All posts by Eric

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

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Black People’s Free Store

The new page in the Digger Archives that tells the story of the Black People’s Free Store (Fillmore district, 1967-68) just went up. Included is the video clip below.

What is a Digger?

For the back story, check out the new page. But long story short, I’m trying to figure out who this is. I thought it might be brother to Roy Ballard. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

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