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Explore Bay Area Social Movement History

Recent Free Public Talks
January 2015-November 2015

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)

podcast subscription To subscribe to our Talks as a podcast, paste the link into your favorite podcast software (iTunes, Podcast Addict, etc.)

November 11
Literary Liberalism and
the Western Voice

Ina Coolbrith, California’s first Poet Laureate (1915), was a contemporary of many male writers we count on for our understanding of what is meant by the American West. She was also a frequent contributor to The Overland Monthly which acted as a vehicle for showcasing poets and authors exploring and constructing ideas of liberal selfhood as the United States moved westward. Biographer Aleta George and author Stephen Mexal provide a look at the literary landscape of the West and its characters, and historian Barbara Berglund Sokolov explores class and gender dynamics in the late 19th-century.

November 4
Art & Politics:
Guillermo Gomez-Peña

The Mission District's incomparable Guillermo Gomez-Peña performs his latest screed, “Notes from Technotopia: On the Cruelty of Indifference” along with a brief retrospective of his work, followed by an open conversation with the audience traversing the complicated borders in which his work resides.

October 28
Celebrate! 20th Anniversary Party!

It’s been 20 years since we began to work on the earliest iterations of Shaping San Francisco/ We’ve come a long way and we want to take a moment to thank our friends, supporters, and neighbors. Join us for a “time-traveling evening” back to the 1990s! Costumes welcome! (Come as your favorite historical character).

No audio recording for this great party! Thanks to all who turned out. It was a wonderful evening!

October 14
Housing is a Human Right!

Enrique Reynoso of Mexico City’s Organización Popular Francisco Villa de Izquierda Independiente (OPFVII), also known as “los Panchos,” reports how tens of thousands of people occupy land and build thriving, autonomous communities in the heart of one of the world’s grittiest cities. Outside of political parties they promote urban self-government, community safety, and autonomous education, culture, and health. Bárbara Suárez Galeano joins him.

Co-presented by The Mexico Solidarity Network

October 7
Archaeology Finds…Daily Family Life in Early SF Settlements

The Presidio - a military outpost, and South of Market - the industrial and maritime center of early San Francisco, represented worlds of single men, soldiers, sailors, and miners, right? Archaeological research into the 19th-century neighborhood, the 18th-century El Presidio de San Francisco, and recent work around the Transbay Terminal area, gives us a picture of family life and maritime wives, where women and children participated in the hard work of everyday life in these settlements. Come hear tales of Mark Twain's friend steamship captain Ned Wakeman and his wife, "the girl from Happy Valley," among other stories of early house histories.

Archaeologist Kari Lentz (William Self Associates), historical archaeologist Stacy Kozakavich, and Heritage Technician Montserrat Osterlye (Presidio Trust) present their findings which uncover the larger picture of the population of the area that was to become San Francisco.

photo courtesy Teresa Bulger

September 30
Art & Politics: Nato Green

The boundary-pushing, “wickedly funny” comedian and formidable foe Nato Green breaks our Art & Politics tradition by giving a stand-up performance during our Talks series. It’s a free show, followed by conversation with the man… Get your brain stimulated while laughing your head off… critical thinkers, contrarians, and ne’er-do-wells welcome!

Also featured comedienne Irene Tu.

Audio embargoed for now. Will be posted in future.

September 23
Prisoners and Politics: from the San Quentin Six to Pelican Bay

California holds more prisoners than any other state while the U.S. incarcerates far more people than anywhere else on earth. During the 1960s and 1970s a political movement erupted among the imprisoned—Dan Berger’s new book Captive Nation takes us through that political history. We welcome Luis “Bato” Talamantez and David Johnson — both original members of the San Quentin Six, and Caitlin Kelly Henry — a local attorney who coordinates the National Lawyer’s Guild “Support from Outside the Walls” prisoner support series.

Co-sponsored by Freedom Archives.

May 13 • 7:30 pm
Plumbing California: Past, Present, and Future

Governor Jerry Brown is determined to build the Delta Tunnels through the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta. The once-and-future Peripheral Canal is the latest plumbing scheme to follow the damming and diking of rivers and swamps which began with intensive Chinese manual labor in the 19th century. California has already radically altered its plumbing, but we’ll also look to future efforts at riparian restoration, dam deconstruction, and maintaining or altering our massive hydrological infrastructure. Tim Stroshane, Jason Rainey, and Scott Kildall (w/ 3-D maps of SF’s water infrastructure).

May 6 • 7:30 pm
Rewilding and the Anthropocene

In a world where every inch has been impacted—directly or indirectly—by industrial society, what does it mean to “preserve nature”? How does the idea of adaptation shape our responses to extinction, climate chaos, and nature? How does our sense of “history” shape our ideas about nature, evolution, and conservation? How should we understand and value natural processes, wildness, and human technologies? With Peter S. Alagona, Annalee Newitz, and Noah Greenwald. Co-hosted by Wild Equity Institute.

April 29 • 7:30 pm
Union Demise and New Workers’ Movements

Bureaucratic labor unions, long besieged, seem incapable of defending, let alone advancing, workers’ interests. In Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, workers are rejecting leaders and forming authentic class-struggle unions rooted in sabotage, direct action, and striking to achieve concrete gains. Manny Ness, editor of New Forms Of Worker Organization, and Steve Early, contributor to Continental Crucible: Big Business, Workers and Unions in the Transformation of North America and author of Save Our Unions, co-hosted by PM Press.

April 22 • 7:30 pm
Telling Stories with Bricks

Bricks give literal structure to a history of place. Bricks were a fire proof building material in early years of a city often engulfed by fire. Archeology work at the Presidio reveals plant time capsules embedded in recovered bricks that help us understand pre-settler ecology. And brick throwing increasingly confronts our current landscape of evictions and displacement. Featuring Ruth Askevold, Lew Stringer, and LisaRuth Elliott. Co-hosted by Wild Equity Institute.

April 8 • 7:30 pm
The Tenderloin: SF’s Most Fraught Neighborhood

Money! Crime! Vice! Politics! Moral Panic! Gender bending! The history of the Tenderloin, one of the least heralded and worst understood neighborhoods in town, has it all. Peter Field, who gives astounding walking tours there, covers the early days to WWI while Chris Carlsson takes it from the 1910s to the beginning of the 21st century.

April 1 • 7:30 pm
Vietnam War, Dissent, and the U.S. Military

A half-century after the Vietnam War officially began, we’ll look back at military mutinies, the rise of the volunteer army in response to the “Vietnam Syndrome,” and situate the Vietnam War in the long history of U.S. military aggression, even pre-dating the founding of the United States. Paul Cox, Deni Leonard, Michael Blecker.

March 4 • 7:30 pm
Art & Politics: Sirron Norris

Sirron Norris has been splashing his satirical cartoon characters around the Mission and San Francisco for years. From biting social commentary to whimsical commercial art, his work spans a range that challenges the boundaries of art and politics.

February 25 • 7:30 pm
Promises of Progress: Panama-Pacific International Exposition

On the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), Gray Brechin and Chris Carlsson discuss the relationship of world’s fairs to the idea of progress over time. How did the presentations at PPIE in their early 20th century context boost now long-held assumptions about progress and development through technological innovation and economic growth?

February 11 • 7:30 pm
Art & Politics: Rene Yañez

Rene Yañez has been at the epicenter of the Mission’s multiple art movements going back to the 1970s. Our Art & Politics series puts him in the spotlight for a retrospective of his life’s work, a free-ranging discussion of the politics that informed his work, and how his work has shaped the neighborhood and the City to which he has contributed so much.

February 4 • 7:30 pm
San Francisco’s Wild Menu:
Flora, Fauna, Feast

In 1849 San Francisco was surrounded by wild animals and a flourishing sea and bay, from which most early food was taken. But what is our “wild menu” now? How do foraging, fishing, hunting, and gathering fit into modern life? What role does conservation and ecology play in a contemporary and future wild menu? With Mark Heath, Kirk Lombard, and Chris Carlsson. Co-hosted by Wild Equity Institute and Nature in the City.

January 21 • 7:30 pm
Washed Away—Newfound Extreme Weather History

What actually happened to Darling Clementine? Historian Joel Pomerantz explores the California floods of 1862. Learn how this historic storm, which killed thousands and caused a number of San Francisco houses to collapse, can be an example for what a really extreme weather event could be like in our future.

January 14, 2015 • 7:30 pm
Home on the Grange

“Grange Future” celebrates the history and contemporary expression of ‘the grange idea.’ From the 19th century populist movement that backed the early campaign for an “information commons” in the form of Rural Free Mail delivery, to public banking and Farmers co-op banks, this vital movement is re-emerging to confront information and agricultural monopolists of our own era. Severine von Tscharner Fleming leads a panel discussion with the Internet Archive's Brewster Kahle and Matt Senate from the Omni Commons and Sudo Room Hackerspace.