The 'Human Be-In' was a Happening in San Francisco, California's Golden Gate Park, the afternoon and evening of January 14, 1967. It was a prelude to San Francisco's Summer of Love, which made the Haight-Ashbury district a household word as the center of an American counterculture and introduced the word 'psychedelic to Suburbia.
The 'Human Be-In' focused the key ideas of the 1960s counterculture: personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization, communal living, ecological awareness, consciousness expansion. The Hippy movement developed out of disaffected student communities around Harvard and Berkeley and in San Francisco's 'Beat Generation' poets and jazz hipsters, who also combined a search for intuitive spontaneity with a rejection of 'middle-class morality.' Allen Ginsburg was at the heart of the transition.
The 'Human Be-In' took its name from a chance remark that one of the creators of the San Francisco Oracle, which first hit the streets in September 1966, made at the Love Pageant Rally; the playful name combined humanist values with the scores of Sit-Ins that had been reforming college and university practices and eroding the last vestiges of entrenched Segregation, starting with the Woolworth's lunch counter "sit-in' of 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Human Be-In was announced on the cover of the first issue of the San Francisco Oracle as "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In." Speakers at the rally included Timothy Leary in his first San Francisco appearance, who set the tone that afternoon with his famous phrase "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" and Richard Alpert soon to be more widely known as 'Ram Dass', and poets like Allen Ginsberg, who chanted mantras, and Gary Snyder. Other counterculture gurus included counterculture comedian Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, Jerry Ruben. The Hell's Angels, at the peak of their unblemished 'outlaw' reputation, corralled lost children. A host of local rock bands such as Grateful Dead, projecting effortless Enlightenment, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, which had been a staple of the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom since February 1966, provided the music.
The national media were agog. No one was able to agree whether 20,000 or 30,000 people showed up. Soon every gathering was an '-In' of some kind: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In comedy television show began airing over NBC just a year later,January 22, 1968. Before long even the signature yellow 'dot' of 'Sunshine' LSD was beginning to appear, stripped of its drug connections, as the happy face emblem of American feel-good culture.
The 'Human Be-In' was later recalled by its major instigator, Allen Cohen, as a necessary meld that brought together philosphically opposed factions of the current San Francisco-based counter culture: on one side, the Berkeley radicals, who were tending toward increased militancy in response to the U.S. government's Vietnam war policies, and, on the other side, the rather non-political Haight-Ashbury hippies, who, with the help of psychotropic compounds ('better living through chemistry' was a phrase stolen from Monsanto) and various spiritual guides, saw the cosmic karma in it all, and urged peaceful protest and ongoing joyful celebration.
More encompassing than a mere war protest movement, the counterculture that surfaced at the 'Human Be-In' encouraged us all to 'question authority' in regard to civil rights, women's rights, and consumer rights, shaped its own alternative media: "underground" newspapers and radio stations, and spawned new directions in music, art, and eventually the technology of the truly revolutionary personal computer.
Subsequently, the Be-In later spawned a series of Digital Be-Ins.