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September-December 2018

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 are partly underwritten by City Lights Foundation, The Seed Fund and Rainbow Grocery.



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Archive of past talks

Online audio archive of past talks, listed by type:

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September 26

Model SF: Collectively Shaping the City

Public Knowledge artists-in-residence Bik Van der Pol have pulled a New Deal scale model of the City—based on 1938 aerial photographs—out of storage crates and into the light. Inspired by the Halprins’ 1970s collective creativity and community planning efforts, their project, “Take Part” will explore local histories with City neighborhood residents as library branches display relevant sections of the model beginning in early 2019. Creators of a 2017 cultural map of southeast San Francisco, Kate Connell and Oscar Melara, with cartographer Sofia Valera Airaghi, also ask, “Can we build a collective cultural life together?” Their projects, including Moving Art House, are designed to do just that. Join these artists in a conversation about engaging communities as we look both back and forward.

Co-hosted by Public Knowledge, a partnership of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Public Library

Photo: Southeast San Francisco Cultural Map

October 3

Women, Power, and the Vote:
1911 Suffrage to the 2018 Midterms

Given the predictable buzz developing about the 2018 midterm elections and the predictions of a blue wave/a female wave, we want to convene a discussion rooted in history that can critically take on this frame of mind, especially in light of the recent election of London Breed and the likely re-election of Dianne Feinstein. It's not like we haven't had decades of powerful female politicians and leaders who have by and large done things that reinforced the world they inherited rather than pursuing agendas that may have helped unravel it. What have we learned about women and power? Working-class San Francisco women were key to the campaign for the Vote in 1911. Does representative democracy still represent anyone? Will women getting elected make a difference? Will the approaching midterms produce a turn to the left and if so, what role will women play? We’ve had decades of powerful female politicians who have mostly reinforced the world they inherited rather than helping unravel it. What’s next? With Maya Chupkov, Zoe Samudzi, Sue Englander

Photo: San Francisco women organize for Prop 8 in 1911 to gain women's right to vote.

October 10

Missing Pieces: Remembering Elements of a Gone City

Geographer Dick Walker looks at the formative politics of the region in his new book, Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area, and takes us through the overheated bubbles and spectacular crashes, inequality, and delusion of the current moment. Arthur O’Donnell has methodically documented parts of the City slated for demolition or redevelopment from 2010–2018 in his Bound to Fall photography series. His drive to capture what has been a part of our streetscape aims to give future generations a window into what San Francisco was willing to lose, and hoping to gain. Come to learn and to share your own missing pieces.

On view at 518 Valencia Street from October 10–14: photographs from Bound to Fall. This exhibit will feature a map of San Francisco charting how the demolition of iconic buildings and redevelopment is spreading through the City -- starting as a ripple from the downtown core, and spreading through neighboring communities, where familiar landmarks are Bound to Fall to the wrecking ball.

Special accompanying Hub neighborhood Walking Tour, Sunday, October 14, NOON–2 PM Join Arthur O’Donnell for a walking tour of two major spokes of "The Hub" transit center along Market Street and South Van Ness Ave. We'll investigate the current and expected changes along these corridors. Tour begins with coffee and calories at All-Star Donuts at the intersection of Market/Van Ness, moves south to Otis St./Mission Street, then explores the Brick & Masonry Historic District along Market St. to Valencia St., where we'll end at Martunis for drinks and discussion. Bring your cameras!

Photo: A lost landmark, Flax Arts & Design Store, represents the latest of many changes to the Valencia/Market Street area. By Arthur O'Donnell

October 24

Rethinking 1968: What Happened, How Has It Shaped Us?

Rarely has the entire globe seen such a far-reaching revolt as the revolutionary upheavals of the 1968-70 era, whose effects continue to reverberate for better and worse through to our time. Join critical analysts and participants Judy Gumbo, George Katsiaficas, Mat Callahan, and Carlos Muñoz for a provocative historical inquiry. Co-hosted by PM Press.

Photo: Marchers in 1970.

October 31

The Jazz of Modern Basketball:
From the 1950s USF Dons to the Golden State Warriors

Shaping San Francisco’s Chris Carlsson digs into the long history of basketball as another season begins. The first African-American players entered the NBA in 1950, while black college stars led the USF Dons to consecutive national championships in 1955 and 1956, inventing a new style of aggressive defensive basketball. Today’s outspoken Warriors embody the decades-long Heritage in which earlier basketball stars pioneered today’s wild improvisational style while resisting the Jim Crow U.S. in which it began.

Photo: USF's Bill Russell is lifted up in celebration after 1956 National Championship.

November 7

The War to End All Wars?

If there were a single event of the 20th century that we could magically undo, would it not be the war of 1914-1918? It led to some 20 million military and civilian deaths, the rise of Nazism, the Russian Revolution, and another even more destructive world war. On the centennial of WWI, the “War to End All Wars,” eminent historian Adam Hochschild revisits that pivotal epoch. His 2011 book To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 reminds us of the shock provoked by the mass slaughter of the First World War and stands as a rebuke to the callous acceptance of mass violence and war perpetuated up to the present moment by the U.S. government.

Photo: Troops slog through the mud in northern France during WWI.

November 28

Public Art and Murals: Controversy, Neglect, Restoration

Not always seen by all as a public benefit, public art faces sometimes quiet neglect, sometimes outrage and controversy. Earlier this year, San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck brought attention to the appeal to remove the Pioneer Monument’s “Early Days” statue of a subjugated and emaciated indigenous figure in Civic Center. Calling for a rehearing, she wrote a poem each day—55 in all—until the Board of Appeals granted one in June. For years Richard Rothman has told the stories of deteriorating and abandoned New Deal murals around the City, including murals in public high schools. He offers rare looks at underseen masterpieces and shares what it will take to restore the Mothers Building murals. Barbara Mumby-Huerta also joins the discussion of what and how we value works of art in the public realm.

Photo: "Early Days" part of Pioneer Monument in Civic Center. Photo by Chris Carlsson

December 5

Movements of Movements

Editor Jai Sen of Movements of Movements joins Shaping San Francisco and YOU for an open discussion. Breaking with our usual format, this entire evening is a discussion open to all participants. Here are articles from the two-volume Movements of Movements to help shape the discussion. Co-hosted by PM Press.

Photo: Demonstration during U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, MI June, 2010. Photo: Chris Carlsson