I was a burgeoning young teenager in 1967, turning 13 years old at the end of November. My first trip to San Francisco occurred that Christmas. The chance to wade into its sea of culturally rebellious “Flower Children” (in the movement’s international headquarters) was exhilarating beyond belief.
An era of outward dare, jarring colonial American values, pushing uptight society away from enforced blandness and toward unadulterated human engagement, was utterly hypnotic. Revealed was the taste of spirit liberation much needed on so many unforeseen levels. Celebrating heightened love and discovered “organic” awareness let the “epiphany cat” out of the bag (so to speak). This phase though, was reaching its pinnacle.
A few short years earlier I’d seen both Civil Rights and Voting Rights federal laws finally being passed. Our television gave us front row seats to witness Black youth coalescing with “others,” their bodies armored only with the “concept” of sacred human validation. National volunteers bravely squared-off with deadly Southern forces viciously guarding white racist resistance.
My own family continuously told their detailed, nauseating stories dealing with Southern survival—I was the first California born. All these raw images were terrifying. Yet, outside our own doors San Diego had its particular brand of residual cocked in the system; my Civil Rights minded parents guaranteed that the ongoing struggle would indeed remain up close and personal.
The same landscape found the emergence of Malcolm X (with the Black Muslims), Stokely Carmichael and Leroy Jones (Amiri Baraka), Huey Newton and Bobby Seal (with the Black Panthers), and Maulana Ron Karenga with his “US” organization (which soon became “Nia”). Touted was an essential dynamic: Black Power and Black Pride. Thus, intersecting the Peace Movement constantly did produce a tempered “balance”—yielding the illusion of strange bedfellows.
How ironic that initially Black Pride would so jar the standard Black Church. Black youth sporting proud new “naturals” (or “Afro hairstyles”) often were stopped at the doors. Openly identifying themselves as Black (or African-American) caused a Negro identified institution to rigorously guffaw! Being relentless with reclaimed cultural pride did gradually grab older generations, cracking most Church doors towards eventual acceptance.
My own progressive father who had once showed me how to better straighten your hair like his generation had, without the burning lye technique, suddenly was forking out my growing “natural” locks. My highly religious dad had his own ways of shaking up those rigid pews.
Undoubtedly the Church’s disgust with especially the likes of Malcolm X’s Nation of Islam, and other Black “self-help” elements was due to a specific thing: their fiery persistence with exposing the Church’s scandalous shunning of the Civil Rights movement. My book Trouble In Black Paradise gives a rare glimpse into the controversial rise of Black Muslims, especially showing their impact on drawing substance seeking congregants (and their “money”) away from stagnant Church folds.
Also revealed is one popular Black Power advocate’s surprise article, brazenly supporting “homosexual rights.”