Sitting down on the stage of the Berkeley Rep Roda theater to talk with Autodesk distinguished researcher Andrew Hessel about the synthetic genome project in the first session of the fourth annual Uncharted Festival of Ideas, Quentin Hardy, deputy technology editor of The New York Times, said, “Uncharted is our humble attempt to make America smart again.” It was a joke, but it resonated throughout the two-day festival.
The Republican candidate for the president was not actually name-checked that often during the festival, but the reasons for his rise and his impact — what speaker Aaron James, author of Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump, described as “American-born fascism” — both in this country and globally, underscored much of the discussion this year.
Uncharted curator Lance Knobel, co-founder of Berkeleyside which produces the festival, deliberately avoids planning the program with a theme in mind, preferring that themes emerge organically. And if there was one that rose to the top this year it was that there is a silver lining to Trump’s ascendency: the fight to ensure he doesn’t enter the White House has brought issues and campaigns that were dormant back on the table. Positive change can be spurred by hatred, negativity and fear-mongering.
sujatha baliga, a national leader in restorative justice, and the founder of ServiceSpace, Nipun Mehta, talked about finding the good in people. Corey Fields, assistant professor of sociology at Stanford and author of Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans, explored the different varieties of black Republicans in his conversation with media innovator Peter Leyden. Feminist satirist comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh, co-host of the Good Muslim: Bad Muslim podcast, addressed the place of Muslims in America in a hilarious standup act. In a deep dive into political journalism and critique of the current election coverage, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, and Kathy Kiely, commissioning editor for BillMoyers.com, decried the journalistic tendency to “both-sidesism,” the influence of click-driven businesses and urged people to break out of silos and draw on a broad range of sources.
To a packed auditorium on Saturday Oct. 15, Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues and V-Day, echoed Kiely when she said: “Surround yourself with people who challenge you. That’s how you grow.” Ensler was in conversation with writer Kevin Powell in a challenging conversation that ran the gamut from rape culture, race, hip-hop music, sex and social movements. Powell, who offered shout-outs to the Black Panther Movement, Colin Kaepernick, and Berkeley (for renaming Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day) concurred, saying: “We can’t just get riled up every four years, we must create a consistent movement.” Or, as Ensler put it: “Maybe out of this insanity a truly progressive movement will occur.”
In another very popular session (according to chatter during the festival, and early results coming in from our 2016 feedback survey), Scott Budnick, producer of The Hangover movies but also the founder of The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, inspired festival-goers as he talked about his work — and passion — for criminal justice reform.
There was more: fascinating insights into how chocolate is made by TCHO’s Brad Kintzer; a lively steak cooking demo by The Food Lab author Kenji López-Alt; healthcare insights by Randi Redmond Oster and Robert Wachter; live music by The Acoustic Guitar Project musicians, and a jaw-dropping dance performance by Oakland’s Mix’d Ingrdnts. And lots of delicious food and drink… from pastries through paella, chocolate through fruit pies, and from coffee through strawberry margaritas.
In producing Uncharted Berkeleyside’s goal is to bring together some of the world’s most inspiring, creative thinkers to a city that has always been at the cutting edge of innovation and progressive thinking. And we hope we succeed. One festival-goer thinks so: “A great ambassador for the spirit of Berkeley!” they wrote in our feedback survey. And we are grateful for another who put it this way: “Uncharted shows Berkeleyside’s ability to raise their vital hyperlocal journalism to far-reaching (inter)national heights.”
The author Ruth Whippman, who attended the festival for the first time this year, on stage with Inflection Point’s Lauren Schiller. “I LOVED Uncharted,” she wrote us. “It was genuinely such an amazing and unforgettable experience for me, and so fascinating to hear so many wonderful speakers talk on such a great variety of topics.” Janet Delaney, who is an Uncharted veteran, and this year came as a speaker, presenting her unforgettable SOMA photography, said: “The whole event was excellent. I feel satiated with knowledge!”
In a post about the festival published on Berkeley Blog, Sylvia Paull wrote: “There was music, dance, good food, and expressive civility in this event, a feast for the mind, and like the city of Berkeley itself, a place that welcomes and germinates progressive ideas. Uncharted is becoming a Berkeley classic.”
Check out the live coverage of the 2016 festival on Twitter (no account needed).
There are many ways to stay engaged with the Uncharted Festival throughout the year:
Take the 2016 survey: If you attended the festival this year, tell us what you loved, liked or hated, and share your suggestions for future years.
Uncharted Festival Alumni Facebook group If you have attended the festival in any year, you are invited to join the newly created closed group. There we can keep the conversations going — let us know what you enjoyed most, what didn’t float your boat; share your memories and photographs; suggest speakers and performers for future festivals; and connect with fellow Uncharted alumni.
Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas on Facebook ‘Like’ the page to join over over 2,000 others who are kept abreast of festival news.
Bookmark the Uncharted Festival website, BerkeleyIdeas.com
Sign up for the Uncharted e-newsletter — an occasional email with news about the festival, ticket offers and more.
Listen to Uncharted podcasts. Berkeleyside will be producing podcasts of this year’s conversations. Check out 15 podcasts recorded at the 2015 festival, and subscribe to the Berkeleyside podcast channel to be sure not to miss new episodes.
Uncharted would not be possible without its partners
Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas 2016 was grateful for the support of the following partners: charter partners Autodesk, DeYoe Wealth Management and Panoramic Interests; partners Cloudera; Wareham Development; Jetton Construction; North Berkeley Investment Partners; 2000 Center Street LLC; Downtown Berkeley Association; Hotel Shattuck Plaza; College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley; The Grubb Company; Magoosh; BART; Andronico’s Community Markets; APS Wines; TCHO; Tres Agaves; Kara’s Cupcakes; Vignette Wine Country Sodas; Drake’s Brewing Company; Inflection Point; and KALW.
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