Howard Zinn Book Fair celebrates 6th anniversary

On Dec. 8 the Howard Zinn Book Fair celebrated its sixth-annual event at the City College of San Francisco  Mission campus. Every year they abide by a theme that influences the work and panel discussions during the fair. This year was “Strike! Discovering Our Power”. This theme was chosen to celebrate the power that various strikes around the world can bring everyday people together.

The event, which began at Mission High School has been run every year since courtesy of the City College Mission campus with an all-volunteer staff. “Without the generosity of City College we would not be able to have the funds to put this event together,” says Rebecca Mason, a member of the organizing team.

According to Mason, the book fair hosts around 1500 people throughout the day, a number that has been consistent for the last three years. 

They spread the word of their event through posters and flyers throughout the city, oftentimes seen on campuses all around the Bay Area coffee shops and booksellers. The event even offers free child-care for the duration attendees are at the event. 

Howard Zinn book fair is a place where people who are part of the political left who believe in social equality can come together, share their work, and celebrate the legacy of historian and socialist thinker Howard Zinn. This year they hosted over 60 authors, publishers, and grass-root campaigns. Many guests tend to be Bay Area natives but there are a few that come from the East Coast. 

The book fair not only hosts authors and publishers but a plethora of community groups and centers, unions, nonprofit groups, non-governmental organizations and a wide range of merchants selling paintings and clothing. 

They call for submissions for panelist speakers and anyone who wants to share their work in June or July. Often times they receive a mass amount of applicants, so collaborating is extremely encouraged. 

One of this year’s authors and panelists was Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz who in addition to writing 13 books has been a long-time activist for indigenous peoples and women’s rights. Her most acclaimed book is “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States”. 

“I always enjoy seeing new young faces that are excited to make a change and of course seeing old friends. It’s really a place where people within the same interests can come together yet have differences to a certain context,” says Dunbar-Ortiz. 

The event is action-packed with 52 different panels, workshops, and programs. Attendees including Dunbar-Ortiz hopes the book fair extends to two days in next year.

The 2019 sponsors were CIIS Department of Anthropology and Social Change, Independent Arts and Media, CCSF Labor and Community Studies Department, Rainbow Grocery, AFT 2121, Haymarket Books, AK Press, and The Green Arcade. Sponsor money goes to travel assistance for speakers and authors that may need it, rentals, printings for their flyers and posters, and their website. 

Organizers hope to expand their outreach and spark conversation for more political change in the coming years.

“It’s all about a spirit of resistance,” Mason said. “Could we all come together and for example talk about what we’re going to do for the next climate strike. So that it takes the legacy of Howard Zinn out from a purely educational standpoint and into the streets, peoples’ political lives and communities.”Mason said she hopes the book fair can be a non-sectarian place where folks on the left, including liberals, socialists, and anarchists can get together about shared projects. She hopes that people leave the book fair feeling inspired and have a safe space to come together with shared interests.