Annual 2015: A History of Social Change with Youth in the SF Bay Area

This is a guest post from Susy Moorhead, a member of the Local Arrangements Committee for Annual 2015 in San Francisco.

In full disclosure: As I cannot mention all of the movements that call the Bay Area home nor can I give them full justice. I am going to briefly discuss a few of my favorites and I fully admit that Oakland, where I work, and San Francisco, where I live, will figure prominently.

The San Francisco Bay Area has long been an important spot for progressive social change. Many of the movements that started here or had this Area as an epicenter of activity you may already be familiar with. Some of the ones I find especially interesting are the Black Panthers, the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz, the push for equal opportunities for undocumented students and educational justice for all, and LGBT rights. Youth have been and continue to be very important parts of these movements. I will share brief overviews with you and give you links so you can find more information before your trip to the 2015 American Library Association conference and perhaps even visit some of these places.

The Black Panthers had their home in West Oakland. The core practice of the Panthers was its patrols which monitored police behavior and challenged police brutality. The Panthers are credited with starting the Free Breakfast Program for Children in 1969 in a church in West Oakland. Did you know that co-founder Huey P. Newton was 24 at the time the Party was founded? Did you know that Bobby Seale, first treasurer and first member of the Party, was 16 years old when he joined? Sadly, no museum for the Black Panther Party exists, but if you are interested in learning more about them, you should visit the African American Museum and Library of Oakland or the Oakland History Room at the Main Library of Oakland Public Library.

The Occupation of Alcatraz by the Indians of All Tribes occurred from November 20, 1969, to June 11, 1971. Many students, especially from the University of California at Berkeley, were part of the Occupation. You can visit Alcatraz and still see some of the evidence of the Occupation. Annually there is the Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Gathering to honor all indigenous peoples of the Americas and to promote their rights. I believe this Occupation was the first of its kind in the United States and perhaps served as a model for later Occupy movements of the early 2010s.

The push for immigration reform is happening nationwide and the Bay Area is certainly one of the hotspots, and young people are heavily involved. Great strides have been made in improving the educational opportunities for undocumented students. Although the United States government has yet to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, California has passed our own DREAM Act. It is a package of state laws that allows undocumented students access to financial aid for higher education. Instrumental in getting this act passed were high school and college student activists. On May Day in 2006, a reported 20,000 people of all ages, including many high school students from all over the Bay Area, marched in a sea of white shirts protesting new legislation that would have raised penalties for illegal immigration.

The Bay Area is also a battleground for the larger movement of educational justice, which includes improving educational opportunities for undocumented students. Educational justice is the idea that all children deserve equal access to a quality education, regardless of race, ethnicity and socio-economic status. In Oakland on May 17th, 2005, the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, 400 teens took part in Take Back Our Schools Day. Some of their demands included: non-compliance with No Child Left Behind, restoration of local control to Oakland schools, and no high school exit exam. The Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting their demands.

The Bay Area is well known as one of the epicenters for various LGBT movements. A great place to see a lot of history is the GLBT History Museum. According to their site the museum “is the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. The museum celebrates 100 years of the city’s vast queer past through dynamic and surprising exhibitions and programming.” You can also visit the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center in the Main Library of San Francisco Public Library. According to their site the Center “is the gateway to collections documenting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered history and culture, with a special emphasis on the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to books, periodical and archival collections, the Center sponsors changing exhibitions and public programs.” The Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Network was founded right here in the Bay Area in 1998 “to empower youth activists to start Gay-Straight Alliance clubs to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools.” By 2005 the GSA Network was nationwide. The Hayward Gay Prom is one of the oldest and continually running gay proms for those 20 and under. You can watch a 2011 documentary, Now We Can Dance: The Story of the Hayward Gay Prom, on YouTube. The documentary, created by three Hayward librarians and a group of teenagers, interviews young people attending that prom and civic leaders who helped organize the first dance.

Lastly, I want to mention some of the great places in the Bay Area where people can raise their voices on these issues and many more. Perhaps you have heard the work of the first group on National Public Radio. Youth Radio trains diverse young people in media and technology. They were founded in 1992 in Berkeley and moved to downtown Oakland in 2007. They now have bureaus in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. You can watch, listen, or read about their work on their web site or perhaps even plan a visit when you are in the area. Youth Speaks creates “safe spaces to empower the next generation of leaders, self-defined artists, and visionary activists through written and oral literacies.” They were founded in 1996 in San Francisco. They present local and national youth poetry slams and festivals. They might be hosting an event during Annual, so check their site closer to the time. You may have heard of author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari’s 826 Valencia. They were founded in 2002 to “support students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to help teachers inspire their students to write.” There are now seven chapters nationwide. 826 Valencia has a really cool pirate supply store you should visit.

I hope you enjoy your visit to San Francisco and are able to experience some of its beauty and progressive history outside of the Moscone Center. By the way, did you know that the Moscone Center is named for George Moscone? He was San Francisco’s 37th mayor, and he was assassinated by Dan White on November 27th, 1978 along with city council member Harvey Milk. Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States. When the voluntary manslaughter verdict for Dan White was announced the White Night Riots occurred. The events led to increased political power for the gay community…

I could just go on and on….

About Hannah Gómez

School librarian in Northern California. MA children's literature, MS library and information science (Simmons College). Sometime scholar, sometime reviewer, sometime creative writer, always media-obsessed.
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.