Photo by Pirkle Jones taken at a Free Huey Newton Rally in 1968 (NMAAHC, gift of the Pirkle Jones Foundation, ©2011 Pirkle Jones Foundation)
The Black Lives Matter and related protests for social justice in Oakland, San Francisco, and Marin continue a long tradition of Bay Area protest. The 1960s, for example, was an especially intense period of Bay Area activism, featuring demonstrations for civil rights, protests for peace and an end to police brutality, student strikes for equity and inclusion, and the formation the Black Panther Party.
In the San Francisco Chronicle article “Veterans of Social Justice Protests Reflect on a Lifetime of Taking it to the Streets,” several activists from the 1960s reflect on the past and predict that today’s anti-racism protests will result in positive, lasting change. Retired attorney Peter Haberfeld notes:
“This feels like a watershed moment. It’s exhilarating that there are so many determined people angry at the system. People are more informed now than they were in the 1960s. We owe a lot to Black scholarship and journalism.” And Black Panter historian Billy X Jennings states: “This is a special moment. People are tearing down Confederate statues. That’s a leap in consciousness. The situation today has its roots in what we were doing then.”
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Agents of Change: The Longest Strike in U.S. History
This film tells the timely and inspiring story of how successful protests for equity and inclusion led to establishing the first Black and Ethnic Studies departments at two very different universities: San Francisco State (1968) and Cornell (1969). San Francisco State students, their supporters on the faculty and in the community, including the increasingly influential Black Panther Party, launched the longest student strike in U.S. history. In addition to curricular changes, they demanded increased minority student recruitment and retention, and the hiring of minority faculty. Black, Latino and Asian student groups formed the Third World Liberation Front and emerged victorious, creating the first College of Ethnic Studies in the nation and igniting similar actions across the country.
Aoki: An Asian American Black Panther
Richard Aoki was a third-generation Japanese American who became one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party. The film explores previously unknown facts about the formation of the Black Panther Party such as how Richard became intimately involved in its founding, and also highlights how Richard’s leadership made a significant impact on individuals and groups in the contemporary Asian American Movement. Richard’s contributions to the groundbreaking organization Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) and its involvement in the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) student strike led to the formation of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley. (Note: After this documentary was released, journalist Seth Rosenfeld reported that Aoki had a relationship with the FBI)
Berkeley in the Sixties
This documentary recaptures the exhilaration and turmoil of the unprecedented student protests that shaped a generation and changed the course of America. This Academy Award-nominated documentary interweaves the memories of 15 former student leaders, who grapple with the meaning of their actions. Their recollections are interwoven with footage culled from thousands of historical clips and hundreds of interviews. Its reflective and insightful analysis of the era – from the HUAC hearings and civil rights sit-ins at the beginning of the decade through the Free Speech Movement, the anti-war protests, the growth of the counter-culture, the founding of the Black Panther Party and the stirrings of the Women’s Movement – confronts every viewer with the questions the 1960s raised.
Shot in 1969, in Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento, this is the film the Black Panthers used to promote their cause. In an interview from jail, Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton describes the origins of the Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver explains the Panthers’ appeal to the Black community, and Chairman Bobby Seale enumerates the Panther 10-Point Program as Panthers march and demonstrate.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
This PBS documentary tells the story of the Black Panther Party and explores the Party’s significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. It features rare archival footage and comments from the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it.
Decision in the Streets
This 1965 film shows the tumultuous beginnings of the Bay Area civil rights and peace protest movement from 1960 to 1965. Street demonstrations in the Bay Area during the first half of the 1960’s grew out of the peace movement and the support for the southern civil rights fight against legal racial segregation. Since there was no legal (only de facto) racial segregation in the Bay Area, the fight against racial discrimination focused on corporate hiring practices that prevented African Americans and other minorities from working outside menial occupations traditionally reserved for them.
Everyman is the name of a boat built in Sausalito by Bay Area peace movement activists to sail into Pacific Ocean nuclear test zones to protest nuclear testing. The film covers the building of the boat and Everyman’s first and only voyage in 1962, when it sailed out the Golden Gate only to be stopped twenty miles out by the U.S. Coast Guard who arrested the crew and impounded the boat.
Finding Tatanka: A Bay Area Activist and His Family
In this moving, psychologically complex documentary, filmmaker Jacob Bricca follows the extraordinary journey of his father Kit, a man whose uncompromising idealism changed the world but tore his family apart. Kit organizes with Joan Baez and Cesar Chavez in the sixties, helps start Amnesty International USA in the seventies, then transforms himself into a high flying commodities broker in the eighties and a shamanic healer named Tatanka in the nineties.
Freedom March features the San Francisco civil rights protest march of May 26, 1963, sponsored by Bay Area black churches and the labor movement in support of the Birmingham, Alabama Campaign against segregation led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). This march was the first community wide, racially integrated march against racial segregation in the United States since the Civil War. Fifteen thousand people marched in response to a call by San Francisco religious groups and labor organizations.
This film contains footage of the 1965 Bay Area peace movement at a time when the Vietnam War was escalating rapidly. Segments include the Committee for Non Violent Action (CNVA) peace protest at the Oakland Army Base; the October 1965 International Days of Protest peace marches from Berkeley to Oakland by the Vietnam Day Committee, ending in massive confrontation with local police at the Oakland/Berkeley border; and more. This film offered the public unique footage of the 1965 Bay Area anti-war protests at a time when mainstream media downplayed and ignored the protests.
No Greater Cause
No Greater Cause chronicles the height of the anti-Vietnam war movement in the Bay Area. Footage shows the massive confrontations in Oakland between police and anti-draft protestors in l967; the rally of 100,000 against the war at Kezar Stadium in April, l967; and the GI’s for Peace 1968 march in San Francisco to end the war in Vietnam.
Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria
This documentary tells the little-known story of the first known act of collective, violent resistance to the social oppression of queer people in the United States – a 1966 riot in San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, three years before the famous gay riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn. Integrating the riot’s story into the broader fabric of American life, the documentary connects the event to urban renewal, anti-war activism, civil rights and sexual liberation.
The Thursday Club
In October 1967, documentary filmmaker George Paul Csicsery was beaten by police at an antiwar demonstration in Oakland, California. Thirty years later, he set out to find the policemen who were working that day. His only clue: a startling news photograph of himself being clubbed by stern-faced cops. Take a trip back to America’s turbulent 1960s as Csicsery visits a group of retired Oakland, California, policemen, who recall their days battling antiwar demonstrators and Black Panthers.
Women for Peace
This film covers the 1961 and 1962 anti-nuclear demonstrations in California and Nevada by the peace activist organization Women for Peace. These demonstrators received little or no publicity from the established media.
Writing and research: Tom