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    Pride, Summer of Love and Building a New Movement

    By Dr. Marcy Adelman

    The 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco Summer of Love coincides with this year’s Pride. The two events, separated by decades, share much in common. The Summer of Love in 1967 and the hippie counterculture movement were a celebration of life in the middle of a tumultuous, violent and transformative time that shaped a generation, my generation. It feels to me that we are in one of those moments once again, when the heart and soul of the country are at stake. The 60s have much to teach us.

    I wasn’t a hippie, but like them, and like so many people of my generation, I shared their core values of challenging the status quo of oppressive racist, sexist and elitist values of the 1950s. I wasn’t interested in dropping out, but was grateful for the music—Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, and so many others—and applauded the creative and playful ways the hippie movement rejected materialism and established, however briefly, a counterculture based on personal freedom and universal love.

    The San Francisco Summer of Love, with its spirit of peace and goodwill, was sandwiched in the middle of a decade marked by sit-ins, anti-war protests, civil rights marches, race riots and assassinations. Among those historic events were the Harlem riot (1964), the Watts riots (1965), Free Speech Movement and the student riots (1964), the United Farm Workers protest to secure voting and political rights (1964–1965), the founding of the Students Non-Violent Coordination Committee (1965), the creation of the Oakland Black Panther Party (1966), and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy (1963), Martin Luther King, Jr., (1968) and Bobby Kennedy (1968).

    I was in high school during the non-violent sit-ins at lunch counters and restaurants in the South, and in 1963, when Martin Luther King wrote in a letter from an Alabama jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in the inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This quote is etched on the north wall of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial. This quote gave me hope, and gives me hope still.  No matter the injustice, the setbacks, or even the loss of those who gave us hope, hope remains.

    When President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963, it seemed as if the whole world was crying that day. My high school teachers, classmates, school bus driver, traffic police, and neighborhood families were standing out on their front lawns, or in the streets, crying and holding each other. The country grieved the loss of a young president who had held out much hope for a more inclusive country and a re-imagining of America’s significance and purpose in the world.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., wisely pressed President Lyndon Johnson to take that moment of loss and grief to drive home John F. Kennedy’s civil rights legislation to end segregation in education and to provide federal protection of the right to vote. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965.

    The civil rights and peace movements overlapped in the 1960s. The Vietnam War was the first war to be televised. Each night, the evening news brought the horrors of war into our everyday lives. It was impossible to turn away from, or to forget, the wounded and dying soldiers and civilians.

    The witnessing of this suffering, coupled with the anti-war movement’s primarily peaceful non-violent approach to protest, was instrumental in widening and growing the movement. It evolved to include students and academics, the clergy and the civil rights, women’s liberation and Chicano movements, until it reached a critical mass that would finally bring the war to an end.

    The Women’s March on Washington, the day after this year’s inauguration, reminded me of the lessons from the 60s. The march was peaceful and inclusive. The protesters wore playful hats. The speakers were fiery, as well as creative, with poetry, music and performance. The march and the marchers were inspirational.

    We never expected to be in this fight, but maybe, just maybe, a broader, more diverse and inclusive coalition than ever before will come together to fight for our progressive values and to take back the government. Maybe, just maybe, this time we in this “… inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny” will finally learn to live and thrive together. I hope so. Happy Pride.

    Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice, is co-founder of the non-profit organization Openhouse. She is also a leading advocate and educator in LGBT affirming dementia care and a member of the Advisory Council to the Aging and Adult Services Commission.