Tag Archives: gifford hartman

Let’s Catch Up!

13 Jun

Dear Reader,

If you have been a follower, I must apologize for my absence since last November.  There have been several projects in the works.  You will learn of two of these here, while a third I must remain quiet about as it is in the prototype stage.

First, I will be speaking at Treasure Island Museum on Saturday, June 23rd, beginning at 10:30 a.m.  This is one in a monthly series called Little Island, Big Ideas, and my third address at this venue.  This will take place in the lobby of Building One and is free of charge.  You can also enjoy TreasureFest (formerly Treasure Island Flea) following the lecture.  There is a low admission fee.  The flea market offers live music and food truck fare.  The topic is as follows:

Halliburton’s Final Dare: Sailing the Pacific to the GGIE

Of the many ways to travel to the Golden Gate International Exposition, crossing the Pacific Ocean in a Chinese junk could have been the most unusual.  Nothing seemed beyond adventurer and writer Richard Halliburton’s spirit of “impulse and spontaneity.”  He had already circumnavigated the globe in an open cockpit biplane and swum the length of the Panama Canal.  Now, having built the Sea Dragon in a Hong Kong at war with Japan, he and his companion Paul Mooney embarked, intending to arrive at Treasure Island with much fanfare – but never did. His ill-fated trip is seen within the context of the Pacific war and the Exposition’s theme of trans-Pacific unity, positioning Halliburton as a gay man who shaped his own unique trajectory.


Noel Sullivan Papers, BANC MSS C-B 801. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Second, LaborFest‘s 25th annual month-of-July programming is soon upon us.  I will be leading a walking tour with fellow historian Gifford Hartman on Saturday, July 21st, at 10:00 a.m.  We meet at One Market Street.  The event is free.  Here is a description of the tour:

Tom Mooney and the Preparedness Day Bombing Walk

During this walking tour, we visit several sites, which were integral to the unfolding of events following a bomb explosion on Steuart Street at Market Street on July 22, 1916. With fervor building to engage the United States in the war in Europe, businessmen in San Francisco embraced the cause, while labor leaders and the left denounced it. With the bomb killing ten people and wounding forty, no clear culprit was identified. But, two figures from the left, labor organizers and anarchists Tom Mooney and Warren K. Billings, were framed for the murder of the victims and spent many years in prison before being released. On this tour, we learn not only about the war between business and labor and open and closed union shops, but also about the divisive issues of American aggression in the Pacific region and against Mexico, crusading and yellow journalism in the city of San Francisco, and the mood of the country regarding World War I. The tour lasts approximately two hours. David Duckworth is an art and cultural historian, having lectured widely, including at California Institute of Integral Studies, Free University, LaborFest, New York University, Popular Culture/American Culture Association, and Treasure Island Museum. Gifford Hartman is an adult educator, labor trainer, working class historian, and has been a rank-and-file militant in various industries (some organized by the SEIU and ILWU, and other non-union shops) and presently works in the unorganized precarious education sector.


To see the full calendar of events, visit: http://www.laborfest.net/wp/2018-event-index/

And then serendipity arrived recently.  I have a group of drawings on view at Hayes Valley Art Works.  The group exhibition opened last Friday evening as a “pop up” event and will continue for two or so more weeks.  All but one of the drawings have appeared at this blog.  The garden site is at Octavia Boulevard between Oak and Lily Streets.  There is a large industrial cargo container that serves as the exhibition space.  Their hours are Friday through Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Monday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  You can learn more about the garden at: https://hayesvalleyartworks.org/

I hope to see you in the near future!

Citizen Investigation

28 Mar

Dear Reader, I am urging citizens to become investigators.  It is apparent now that the House Intelligence Committee will not be able to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into Russia’s interference with the presidential election and the possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Republican Chairman Devin Nunes appears to be working directly for Donald Trump.  Just this past week Nunes ran to the White House to share intelligence information before sharing it with his committee (see Tom LoBianco, Phil Mattingly and Eli Watkins, “Schiff, Pelosi call on Nunes to recuse himself from House Russian investigation,” CNN, March 27, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/27/politics/adam-schiff-nunes-recusal-russia/; accessed 03/27/2017).

I am calling on individuals to gather people they know, ten or so, and create a special event around a citizens’ investigation of the Russia-Trump matter.  We gather the information we can, then share that as a group.  Bring your investigative spoils together and create the iconic crime wall, with Post-It notes, string, and push pins.  Discuss the matter together.  Share your results with others through image or writing.  For such a serious topic, this could be a lot of fun.  I have already arranged for a first group to do this in one week.  Cheers to your effort!

To inspire you, I share my fellow labor historian and activist Gifford Hartman’s notes on recent activities here in our city of San Francisco which show how empowering it can be when people contribute to a group effort.

“Anecdotes on life in the U.S. in the post-election world:

New York’s Anti-Trump “Therapy Wall” in Subway

This past Tuesday, November 14, 2016, one of my co-workers saw post-its all over a concrete column for a clock on the triangular corner of Market, Sutter, and Sansome Streets near our workplace. So he took a group of students from our adult English as a Second Language school there — and they had a blast. So much so, that my students insisted we go there too, with post-its and pens in hand. We went there, planning to stay just a few minutes, but with the spontaneous conversations we were having with strangers we ended up there for an hour. Here’s a picture:


People got really exciting at the prospect of adding their own ideas. And some of them showed us photos of similar efforts elsewhere, like in Oakland, as well as showing us cellphone photos of demos they’d been at. People seemed really excited to open up and be talking with others, and it wasn’t just Trump. Contemporary life under capitalism is so fucking banally atomized and boring that as a species we’re just dying to be social and connected in a non-alienated way. At it’s best Occupy was a perfect forum for doing this. I remember going to the original San Francisco Occupy encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank and thinking I’d check it out for a few minutes, but in the end I stayed into the wee hours of the morning and had fantastic conversations with complete strangers about everything in the world. I had such a good time doing that at Occupy, that we went back during the day with a literal soapbox and organized “speakouts” where everyone had a couple minutes speaking to others. As silly as it sounds, it was so much fun and it sparked further discussions about things like our worklives, debt, and even deepened into a critique of political economy. But it also was just joking and laughing with newly-formed friends.

Tuesday evening, on my bus home, the spirit of the times seemed to be bringing down the barriers of isolation everywhere and a Yemeni guy and I sparked up a conversation. He started telling me about the devastation of his homeland and how the Saudis are bombing it to oblivion. It was a sad and pretty heavy discussion. Then he asked what I thought about Trump. I gave him my opinion of all politicians, that they’re all corrupt. He kept beating around the bush, but seemed sympathetic to Trump. I brought up Trump’s proposals for banning Muslims, and he mentioned the need to restrict the movement of terrorists. This man spoke English pretty well, but he lines of argument sounded like he’d been watching Fox News. When I tried to ask where he got his ideas, he evaded the question and changed the subject. Before I could return to asking again, he got off the bus with a warm thanks for our exchange. I just confirmed my suspicions of how strong the pull to assimilate and adopt the U.S. nationalist line can be.


Today (Thursday, November 18, 2016), my students and I went to another post-it display, this one at the 16 Street BART Station in the Mission District. Again, it sparked spontaneous exchanges and people seemed so giddy and excited to be having conversations with strangers and expressing themselves. And here the messages were clearly more radical, anti-capitalist and suggesting further organizing. And I know the limitations of these things, but can’t help feeling good being able to interact with other people so openly and freely. Here’s a photo from today.


On my walk home down 16th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District (near Folsom), I passed some of the increasingly prevalent tent encampments all over California cities, a condition that began with the collapse of the housing bubble and has only intensified since then. During the election, there was a successful measure to criminalize tent dwellers, but with the legal loophole that the pigs can’t run them off the streets if there aren’t enough shelter beds. There aren’t enough shelter beds, so the homeless tent communities aren’t going away. I bring this up, because I heard this song blasting out of one of the tents”:

YG & Nipsey Hussle “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)”

LaborFest 2016

6 Jul


Lisa Hori-Garcia in Mr. Babbit costume following performance of Schooled at Dolores Park, San Francisco, on July 4th.

My first time watching a San Francisco Mime Troupe performance!  What an incredible experience.  Gifted performers, witty script, and plenty of entertainment with dialogue, song, sight and sound gags.  Watch out for your local school district’s takeover by private corporations.  This is one of the lessons from Schooled.  This can be applied broadly since the current mantra is that privatization creates efficiency and costs less.  Mr. Babbit, as we see above, repeats the mantra of Efficiency! throughout this engaging performance.  But if people were truly paying attention, instead of digging from their pockets through tax payer dollars, they would know that privatization only increases costs and expands inefficiencies.  Oh well, who really wants to know?

Besides Hori-Garcia’s role as a character modeled after Republication presumed nominee Donald Trump in the current presidential election cycle, this actor packs a punch!  Rotimi Agbabiaka also presented a stellar performance with a voice that soars.  You can still see performances of this relevant musical comedy, visit http://www.sfmt.org/schedule/.

This performance on Fourth of July was part of LaborFest’s earliest listings for the month of July 2016.  You can find out about our full schedule at: http://laborfest.net/.  I will be co-leading a walking tour of San Francisco with Gifford Hartman on the 100th year anniversary of the horrific Preparedness Day Bombing of July 22, 1916. This event led to the conviction and imprisonment of two innocent labor organizers, Tom Mooney and Warren Billings.  Join us at One Market Street at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 23rd, to learn about the combating forces between San Francisco business and San Francisco labor, imperialist and anti-imperialist forces, and many other opposing viewpoints that were the backdrop for this event.  On Sunday, July 24th, I will contribute to a panel on how horrific events, such as the Preparedness Day Bombing, lead to political suppression in our country.  This event will be held at ILWU Local 34 Hall, 801 2nd Street, next to AT&T Park, beginning at 10:00 a.m.