In 2020, the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) will convene on the unceded and occupied territories of the Ohlone and Coastanoan Peoples. More specifically, the Ramaytush Ohlone are the original caretakers of the seven-by-seven square miles that we now call the San Francisco Peninsula. As we welcome you to the city of San Francisco, we ask that you consciously pay your respects to the Ohlone communities and Indigenous Peoples who are working to dismantle ongoing legacies of settler colonialism. Collectively, we can begin to shift the tides of settler erasure and violence by first acknowledging their stewardship and by paying our respect to their ancestors and elders, past, present, and emerging.

Indigenous-led initiatives such as the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an urban Indigenous women-led organization, facilitates efforts such as the Shuumi Land Tax to directly support their work to acquire, preserve, and care for the land under Indigenous stewardship. In solidarity of this important work, the SSSP has pledged a financial contribution to grow the Bay Area landbase under Indigenous stewardship.

In addition to being a space of Indigenous stewardship, activism, and resurgence, San Francisco has been and continues to be a center for political organizing and movement-building for many social groups. The many peoples and cultures who have been called to make a life in San Francisco have also answered that call with creative commitments to social justice. Below is a list that we have compiled to introduce you to these commitments. The list is adapted from the work of Dr. Monisha Baja, Professor of International and Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco on “Human Rights Landmarks in San Francisco.”

Indigenous History: Get to know about the original inhabitants of San Francisco, the Ohlone people, and check out the Presidio, a national park where the Ohlone presence dates back to earlier than 740 AD. Visit Alcatraz, a former federal prison that operated from 1934 to 1963, and that was occupied by activists from the “Indians of All Tribes” movement from 1969–1971 to demand greater justice for Native American communities.

African-American History: African-American communities date back to the Gold Rush period and grew during the Great Migration from the U.S. South. Check out these landmarks throughout the city to get to know the history of the community and the excellent Museum of the African Diaspora. The recent film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, discusses how gentrification and increasing inequality has impacted the African-American community in the city.

Immigration Justice: Connect today’s debates about immigration justice and family detention to the histories of migrants from all over Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe and Latin America with a visit to the Angel Island Immigration Station which operated from 1910–1940. Take the Ferry and either hike up to, or take the tram, to the museum and former detention facility that unfairly treated immigrants from the global South with prolonged detention and harsh conditions.

LGBTQI Rights: San Francisco has been at the forefront of struggles for inclusion and human rights based on sexual orientation & gender identity and expression. Since the 1970s, with the first Pride march/parade in 1970 and the election of Harvey Milk — the first openly gay public official — to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (and the recent naming of San Francisco Airport’s International Terminal after him), San Francisco has led the country in demanding inclusion and justice for queer communities. Check out these LGBTQI landmarks across the city.

Women’s Rights: San Francisco has many sites to visit to learn about women’s rights and gender justice from the Women’s Building, a women-run center advocating for gender equality, established in 1979 to the monument completed in 2017 recognizing the horrific plight of “comfort women” (or more accurately, the 400,000 Asian girls and women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II from 1939–1945). Check out this article to take a women’s history walking tour around the city.

Art as Resistance: Check out the powerful murals across the city, but primarily in the Mission District, showcasing community resistance to police violence, the experience of Central Americans fleeing war in the 1980s, women’s rights, and much more. Art as a public form of political statement and resistance to inequalities, local and global, has been perfected in San Francisco. Check out this new mural showing daily life in Palestine unveiled in 2018, entitled “Humanity is Key.”

Local Struggles for Justice: Learn about the unjust internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, stripping them of their rights and property, and their struggle for recognition. Check out the Peace Plaza in the heart of Japantown in San Francisco that acknowledges a history of hardship and a commitment to peace and justice. Visit San Francisco State University and learn about the student movements (that were met with violent backlash) to create the first College of Ethnic Studies in the country in 1969. Visit the beautiful St. Ignatius Church at the University of San Francisco campus, one of the first local parishes to declare itself a sanctuary for immigrants.

These social movements and human rights landmarks tell a remarkable story about San Franciscans - when our communities come together to fight injustice, WE WIN.


In addition to serving as a national and international epicenter of social change, the San Francisco Bay Area is arguably the heartbeat of economic inequality. As you will quickly realize, we are convened in one of the “most expensive cities in the world,” a reality that we must confront and interrogate. Now, let us “keep it 100,” as Bay Area slang would have it, and be clear that the rent here is too damn high and so are the delicious meals that you’re sure to enjoy during your stay. Don’t let the high priced coffees fool you though, Indigenous folks, families of color, queer and trans folx, immigrants and working class folks are still fighting to live here. We are still here and we love our city. Let us count just a few of those reasons.

One bus ride from the heart of downtown San Francisco on Powell and Market can take you from the bustling cityscape of skyscrapers to the echoes of the Pacific Ocean waves at Ocean Beach. Even if your days will be full of conferences, don’t give up the chance to have your breath taken away by the majestic views of the Bay and the Pacific Ocean at Land’s End and Sutro Baths.

There are picturesque, classic San Francisco scenes just a bus ride from our conference. Hop on the 21 bus, and you’ll get to those beautiful Victorian homes that line the cityscape in the background and even travel to the Haight and Ashbury neighborhood for a trip to the 60’s and 70’s. A mile walk away from our conference is Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, stalls famous for the seaside fare of clam chowder and crab sandwiches.

If you’ve brought your family, you have lots to choose from in the neighborhood with the Yerba Buena Gardens in walking distance and a range of different activities for children of different ages and children at heart: the Children’s Creativity Museum and the Children’s Garden right outdoor is amazing, it has a carousel to boot! The AMC Metreon has cinemas, arcade, a food court with Taiwanese Boba, Filipino and Korean food, and lots of other good options. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is a fantastic resource of art, performance and film.

As you set out to explore this beautiful place, consider a few important tips. First, walk lightly and respectfully as you are a guest on unceded Indigenous lands. Second, don’t forget to dress in layers. Not the hot and balmy California in the media, the Bay draws in a cold temperatures in the morning that may burn off in the afternoon but will come right back with “Carl the Fog” in the late afternoon. So, layer up.

As you settle in for SSSP, allow yourself to truly soak in how San Francisco is breathtakingly and heartbreakingly beautiful. Honor the Peoples here changemakers who have always fought and continue to center justice, equity and love above all. So welcome to ‘Frisco’ (not San Fran, never San Fran), if you’re not careful, it might just change you for the better.

For the Local Arrangements Committee,

Valerie Francisco-Menchavez
Assistant Professor
San Francisco State University
Local Arrangements Chair

Theresa Rocha Beardall
Assistant Professor
Virginia Tech