UC Berkeley law professor Khiara Bridges (left) talks with Berkeleyside reporter Supriya Yelimeli at Berkeleyside’s inaugural Idea Makers on Oct. 7, 2022, at BAMPFA. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Two hundred people turned out Friday night to BAMPFA to mark Berkeleyside’s return to live events after a long, COVID-enforced hiatus. 

Writer Jay Caspian Kang and UC Berkeley law professor Khiara Bridges were the guest speakers at the inaugural Berkeleyside Idea Makers, a new event series inspired by Berkeleyside’s Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas, a three-day festival that took place every October in downtown Berkeley from 2013 to 2018.   

In contrast to Uncharted, Idea Makers is one evening every quarter featuring guest speakers, preceded by a reception for attendees to mingle and enjoy complimentary access to BAMPFA’s galleries. 

“Berkeley is preeminently a city of ideas and innovation in a wide range of fields,” said Berkeleyside co-founder and Cityside CEO Lance Knobel, who curates the Idea Makers program. “It’s great to return to our Berkeleyside live events highlighting the city’s strong culture of ideas.”  

While sipping a drink and talking to other attendees at the reception, Jeanne Pimentel remarked on how happy she was to be venturing out again to cultural events in Berkeley and Oakland. “I’m excited to see Berkeleyside continue to provide a forum in Berkeley for thought-provoking conversations,” she said. 

Idea Makers attendees mingle at the pre-program reception at BAMPFA. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight
Two hundred people attended Berkeleyside’s inaugural Idea Makers at BAMPFA on Oct. 7, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Bridges made headlines in July when she testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the implications of a post-Roe America. She spoke on stage with Berkeleyside reporter Supriya Yelimeli about the movement for reproductive justice and the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. Bridges said overturning Roe was part of a continuum of decisions that eroded reproductive rights, and emphasized that for many pregnant people, access to abortion has long been difficult for legal and economic reasons. 

Kang, whose latest book, The Loneliest Americans, is a personal examination of the struggle for Asian Americans to locate themselves in what he terms the nation’s binary racial structure, was in conversation with Knobel about Asian immigration to the U.S., the development of areas like Los Angeles’ Koreatown and Flushing, Queens in New York City, and the impact of increased violence against Asian Americans in recent years. 

Jay Caspian Kang (left) in conversation with Lance Knobel at Idea Makers on Oct. 7, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight
The audience at Berkeleyside Idea Makers on Oct. 7, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Denzel Tongue said he really enjoyed the evening.

“The hosts curated thoughtful, intimate conversations around timely issues like racial identity and reproductive justice in the wake of the Dobbs decision,” he said. “I specifically appreciated the optimistic comments from Professor Bridges around her aspirations for the development of an inclusive reproductive justice movement that will reap benefits through long-term organizing.”

Berkeley resident Torben Umeda, a guest of Cityside news platform director Doug Ng, said he rarely comes to events like this, thinking they are aimed at “big intellectuals and academic types,” but he loved it. Describing the two speakers as “amazing talent,” Umeda said he found both conversations fascinating. “Being Asian American, I was particularly interested in Jay Caspian Kang’s talk,” he said.  

Berkeleyside Idea Makers was sponsored by Red Oak Realty and Kaiser Permanente. The next Idea Makers evening will take place early in 2023.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...