Talks: Historical Perspectives / 2015-2016

Primary Source

Shaping San Francisco hosts Public Talks on a variety of topics on Wednesday nights, about 18 times a year. One recurrent theme has been Historical Perspectives, which covers all sorts of topics that delve into our shared and disputed understandings of what shaped our world. Here are the Talks we held at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics at 518 Valencia Street in 2015-2016.

December 7, 2016

Divided We Fall: Immigration and Scapegoating

Moments of hysteria in history have shaped our feelings toward immigration—either on a local or global scale—from anti-Chinese sentiments leading to decades of the Exclusion Act to events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, to witnessing thousands of unaccompanied children arriving from Central America, we discuss the increase in security and scapegoating within our borders toward immigrant groups who become associated with these events. Lara Kiswani (Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)), Grant Din (Angel Island Immigration Station), and author Bill Ong Hing (USF Law School) who has written extensively on immigration, take us back in time and up to the present to look at detention, deportation, and communities defending against persecution becoming policy.

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November 9, 2016

The Housing Crisis and The Growth Consensus: What's Wrong with this Picture?

The housing crisis continues to wreak havoc across the Bay Area. Political leaders and planners all agree—growth is inevitable, and to many, desirable. We bring together three sharp critics of the local political establishment and its loony-tune fantasies of endless growth and trickle-down solutions. The hidden power grab in the consolidation of regional government—and the endless manipulations by the banking sector and local zoning rules—continue to throw thousands into penury and homelessness as the inevitable foundation beneath our much publicized “prosperity.” With Zelda Bronstein (, Darwin Bond-Graham (East Bay Express), and Jennifer Friedenbach (Coalition on Homelessness)

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October 5, 2016

19th Century California Indian Slavery and Genocide

After more than 150 years, finally historians—and perhaps Californians—are facing up to the horrifying truth that the Indians of California were subjected to a vicious and genocidal campaign of extermination from the beginning of U.S. control in 1846 until after the Civil War. New scholarship shows that Indian slavery was the key source of labor that helped create the early "economy" of California and enrich its first settlers. Explore complicated stories of cultural, religious, and political conflict and assimilation, with both syncretic absorption and stubborn refusals, not reducible only to the slave-based rancheria and mission economy. With Lisbeth Haas (author of Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Missions and Mexican California), Elias Castillo (author of A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions), and Valentin Lopez (chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribe). Special guest Rose Aguilar (KALW's "Your Call") moderates.

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May 25, 2016

Audible Cities

What can sounds tell us about the geography, people, and politics of a particular place? This panel explores the role sounds play in our everyday lives as well as how they can attune us to below-the-radar experiences and often “off the map” histories of the urban. Discover the intersection between sound and history with Jeremiah Moore and Sound Mappers Bruno Ruviaro and Christina Zanfagna.

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April 20, 2016

San Francisco, 1960s & 70s: Cultural Ecology and Experimentation

Held at California Historical Society

The tumultuous decade of 1968–1978 in the San Francisco Bay Area—and the experimentation and cultural shifts throughout the 1960s that led up to that time—shook the City and forever shaped who we would understand ourselves and the world around us to be. On Wednesday, April 20, Shaping San Francisco brings together authors from Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968–1978, their collection of bottom-up histories chronicling an awakening community, and contributors to, their digital archive of San Francisco history, to provide contextual history of the time period in which Lawrence Halprin and Anna Halprin were forging their paths and utopian ideas.

Author and media artist Jesse Drew speaks about the diversity of communal options that sprung up in urban and rural settings then. Nina Serrano, poet and storyteller, recalls participating in happenings with Anna Halprin and the improvisational landscape the Halprins were creating within. Lincoln Cushing, poster archivist, shows how the intersections of various social movements provided the fabric for cultural emergence. Chris Carlsson, author and historian, traces the arc of ecological awareness that moved from the early 20th century patrician conservation movement to the more left-leaning ecology movement that emerged in the wake of labor and anti-war upheavals during the early 1970s. Historian LisaRuth Elliott moderates the discussion.

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March 16, 2016

Street Names, Streetcars, and Street Life

A deeply informed, irreverent tour through San Francisco before the automobile took over half the City’s physical terrain. Historic photos illustrate many stories, including how Haight Street was named, the City was dominated by steam-powered rail, and San Franciscans lived before parking was an issue! with Angus Macfarlane, Emiliano Echeverria, and David Gallagher.

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March 9, 2016

Rise and Fall of Third Worldism

How the Non-Aligned Movement founded at the 1961 Belgrade Conference in Yugoslavia challenged the post-WWII world system based on the bipolar US-USSR Cold War. Yugoslavia, Indonesia, African decolonization struggles, Indian independence and partition, nationalism, third world socialism, and Third Worldism in the U.S. left with Eddie Yuen, Andrej Grubacic, and Walter Turner.

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February 10, 2016

New (Old) Paradigms in Medicine

A discussion of our changing relationship with medical care from medieval times to today. Including long-term care at Laguna Honda, a pop-up clinic based on DIY herbalism, nutrition and self-care for Tenderloin seniors, and a small Mission District clinic serving the undocumented. with Ivy McClelland, author of God’s Hotel Dr. Victoria Sweet, Dr. Rupa Marya, and Marina Lazzara.

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January 27, 2016

Easter Rebellion and Irish San Francisco

Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore perform their James Connolly-Easter Rising Tour 2016 singing Connolly’s songs along with others made famous in Ireland’s fight for independence. Elizabeth Creely adds stories of Irish Republicanism in San Francisco during that crucial period a century ago.

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December 9, 2015

United Nations and New Deal

70 years ago the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco, one of the most significant — and forgotten — moments in local history. How did the UN relate to the 1939 Treasure Island world’s fair, and why was its HQ not built in San Francisco or Marin as planned? The UN was the last of President Roosevelt’s attempts to extend his New Deal to the world. Dr. Gray Brechin examines what has happened to the UN in a new century of perpetual war.

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October 7, 2015

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.

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April 8, 2015

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.

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February 24, 2015

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?

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January 21, 2015

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.

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