With one top editor identified as the “Staffer Most Likely to Sing Barbra Streisand at a Karaoke Bar,” Zócalo Public Square clearly knows how to mix fun with serious business. Or make that serious affairs–there’s not a lot of sympathy for business here. But wait, that’s not true either–there is, just not for a certain sort of rapacious too-big-to-fail enterprise immune to devastating consequences because of unethically purchased leverage in a warped system. Nope, no sympathy for those. And really, who is in favor of that? (A popular figure in this survey is about 1%.) Your local pharmacist then, if you still have one, is not on Zócalo’s list of predators. Nor is anyone else who brings an “accessible, nonpartisan, and broad-minded spirit” to the public square. But back to Streisand: it’s no coincidence that a legendary entertainer with a thirst for serious, divisive issues gets name-dropped at Zócalo. An idea exchange like its namesake (both the public square of the imago and the terra firma), Zócalo is open to artists, politicians, writers, mechanics, thinkers, scientists, waiters, workers, jokers, jugglers and all creatures great and small among the fabulous hoi polloi.
Zócalo was founded a decade ago by Gregory Rodriguez, a former Los Angeles Times columnist and astute noticer of things askance. One of those things was the tale of two cities taking place in what passed for one: Los Angeles. Looking for diversity, something the city would seem to have in abundance, Rodriguez found instead a landscape riddled with cultural segregation. Even ostensibly public events were virtually private–or at least entrée was quietly dependent upon racial and economic status not broadly distributed. No admission, no voice, deduced Rodriguez–and he set about opening up the idea of what constitutes an empowered Angeleno in the civic arena. Zócalo hosts events all around the city (and in Arizona too, where it has also set up shop), partnering with universities, publishers, businesses, local advocacy groups and more. It syndicates its lively, heterogeneous content to over a hundred media outlets and does something we all should do a lot more of: Zócalo is always out meeting new people. Employing an outstanding team richly fertilized by leaves from the deciduous Los Angeles Times, Zócalo invites everyone along to the party.