Planet Drum Retrospective

 

In the history of the 1960s Digger movement in San Francisco and the West Coast, there is an arc of events and a continuity of intention that can be discerned starting in the late 1950s with the Beat poets and avant-garde happenings amidst the burgeoning social movements of the period. The Diggers themselves formed out of a nexus of radical arts and social consciousness that swirled around the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Haight-Ashbury formations that took place in 1965 onward. Ecology was always an important aspect of this continuity. When the Diggers dispersed from their daily activities on the streets of San Francisco after the Summer Solstice 1968, many moved to rural outposts with the intent of creating new social formations as they had done in the urban context. Planet Drum was a signal moment in 1972 when Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft returned to the City from their travels to remote communes and country families. Planet Drum at first was a communication medium — periodic bundles distributed to a wide-flung network to stay in touch with others who were attuned to the idea that would come to be known as “bioregion.” Later, Planet Drum was the name of the non-profit foundation that was incorporated to engender awareness of and communication with all manner of bioregional groups and activities across the continent and worldwide. Planet Drum Foundation is still active with dozens of programs and projects.

The San Francisco Public Library’s Wallace Stegner Environmental Center is hosting a retrospective exhibit on the history of Planet Drum. This exhibit takes place from September 1 through November 29, 2018. For anyone close by, it is well worth the visit.

Click here for more information on the exhibit. The collage of images (above) are a selection of the informative placards in the current exhibit. Judy Goldhaft will host groups of 5-20 people who are interested in a guided tour of the exhibit. Contact Planet Drum (415-285-6556 or mail@planetdrum.org) to make the arrangements.

planetdrum_exhibit_2018

 

 

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Angels of Light Protest Paid Show

The Angels of Light were one of the groups that survived the Fall of the Haight in the late 1960s and became part of the thriving Free Commune movement in San Francisco in the 1970s. The Angels had broken away from The Cockettes in 1969 to perform Free Theater for other communes and the counterculture community in the Bay Area. “Free” was an inviolate principle, which had been passed down from the original Diggers in the Haight starting in 1966. The Diggers had held an event called the “Free City Convention” on May 1, 1968, at the Carousel Ballroom. It was at this event that Ralph met Jet and Irving and Hibiscus from the Sutter Street Commune. The rest is history.

Here is a photo from a protest the Angels organized in 1973 at the paid showing of “Pickup’s Tricks” a film that Gregory Pickup produced in part from footage he had taken at an Angels performance. Paid shows (like this film) were boycotted in the Free community.

MBNEGS330-ORIGSIZE pickup tricks protest-2

What is a Fou Ratt?

Came across this article from the East Village Other in 1967. It highlights Jim Fouratt and his escapades as a digger in New York after he left San Francisco in 1967. (See below for transcription of the article which appeared in the 8/19/67 issue of the paper.)

jim fouratt article 1567261_19670819_00003-m

Transcription of the text:

A Fouratt is a small furry digger who gets arrested all the time.

Jim Fouratt used to be a member of Progressive Labor, he was active in the civil rights movement, and before that a child actor. Recently he has completed the cycle and has become a digger, or in effect returned to being a child actor.

Doing his thing in Newport he was thrown out of the city for distributing obscene literature which was in reality a poem by Gary Snyder. He was arrested in Newark after the riot for “inciting a riot” which was in reality giving away free food, but to be sure the police also charged him for “passing out food without a license” and “refusing to obey an officer’s command” who merely asked, “What are you, a boy or a girl?”

“I guess there is something about me that makes cops go crazy. I’m a coward. I’m not afraid to die, but I don’t like violence. I don’t carry flowers but you should choose your weapon,” Fouratt explained one day after collecting a number of nights in jail in his biography.

“My only weapon is peace and love. We’re in such a hostile society that sometimes love or peace, or that kind of approach seems dangerous to the people with guns, and they treat me as if I’m carrying the same weapon they are.

“I seem to bring out a confrontation. But my confrontation is more on a sexual level with the cops. Maybe their masculinity is threatened by my hair? I really thought about this a lot, wondering why my friend Abbe Hoffman, who’s got as much hair and does just as many things as I do doesn’t get arrested.”

“I never tried to get arrested. I just do my thing and if it means getting arrested, then that happens when it happens.

“The beautiful thing about Newark was after I got arrested the only trouble I had was with the cops. I got into jail and the people were beautiful in jail, and they really turned on to the idea of the diggers and acid and the whole psychedelic thing.

“These were people who had been in there for 20 days and hadn’t even been allowed to make their phone call. I got them phone calls so they could get out. There’s a lot of work to be done in jails.”

Every Sunday night there will be a digger benefit at the Scene, a night club at 301 W. 46th St. Jim Fouratt might be arrested even there.

“Yes, I’ll have a stage arrest. That’s how I’m beginning to feel.”

East Village Other, Aug 19, 1967, pg 3

Frank Bardacke on the Burns/Novick Vietnam War film series

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary film series on the Vietnam War (which aired in September on PBS) was a cathartic event for the Sixties Generation. Many of my friends could not watch the entire series—it was too emotional, too visceral, too heart-rending—even five decades later. There has been a lot of discussion of the film series. And much dissension about its historical perspective.

At a panel discussion last week on the 50th anniversary of the October 1967 “Stop The Draft Week” that shut down the Oakland Induction Center, I asked Frank Bardacke (one of the key organizers in the Anti-War Movement) what he thought of the film series. Here’s his answer:

“Ken Burns is extremely good at what he does. He knows how to take a still photo and combine it with music, combine it with a narrative. He knows how to take individual people and make you identify with them. He’s very good at it.

“There is a truth in that series and the truth is that war is hell for the participants. That series does a very good job at telling that truth. But that is only one truth about the war in Vietnam. And there’s lots of other stuff … he had so many hours and so much time. There’s a lot of other stuff that is terribly left out. And then also misrepresented.

“The biggest misrepresentation as far as I’m concerned is the presentation of the war in Vietnam as a civil war. My understanding of it is that it was a war of national liberation. It wasn’t a civil war. The South Vietnamese were completely propped up by the United States. They could not have existed without the United States. It was a war of national liberation like in that period wars of national liberation throughout the world. And we opposed it.

“The second thing that was very upsetting to me about the series was that there are a lot of very good Left histories of the war in Vietnam. Every single expert that was interviewed was from the CIA, the Army, or the Pentagon. They did not have one single historian of the war talk about the war. It got so ridiculous that the person at the end who was the “objective” person talking about the dilemmas of the military is John Negroponte??!! John Negroponte, who is probably implicated in the death of Che Guevara … this is a bad man. And he is presented there as an objective commentator on the war.

“I don’t know. It showed that war is hell. You know at the very beginning, there are two things from the very first one, it says ‘in wars nobody wins, nobody loses’ that’s what the guy says. Well, that’s not true. War is hell, it’s terrible for the people who fight it. I totally agree with that. And he does a good job of saying that. But you know what? Some people win wars and some people lose them. Thank goodness the North won the the Civil War. Thank goodness the Allies won the Second World War. And as far as I’m concerned thank god the Vietnamese won the Vietnamese War. And they won it.

“And so I don’t know, it’s so well done and yet so misrepresents what happened. Except for the idea that the war was really, really hard on the people who fought it. Well, that’s true of all wars. And it’s good to say that. It’s good to say that. But you don’t have to say that in eighteen hours, time after time. Every single one that I saw began with the soldiers and ended with the soldiers. Every single one.

“So, anyway … I’m very glad you asked that question.”

The panel discussion was sponsored by Shaping San Francisco and they have uploaded a video of the event.

frank bardacke
Frank Bardacke, at the 50th anniversary of the October 1967 “Stop The Draft Week” in Oakland, CA

Discovery #1 (in the Emmett Grogan Papers)

The Emmett Grogan Papers at the New York Public Library consists of around 200 sheets (letter/legal size and a few odd dimensions) comprising 50 items. Many of these are drafts of the articles/pieces that went into the Realist/Digger Papers publication which the Diggers distributed in June, 1968. The story that I have been told is that one of the Diggers was sent to New York to deliver the typewritten manuscript of these articles to Paul Krassner who ultimately published them as an issue of The Realist while also providing 40,000 Free copies to the Diggers (with a separate cover sheet but everything else the same).

The Digger Papers quickly joined the tidal wave of underground news media that inundated the American counterculture of the 1960s+ — however, among those who were attuned to the radical ideological & philosophical attainments of Digger literary output, the publication achieved a cult following. To this day, a copy of the (now “sunned” and “tanned”) issue on newsprint brings big bucks in the rare book/ephemera dealer circles. For anyone not obsessed with holding actual history in hand but having access to the record of such manifestations, here is a link to a PDF copy of the Digger Papers.

One of the articles in the Digger Papers was “Dialectics of Liberation (A Speech)” which was important for articulating an approach to the deep social divisions that were becoming clear in 1967, suggesting that expanded consciousness grounded in loving autonomous communities creating alternative visions of future society was the answer beyond the paranoid style of politics and an impending ecological crisis. [Were that this message could be heard today!]

[Note: in my researches, this article is the first mention in both “above-ground” and “underground” media of the disaster-in-making of the trapped atmospheric carbon-dioxide leading to the greenhouse effect and subsequent melting of polar ice caps with sea level rise and massive coastal flooding. An important bellwether of the future half-century controversy.]

In the descriptive catalog for the Emmett Grogan Papers appears the following entry:

Box 2, folder 1
Dialects of Liberation: A Speech. Typed transcript of Emmett Grogan’s speech delivered at the Dialectics of Liberation Conference in London, July 1967, containing significant autograph emendations by Emmett Grogan in preparation for publication in The Digger Papers, including the crossing through of entire paragraphs which were not printed in The Digger Papers. 13 pp.

I have always assumed that Allen Ginsberg was the author of “Dialectics of Liberation.” He attended the conference by the same name in July, 1967 at London’s Roundhouse. Ginsberg is seen on various videos of the proceedings using similar phrasing as appears in the “Dialectics of Liberation” article published in the Digger Papers. But I have never seen him explicitly credited. I feel certain that Ginsberg — not Grogan — is the author. So, the NYPL catalog needs to be corrected (beside which, the title is mis-transcribed).

However, even though Ginsberg was the author, what is so interesting is that Emmett obviously edited the version that appeared in the Digger Papers. See the page scan (below) which clearly shows edits in Emmett’s handwriting.

scans from Joshua McKeon COMBINED_Page_27-ORIGSIZE

One correction in particular is telling. Ginsberg wrote:

So I’m going to get on now to what I should have been on all along which is praxis — practical plans. | That has been classed generically as Flower Power, which is a euphuistic term, but I guess it’s as pretty a term as there is and why not then, Flower Power. Though it’s one that’s easy to put down and goof off with, but it’s a correct image — in the sense of correct in its origin and literal as to some of its techniques. and [sic] the original phrase seemed to rise up out of the streets — along with another phrase: “Make San Francisco an electric Tibet”.

Here’s how Grogan edited it:

I’m going to get on now to praxis — practical plans. Social action and plans have been cased in autonomy, it’s a correct term — in the sense of correct in its power and literal as to some of the new activists’ techniques. And the original style seemed to rise up out of the streets: “Standing on a street corner waiting for no one is power” — along with the phrase: “Make San Francisco an electric Tibet.”

Hmm, here we see Grogan substituting one of his favorite terms — autonomy — for Ginsberg’s discussion of “flower power.” The sense of the term as representing a concept that “seemed to rise up out of the streets” is maintained in both versions. It’s just that Ginsberg was talking about a generalized counterculture, and Grogan was substituting a tighter construction.

The whole article is full of such details.

Visiting the Emmett Grogan Papers

For a last minute whirlwind journey before fall semester in grad school began, I trekked via several modes of transportation (train, plane, automobile, and Greyhound bus) to New York City and back. The primary reason was to visit the newly-accessible collection of papers that Emmett Grogan left with his friend Harvey Kornspan in 1968 before taking off for new horizons, never to return and retrieve the odd stash of documents. Instead, Harvey sold the collection in 2014 to a London dealer of ephemera who in turn “placed” it with the Special Collections department at the New York Public Library. Located in the Stephen A. Schwarzman building (the main branch of NYPL) at 42nd street and Fifth Avenue, the Special Collections department is impressive and spans three floors in numerous divisions. Over a four-day period, I studied all the documents in the Emmett Grogan Papers and made several discoveries that will be of interest to historians and bibliographers of the Digger movement. I will make a report in the coming weeks/months in this blog space.

First, the only two photographs contained in the papers, these are of Emmett before he arrived in San Francisco. I thought it appropriate to share these first. Thanks to Max, Emmett’s son and heir, for permission to publish these here.

A WATERING HOLE FOR OLD AND NEW FRIENDS