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Recent Free Public Talks
September 2019-

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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Saturday, November 14, 11 a.m. start time!

McLaren Park and Philosophers' Way

Enjoy the remarkable circumnavigation of McLaren Park provided by the Philosopher’s Way loop, prompting discussions of various aspects of southeastern San Francisco history. Enjoy scenic overlooks and this delightful open space.

(Due to pandemic restrictions, we have limited capacity on our tours.

Video here.

Saturday, September 26 (Pre-poned from Oct. 24!!)

Black Point and Fort Mason

We traverse the grounds of the old military base and discover histories of farms, soldiers, abolitionists, and a lost lagoon. From the Fontana Towers to Aquatic Park we discuss urban development, ecology, slavery, World’s Fairs, and militarism.

Video here.

Saturday, September 19

India Basin and Heron’s Head Park

Shaping San Francisco invites you on a tour of India Basin’s shoreline open space, parks, and historic sites. Not only will you get a close-up tour of this much neglected part of San Francisco, but we’ll be discussing San Francisco’s efforts to plan for sea-level rise even while the overlooked shoreline is suddenly spruced up and made publicly available like never before. After our walk we’ll chat at the historic installation at the west end of India Basin.

A new kind of outdoor gathering to replace our normal schedule of indoor public talks. These will be shorter urban walks with a guest speaker or two, ending in a place where we can sit (safely) and have an open conversation about history, public space, and the themes that come up along the way.

Video here.

Saturday, September 6

SF General and Potrero Hill

Shaping San Francisco’s LisaRuth Elliott and Chris Carlsson are joined by longtime SF General nurse Sasha Cuttler for a brief but spirited discussion on the current pandemic, public health and the public sphere, mutual aid, mutual responsibility and the State... followed by an urban trek. We visit community gardens and other open spaces and get good views of transit corridors and the Bay.

As part of our "Urban Forum: Walk & Talk" series we've set up to replace our normal indoor Talks during the Covid-19 time, we didn't record this event.

Wednesday, March 11, 7:30 pm

Hidden San Francisco:
Book Release and Birthday!

Join Shaping San Francisco’s Chris Carlsson on his 63rd birthday as he presents his new book, Hidden San Francisco: A Guide to Lost Landscapes, Unsung Heroes, and Radical Histories. After a quarter century of curating the digital archive at, and conducting bike and walking tours, this book captures the unique and serendipitous connections that course through Shaping San Francisco’s ongoing work.

Video here.

Wednesday, February 26, 7:30 pm

Art & Politics: Miranda Bergman

Miranda Bergman, a Mission District resident for many decades and local icon, has been painting public murals since the 1970s when she started as a member of the Haight Ashbury muralists. Her involvement in Central America, Palestine, and women’s politics has shaped her participation in epic works such as Maestrapeace, a Placa mural in Balmy Alley, and many others around the Bay Area and the world.

Video here.

Wednesday, January 29, 7:30 pm

Money for AIDS, Not For War

The "Money for AIDS, Not for War" ritual/protest was held 35 years ago by Enola Gay, a self proclaimed faggot affinity group, on September 23, 1984, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 50 miles east of San Francisco. It was the first recorded use of direct-action civil disobedience anywhere in the world in response to the AIDS crisis. (ACT UP/New York was founded three years later.) Veterans of that moment return to discuss direct action in the depths of the Reagan counter-revolution, the connections between war spending and social crises, the long resistance from below to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the vibrant queer left tradition of resistance still alive in San Francisco, with Jack Davis, Robert Glück, and Richard Bell.

Video here.

January 7, 6:30 pm

Turning the Pages of Time: The Semaphore and Other Neighborhood Newspapers

Italian Community Services, 678 Green Street

Lisa Ruth Elliott and her team of volunteers with the San Francisco Department of Memory have recently finished scanning the entire printed archive of The Semaphore. Ours is one of several that have participated in the digitization of local newspapers, contributing to a fascinating body of work that can be searched and viewed online. We welcome Lisa Ruth to share her insights and wisdom gained from her work, and tell us about the role local publications such as The Semaphore have played in local activism across San Francisco.

Sorry, no audio or video for this offsite event.

December 11

Valencia Street as a Lesbian Corridor: Living Memories

Osento Bathhouse. Amelia’s. Artemis Cafe. Old Wives Tales. Modern Times Bookstore. Names and functions of these venues have changed, but they are part of the living memory of Valencia Street. Long before it descended into the white tablecloth, boutique-filled, gentrified peculiarity of today, the Valencia Street corridor was a hotbed of radical feminism and lesbian culture. LisaRuth Elliott moderates a conversation with some of the women who helped create the important sites and undergirded the intellectual and nightlife of the 1970s and 1980s. With Canyon Sam, Molly Martin, Carol Seajay, and Ruth Mahaney.

Video here.

December 4

Seattle/WTO Shutdown: 20th Anniversary

On November 30, 1999 the World Trade Organization was prevented from meeting in Seattle by unprecedented phalanxes of self-organized protesters who filled the streets, tied up key intersections, blockaded the convention center, and used video and the internet in ways they’d never been used before. Bay Area activists were in the middle of it all, and veterans of that experience will revisit that moment to help us rethink this moment. With Anuradha Mittal, David Solnit, Eddie Yuen, Steve Stallone, and Starhawk.

Video here.

November 13

Progress to Poverty: Land and Rents

On the 140th anniversary of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, his land tax and radical reform of land use are worth a critical re-examination. Geographer Richard Walker along with Ted Gwartney of the California chapter of Common Ground USA, untangle what George proposed, what happened as a result of his ideas, and what the future holds. In conjunction with the San Francisco Public Library exhibit Who Owns the Earth? Henry George’s Progress & Poverty 140 Years Later

Video here.

November 6

Alcatraz Occupation: A Beginning

50 years ago this fall, on November 20, a group of people that came to be known as Indians of All Tribes began a 18-month occupation of Alcatraz Island. This act of self-determination emerged from conditions faced on reservations and in urban centers, from the activism of the Third World Strike at San Francisco State, and resulted in major changes taking place across the continent. From a new consciousness of sovereignty to at least ten major policy and law shifts, Mary Jean Robertson, host of the radio show Voices of the Native Nations, and Eloy Martinez and Debbie Santiago discuss the far reaching impact of claiming “the Rock”.

Video here.

October 23

Shellmounds, Indigenous Culture, and Ecology on the San Francisco Bay

250 years ago, life along the edges of what we now know as San Francisco Bay changed forever when the Portola Expedition came upon this hidden magnificent body of water. The Spaniards couldn’t quite understand it when they saw this marvelous sight for the first time on November 2, 1769, but this confluence of many rivers was a thriving home to thousands of people, not to mention an abundance of species of water, land, and sky. Join us to talk with Gregg Castro, t’rowt’raahl Salinan/rumsien Ohlone about the tens of thousands of years prior to European arrival, what remains from those times, and how we can honor the ways of life that persist despite centuries of colonial misuse of the land and water.

Video here.

TUESDAY, October 15

For the Record: Eyewitness Testimonies of the police murder of Luis Góngora Pat

Luis Góngora Pat was a Mayan indigenous man, murdered by San Francisco police officers on April 7, 2016 on Shotwell Street near 19th Street in the Mission. His killing came in the wake of other homicides by police of Black and Brown communities members. His family pursued every legal avenue available, including a civil case which was settled in January 2019. Three and a half years later, the story of this brutal murder is at risk of being buried because key eyewitnesses never got their day in court. But their story must be told. Two primary eyewitnesses--Christine Pepin and S Smith Patrick--will present their testimony in an open setting, getting the facts onto a public record. Adante Pointer,the family civil rights lawyers, will attend to support the narrative with facts on the record. In connection with the San Francisco Public Library "One City One Book" program. Co-sponsored also by Justice 4 Luis Góngora Pat and Shaping San Francisco.

Video here.

October 9

Expanding San Francisco’s Common Wealth

Rejecting the paradigms of capitalist San Francisco, let’s look at a radically expanded Common Wealth, starting here, but with implications for our entire society: A public bank, free broadband internet, a low-cost public electricity system, dense community gardens and public orchards, widespread high-quality social housing, expanded land trusts, bicycles and free public transit, free innovative childcare (actually a whole new approach to integrating play into everyday life!), a renovated public school system to match a new urban economy, and and and... Della Duncan, Julie Levak-Madding, Julia Glanville

Video here.

October 2

Storytelling and the Memory Keepers

We bring together story shapers, story sharers, and story collectors for this evening taking a close look at oral histories and memory keeping. Susan Schwartzenberg hosts a discussion series at the Bay Observatory at the Exploratorium intertwining personal stories and scientific study to understand climate change, Brandi Howell and Mary Franklin Harvin of Tales from North Beach are currently producing a podcast series to document the aging, forgotten, and hidden people and places of North Beach, and Joe Lambert has 25 years of story gathering with the StoryCenter. The panel discusses talk spaces, moving beyond the anecdotal in exploring personal memory, and forging a culture that gives space for left out and unheard voices.

Video here.

September 25

Neighborhood Corridors: Memory and Ecology

Efforts to integrate history and ecological restoration can be found tucked away in most San Francisco neighborhoods. Neighborhood greenways and corridors are most often the result of initial community-based activism to beautify an urban space, and end up becoming much more complex projects. Sophie Constantinou shares stories of creating the Buchanan Street Mall project and a newly accessible open space along the Bernal Cut, and how the different neighborhoods shaped these similar projects. Fran Martin of the Visitacion Valley Greenway talks about the years-long effort to create an educational, recreational, and green space and how that has influenced ongoing neighborhood planning.

Video here.

September 11, 2019

Art & Politics: San Francisco Poster Syndicate

The San Francisco Poster Syndicate has been creating inspiring silkscreen posters at protests, demonstrations, street fairs, art events, and parties for the past decade or more. A steady stream of new participants has kept it fresh, and tonight we’ll hear from veterans and newbies alike. Art Hazelwood, Jos Sances, Lucia Ippolito, Joanna Ruckman, Christopher Statton and more!

Video here.