Welcome to the California Studies Association newsletter, an occasional publication for members with news and events of interest to this community.
Please contact Martha Bridegam with submissions and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this issue, you'll find... A word from our new Steering Committee chair, Lindsey Dillon... Commentary from Richard Walker on the Delta islands purchase... Javier Arbona on "anti-memorial" space at the site of the 1942 black sailors' uprising in Vallejo... details on last fall's Carey McWilliams Awardand an invitation to nominate the next awardee... Lincoln Cushing on the end of Inkworks... an opportunity to donate!
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR
In the midst of a tumultuous election year, and with so much social struggle and uncertainty around gentrification and housing policies, public education, and climate change - to name only a few of the important issues of our time - hope and inspiration is a wonderful thing. This is one reason I am so excited about the Carey McWilliams award, given out by the California Studies Association each year. The award recognizes writers, artists, activists, and others whose work has given voice, strength, and clarity to key issues and struggles in California. Last fall, the awardee was the Japanese American poet, playwright, author, and activist Hiroshi Kashawagi. At our fall event, held in Berkeley, Mr. Kashiwagi delivered a vivid reading of his work, and the afternoon was moving and powerful.
This year, we encourage California Studies Association members to contribute nominations for the Carey McWilliams award. Please think of inspiring people in your own life and work, and let us know about them through this online nomination form, by May 24th. Our fall newsletter will include details about the awardee and an invitation to the fall awards event.
I wish everyone a happy springtime and enjoyable summer.
ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM MEMBERS AND UPCOMING EVENTS
Lindsey Dillon became chair of the California Studies Association steering committee at the March 2016 meeting. She recently accepted a faculty appointment as Assistant Professor of Sociology with the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Steering Committee member Alex Tarr has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Human Geography in the Department of Earth, Environment and Physics at Worcester State University.
Steering Committee member Javier Arbona will begin a dual appointment as an Assistant Professor in American Studies and in Design at the University of California at Davis.
CSA Steering Committee member Susan D. Anderson is working with the executive leadership team of the Richmond, CA Museum of History, providing curatorial and fundraising assistance, and researching a possible exhibition on Richmond's industrial and multi-ethnic working class history: "Pride and Purpose: Richmond's Industrial Past." Anyone with knowledge of germane historical materials can reach her at email@example.com.
Pullman repair shop, ca 1950. The railroad company's largest repair shop in the Western U.S. was built in Richmond, CA in 1910 and operated until 1959.
The Bay Area Book Festival has a full schedule of writers' appearances and other speaking and performance events posted for June 4-5 in downtown Berkeley. Many events are free, some cost $5 admission. Several steering committee members will be on panels and otherwise involved.
Alison Rose Jefferson is preparing for book publication of her UC Santa Barbara dissertation study, “Leisure’s Race, Power and Place: The Recreation and Remembrance of African Americans in the California Dream.” She spoke recently in Manhattan Beach on history and memory of the Bruce's Beach resort.
Planned talks and tours by ShapingSFinclude a May 21 "hilltopper" tour of the pre-urban Rancho San Miguel, from San Francisco's Glen Canyon and the Islais Creek headwaters up to Twin Peaks.
Richard Walker's East Bay Express article, "Why Is There a Housing Crisis?" took on supply-side prescriptions for curing high rents and homelessness, instead looking at the demand side of the equation: "growth, affluence, and inequality," worsened by "finance, business cycles, and geography."
The deal by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) to buy three islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a major step towards further transfer of water south to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and urban Southern California. It signals that the water agencies have no intention of backing down on the state ‘water fix’ plan to drill two gigantic tunnels under the Delta to funnel more water to the giant pumps feeding the California aqueduct and Delta-Mendota Canal. People in Northern California should be very disturbed by this, for the following reasons:
First, this gives MWD water rights that go with those islands. These very likely include 'senior' rights since many islands were reclaimed before the state water board was created in 1911 (the state has very poor information on senior water rights, which the present water resources control board is trying to rectify). Furthermore, these are riparian rights (streamside) which means you can just stick a siphon in the river and suck all you want.
Second, MWD’s purchase prevents any other landowner, like an old-time Delta farmer, from getting in the way of either the tunneling or the sucking sound of Sacramento water heading south.
Third, it demonstrates the long time alliance between MWD and the San Joaquin growers, especially in Kern County (both are served by the State Water Project). MWD still gives away its ‘surplus’ water to Kern Co Water Agency for a song.
Fourth, it takes very large cojones on the part of MWD to dive squarely into the middle of the Delta and Northern California for the latest water grab, i.e., the tunnels, aka ‘The Delta Drains’.
Fifth, I hope it helps solidify the opposition to the tunnels as much as it helps the water boys carry off the river.
Sixth, as anyone with any sense realizes, there simply isn’t any more water in the Sacramento system to grab. It is maxed out. Even our rather short 4-year drought emptied the reservoirs and there’s no place to build any more storage. Period.
Seventh, the agribusiness growers and the developers who run MWD don’t give a damn about anything except getting more water. The long-run plan has to be to seize the North Coast rivers, because that’s the only serious "untapped" supply left in the state.
Elaine Elinson recently reviewed Gabriel Thompson's biography, America's Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century. She writes, "Ross is so important to California history, but hardly a household name."
From her review in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Those who know the name Fred Ross probably identify him as “the man who taught Cesar Chavez how to organize,” as he was once dubbed by The Chronicle. Most Californians probably have never heard of him....
A Memorial and An Anti-Memorial
by Javier Arbona
In my academic work, I am interested in space as memory and memory as space. In order to remember the past, people use space in certain ways to grieve and to give testimony, and indeed, sometimes to protest an injustice. Likewise, sometimes people make spaces to create that elusive thing we call memory. But everyone does not have equal rights to memorialize. I want to pay attention closely to the ways in which landscapes reflect back at us the uneven ways in which memory can be called upon; who is able to benefit from memory (politically, socially, economically)—and who cannot.
In my recent writings, I explore these topics in some detail. In an article that recently appeared in Landscape Journal (February 1, 2015 vol. 34 no. 2 177-192), I draw on my dissertation and book manuscript research to recall a black sailors' uprising in the World War II boomtown of Vallejo, and the racist violence against the sailors. The 'memorycide' (the destruction of memory) of this event is partly accomplished through the obliteration of spaces related to the authorities' shooting of unarmed blacks. But I identify an "anti-memorial" in Vallejo — a scrubbed site where World War II memory comes back to haunt the present.
In other research I am conducting together with a collective of artists and researchers, I am interested in police memorials and the uses of these to blunt calls for justice and accountability. I wrote for The New Inquiry about the San Francisco Police Department's new ecologically and seismically secured bunker that houses a publicly funded memorial to dead cops. San Francisco has been a site of recent police violence, including the killing of Alex Nieto and more recently, Luis Gongora. In these cases, family and community grief has had difficulty finding spaces for grieving — an activity that is impossible to separate from calls for justice. The fact that the police count on taxpayer funding for their memorial suggests that there is more at stake than merely recoding the lives of police "killed in the line of duty," and instead that architecture polices memory itself.
Berkeley’s Inkworks Press, 1974-2015
By Lincoln Cushing
At the beginning of 2016, Berkeley's Inkworks Press closed its doors after 42 years. It marked the end of a bold experiment in worker ownership and political control of the media in the service of social justice. I worked there for 20 years, beginning as a small press operator and ending up as an estimator. They had big presses, cool posters, and political authenticity as thick as printer's ink.
In this age of effortless blogging and web streaming, it’s hard to understand how difficult it was to publish political content in the mid-1970s. If you wanted to announce a benefit concert for Chile, or rally citizens around an antiwar demonstration, or issue a report on corporate environmental pollution, you had a few choices. In many cities, there was often a public access radio station, such as Berkeley’s KPFA, and if you were lucky, there were one or two alternative newspapers that might carry such information. But a third, powerful, channel was that of printed documents such as posters, fliers, and handbills. That required a sympathetic print shop – and for many in the Bay Area, that shop was Inkworks.
The prophecy that the personal computer could democratize communication has largely been proven true. But the prediction that the digital age would make posters obsolete was wrong. People thought, why bother with a static graphic when you can just as easily make a free colorful video and share it with the world? But activists still need posters. Local issues get the most traction from local media, and posters can be great fundraisers for cash-strapped organizations. Ink on paper not only survived, it thrived.
One final effort at sharing our legacy was the publication the exquisitely illustrated book, Visions of Peace and Justice, Volume 2, 2005-2015. Visions 2 is available for $20 plus tax and shipping from Eastwind Books of Berkeley. What we see blazing from the pages is the glorious fruit of the Bay Area’s huge pool of graphic talent, the deep history of social justice work, and the presence of skilled and sympathetic reproduction facilities such as Inkworks Press.
The collective closed down gracefully and with dignity, but its legacy as a pioneering California institution will remain for years to come.
This article was adapted from Lincoln's more extensive East Bay Express obituary for Inkworks. See also:
- Lincoln Cushing interview by art critic Steven Heller:
- Article on Visions of Peace and Justice, Volume 2
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Invitation to Nominate: Each year the California Studies Association gives the Carey McWilliams Award to a writer, scholar or artist who lives up to the best tradition of McWilliams' work. Do you have someone in mind? Please use this online form to submit a nomination!