Tag Archives: laborfest

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!

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.


Extraction Exhibition Schedule

28 Jun

macphee_forestJosh MacPhee. Forest, 2011. Woodblock print, 10 x 15 in.

As curator, I invite you to this year’s LaborFest exhibition Extraction.  It will actually be spread out between two institutions: International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 34 Hall and Unitarian Universalist Society.

LaborFest participates in the 100th year commemoration of the Ludlow mining strike in Colorado, better known as the Ludlow Massacre.  This strike in the Southern Colorado coal fields lasted from September 1913 to April 1914 and represents one of the bloodiest strikes in U.S. history.  To help commemorate this important moment in labor history, LaborFest and ILWU Local 34 host an exhibition of art works on the broader theme of Extraction.

Man’s relentless extraction of the earth’s resources for the purpose of creating fuel, without environmental stewardship, is a strong focus in this show.  Likewise, the human body viewed as the site for extraction, whether in terms of energy, strength, endurance, or will, receives similar focus.  Works countering the destructive mandate of the extractive processes transforming the world with visions of just relationship between human consumption and human and earth integrity are also present.  Artists include Marlene Aron, Philippe Barnoud, Sherri Cavan, Mike Conner, Louise Gilbert, Graphic Arts Workshop (San Francisco), Justseeds Artists’ Collective, Josh MacPhee, Emmy Lou Packard and Diego Marcial Rios.

Viewing dates and times: July 1 through July 12, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays and 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, ILWU Local 34 Hall, 801 2nd Street; next to AT&T Ball Park. The ILWU parking lot is at the intersection of 2nd and King Streets. Free.

poole_minerdiptychMarcia Poole. Miner, 2014. Diptych.

A smaller group of works on the theme of Extraction will be shown at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin Street at Geary Street, from July 2nd to July 31st.  Artists include Attila Cziglenyi, Marcia Poole and Diego Marcial Rios.    Besides hosting the Extraction exhibition works, the Church has organized a group of works by artists who are members of unions.  A reception for the artists will be on July 20th, Sunday, 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m.

For other viewing times in the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thomas Starr King Rooms, call the Front Desk, (415) 776-4580, Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For further information about these LaborFest events and many other LaborFest events for the month of July, please visit: http://www.laborfest.net.


4 Oct

Call for Work for an Exhibition on the Theme of Extraction

Next year LaborFest will participate in the 100th year commemoration of the Ludlow mining strike in Colorado, better known as the Ludlow Massacre.  This strike in Southern Colorado coal fields lasted from September 1913 to April 1914 and represents one of the bloodiest strikes in American history.  To help commemorate this important moment in labor history, LaborFest will host an exhibition of art works on the broader theme of Extraction.  Submission of art is sought for a possible exhibition at The Emerald Tablet in North Beach, San Francisco during the month of July 2014.

From earliest man’s extensive deforestation of the world for the purpose of creating fuel, extraction of the earth’s resources without environmental stewardship characterizes man’s efforts still today.  Witness mountaintop removal and fracking, or ocean trawling, processes which leave in extraction’s wake widespread environmental destruction and no thought for earth cycles of replenishment.  Likewise, the human body can be viewed as the site for extraction, whether in terms of energy, strength, endurance, or will, as today’s governmental and global corporate entities seek to extinguish workplace health and safety standards and workers’ unions or seek out human populations willing to perform labor who cannot rely on safeguards for health and safety nor compensation for a living wage.

Work is sought which addresses Extraction in any of its features: systemic, historically continuous, unsustainable, destructive, and/or dehumanizing.  Work is also sought that counters a negative view of the extractive processes transforming the world with visions of a just relationship between human consumption and human and earth integrity.  Please send three to four digital images in .jpg format and a short biographical statement to David Duckworth via duckdiva@yahoo.com.  Include textual information for the following: title of work, medium, date of execution, dimensions.  All submissions must be received by November 15, 2013.

For more information on the Ludlow Strike, please visit the post “Tents I”, dated January 13, 2012, at the blog dpduckworth.com.  Or refer to either Scott Martelle’s Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West (Rutgers University Press, 2007) or Zeese Papanikolas’s Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre (University of Utah Press, 1982).  For information on LaborFest, please visit laborfest.net.  For information on David Duckworth’s background in curating exhibitions, please visit the Curriculum Vitae page at dpduckworth.com.

duckworth_short_tales04_negDavid Duckworth. Untitled, from the series Short Tales from the American Landscape, 2008. Scanned pen-and-ink drawing, 9 x 12 in., with digitally manipulated positive-negative reverse.

Solidarity Across Borders

24 Jul

kurihara_triangle_fire_draft1Hiroko M. Kurihara. Preliminary digital design for quilt, Take a Number.

LaborFest 2013 Art Show, “Solidarity Across Borders”

This year’s LaborFest art exhibition covers the struggles of workers not only in the Bay Area, but also globally, including garment workers and the struggle to defend their lives, health, and safety.  Whether the struggle for health and safety over one hundred years ago at the time of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City, or today’s life-threatening conditions in Bangladeshi sweatshop mills — both connected through the display of Hiroko M. Kurihara’s quilt piece, Take a Number — art is a powerful vehicle to convey the contradictions inherent in production and consumption as workers attempt to bring justice to their lives.

This exhibition features the work of Philippe Barnoud, Carol Denney, Nikos Diaman, Hiroko M. Kurihara, Peter Max Lawrence, Charles Lucke, Doug Minkler, JoAnneh Nagler and Martin Webb.  Additionally, a display of photographs from around the world capture May Day actions in 2013.

Join us at International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 34 Hall, 801 2nd Street, at King Street, next to AT&T Stadium, San Francisco (parking available at the union hall).

Opening Reception: Friday, July 26, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Featuring the music of Carol Denney and Friends.

Additional viewing hours: Saturday, July 27, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Monday, July 29, 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Tuesday, July 30, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Exhibition curated by David Duckworth.  For further information, please consult: http://www.laborfest.net

LaborFest Kicks Off With Incredible Events

13 Jul

Niles Canyon with Kevin - 6 July 2013 090

Author standing in front of image of Jess Robbins, cameraman, Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, Niles. Mural by Laura Ramie. Photograph by Melinda Gould.

I thank Melinda for the impromptu photo session at the home of Rena and David Kiehn in Niles.  We only had a few minutes before a screening on Saturday evening of A Corner in Wheat (1909), The Cry of the Children (1912), and the feature film, The Whistle (1921), starring William S. Hart.   This was my first opportunity to view the mural the Kiehns had commissioned artist Laura Ramie to paint.  My great-uncle Jess, pictured here,  is one of several historic figures along a wall behind the Kiehn house who were important  in the development and operation of the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, including film’s first matinee idol cowboy, Gilbert M. “Bronco Billy” Anderson.  In 1907, Anderson and George K. Spoor had created the company in Chicago.  By 1912, Essanay set up its West Coast shop.

The Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum today honors this early history.  Weekend screenings of silent film not only include Essanay features, but films from other companies as well: http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org/index.htm.  David Kiehn is a resident historian who authored a book on Essanay’s history, Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company (Farwell Books, 2003).  Ramie’s mural can be seen in its entirety at: http://www.ednapurviance.org/specialevents/lauraramie_nilemural.html.  The artist also maintains a blog at: http://lauraramie.com/blog/?p=59.

This was LaborFest’s first year to collaborate with the Museum.  On Saturday and Sunday, we also engaged excursions on the Niles Canyon steam train, another first in our twenty-year history of presenting events on labor and culture.  The train ride is a lot of fun.  The history of trains in Niles Canyon dates back to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.  Steam locomotives were in operation from the 1860s to the 1950s.  As with LaborFest and the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, the operation of these trains is entirely a volunteer effort.  Information on Niles Canyon Railway schedules can be found at the Pacific Locomotive Association website: http://www.ncry.org/.

Since our theme encompassed railroading and labor, what better way to culminate the weekend than a Sunday matinee screening of the feature length film, The Iron Horse (1924), directed by John Ford and starring George O’Brien.  This film commemorates the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.  But beware histories embedded in films.  One of the intertitles during the film explains that White labor was not available for rail construction, so Chinese laborers were employed.  But, in fact, Irish American labor had first been employed.  The decision of these workers to strike led to the hiring of Chinese immigrant workers, who were considered hard working and docile.  Docile they were not as they eventually struck as well.  I may have counted two Chinese “extras” in this film.  Otherwise, White actors in “Chinese face” portrayed Chinese workers.

On Saturday at the Museum, Laurence H. Shoup’s lecture on the 1894 Pullman strike in California covered enough ground to correct any misconceptions about the building of this railroad.  Shoup is the author of Rulers and Rebels: A People’s History of Early California, 1769-1901 (iUniverse.com, 2010).  Still, one must understand narrative in the context of its times.  The Iron Horse is an engaging drama with a grand structure.

My thanks go out to the entire staff of the Museum for their time and effort in helping shape this programme.  We were able to draw entirely from their archives; the choices were germane, provocative, and entertaining.  Rena Kiehn, the Museum’s public relations director, was indefatigable in coordinating communication between the three volunteer organizations, creating copy, and publicizing the events.  Melinda Gould, who as an event attendee happened to be on hand with a camera, took photographs under the challenge of intense, direct sunlight.

Finally,  mention should be made here of the screening of the U.S. premiere of Ken Loach’s documentary, The Spirit of ’45.  Shown at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco on Friday evening, this LaborFest event enabled an American audience to visit the immense changes that occured in Great Britain following the closing of World War II.  One of the film’s respondents, Dot Gibson, chair of the National Pensioners’ Convention, was on hand to introduce the film and take questions following.  With their economy in shambles, the British people bravely moved to nationalize health services, mining, transportation, utilities, and housing.  They succeeded in this and maintained these entities and services until the era of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  The film also explores the insidious dismantling and privatization that followed.

For more information about LaborFest events through the end of July, please visit: http://laborfest.net/.

The 19th Annual LaborFest

7 Aug

The Present Is the Past: Occupying the Commons, July 30, The Green Arcade, San Francisco. Photograph by Steve Zeltzer.

It was fun and hard work for the Organizing Committee putting together nearly eighty events for the month of July.  But the process is collaborative and many of these events are actually organized by individuals not on the committee.  This year’s theme was Occupy, Past Present and Future: Lessons of the Past for Labor Today.  Presenting on the last day of programming, the evening before the closing party, I spoke on three events from unemployment activism and labor history that show us precedents for the ways in which the present Occupy Movement has utilized public space for political redress: the industrial armies of 1894 marching on Washington; the Ludlow, Colorado tent colony during the southern Colorado coal fields strike of 1914; and, the Bonus March on Washington in 1932.  It was standing room only at Patrick Marks’s bookstore.

One of the anecdotes I opened with involved a conversation between two people from Ukiah, California, who walked past the Occupy SF encampment on Market Street in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a site in use since early fall 2011.  Dan was engaged in a conversation using his cell phone about company projects.  Alma, his wife, and I were accompanying him to a local stationery store to purchase office supplies for the project where I am temporarily employed.  We passed the camp, which is separated from the bank by a pedestrian throughway along the sidewalk and metal barricades at the bank’s portico edge .  One couple struck me especially, a woman who was topless being held by a man, both swaying gently where they stood.  I later thought of Paul Cadmus’s egg tempera painting What I Believe (1947-48), based on E.M. Forster’s essay of the same title; “Love and loyalty to an individual can run counter to the claims of the state.  When they do ― down with the state, say I, which means that the state will down me” (see http://weimarart.blogspot.com/2010/10/paul-cadmus.html).  In this painted idyllic vision of humanity, an area is taken up by individuals in peaceful assembly; the heterosexual couple to the right just beyond the grave could have been the couple Alma and I spotted that morning.

The woman’s nudity shocked Alma.  Once Dan was finished with his business call, Alma asked him if he had seen what we just passed.  He said no and asked who these people were Alma described.  Alma replied, I don’t know, some homeless people.  If the two of them had known that they passed an Occupy site, Dan would surely have derided the camp and its inhabitants.  In a conversation I had with a cafe owner in my neighborhood about the incident, Brian told me that homeless people do join the camp because they will not be harassed by the city’s recently passed sit/lie law.  Brian probably speaks with some accuracy because he is host to a number of homeless people at his cafe, many known by name and present on a regular basis.  He is a very generous person allowing people in whom other business owners would keep out.

The anecdote prompted some people at the bookstore slide lecture to defend the Occupy Movement.  While the momentum of the movement seemed to peak as municipality after municipality across the country found ingenious ways to dismantle encampments situated in public space, the tactics have shifted.  Thus, today, occupation is alive and well, such as the occupation of an Oakland elementary school by volunteer teachers, parents, and students following the closure of five school sites by that city.  The parents were expected to ship their children to charter schools and they are not happy with that.  Nor should anyone else be when it comes to privatization.  Privatization is only the encroachment of corporate business in the public sector, rewarding a few individuals with captive markets.

The peace activist A.J. Muste observed in 1962: “We are now in an age when men will have to choose deliberately to exchange the values, the concepts of ‘security,’ and much else which characterizes contemporary society, and seek another way of life.  If that is so, then the peace movement has to act on that assumption, and this means that the whole picture of our condition and the radical choice must be placed before people―not a diluted gospel, a program geared to what they are ready to ‘buy now.’ ” (quoted by Nat Hentoff in Peace Agitator: The Story of A.J. Muste [New York: The Macmillan Company, 1963]).  I embrace ongoing political protest and the occupation of public space.  The work is not over.