What’s a Be-In? Check the video below from the Lincoln Park Be-In for more background on the celebration of “Turning on and Tuning In”.
Around the time of Chicago’s storied Blizzard of 1967 which dumped 23 inches of snow over the course of about 35 hours, out in San Francisco, the first “Human Be-in” or “Be-In” occurred in Golden Gate Park.
On Mother’s Day of that year (once we had all thawed out), a Be-In occurred here in Chicago in Lincoln Park, followed by one on the South Side at Promontory Point (pictured at top of post). The Be-in at Lincoln Park was fairly well covered by media of the day, but its South Side cousin has left barely a trace of proof behind. To me the whole sunshine and daisies Hippie Counterculture narrative is striking set against the backdrop of Chicago, where just a year earlier Martin Luther King, Jr. marched for open housing. He later stated:
“…the People of Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate.”
The Human Be-In took place in San Francisco, with a whole bunch of lost children and intellectuals. They didn’t have the crush of history weighing heavy on them. Chicago’s Be-Ins had a bit more subtext: the ongoing racial tension that exploded the following year, Class-based struggles that often manifested themselves in Union tussles, and the ever widening so-called Generation Gap. Maybe people were yearning to come together.
‘The Point’, as it is known, was a natural choice for such a ‘Be-In’. It has served as a point of convergence for people of all stripes since its opening in 1937, particularly weddings.
A man-made peninsula, ‘The Point’ has been embroiled in controversy due to the City’s recent plans to remove the limestone embankment (see left), replacing it with steel and concrete. Much of the Lakefront had initially had the limestone treatment, but was torn out in the 1990s. A “Save the Point” preservationist movement ensued.
Below, the only photo I could find of the 1967 Promontory Point Be-In, published in the July 1967 issue of Ebony Magazine.
In the uncredited Photo-Editorial that accompanied the picture, the author suggests:
“But let’s forget it. The dream is over. The Be-ins won’t make even a dent in the hate and mistrust and dissension in this country alone. There will still be screams of black and white power, the double-talk of politicians, the fight over open-occupancy, poverty amidst plenty, crime, graft and double dealing… But on second thought, if you do hear that there is going to be a Be-in in your city, go on out to it. Be a human being for at least one afternoon. Some of it might stick.”
Ebony in the digital age
Chicago’s own Ebony Magazine has digitized its archives. Celebrate.
Ebony was the premier photojournalism and news magazine of the Black Diaspora for decades. During its peak, Ebony featured groundbreaking work by photographers such as Gordon Parks (work seen below), as well as thought provoking articles that exposed sometimes obscure corners of the “black experience” (Mixed race children of WWII G.I.s in Japan, black scuba divers, black opera singers, et al.). A beautiful thing.
A contender has yet to step up to the plate and pick up that mantle.
click here to access the archive that goes back more than fifty years. Jive on!
1 Comment | tags: Ebony, Ebony Magazines, Ebony/Jet, gordon parks, Johnson Publishing, Nichelle Nichols | posted in Arts & Culture, Chicago Cultural History, Commentary, Jive Culture, Magazines, Printed Matters, the Goodness