One of the earliest interviews I did for the book was with Peter Berg, who is one of the co-founders of the radical guerilla theatre/political/publishing group The Diggers. Peter has a long history in the civil rights and ecological movements, and after the Diggers wound down in San Francisco, he went on to help found the Black Bear Ranch commune in rural Northern California, which is one of the few 60s communes still active today. Currently, he and his wife Judy run the bioregional sustainability foundation Planet Drum. Peter (along with my friend Sam Hurwitt’s dad, Rob Hurwitt) was also involved with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, another only-in-San-Francisco phenomenon — a post-modern commedia dell’arte agitprop company that’s put on free public theater for four decades.
Talking to Peter about the Diggers was one of the more meaningful experiences I had while writing this book. Not only because Peter is a Character with a capital C, but because those of us who grew up in the Bay Area and were born at the tail end of the 60s or in the early 70s tend to be more than a bit jaded about the legacy of those times. We were too young to appreciate it, and we watched many of the Boomers immolate their countercultural values in the Reagan years (this is why many of us jumped into the punk scene, which is a subject for a different blog post). But the legacy of the Diggers is about more than just free love or drugs; the Diggers were prescient about the dangers of corporate media, the death spiral of capitalism, direct action for change, the necessity of feeding the poor, and the power of the written word. And one of my favorite Digger broadsides is the 1% Free poster they hung all over the city in the summer of ‘68, when they also staged the “death of money” and “death of hippie” events. Not only is it a striking, cryptic image, but it says a lot about where we are as consumers today.
Causes Kaya Oakes Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center
Call to Action
Human Rights Campaign
Berkeley Food and Housing Project