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Three-part series uplifts systematically excluded voices in science and questions “storyteller privilege”
Top row (from left): Alex Hanna, Amy Fiedler, Aurora Cortes, Christine Cordero, Christine Liu, Deniss Martinez. Middle row (from left): Francesca Fiorentini, Kel Larkin, Naomi Garcia, Naomi Maisel, Nia Imara, Olivia VanDamme. Bottom row (from left): Panda Dulce, Rebekah Kim, Sarah Shimazaki, Sthefany Galante Bautista, VERA!, Walter Kitundu.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 9, 2023) — On Thursday, May 18, the California Academy of Sciences will launch an all-new, three-part NightLife sub-series: Says Who? Taking place over three evenings throughout May and June, the series examines the power and privilege of the storyteller in the world of science and beyond, and aims to uplift voices that have been systematically excluded from shaping the truths and narratives we often hold as fact. By amplifying underrepresented community voices and acknowledging the Academy’s own role in shaping publicly held narratives, the series emphasizes that there is more than one way to approach questions about the natural world. From resurfacing lost or under-told stories to highlighting the perspectives of diverse groups, the series will challenge traditionally accepted narratives through three distinct event themes: culture, experience, and gender.
Says Who? embodies the evolution of NightLife programming and the team’s dedication to highlighting community partners and ensuring equitable representation. “NightLife can be fun and flashy, and it can be real and raw,” says NightLife Event Program Manager Lin Kung. “There are so many voices and stories out there far beyond what the dominant or collective narrative might be. There are communities and perspectives to listen and learn from, reflect on, and respect. I want to create a space where we can honor and give access to all these stories: the Academy’s, the partners we bring in, the guests, you, me—all of it.”
“White voices and stories have historically dominated Western science and perceptions of nature and the outdoors,” says Outside Voices podcast host and featured partner Sarah Shimazaki. “I hope the Says Who? series will encourage people to seek out diverse perspectives when consuming science-related content—or any kind of content—and to question what perspectives might be missing.”
The series will take place across three individual events: Volume 1: Culture (May 18), Volume 2: Experience (June 1), and Volume 3: Gender (June 29), with each event featuring a thoughtfully selected cadre of community partners who will lend their perspectives and stories. Featured talks at all events will be held in both English and ASL, and one talk will additionally feature Spanish language speakers. Read below for detailed descriptions of each event:
Says Who? Vol. 1: Culture
Explore the intersection of cultural identity and the natural world by hearing firsthand how people of color are restoring and reclaiming their relationship with nature. Artist and Academy Osher fellow Walter Kitundu and Academy Head Librarian Rebekah Kim will discuss Kitundu’s immersive installation Leo na Kesho (today and tomorrow) as well as the layered history of the Academy’s iconic African Hall. Producer and host of the Outside Voices podcast Sarah Shimazaki will lead a roundtable discussion and live podcast recording with environmental leaders who will share their own stories of connecting communities of color with nature. The panel features Christine Cordero of Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Aurora Cortes of Latino Outdoors, and Deniss Martinez of UC Davis Environmental and Climate Justice Hub.
Says Who? Vol. 2: Experience
Hear how varied lived experiences shape life paths and nurture connections between disciplines and across communities. Neuroscientist and tattoo artist Christine Liu and Academy Community Science Coordinator and poet Olivia VanDamme will discuss how they navigate different spaces—particularly as women of color—in the worlds of art, science, and beyond. Activist and drag performer Honey Mahogany will moderate a panel exploring the ways in which lived experiences shape peoples’ engagement with their communities in the areas of health, nourishment, art, and education. Panelists include: Naomi Garcia Pasmanick from award-winning media arts, youth, and workforce development organization BAYCAT; Sthefany Galante Bautista from transgender support group El/La Para TransLatinas; and Naomi Maisel from “food incubator” for working class women of color and immigrant entrepreneurs La Cocina.
Says Who? Vol. 3: Gender
From technology to medicine to astrophysics, hear how scientists in diverse areas of study defy longstanding gender barriers to create change in their fields. Comedian Francesca Fiorentini hosts a panel of leading women in science, including: Amy Fiedler, cardiothoracic surgeon at UCSF; Alex Hanna, Director of Research at the Distributed AI Research Institute; Nia Imara, artist and astronomy professor at UC Santa Cruz; and Rebekah Kim, California Academy of Sciences Head Librarian. Additionally, Academy Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability (IBSS) Program Manager Kel Larkin will delve into the fundamentals of gender and the myriad ways gender is expressed throughout the animal kingdom.
While each event in the series features unique programming and partners, they will be connected by a throughline of personal storytelling activations that give guests the opportunity to document and share their unique histories and experiences. For those inclined to narration, guests can record their story at a live storytelling station with the Outdoor Voices podcast. For hands-on crafting catharsis, folks can craft their story with theme-specific, take-home art kits developed by the Museum of Craft and Design, or join Oakland-based Rock Paper Scissors Collective to create their own zines from scratch and peruse a pop-up zine library with stories from local creators. Guests can also snap their story with a portrait from film photographer Holiday Hagan. Drag Story Hour readers Panda Dulce, VERA!, and Jota Mercury will reimagine the Academy’s 170-year history in an entertaining and honest storytime reading. Lastly, Academy scientists of the present will reveal the Untold Stories of Academy scientists of the past.
For Kung, Says Who? is about providing a space for everyone to exist as they are. “I want folks to feel seen and heard, and to see themselves reflected not just in the physical space of the California Academy of Sciences and NightLife, but also in the larger landscape of science, cultural institutions, and the world in general. We see you. We hear you. And your story matters.”
For more details, please visit: https://www.calacademy.org/nightlife-says-who
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