Recent Free Public Talks
September 2013-May 2014
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)
In 1913, students, farmers, and roaming revolutionaries working to free India from British colonial rule formed the Ghadar Party. The party, headquartered in San Francisco, collaborated with a variety of Bay Area-based freethinkers, labor activists, anarchists, and expats of colonized nations.
The plight of pollinators - in particular the honey bee - under the combined stresses of capital and empire, is considered from an unusual perspective. Jake Kosek, a farmer, radical geographer, and apiarist, discusses his researches into 'political entomology', specifically the use of bees as material and metaphor by the US military (foraging for landmines, anti-terrorism weapons).
Join us for a moderated panel about the issues associated with human density and respectful dog ownership in San Francisco. After decades of looking the other way, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is proposing to limit off-leash activity to select portions of its lands. Commercial dog walkers and some animal rights groups are opposing this change, and have threatened the extreme measure of dismantling the national park altogether. In 1977/8, Harvey Milk put forth a city ordinance dubbed the ‘pooper scooper law,’ for which he didn't want to put anyone in jail or fine them, but set out to clean up parks through peer pressure and friendly enforcement. Is it again time for San Franciscans to adopt a new paradigm for how we behave with respect to dogs in our natural areas? With Amber Hasselbring of Nature in the City; Brent Plater of Wild Equity Institute, Dominik Mosur, and moderated by Jason Mark of the Earth Island Institute. Co-sponsored by Nature in the City.
Yolanda Lopez, Judy Drummond and Donna Amador cover the dynamic history of Los Siete de la Raza and Mission District politics of the 1970s. Yolanda dissects the popular iconography of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the context of racially exploitative advertising over the past few decades, to reveal her own creative processes that have produced beautiful "Virgin"-inspired representations of working Chicana women and more.
Lauren Coodley’s new biography of Sinclair dubs him a “California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual”. She sheds light on his remarkable life as the writer who exposed the meatpacking industry in The Jungle, the depradations of the oil industry, the wrongful prosecutions of Sacco and Vanzetti as well as the Wobblies, but Coodley reveals a previously under-appreciated side of Sinclair: his feminism. Jay Martin joins the discussion to focus on Sinclair’s momentous 1934 California gubernatorial campaign to “End Poverty in California (EPIC).”
In a recent Earth Island Journal interview, Michael Pollan notes a question underlying his work, "How do you think through this relationship in the messy places where nature and culture have to engage with one another?" As urban dwellers, how do we decide what to do with our open spaces, our sidewalks, our schoolyards, our vacant lots? Do we use them to grow food, tend natives, allow wild spaces to exist? These choices require different skill bases (growing soil vs. tending natives, as an example) and are also mutually supportive. With most available lots being gobbled up by housing developers, and the dismantling of Hayes Valley Farm and the Free Farm, where are we with urban ag efforts, and relative to our butterfly and insect population? Nature in the City's Amber Hasselbring, Jay Rosenberg (of the former Hayes Valley Farm, now with 49 Farms), Hannah Shulman (SF's Urban Agriculture Program coordinator), Severine von Tscharner Fleming(Greenhorns), and Nik Bertulis (SF Art Institute) lead a lively discussion. lead a lively discussion. Co-sponsored by Nature in the City.
Cazzarola! is a gripping, epic, political, historical, and romantic novel spanning 130 years in the life of the Discordias, a fictional family of Italian anarchists. It details the family's heroic, multigenerational resistance to fascism in Italy and their ongoing involvement in the anarchist movement. From early 20th-century factory strikes and occupations, armed anarchist militias, and attempts on Mussolini's life, to postwar student and labor protest, and confronting the newest wave of contemporary neofascist violence sweeping Europe, the Discordias navigate the decades of political, economic, and social turmoil. Norman Nawrocki, acclaimed comedian and performer, takes us on a wild ride in and out of history. Co-sponsored by PM Press.
In this majestic tour de force, celebrated historian Peter Linebaugh takes aim at the thieves of land, polluters of the seas, ravagers of the forests, despoilers of rivers, and removers of mountaintops. Scarcely a society has existed on the face of the earth that has not had commoning at its heart. "Neither the state nor the market," say the planetary commoners. Linebaugh kindles the embers of memory like few other historians of our time to ignite our future commons. Linebaugh brings to life the vital commonist tradition. He traces the red thread from the great revolt of commoners in 1381 to the enclosures of Ireland, and the American commons, where European immigrants who had been expelled from their commons met the immense commons of the native peoples and the underground African-American urban commons. Co-sponsored by PM Press.
Wed. March 12, 7:30 pm
Saltworks and Shorelines: a Visual and Social History of the San Francisco Bay
Cris Benton has used kite photography to document the surprisingly beautiful “saltscapes” of the South Bay, while Matthew Booker’s Down By the Bay is one of the best recent histories of the long, complicated, and contradictory relationship of urbanizing humans and the amazing inland estuary we enjoy as the Bay.
As San Francisco emerged as the hub of counterculture pilgrimage routes in the late-1960s, radical politics and social change galvanized design ideals in Berkeley. The East Bay became the site of bold experiments in graphic arts, environmental activism, handcraft pedagogy, and self-build technologies. Fast forward to 2011 and the creation of the local hub PLACE for Sustainable Living in Oakland, a center linking our radical past to the resilient future, as it fosters many of the same ideals. Greg Castillo and Sabrina Richard, the co-curators of Design Radicals: Berkeley in the '60s - an exhibition at UC Berkeley planned for the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement in the Fall of 2014 - discuss artifacts and initiatives that document a decade of environmental design innovation. They are joined by Jonathan Youtt, catalyst for the creation of the public-serving experiential learning center, PLACE, to bring us up to the present.
As Biophilic Cities are becoming a part of international consciousness, urban spaces are adding green roofs and elevated walking paths that traverse urban canopies, even daylighting creeks. How does San Francisco fit into all this? Could San Francisco could become a City of Biodiversity? Do we use the great work done by other cities as inspiration to celebrate our relationship with the natural world, or in friendly competition with them to become the “greenest”? How can San Franciscans better celebrate the vast array of biodiversity, ecological activism, and collective natural history knowledge among us? With Ali Sant of Studio for Urban Projects, Elizabeth Creely a writer whose work looks at restoration, herbicides, and biodiversity, and others TBA. Co-sponsored by Nature in the City.
Songs of Freedom is the name of the songbook edited by James Connolly and published in 1907. Connolly's introduction is better known than the collection for which it was written, containing his oft-quoted maxim: “Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement, it is the dogma of a few and not the faith of the multitude.” Though most of the songs were of Irish derivation, the songbook itself was published in New York and directed to the American working class, explicitly internationalist in its aims. Songs of Freedom is a celebration of the life and work of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary socialist martyred by the British government for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916. It is at once a collection of stirring revolutionary songs and a vital historical document. Please join editor and composer Mat Callahan along with vocalist Yvonne Moore to indulge in the life, times, words, songs and contemporary relevance of James Connolly. Co-sponsored by PM Press and Freedom Archives.
Wed. January 15, 2014 7:30 pm
Latinos at the Golden Gate:
Creating Community & Identity in San Francisco
Latin American migrants have been part of San Francisco’s story since its beginning. Charting the development of a hybrid Latino identity forged through struggle--latinidad--from the Gold Rush through the civil rights era, Tomás Summers Sandoval describes the rise of San Francisco’s diverse community of Latin American migrants, giving a panoramic pespective on the transformation of a multinational, multi-generational population that is today a visible, cohesive, and politically active community.
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.