Haight/Ashbury Memo #1 May 23, 67
Two major problems are shaping up within the community. Number one is, of course the coming crowds of kids, all of whom will need to be fed, clothed, and housed. The Diggers are currently reduced to a store at 901 Cole St., run by Peter Berg (one of the original five Mime Troupe cronies). The store (Trip Without a Ticket) serves as a distribution point for free goods, mostly clothes. There are facilities for sewing and dying [sic], and storage areas for the large flow of clothes that are donated by the middle class. Berg says that about ten tons of clothes have passed through the store so far. Aside from hippies, alot of neighborhood blacks get stuff from the store, as well as some people referred there by the Department of Welfare people. A degree of meaningful dialogue is established with blacks who come in, as they are not expecting this type of operation from whites. Roy Ballard has now opened the 'Black Man's Free Store' at 1099 McAllister, a block from Filmore [sic], doing the same thing. Ballard is currently persona non grata with Cleaver and his people for various reasons. I've talked with Eldredge and with Huey and Bobby of the Black Panthers and they have a lot of enmity for Ballard, due partially to the incident at Ramparts with Betty Shabazz, where apparently, Ballard blew his cool. However, they probably won't kill Ballard, and recognize that he is operating on somewhat different although useful wavelengths within the black community.
The Free Food is in bad shape, no longer having a kitchen to work out of. Arthur Lisch cooks most of it at his house, with other people helping out. There is also free food being put out at the Committee Revue kitchen and served daily in Washington Square, North Beach.
The Evil Merchants are still having meetings to discuss problems, with little else accomplished. They have formed the Council for a Summer of Love, which has so held several press conferences and one free dance in the Panhandle. They are planning an event at Hunter's Point on June 3, free dance, flowers, love, etc. Their latest proposal is to arrange for flowers to give to all arrivals in the Haight. Run of the mill middle class ineffectuality.
Another group operating is the Kiva, an idea of Ron Thelin's, which wants to establish a community center within the area. I believe Grogan mentioned the idea several months ago. They have dropped the idea of buying the Armenian Hall and are now looking at a vacant lot on which they will erect a dome thing. Again, a lot of discussions with little to show for them except minutes. None of the middle class groups have been able to find time to help with money or labor for the free food.
The free store holds classes in survival on monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. How to survive on the street. There is a group of lawyers around on Tuesday nights with free legal aid, and on Thursday nights there are about six doctors who treat whoever is there. These doctors have helped in approaching the U.C. Medical Center to establish a free clinic for kids. U.C. is helping out here as much as possible, most of it under cover. Liaison has been set up with the Welfare Department, but few of the kids will be eligible for this. Welfare people are bound up in bureaucracy, though they'd like to help.
A north Beach group, S.F. Government in Exile, pet project of Alvin Duskin the mod clothing man, is trying to set up a free food warehouse in the Mission District. Idea is that there is alot of stuff, food and clothing, donated but no place to put it. The warehouse will have facilities for storing huge quantities of food as well as breaking big parcels down into small parcels. Hoping to establish good relations with Mexicans in the area, who are pretty alienated from government. Rent on the warehouse is $600 monthly, to be paid for by the Government in exile. This plan has been going for about six weeks now. Sounds like they may get it going.
Most of the problems are surmountable, but begin to appear trivial in the light of new developments. All of our contact with blacks indicate that there will be widespread and bloody rioting this summer. Hippies problem is that they are mostly unaware of the volcano brewing in the Fillmore and that a lot of the violence will be directed against the hippies. Black kids resent the white middleclass suburban drop-outs freedom, ask "How come you givin' up what I can't get?". It's very hard for blacks and hippies
to communicate on a political level, but meaning full communion is established at some of the free 'happy' events/dances. This only helps a little. When the rioting starts, hippies will be lucky to get out from in between the blacks and the national guard. As far as we can see, the rioting will be widespread and somewhat organized, in that it will go all at once rather than in small areas. Don't know how organized they are, nor if the Black middle class will go along with it.
Some of the hippies are aware of the trouble ahead. Some have armed themselves in odd ways, such as quarter staffs. This is probably for protection against predicted gangs of black, white and perhaps mexican youths out for action, There is a possible tragedy brewing in that violence may wind up directed against hippies and vice versa, rather than against property, which is where it should be directed.
The course of things in Vietnam will direct alot of what goes on. With major escalation expected, including war with China, it is expected that urban rioting will be considered a threat to internal security, throwing open the provision of the the McCarren Act, Title II (Concentration Camps). A lot of worry about this happening. It is to be expected that a number of hippies will chicken out when the going gets
rougher. But significant numbers of them are breaking away from the flowers enough to realize that there is a revolution brewing, that it is primarily a black and poor people's revolt, and that it will affect the hippies in that they will be called upon as will all loyal citizens, to aid in subduing blacks. Some are going to fight. Few will allow themselves to be carted off without a fight. Hippies will slowly realize that the black man's fight is also their own. Things will have to get a lot starker, however, before they can be expected to act seriously.
Emmet Grogan is in New Mexico, living with the Indians for a while, I think trying to wash himself of the onus of your foul publicity games. His current advice to us is to leave the city and prepare for living off the land. Also true, as the coming war will make cities unlivable. Diggers Farms are operating in Sebastopol and near Santa Cruz. Perhaps 50-100 on each, living off what they grow, but not growing enough to feed many people. The farms are good places for the "casualties" who need fresh air and earth after too