In this narrative progression from marginalized identity to predominant position of power, we find the nucleus of Silicon Valley’s mythology: Nerds win. Yet what this mythology has been very good at obscuring, through ritualistic repetition of the revenge narratives of white, male founders, is how deeply racialized the narrative is. Not all nerds are entitled to equal portions of revenge.
There’s not enough resentment toward Silicon Valley. I say that while acknowledging the dripping anger that pervades everyday life in the Bay Area. This was at its most visible during last year’s massive protests against the Google Bus—a metonym for the extensive network of imposing, privately chartered buses that use public stops to pick up and transport tech workers 40-some miles from San Francisco to their offices on the peninsula. These tensions have arisen in response to skyrocketing housing prices and community displacement—both direct consequences of the influx of Silicon Valley money and the regulatory capture of local governments. Some San Franciscans do not wish to live in a suburb of Palo Alto.
During the 1960s there was a powerful confluence of movements, and much of that vibrance has been missed in current histories. I’ve been researching the swath of print shops that in the terminology of today’s post-Occupy world would be called the media outlets of the 99%. These were run by poets, communists, black nationalists, Vietnam veterans, Raza activists, pot smokers, free speechers and liberated women, all struggling to get their message out. My most recent listing is a local shop I’d never heard of, Noh Directions Press. My curiosity was aroused when I noticed their logo on a poster I’m cataloging for the Oakland Museum of California.
I love a challenge, and after email queries, phone calls, institutional researching, false leads, and lots of editorial back-and-forth I drew out a description and a stunning photo. This is the kind of documentation of our own history we have to do before it’s too late to get it right, or someone else will get it wrong.
California Studies folks: There’s a great new MA program starting this fall at the University of San Francisco. Although the priority deadline has passed, USF is still recruiting for students to join the inaugural cohort; admissions will be rolling through the summer. The fall term begins in August.
This is a two-year interdisciplinary masters with an emphasis on urban social justice. The program combines rigorous academics with an internship and applied research; community-engaged projects will contribute to and benefit from the vibrancy of the San Francisco Bay Area. See below for links to the program website.
The program is housed in the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, which has this to say about the new MA:
The MA in Urban Affairs Program is ideal for students who wish to become specialists in analyzing the challenges of 21st Century urbanism. The program leverages the advantages of its unique location in the San Francisco Bay Area – one of the most dynamic urban environments in the United States. Students have opportunities to develop practical research skills from extensive engagement in San Francisco and Bay Area cities.
The program includes:
- Core courses in urban studies, public policy, and research methods
- Elective courses offered by prominent practitioners in the field
- An innovative community-based research requirement, which gives students direct experience in conducting applied urban research, analyzing policy alternatives and working with community-based organizations
- A capstone project and internship, where students develop expertise in particular areas of urban policy while building personal and career networks
The Berkeley Historical Plaque Project has produced over 100 actual and virtual markers of this city’s rich culture. It’s a great example of using the Web to share history and geographical content. Subjects include a huge range – fitness guru Jack Lalanne, film critic Pauline Kael, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, and environmentalist David Brower.
My own contribution was an illustrated essay on
Sidewalk Contractor Stamps. [LMC]
San Francisco is rich in civil rights history – but you may have walked past certain street corners many times and not realized that battles were fought there for labor rights, lesbian and gay equality, freedom of expression, disability rights and more. Join Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi, coauthors of Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California takes us on a virtual tour that uncovers San Francisco’s hidden history – from the Yick Wo Laundry, whose owner challenged anti-Chinese laws, to the Votes for Women Club where working women organized their victorious campaign for suffrage, to the site of a police raid on a lesbian and gay New Year’s Eve gala that predated Stonewall.
Wednesday, February 13 from 6:30 – 8 PM, at the San Francisco Main Public Library.
These three titles each provide ample evidence that graphic artists of the American West, and especially the San Francisco Bay Area, have been passionate social antennae adept at revealing early on social issues that presage national and even international ones. [LMC]
Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present, by Art Hazelwood. Freedom Voices Press, 2011.
Curated and edited by Art Hazelwood, this book also serves as an illustrated catalog for a travelling exhibition. It examines social stereotypes about our populations that have fallen through the “safety net” from the Great Depression to our current Wall Street-fueled miasma. Social justice artists from the 1930s are mashed up with those of today, including Doug Minkler, Jos Sances, David Bacon, and Eric Drooker. More than just an aesthetic examination, it explores the analyses and community-based institutions that challenge this tragic byproduct of capitalism.
Notes from a Revolution: Com/Co, The Diggers, & the Haight, by Kristine McKenna and David Hollander. Foggy Notion Books, 2012.
The Diggers were one of the legendary Bay Area countercultural institutions of the late 1960s. They used street theater, modern communications systems (e.g., the Gestetner duplicator), humor, poetry, and a passion for liberation to challenge the dark side of private property and corporate greed. They were outrageous, wild, and very subversive. The text includes interviews coupled with reproductions of their colorful and evocative flyers. Not indexed, but includes a helpful timeline.
Art of the Dead: A Celebration of the Artists Behind the American Rock Poster Movement, edited by Phil Cushway, 2012 (self-published)
Rather than just another rock poster book, this one explores how the dynamic evolution of a unique band – The Grateful Dead – spurred artists to push technological limits and breed a distinct graphic style. Cushway has done his homework and knows what he’s talking about, but he lets others tell the story. Interviews and annotations help the viewer to examine cryptic typography, layered imagery, and the magic of offset printing. Richly illustrated with beautiful reproductions of work ranging from the famous (Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin…) to the unknown. Indexed.
Richmond author and environmental activist Dave Helvarg will release his newest title from St. Martin’s Press, The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea, February 19th. He’ll be doing book tours up and down the state, look for him.