This year is the 50th anniversary of the iconic 1967 Summer of Love. For those unaware, this social phenomenon occurred when more than 100,000 people from around the country descended upon San Francisco and specifically the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, celebrating music, fashion, civil rights, and ample drug use.
You could say 1967 was fated from the get-go to be an important year: Only two weeks into January, thousands gathered in Golden Gate Park for a Human Be-In (also called the Gathering of the Tribes) as a direct response to the illegalization of LSD that had taken place the prior fall.
The Human Be-In was announced to the masses in a story published in the San Francisco Oracle, an underground newspaper that was passed around the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
“A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind,” the paper read.
The event was very Beat-centric, featuring writers Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who spoke on themes of personal and spiritual empowerment, encouraging the approximately 30,000 attendees to question authority. Ginsberg, who was in his mantra phase, was said to have chanted, “This is really it, and it is all perfect” over and over again to the crowds.
By the time Spring Break rolled around, high school and college students started flooding Haight-Ashbury, and the large migration of hippies to the tiny neighborhood started drawing national media attention. Live music events were held frequently, especially in the Panhandle; houses slept dozens each night; and art-making was rampant.
By October, the crowds began to dwindle as students returned to school and rainy weather set in. A ceremony dubbed “The Death of the Hippie” was staged on Oct. 6, 1967, to signal the end of the Summer of Love. But Mary Kasper, one of the event’s organizers, perhaps put it best when she closed out the year with this eulogy:
“We wanted to signal that this was the end of it, to stay where you are, bring the revolution to where you live, and don’t come here because it’s over and done with.”
Throughout 2017, SF Weekly will take a look back five decades at these and other events that put San Francisco solidly on the counterculture map.
Nuala Sawyer is a staff writer at SF Weekly and the Examiner.