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The First Human Be-In

Lawrence Bush
January 14, 2018

The first Human Be-In brought more than 20,000 people to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on this date in 1967, as a prelude to the Summer of Love. Among the key organizers of this “Gathering of the Tribes” was Allen Cohen, a founder of the San Francisco Oracle, who had teamed up with the psychedelic artist Michael Bowen to create a “Love Pageant Rally” a few months earlier in protest of LSD being made illegal. “Without confrontation,” said Cohen, “we wanted to create a celebration of innocence. We were not guilty of using illegal substances. We were celebrating transcendental consciousness.” Jewish performers at the Be-In included Allen Ginsberg; speakers included Yippie leader  Jerry Rubin, poet Lenore Kandel, activist Jack Weinstein, and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), author of Be Here Now. A host of West Coast bands performed, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Blue Cheer, and Owsley Stanley provided massive amounts of LSD as well as seventy-five  turkeys, for free distribution.

“Now. . . The humanization of the American man and woman can begin in joy. . . A new concert of human relations being developed within the youthful underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared so that a revolution of form can be filled with a Renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love in the revelation of the unity of all mankind. The Human Be-In is the joyful, face-to-face beginning of the new epoch.” —organizers’ call

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.