, painters, writers, and other cultural and literary denizens of the single-room-occupancy hotels of the North Mission, especially the Royan, the Crown, the Albion, and others, will be remembered, regaled, and recited. San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia reminisces and recites, bringing in literary heroes of the past decades.
Doesn't European and American history in San Francisco begin with genocide? What does this mean in practice? Today, we have the chance to talk with people who descend from some of those who lived here before 1775, when Europeans arrived. We can't change what happened, but history is ongoing, including assumptions we hold today. What can we learn about San Francisco, the US, Europe, the Ohlone and Native America from this dialogue? Can "we" change who "we" are? The Ohlone Profiles Project wants to engage the city in a long term conversation and Shaping San Francisco is helping initiate their effort.
Who are we, and what is our place in the world of the living? The Modern Synthesis of Biology, much of it conceived and incubated in the San Francisco Bay Area, has become a conceptual steel trap dictating much of what we do not only with our ecosystems, but also with our economy, our politics and our very selves. Liberation Biology proposes a critical approach to the deep roots of our understanding of the living. Based on both an exhumation of forgotten knowledge and on radically transformative new experimental evidence, Liberation Biology puts to rest many preconceptions of the Modern Synthesis, while recasting questions that may lead us to a world we may not only survive, but also desire. With Ignacio Chapela and Ali Bektaş
Wed. Oct. 16, 7:30 pm
Unsettlers of the Mission
In Adriana Camarena's new work the most precarious residents of the Mission are the central storytellers. This will be the latest presentation of her ongoing work-in-progress, covering a range of their historic tales of Californian daily life: Indigenous migrants on their day off from construction or cooking on the line, watch movies inside their shared group apartments. Parents, raising children in the Mission, fend off poverty by working hard, with the result that their dutifulness sometimes translates into absence for their kids. Lost in plain sight, young kids in gangs troll the neighborhood flexing their muscles over territorial disputes, and seasoned convicts in their twenties run the drug exchange at corner depots. War veterans and the mentally ill fill the neighborhood shelters, while the neighborhood gentrifies around them. These are stories of abandon, but also of love, loyalty, laughter, and a fierce will to survive adversity.
Unsettlers was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, an independent nonprofit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit www.calhum.org. This project is also supported by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation.
Imagine a time when the land that we know as the Franciscan Peninsula extended out to the Farallones and mastodons and tigers roamed freely. Imagine small seasonal villages along waterways engaged in trading across the bay, and tule canoes making the journey. Park Historian Breck Parkman will share his extensive research into the prehistory of the Bay Area, and Malcolm Margolin (Heyday Books, The Ohlone Way) joins in with his years of exploring the indigenous history of the region. Mary Jean Robertson of the Ohlone Profiles Project moderates, and Antonio, Ohlone, shares stories and preparations for the weekend's Big Time Gathering.
Co-editor J. Smith of the three-volume documentary history of the emblematic urban guerrillas will be in town to discuss his work, the life, times and enduring relevance of the RAF.
"A fascinating history of the German revolutionary left in the 1970s and 1980s. It powerfully situates the RAF within a broader orbit of revolutionary politics and world events. It gives us the inside story of how militants did and might engage with police, prisons, informants, media and one another in the context of struggle. It is an exciting story, a global story, and very much a story for today's movements." —Dan Berger, editor of The Hidden 1970s
What role do nontraditional archives play in the preservation and interpretation of peoples' history? This open discussion will explore some of the opportunities and challenges of radical repositories. Some of the issues that will be addressed include:
- What defines a radical archive?
- What can be productive relations between community-based or independent archives and more established (and establishment) institutions?
- What tools and processes are making it easier to document, catalog, and share oppositional cultural objects?
- What is the role of ordinary people in building useful collections?
Lincoln Cushing is a professional archivist responsible for Docs Populi - Documents for the Public, documenting and disseminating social justice poster art. He is also archiving consultant with the Oakland Museum of California helping to process the All Of Us Or None poster collection. Claude Marks is the Director of The Freedom Archives, a political, cultural oral history project, restoration center, and media production facility in San Francisco. Nathaniel Moore is an archivist at the Freedom Archives. He has a MA in African Studies and a MS in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois.
Chris Carlsson presents a historic look at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, how it has changed over time, going from two-way traffic on the top deck (3 lanes in each direction) with trains and trucks on the lower deck, to today's new span. The history of automobility surrounding the bridge, and the many other schemes to build more bridges and crisscross San Francisco with high-speed freeways shows the context of the Bridge... The new Bike Pier (not quite halfway-across-the-bay bike lane) gets a close look too.
Join a challenging conversation some have dubbed "environmental communications in the Anthropocene" to discuss the problems with presenting complex ecological information publicly. Rose Aguilar from KALW's Your Call radio, Brent Plater of the Wild Equity Institute, and environmental scientist and climate change activist Azibuike Akaba discuss and debate issues of scientific literacy, critical thinking, basic education, attention spans, buzzwords, guest selection, framing and definition of scientific issues, overcoming propaganda and simplistic jargon, and much more!
Foxconn, the world's biggest contract manufacturer, employs more than one million people in China alone, working for Apple and many other brands. Foxconn's workers, the iSlaves, face horrendous working conditions while producing iPhones and iPads. In 2010 a series of worker suicides at Chinese Foxconn factories drew world-wide attention. The situation has not changed much since: instead of improving conditions, Foxconn accelerated the relocation of factories to the Chinese hinterland, and still relies on its militaristic management regime. However, Foxconn-workers are far from being quiet victims. They have used every-day forms of resistance against the assembly line and have held strikes in various Foxconn factories around China. The talk is based on gongchao.org's collective research, by a member of the collective gongchao.
In Adriana Camarena's new work the most precarious residents of the Mission are the central storytellers. Theirs are historic tales of Californian daily life: Indigenous migrants on their day off from construction or cooking on the line, watch movies inside their shared group apartments. Parents, raising children in the Mission, fend off poverty by working hard, with the result that their dutifulness sometimes translates into absence for their kids. Lost in plain sight, young kids in gangs troll the neighborhood flexing their muscles over territorial disputes, and seasoned convicts in their twenties run the drug exchange at corner depots. War veterans and the mentally ill fill the neighborhood shelters, while the neighborhood gentrifies around them. These are stories of abandon, but also of love, loyalty, laughter, and a fierce will to survive adversity. Explore the project!
This project was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit www.calhum.org.
In recent years, much has made about the opposition between urban strategies and urban tactics. One is supposedly rooted in technocratic control of the city by a planning elite, the other is the response of artists and activists determined to reclaim the right to an environment generated by, and for, citizens themselves. Rebar has explored this territory through tactical urban interventions -- both sactioned and unsanctioned -- but is also interested in going beyond the simple opposition between strategy and tactic. How can people both inside and outside positions of power help the city benefit from the possibilities that urban art, tactical interventions, and other creative actions produce? Rebar founder and principal Blaine Merker will talk about their projects and others that are gaining new ground in the ongoing fight for the right to the city.
An evening of stories and discussion about the impact of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (which wasn’t rescinded until 1943!) on the Chinese American community in San Francisco. This infamous legacy was both subtly woven into community cultural life, and overtly demarcated social and geographical boundaries. Chinese Whispers, a research and storytelling project about the Chinese who helped build the American West, will present excerpted stories from the Bay Area which reveal the deep impact of the Exclusion Act on generations of Chinese American families, and a community story contributor will talk about memories of a growing up in a San Francisco Chinatown that was still essentially socially segregated from the rest of the City. This overlooked history is also very relevant to the ongoing immigration debate. With the Chinese Historical Society of America, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, filmmaker Felicia Lowe, and more.
Wed. March 27, 2013, 7:30 pm
Designing Resilient Landscapes: What history teaches us about San Francisco and the Bay-Delta Estuary
Ruth Askevold and Robin Grossinger from the San Francisco Estuary Institute will present their amazing historical maps and discuss their groundbreaking work in "forensic ecology," which is contributing to restoration efforts and galvanizing public attitudes around the Bay. Derek Hitchcock will also join the conversation to discuss current restoration efforts he is engaged in on the Napa River, as well as contextualizing the Napa with the larger watersheds that feed the Delta and Bay.
The 2nd volume of George Katsiaficas's monumental study of Asian Revolutions, this provides a unique perspective on uprisings in nine places in East Asia over the past five decades. While the 2011 Arab Spring is well known, the wave of uprisings that swept East Asia in the 1980s became hardly visible. Katsiaficas relates Asian uprisings to predecessors in 1968 and shows their subsequent influence on the wave of uprisings that swept Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s. By empirically reconstructing the specific history of uprisings in the Philippines, Burma, Tibet, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia, significant insight into major constituencies of change and the trajectories of these societies becomes visible. Co-sponsored by PM Press.
Wed. February 27, 2013, 7:30 pm
Pier 70, Transforming 19th Century Ironworks to a 21st Century ... ?
Join Ralph Wilson, Jasper Rubin, and artist Wendy MacNaughton in a wide-ranging critical look at the history and plans for the oldest industrial buildings west of the Mississippi River, the launchpad for much of the U.S.'s imperial fleet in the late 19th and early 20th century. Increasingly derelict over the past few decades, but still home to the last drydock in San Francisco, big plans are afoot. Join critics, analysts, and artists for a closer look.
Wed. February 20, 2013, 7:30 pm
The Revolution of Everyday Life
With translator Donald Nicholson-Smith. There is a grain of truth in the stereotypical view that Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem, as two leading lights of the Situationist International, stood for two opposite poles of the movement: the objective Debord versus the subjective Vaneigem: Marxism versus anarchism: icy cerebrality versus sensualism: and, of course, The Society of the Spectacle versus The Revolution of Everyday Life --the two major programmatic books of the Situationist International, written by the two men without consultation, both published in 1967, each serving in its own way to kindle and color the May 1968 uprisings in France. Born in Manchester, England, Donald Nicholson-Smith is a longtime resident of New York City. As a young man he was a member of the Situationist International (1965-67), and his translations include Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle (Zone) and Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space (Blackwell), as well as works by Jean-Patrick Manchette, Thierry Jonquet, and Paco Ignacio Taibo II. At present he is at work on Apollinaire's Letters to Madeleine, as sent by the poet from the trenches of Champagne in 1915.Co-sponsored by PM Press.
From editor Sasha Lilley's essay: "By its very nature, capitalism is catastrophic. There should be no doubt that the multiple social, and especially ecological, crises of our time are genuine and cataclysmic. We are suggesting, however, that politics embedded within the logic of catastrophe – that the catastrophe will deliver a new world, or that it will create the conditions under which people automatically take action – do not serve the left and environmental movement. An awareness of the scale or severity of catastrophe does not ineluctably steer one down the path of radical politics, in spite of received wisdom on the left and many great – albeit frequently dashed – expectations. Those who believe that the system will crumble from crises and disasters lose sight of the ways that capitalism uses crises for its own regeneration and expansions. Likewise, a focus on spectacular catastrophes typically overlooks the prosaic catastrophes of everyday life that are the sediment upon which capitalism is constructed." Join Sasha Lilley and Jim Davis to go deeper into Catastrophism! Co-sponsored by PM Press.
The Tigers of Market Street:
Butterfly Habitat along a Busy Urban Corridor
Wed. Jan. 16, 2013, 7:30 pm
Not long after the transit tunnels of Muni and Bart went in below Market Street in the '70s, a San Franciscan butterfly — the Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) discovered an ecosystem freshly lined with one of its larval food, or host trees: the London Plane sycamore (Plantanus acerifolia). Males fly among the treetops, females lay eggs on the leaves, caterpillars feed and pupate, and adult butterflies emerge. This creature's entire lifecycle has played out for years unheralded by the thousands who walk below this canopy daily. As the city re-imagines our grandest boulevard with the Better Market Street Project, join us for this evening and learn about a creature that seems to be keeping up in this human-altered landscape. Add your two cents to this fascinating convergence of city coexistence. Lepidopterists and artists Amber Hasselbring and Liam O'Brien will "tell the tale of a swallow-tail" and propose novel ideas of connecting our two species.