On the afternoon of Saturday, December 17th, dozens of colorfully clad San Franciscans gathered at the corner of Haight and Masonic to kick off the second official Haight Free Love event: a celebration of non-transactional sharing and open commons. The gathering was held in spirit of The Diggers, the Summer of Love-era radical community action collective that made waves in the city with its improvisational brand of guerrilla street theater.
Passersby checked in at the “Unaccustoms” booth, where they were given non-monetary “love note” bills and invited to enjoy a cornucopia of free delights: flowers, tea, music, poetry, snacks, transplantable succulent trimmings, tie-dye t-shirts, and more. Handwritten signs and photocopied leaflets prompted participants with questions like, “What would you value more if you thought money didn’t exist?” and “What would it take to make THIS your everyday?”
“Haight Free Love is a reclamation of the common space,” said co-organizer Chris Swimmer, who was inspired to undertake the project after hearing the account of two friends who made a practice of giving away free waffles on their street. “It’s us remembering that this is all of our space and we can gather on it and we can create community anywhere.”
Haight Free Love is an offshoot of the Haight Street Commons, a network of not-for-profit co-ops and intentional communities in the greater Haight-Ashbury. Organizers planned the gathering to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Diggers’ Death of Money Parade, a show of “anti-capitalism, joy, love, and community” that created a stir along Haight Street in December 1966. The Diggers were known for serving soup in the Panhandle, opening Free Stores throughout the neighborhood, and organizing unconventional public improv events.
“The Death of Money Parade was one of the initial events that started the momentum toward the Summer of Love,” said NOW Festival co-coordinator Josh Hayes, “and we’re hoping to recreate a little bit of the magic of that here. I think that art and society are a bit like history: it’s always repeating itself or vamping on itself. We’re trying to take inspiration from what happened 50 years ago and add our own thing.”
A small crowd huddled around a portable tea service table as the sidewalk swelled with dozens of curious passerby. A stream of bubbles wafted through the clear winter air. The riders on the double-decker Big Bus Tour circuit cheered as they rounded the corner onto Haight Street.
“We are imagining a post-capitalist society where love is the currency,” said co-organizer Adalyn Naka. “What we want to do is inspire happiness and love in people and show everyone that the world is and can actually be a good place if you take initiative to make it that way. I’m thinking of shifting from peaceful protest to positive protest: actualizing the change that you want to see.”
Friends and strangers wore flowers in their hair and shared typewriter poetry. Musicians wandered into the mix and came together in a shifting jam session. The crowd grew, shared the space, and gradually dispersed. The crisp afternoon rolled over into a cold winter evening, and the participants packed up their supplies and went home, leaving the sidewalk strewn with colorful chalk designs and flower petals.
Check out more scenes from Saturday's event: