Photo by Cal Tobias
Neil Pearlberg speaks at MAH Lightning Talks. Photo by Cal Tobias

The new year began with national political chaos and social unrest. Santa Cruzans offer ways to cope with these problems through community participation, local music, independent radio and cultural understanding at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History’s (MAH) annual Lightning Talks.

The MAH hosted nine community leaders to speak about their local actions at the event to answer the question, “What’s Next Santa Cruz?” Speakers represented organizations such as the Campaign for Sensible Transportation, the independent Santa Cruz radio station KSCO and the Sicangu Lakota people from Rosebud, South Dakota, and addressed issues that affect their communities.

The event was organized by the MAH’s community programs coordinator and UC Santa Cruz alumna Helen Aldana. Lightning Talks is a spinoff of PechaKucha, which is a 2003 Tokyo-based event where young designers used 20 images and had 20 seconds per image to publicly display their work in a concise presentation. Aldana used this technique to create Lightning Talks. The event allots 15 presentation slides and 20 seconds for each slide, giving speakers a five minute presentation limit. These short presentations were meant to mobilize and educate the community.

Around 100 community members listened as the nine speakers laid out their goals for building a more involved and creative community. Here is what a few of those speakers said.

Neil Pearlberg

Neil Pearlberg is a radio host of both Off the Lip Radio Show and Hour Local Radio show on Santa Cruz’s KSCO station and a contributing writer for Santa Cruz Waves. His profession allows him to talk to many important community members, and he encourages others to get involved in independent radio stations.

“I suck at radio, but what it is is community. The number of people that I have interviewed and talked to in Santa Cruz is truly amazing. I’m blessed,” Pearlberg said. “[…] Dr. Charles Lester got fired as an executive director of the California Coastal Commission last year, and he gave me, last week, his first interview. It was very, very cool and he came on the show because I’m not going to pressure him. It’s just fun for everybody.”

Levi William EagleFeather

Levi William EagleFeather, of the Sicangu Lakota tribe based in Rosebud, South Dakota, is on a short tour in the Santa Cruz area promoting the Iron Eagle Feather Project: A Cultural Repatriation and Recourse. This project introduces communities to the Native American lifestyle — singing, storytelling, meditation and natural medicine — to provide healing for the individual in a collective effort. The project is hosting a cultural workshop at the MAH on Feb. 25 on the Lakota lifestyle for attendees to gain cultural understanding of the Lakota people and incorporate spiritual healing methods for putting Mother Earth first.

“I know that all of you think that climate change is real,” EagleFeather said. “Your innovative minds and your scientific thinking allow you to know that you are a part of the Earth, just like us Lakota people believe. We are, all of us, made of minerals of the Earth and we get our energy from the Sun.”

Keshav Kumar

Keshav Kumar, first-year UC Santa Cruz student, outreach coordinator for the mayor of Santa Cruz and policy analyst for the Santa Cruz Business Council, acts as the bridge between the mayor and the community to make the mayor more accessible to community members’ requests. Kumar’s passion for policy and community outreach is relayed to the crowd. He encouraged the audience to use social media and play an active role in local policy, which can make an impact on national policy.

“Let’s face it, politics has gotten a bad rap this year […] My goal for 2017 is to raise the online presence of the mayor of Santa Cruz,” Kumar said. “I want to make sure that when Mayor Cynthia Chase decides to have an event, that I can share it on social media and that I can share future events so folks know where to find the mayor. Folks know they can reach the mayor and know that the mayor is their advocate.”

Ted Bond

Ted Bond, front man of Craig’s Brother, a local band, created Santa Cruz All Ages Community Collective to promote music for all ages. He believes that our community has failed the musical potential of young generations. Through this non-profit organization, Bond hopes to establish a performance space in Santa Cruz.

“Today, there is not a single dedicated space for all-ages music in Santa Cruz. While still vibrant, the music culture in Santa Cruz has been made almost exclusively for 21 and over,” Bond said. “Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because the message that we’re sending is that music is for old people. It’s a problem because we’re training our young people to be consumers of music, but not participants in music.”