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​AZ SpeaksIllustration of a desert landscape in purple hues

AZ Speaks presenters represent a diverse range of expertise, from a variety of professional backgrounds including: history, cultural and gender studies, and more. Speakers are selected based on their expertise and ability to offer content and insight that inspires discussion with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Learn more about AZ Speaks events below or browse all events in our online calendar.

​The Spirit of Spirtuals

Saturday, February 22 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Cesar Chavez Library

People the world over express Divine Devotion through humbly coming together and creating blessed sounds, blending their energies and hearts to help bridge that sometimes narrow, sometimes great, divide between us, as temporal beings, and the Infinite. One example of this bridge is African American sacred music: Negro Spirituals, and the Gospel tradition. Many have heard them, but few know their historical or cultural context, much less their African precedents. What better way to learn about it than to hear and sing it? Join educator, musician, storyteller, and dancer Súle Greg Wilson in exploring African and Post African music, the stories behind the songs, their cultural significance, and why they continue to endure.  

​Arizona's Great Escape

Saturday, February 22 from 3 to 4 p.m.
Agave Library

During the night of Christmas Eve in 1944, twenty-five Nazi German prisoners of war escaped from Papago Park POW camp on the outskirts of Phoenix and headed towards Mexico. These men were hardcore Nazis, ex U-boat commanders, and submariners, who had successfully dug a nearly 200-foot underground tunnel that took four months to complete. Many people may have heard of this event, but few know the details. This presentation tells the story of what happened to these German POWs and the Arizona residents who encountered them.

Presented by Steve Renzi

​Hyenas in Petticoats—How Women Struggled Against Every Dirty Trick in the Books to Win the Vote!

Thursday, March 5 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Ironwood Library

As we celebrate the 100th birthday of the 19th Amendment in 2020, it’s time to look back at the enormous effort it took for women to be granted full citizenship and the vote. History has downplayed suffrage, as if it were just a footnote in American history, when in fact, it was the nation’s largest civil rights movement. Western women got the vote long before their Eastern sisters, but don’t dare tell an Arizona suffragette that she had it easy. Arizona had its own dirty tricks. Jana exposes it all—the heroines, the heroes and the haters.

Presented by Jana Bommersbach

Nevertheless She Persisted! Women Who Made a Difference on the Arizona Frontier

Saturday, March 14 from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Burton Barr Central Library

Meet an array of early Arizona women who endured troubles and hardships, along with achieving amazing feats and triumphs during the territory’s early days, bringing a unique perspective to a harsh, strange country. Some of these women faced and fought discrimination, some laid down their lives. Learn about Native women warriors and peacemakers as well as women who rode into the territory to discover a completely different way of life. Journey back to a time in history when women explored, conquered, settled, and civilized this raw, new land. This presentation celebrates Arizona women who persisted and persevered in their quest to explore, discover, and conquer new lands and new beginnings.

Presented by Jan Cleere

​The Science of Music, The Music Of Science

Saturday, March 14 from 3 to 4 p.m.
Agave Library

Saturday, April 25 from 3 to 4 p.m.
Agave Library

Why do so many physicists compare the universe to an orchestra? Why did Einstein use his violin playing to enhance his contemplation of the workings of the cosmos? The connection of music to science was illuminated early on when Pythagoras divided a string. Not surprisingly, from astrophysicists to quantum theorists, the common key to unlocking mysteries is math. And clearly, the study of sound, acoustics and the vibrational spectrum intricately entwine science and music through mathematical computations. Understanding music’s physiological effects on our brains and the body is the goal of a growing number of studies by neuroscientists. Learn about the correlations between these two overlapping worlds and why so many high professionals are musicians and musicians, scientists.

Presented by Janice Jarrett

​Keeping Heritage Real in Arizona

Saturday, April 11 from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Burton Barr Central Library

One may hear varying points of view when it comes to heritage – timeless creation or historical storytelling, all are imperative. Keeping heritage ‘real’ is important as it ensures the posterity for Native Americans. The vivid landscape, the many footprints, timeless settings, high and low points, conflict and adversity – all are real. In this era, people are continually evolving, some focus on ideas, some share, some don’t. Still, all are simply working every day to balance a modern lifestyle. Hear about some of the old ways to help participants begin to relate to what’s happening here and now. 

Presented by Royce Manuel and Debbie Nez-Manuel

​The Shadow Catchers: 150 years of Arizona Photography

Saturday, May 9 from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Burton Barr Central Library

For more than a century and a half some of the world’s best photographers focused their lenses on Arizona. In addition to the renowned Edward S. Curtis, Kate Cory lived with the Hopi and represented them in photographs and on canvas, while C. S. Fly gave us the famous Geronimo pictures. In the 20th century Josef Muench’s pictures brought the movies to Monument Valley, Dorothea Lange captured Dust Bowl families, Barry Goldwater depicted Navajo and Hopi culture, and Ansel Adams glorified Arizona’s skies, canyons, and mesas. This presentation’s powerful images make the land and its people come alive.

Program presenter: Jim Turner

​AZ Speaks programming is provided by AZHumanities and the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library.

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