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Recent Free Public Talks and Outdoor Urban Forums
January 2023-2024

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)

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Friday, July 5, 7:30 pm

90th Anniversary of Big Strike

at 518 Valencia Street

Ninety years ago, San Francisco's class relations were transformed by the General Strike. This commemorative event will take place on July 5th, the actual anniversary of “Bloody Thursday” (this year it's on Friday), when police shot more than five dozen and killed two strikers, catalyzing a spontaneous work stoppage that paralyzed most of the Bay Area for almost two weeks (the "official" General Strike only lasted 4 days). Learn how the ’34 strike echoes through history and how the arc of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union represents a quintessential example of 20th century labor history. Automation, multi-tiered workforces, government co-optation, and solidarity among waterfront workers continue to shape our world today, whether port workers, UPS and Amazon delivery people, or the rest of us in between and at either end of this complex system. Shaping San Francisco's Chris Carlsson; Joel Shor, former sailor and current ILWU Local 10 member; labor educator Gifford Hartman; IBU member Jack Calvin. Co-hosted by Left by the Bay.

Video here.

Wednesday, May 22, 7:30 pm

Rainbow Grocery Cooperative

at 518 Valencia Street

RAINBOW GROCERY Cooperative, a long-time supporter of Shaping San Francisco’s Public programming, will be our featured guests. Rainbow has been a steady presence in San Francisco’s Mission District for almost a half century. Come meet current staffers, learn about the post-pandemic issues facing the store, hear about the advantages of cooperative self-management, and bring your questions about food politics, grocery price inflation, flood recovery, and whatever else you’ve been wondering about.

Video here.

Wednesday, May 8, 7:30 pm

Art & Politics: Hughen/Starkweather

at 518 Valencia

"Conversations, interviews, and deep research are a significant piece of their process for every project they take on. Feeling a “responsibility to educate the viewer, to give them a window in,” they have, over the course of the last decade, developed a nuanced strategy for avoiding what many artists fail to acknowledge as a problem: leaving their audiences out in the cold. . .When the colors and shapes of a nonrepresentational work of art rearrange themselves into remembrance or recognition, magic happens. Hughen/Starkweather describe this as “closing the space between abstraction and language.” Excerpt from Selene Foster article on Hughen/Starkweather's Adjacent Shores, April 2016.

Video here.

Wednesday, April 24, 7:30 pm

History of Monopoly/Game Night!

at 518 Valencia

David Giesen brings his extraordinary collection of original 1907 Monopoly game artifacts to anchor his presentation of the fascinating political history of the game, with roots in the anti-monopoly politics championed by Henry George in the 19th century. Following the presentation we will have a GAME NIGHT! San Francisco Trivia, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Cuban dominoes, bring your own! BYOB too!

Video here.

Wednesday, April 10, 7:30 pm

Life and Death in a Great American City

at 518 Valencia

Cities grow, cities change. Some businesses and institutions thrive, while others die off and are replaced. In this joint presentation of words and images, Lorri Ungaretti (Vanished San Francisco), and Alec Scott (Oldest San Francisco) speak to the history of our great, sometimes troubled city, what's been lost over the years, what's stuck around. Expect the discussion to range widely, from science to religion, from food to drink, from sports to shopping, from sex to death.

Video here.

Tuesday, March 26, 6:30-8:30 pm

Cultivating Food Resilience and
Combating Global Challenges

at 518 Valencia, Talk and Conversation with Punk Gardener Eric Lenoir – co-presented by Villa Albertine

Meet Punk Gardener Eric Lenoir and other figures in the urban agriculture and local rewilding community for a discussion on territorial food resilience, combating biodiversity collapse, and addressing global warming effects.

Video here.

Thursday, March 7, 5:30 pm

UN Plaza: The TL’s Front Porch

at the Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy Street

Survey the design and activist history of United Nations Plaza, the high-concept public space at the foot of the TL, with presentations by Dr. Linda Day (emeritus professor of city planning), LisaRuth Elliott and Chris Carlsson (co-directors, Shaping San Francisco) and Emily Smith Beitiks (Interim Director, SFSU’s Longmore Institute). Home to dramatic protests from the 1977 occupation of the Federal Building on behalf of Disability Rights, to the epic decade-long AIDS/ARC Vigil, and countless others that have passed through its prominent public space, to its ongoing life as the home to the Heart of the City Farmers' Market since the early 1980s, UN Plaza has seen it all.Come discuss the role of this important "front porch" to the adjacent Tenderloin neighborhood.

Sorry, no recording of this event is available.

Tuesday, December 5, 7:30 pm

Talking History with Gary Kamiya

at 518 Valencia Street

Gary Kamiya, author of Cool Grey City of Love, in addition to writing the "Portals of the Past" column in the SF Chronicle and now the SF Examiner, has been a longtime inspiration and friend to Shaping San Francisco. In this last event of our 25th anniversary celebration, Gary joins Chris and LisaRuth for a 3-way conversation/interview about writing history, choosing sources, the value of archives, the role of history in an amnesiac culture, and other fun topics. Come with your thoughts, insights, and questions!

Video here.

Thinkwalk: 1862 Flood

Saturday, December 2, Noon

Walking Tour

With Joel Pomerantz, The 30-something inches of rain that hit San Francisco this recent rain season made a mess to remember. On this Thinkwalk, we’ll visit the site of devastating floods from a winter much worse than the one we had last year. Learn about local climate history and see your city with new eyes. The storms 162 years back will be our focus but climate history also presents a chance to look into dune dynamics, the history of photography and the arrival of the Spanish.

Video here.

Thursday, November 16, 7:00 pm

North Beach History Night

at Savoy Tivoli, 1434 Grant Avenue

Telegraph Hill Dwellers join Shaping San Francisco for an informative excursion through neighborhood history, highlighting Italian roots, architectural preservation, Coit Tower on its 90th anniversary, and how San Francisco's grassroots environmentalism can trace its roots to the slopes of 19th century Telegraph Hill.

Sorry, no recording of this event.

Wednesday, November 15, 7:30 pm

Jenny Odell in the Archives

at 518 Valencia Street

In 2019, through the San Francisco Arts Commission, Jenny Odell was an artist in residence at the San Francisco Planning Department. During her time there, Odell happened across unfiled and minimally marked envelopes of snapshots of San Francisco from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. These images of storefronts and streetscapes depict an ever-changing San Francisco through seemingly arbitrary aspects of the city's distinctive neighborhoods. In this talk, Odell presents images from this archive and discusses the way they read differently through the lens of the present.

Video here.

Wednesday, November 8, 7:30 pm

Eric Porter's People's History of SFO

at 518 Valencia Street

Join Eric Porter, author of the recent A People’s History of SFO, for a deep look at SFO—San Francisco International Airport—which has come a long way from its muddy beginnings as Mills Field in the 1920s. Functioning as the center of the Bay Area’s modernizing transportation networks, SFO’s evolution illuminates fraught questions of access and employment discrimination, while becoming an “infrastructural manifestation of a succession of regional colonial presents, layered on top of sinking concrete, steel, and landfill upon mud.” And today’s airport, with rising bay waters lapping at its shores, confronts us with the implacable role of air travel in climate change, which no amount of berms and protective seawalls will solve.

Video here.

Saturday, October 28, noon

Lone Mountain Cemetery

Walking Tour (Cemetery Week!)

Join San Francisco history guy Woody LaBounty on a tour of the land once occupied by four big San Francisco cemeteries around Lone Mountain. Now the site of shopping centers, housing developments, and the University of San Francisco, the hills separating the Western Addition and the Richmond District were the final resting place (not!*) of more than 100,000 people from the 1850s to the early 1940s. There are slopes and stairs on this hike.

* Learn why!

Video here.

Tuesday, October 24

Mountain View Cemetery

at Oakland Public Library, 125 14th Street

In this talk co-presented by the Oakland History Center, Liam O'Donoghue, host of the incomparable podcast East Bay Yesterday, presents a humorous and rich tour of the illustrious Mountain View Cemetery which opened in Oakland in the 1860s. Featuring famous characters, interesting monuments, lost connections and curious overlapping histories, Liam's talk anchored Shaping San Francisco's "Cemetery Week" as well as being part of the Oakland History Center's Fall Programming.

Video here.

Wednesday, September 27

Emiliano Echeverria: Trains into the Outside Lands

At the Internet Archive, 300 Funston Street

As part of Shaping San Francisco's ongoing 25th anniversary celebration in 2023, long-time friends and collaborators at the Western Neighborhoods Project join us in this exploration of the deep transit history of the west side of San Francisco. Expect a lively evening featuring the inestimable Emiliano Echeverria, whose knowledge of San Francisco's transportation history is unmatched. Emiliano draws from his remarkable DVD publications on the Steam Railroads of San Francisco and the history of United Railroads to reveal the transit-driven process of "conquering" the outside lands.

Video here.

Friday, September 22

San Francisco Natural History with Greg Gaar

At 518 Valencia Street

Greg Gaar shows over 100 photos covering the history of San Francisco's natural features including the sand dunes, grasslands, trees, lakes, creeks, tidal marshes and rock formations. He discusses the efforts by government agencies and volunteers to preserve what remains of San Francisco's natural heritage.

An Autumnal Equinox co-presentation with Planet Drum Foundation who celebrates 50 years of actively recognizing and appreciating our life-places (bioregions).

This event is a collaboration with Shaping San Francisco's 25th year celebrations.

Video here.

Bicycle Messenger Crackdown Commemoration Ride

Saturday, August 26

Join longtime bike messengers along with cycling advocates for this journey through the lost history of city crackdowns, bike messenger hangouts, worker revolts, reclaiming of public space, and a reappraisal of the underground working-class subculture that provided a unique path to a type of autonomy and independence. Police crackdowns, especially in 1984 and 1989 helped forge a new unity among messengers of that era, and left a legacy of cultural cohesion and resistance that survives out of sight and recorded history… until now!

Tour ends in Western Addition.

Video here.