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Explore Bay Area Social Movement History

September-December 2017

Free Public Talks

Wednesday evenings 7:30-9:30 unless otherwise noted.

At Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics
518 Valencia Street (near 16th), in San Francisco

A place to meet and talk unmediated by corporations, official spokespeople, religion, political parties, or dogma.


Our Public Talks were made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and are also partly underwritten by City Lights Foundation and The Seed Fund.

Download the Fall 2017 calendar as a pdf.

Archive of past talks

Online audio archive of past talks, listed by type:

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September 27, 2017

Other Food Systems are Possible

The Diggers served free food in an effort to address a massive influx of young people to the Haight during the Summer of Love and the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program for youth began soon after. Drawing from this same desire to reimagine food systems, food conspiracies flourished in communes in the early 1970s and the People’s Food System built a network of stores and distributors out of this collective framework. Three worker-owned cooperatives survive — including Other Avenues Grocery — alongside various contemporary urban agriculture projects, continuing to address the where from and how of our food consumption. With Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff (author of Other Avenues are Possible: A History of the San Francisco People’s Food System) and Antonio Roman-Alcalá (independent food systems activist-scholar) we look at historic and current examples to use food systems to challenge the political and economic dictates of our world. Join a critical discussion asking if and how these are working to achieve their stated goals of political-economic change.

Photo: Alemany Farm by LisaRuth Elliott

October 4

Art and Architecture During
the Depression

The Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park recently underwent extensive renovation, bringing to public view murals and sculptures from the WPA that have long been hidden and overlooked. Other beautiful artworks grace public buildings throughout the East Bay and San Francisco, including Coit Tower, and on Treasure Island, where Maritime Museum artists went on to create work for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Join Richard Everett (Maritime Museum), Anne Schnoebelen (Treasure Island Museum), and Harvey Smith (Living New Deal) for a revealing discussion of the art, architecture, and politics that challenged the economic impoverishment of the Depression by inspiring flourishing public art.

Photo: Artists paint mural at Maritime Museum, May 18, 1938. Source: National Maritime Museum (P88-035.148p)

October 11

Speeding Through the Unseen,
from Coding to Commons

Ellen Ullman writes in her new book Life in Code “The penetration of technology into the interstices of human existence is nearly complete,” and then demystifes how humans turn their intentions and ideas into the computer codes that are the language of computers. Katja Schwaller puts “Twitterlandia” under the microscope of her critical gaze, showing how the reconfiguration of mid-Market embodies a larger capture and repurposing of public space by private interests. And Dennis Hayes, a long-time tech writer and author of an early critique of Silicon Valley, brings his own historical and political chops to bear on our current predicament, both obsessed with and deeply oppressed by the technosphere that speeds up our lives to the breaking point even while it presents itself as the answer to everything.

Photo: Market and 6th Streets by Chris Carlsson

October 25

100th Anniversary of the
1917 Russian Revolution

Few events in the past century equal the importance of the Russian Revolution. And yet we only know it through the fog of propaganda and fear, and the actual events of 1917 are long forgotten in the mists of time. Find out what actually happened in that fabled year, and how it fit together with the world events of that epoch. Longtime Russian scholar Anthony D’Agostino (SF State) joins Anarchist scholar from socialist Yugoslavia Andrej Grubacic (CIIS) to unpack some of those tangled histories and together we’ll connect it to San Francisco then and now.

Photo: Petrograd political demonstration, June 18, 1917. Source: Wikimedia Commons

November 8

Art & Politics:
Seth Eisen "OUT of Site"

Seth Eisen/Eye Zen Presents and collaborators bring to life research and performance excerpts from their newest project, (a collaboration with Shaping SF)—a series of queer history performance-driven walking tours through the streets of San Francisco. This performative talk explores the ways that queer people have historically created community, how our communities have adapted over time, and ways we might sustain and nurture our historical and cultural queer essence. Bringing to life a gay San Francisco and revealing new ways to envision and preserve queer heritage, Eisen covers events such as the country’s first homeless queer youth movement, Vanguard of the 1960s, and the Compton’s Cafeteria riots which predated New York’s Stonewall riots; popular American dances which have roots in cross-dressing Gold Rush stag dances and early gay clubs; the 19th century out gay author of early SF bohemian literati, Charles Warren Stoddard; the life of late 19th century transgender writer and social activist Jack Garland; and the infamous queer gathering spots of the prohibition era Pansy Craze.

Photo: Cowboys dancing in 19th century saloon. Source: Wikimedia Commons

November 29

Art & Politics:
Mona Caron and Kiernan Graves

In summer 2017 an ambitious project was begun to restore and extend the life of Mona Caron's Market Street Railway Mural at 15th and Church Streets. When it was painted in 2003-04, it quickly became a beloved piece of public art, and uniquely presented a complicated historical narrative of Market Street, its uses over time (including a vision of its future!), and the long presence of streetcars on it. After more than a decade, the wall’s surfaces were beginning to crack and buckle, and along came Kiernan Graves, an accomplished conservator, who offered to fix the understory with the skills she’d previously applied to historic Indian palaces and other sites. The art, the history, the process, all will be revealed!

Photo: detail on 1934 strike from Market Street Railway Mural by Mona Caron

December 6

Popular Front to the Cold War

In November 1938, California elected its first-ever liberal Democratic governor Culbert Olson, supported by a state-wide Popular Front coalition of liberals, unionists, communists, and other radicals. But by 1940 the Popular Front forces were already fracturing and from its wreckage emerged key elements of the Cold War. How did Communists help build this social movement, and how did the Communist Party undercut its own principles during WWII? How did African American workers and interned Japanese-Americans fit into the story? And where did that leave California politics at the end of WWII and the beginning of the long post-war economic boom? With Chuck Wollenberg, Jonathan Hunt, Kathryn Olmstead

Photo: Sept. 8 1938 rally for Culbert Olson gubernatorial campaign at Dreamland Auditorium. Courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library

December 13

San Francisco's Freeway Revolt

Today’s San Francisco and our village-like neighborhoods, charming architecture, and qualify of life is indebted to the Freeway Revolt that shocked the nation between 1956 and 1965. Most histories have focused on the politicians and city leaders who argued and voted in those years, overlooking the vital role of the emergent middle-class women who spearheaded the Revolt, and kept it going against overwhelming odds. Decades later, a second Freeway Revolt helped reclaim the Embarcadero and Hayes Valley from the blight of freeways, leaving us in the current configuration we have today. With Jason Henderson, Evelyn Rose, Chris Carlsson

Photo: Central Freeway swerves across Gough and Franklin to end at Turk, Aug. 2, 1965. Courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library