About this event...

by Chet Helms

 photo of Chet Helms by Jay Blakesberg
Chet Helms by Jay Blakesberg
The original Council for the Summer of Love was created in 1967 by The Family Dog, The Straight Theatre, The Diggers, The San Francisco Oracle and about twenty-five individuals.

All this is well documented in Charles Perry's "History of the Haight Ashbury" and the San Francisco Chronicle of April 6,1967. The Human Be-in (which we were all involved in the creation thereof) drew at least 35,000 people with virtually no conventional publicity, mostly word of mouth. We realized that by the time school let out in April or May that we would be inundated by literally tens of thousands of young people from all over the country.

The images projected by the media of our nascent cultural renaissance were pretty negative and usually consisted of some young unbathed, barefoot individual sitting in the gutter, smoking a joint and begging for spare change. The term "summer of love" was our attempt to initiate these young people into another more positive and compassionate vision of what this embryonic cultural revolution was all about.

The Council for the Summer of Love was specifically formed to try to mitigate some of the problems which would predictably attend this population explosion.

To that end-

  • We worked very closely with the churches in the Haight Ashbury.

  • We assisted Dr. David Smith in the creation of the Haight Asbury Free Clinic.

  • We supported the efforts of the Reverend Larry Beggs who founded the Huckleberry House for Runaways.

  • We promoted a Haight Ashbury "Sweep-In" and cleaned Haight Street from Masonic to Stanyan.

  • We collectively supported the efforts of the Diggers to feed people in the park, to provide shelter to the homeless, and donated usable goods to the Diggers Free Store before recycling was fashionable.

  • With donated services and equipment we produced all the free musical and artistic events that happened in the Panhandle that year. These events served to help these young people network with each other so that they could find a place to stay, make new friends, locate a meal and kept them from simply hanging out on Haight Street and getting into trouble.

We may not have accomplished all that we set out to do, but the situation would have been much worse without us. We sowed the seeds of a compassionate idealism which still lives in the hearts of many of our own and subsequent generations.

Over the years members of our circle have periodically produced events to celebrate the various anniversaries of the Summer of Love(1987,1992,etc). We have assembled ourselves one more time as the Council for the Summer of Love. Most of us were part of the original circle, though many young people who share our ideals have joined us.

We are collectively producing the 30th Anniversary of the Summer of Love Celebration on October 12, 1997 in the Beach Chalet Meadows in Golden Gate Park.

We have three main purposes in producing this event:

First- we would like to celebrate the accomplishments of our generation. The accomplishments of our generation are so ubiquitous as to be anonymous. We were called "health nazis", but you can buy organic food in most supermarkets today. The environmental issues we raised then are before almost every legislative body in the world now. We made major strides in ending legal segregation though we still have much to do to end racism.We ended the era when women could be treated as second class citizens though much remains to be done in achieving gender equity. We greatly expanded the range of personal expression which was guaranteed to us by the constitution but seldom realized due to social fears and conformity. So now you can wear your hair any length, pierce your nose if you like,women can wear pants and throw their bra away if so inclined. We ended the terrible and senseless war in South East Asia and never again will we send 500,000 soldiers around the world to fight a war that the citizenry neither supported nor understood. The sixties were the best thing that happened in the late 20th century, not the worst as some would have it and it is important to create a forum in which we can standup and bear witness to that fact.

Second- we would like to inspire folks to re-examine their lives and focus once again on some of the humane, compassionate, and democratic ideals of that era. We are of the opinion that we are all older, hopefully wiser, more skilled, better connected, have more resources available and could accomplish wonders by rededicating ourselves to implementing compassion in our personal behavior and public policy.

The late Abbie Hoffman said "The lesson of the sixties is that people who cared enough to do right could change history."

Third- we wish to use this event as a podium to educate people about the dire future that faces many of our children. Many are unaware that, in this the richest country on the planet, one third of our children live below the poverty line and this percentage goes up astronomically if you examine the African-American or Hispanic communities. We are now told that one in twenty of children born today in America will spend time in prison. In the time that we built one institution of higher learning in California we built twenty seven prisons. These are shameful facts that we as a society must address. To this end we have asked all the invited speakers at our celebration to speak to the question: " How do we create a more compassionate vision of the future for our children?"

In the spirit of the sixties and to allow the broadest and most inclusive participation, this event will be free and ungated.

We will ask for contributions at the gates but none will be excluded for lack of funds.We are raising funds for the production of this event from corporate and private sponsors, from advances on merchandising memorabilia, from advances on recording, film,and video rights.

Any funds raised in excess of the production costs of this event we have pledged to distribute to impoverished and at risk childrens' programs. We have asked the Glide Church Foundation and the Childrens Council to assist us in selecting appropriate beneficiaries. To be perfectly clear we are not promoting this event as a benefit per se, but as a consciousness-raising event. We are a non-profit organization under the umbrella of the Agape Foundation/Unity Foundation (a 501c3 corporation) who are acting as our fiscal agents.