Summer of Love. Jimi Hendrix. Equality. Grace Slick. Tie Die. Carlos Santana. Peace. Jerry Garcia. Flower Power. Janis Joplin. Canibus. Grateful Dead. West Coast Woodstock. Black Magic Woman. Joan Biaz. Beatlemania! Hippies.
Regardless of what you may or may not have heard, the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco is ICONIC for all that it has been and all that it has desired to become!
The Summer of Love was officially documented on April 6, 1967 as the begining of a movement that took san Francisco by storm as 35,000 young adults left their homes and college campuses to come and “serve” their brothers and sisters. The movement was an experiment in community service that was to bring peace, goodwill, love of human kind and to outreach and serve the down trotten but quickly grew via word of mouth and literally left our city unprepared for the amount of visitors, community workers, friends, and lovers that came to help.
Most of the images and conversations about the Haight Ashbury district always end in references to drugs, free love, idealistic “children” that needed to go home to their mother’s and take a well deserved bath. But that was not the original intent, and it was not its lasting impact on the City and County of San Francisco.
Imagine if somebody threw a Youth Convention of 35,000 in your city and forgot to tell the hotels, city officials, police, fire departments, and social service agencies. Now imagine that each day an additional 2000 people arrived for an additional sixty days? Where would these people sleep? Would they open their public park for sleeping? How would they eat? The very agencies that they came to “help” were fledgling non-profit start-ups, trying to help veterans and drug addicted youth.
It was indeed a Summer of Love because that many youth gave up everything to come and serve, to come and love, to come and create changes that are STILL the cornerstone of Social Services offered here in San Francisco for example: Haight Asbury Free Clinic, Huckleberry House for Runaways. I will not idealize what took place during those who chose engage in “psychedelic experiences” but the innovative thoughts and paradigm shifts that resulted from the collective body created several hundreds of committed agents of change.
It has been 35 years and I believe the late Abbie Hoffman summed it up best when he said “The lesson of the sixties is that people who cared enough to do right could change history.”