The Human Be-In promotional poster. Photo: Casey Sonnabend
Fifty-five years ago on this day, in 1967, the dramatic initiation to the Summer of Love occurred in the polo fields of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. A now iconic California Event, it was called “The Human Be-in”–a festival to protest new drug laws that banned psychedelics and spread the emerging counterculture gospel. The gospel that emphasized civil rights, political consciousness, environmental awareness, communal living, and of course, the abolishing of drug stigmas.
The event opened with the famous psychologist, writer and notorious drug advocate, Timothy Leary, announcing the famous phrase, “Turn on, tune in, and drop out”. Other great scholars and thinkers of the time spoke as well; most notably, the poet Allen Ginsberg.Their words were absorbed lovingly and big music headliners such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane began to play before a young, acid-infused crowd of nearly twenty thousand people.
The Human Be-In crowd. (AP Photo/Bob Klein)
The media bubbled with amazement at the swarms of young people mobilized by the Human Be-in. It was a call for reform, but it was also a symbol of youth and vitality. The two parties of the 1960’s counterculture were brought under the same stretch of sky – the intense leftist radicals, and the softer, San Francisco hippies that encouraged the power of peaceful protest. The Human Be-In ultimately catalyzed an era, and an energy that would go on to ignite some of the biggest rights movements of history.