Celebrating Berkeley Barb’s 50th Anniversary of Founding

I’ve said it many times already in many forms. I’m happy to say it again: My deepest thanks to the Berkeley Barb reunion committee for inviting me to share in the festivities of the fiftieth anniversary reunion, Wednesday and Thursday August 12-13. (Events took place all week but those were the only two I was able to attend.) The Barb, one of the legendary underground papers of the Vietnam era, hasn’t actually been around since 1980 but it was founded fifty years ago, in 1965, and fifty years of anything is worthy of a celebration.

Reunions always include at least two parts. First is the celebration, seeing friends who you haven’t seen in what seems like forever and who you’re never sure you will ever see again, and also seeing folks who go back to the same time but who you never knew personally and are meeting for the first time. So the event is joyous at the same time as it is bittersweet.

Here are some of the friends who shared memories and laughs with me:

  • Friends I met while organizing against both major parties in Miami Beach in the summer of 1972 (Gabrielle Schang, Leslie Bacon, Babs Yohai, Kathy Streem, Judy Gumbo);
  • A friend who worked with me on Joint Issue in Lansing-East Lansing, Michigan, and then made the trek west with a stop at the Barb (Stephen Vernon);
  • A friend from East Lansing who worked on another area underground paper, The Spectacle (Tom Price);
  • Contributors to my Voices from the Underground Series (Trina Robbins, Alta, Laura X, all veterans of the feminist newspaper It Aint Me Babe);
  • Members of the reunion committee (Raquel Scherr, Gar Smith, Diana Stephens, John Jekabson);
  • The legendary medical advice columnist Eugene Schoenfeld, known as Dr. HIPpocrates.
John Jekabson, Berkeley Barb veteran and member of the reunion committee, with Ken Wachsberger. Photo credit Marianne Smith, August 2015

John Jekabson, Berkeley Barb veteran and member of the reunion committee, with Ken Wachsberger. Photo credit Marianne Smith, August 2015

And there were others so apologies to anyone I neglected to list here.

The second part is reflective. When you’re living in the now and you’re looking back fifty years, and if you have an active mind, you can’t help but go deep inside yourself as you listen to others go deep inside themselves. The conference on Thursday encouraged the trip back in time. It began with a keynote from feminist comix pioneer Trina Robbins talking about women in the underground press and how she broke through the all-boys’ club of comix artists; and ended with a keynote from Dr. HIP, giving his fascinating life story including how he came to write his famous sex advice column for the Barb, which was “syndicated” in underground papers all over the country. (I use quotes because none of the papers that reprinted his column, he said, in fact paid him. Although membership in Underground Press Syndicate allowed papers to reprint others’ articles and graphics for free, it is likely that non-UPS members also reprinted his column without paying for it; we were kind of loose with understanding of copyright in those days.)

Between the opening and closing keynotes were two panels and a reading by feminist poet Alta. In the morning panel, moderated by Judy Gumbo, veterans of the Barb representing the entire fifteen-year span of its existence shared their memories by answering two questions apiece that Judy prepared specifically for them. I shared the afternoon panel with journalist/historians Peter Richardson, historian of Ramparts magazine and the Grateful Dead; and Seth Rosenfeld, chronicler of the FBI-Ronald Reagan war against student radicals in the sixties. Diana Stephens, who led the effort to organize the reunion after being inspired during the writing of her master’s thesis on the Barb, moderated this panel.

A report on the reunion appeared in the Contra Costa Times News. You can read it here.

Following is the full text of my talk, which I cut slightly at the panel in consideration of a tight time frame.

* * *

As a veteran and a historian of the sixties, I hear often—and maybe you do, too—the question: “When did the sixties end?” I’d like to reframe that question:

  • Same-sex marriage is now legal in the entire country.
  • Legal marijuana is not far behind.
  • Women are rising up again to fight for equality and to control their own bodies.
  • U.S. residents of Mexican descent, who we knew as Chicanos, are demanding a path to citizenship and the right to study their history and culture in schools and universities.
  • Black Lives Matter.
  • A socialist is a viable candidate for president.
  • And the alternative press is vibrant, and more necessary than ever.

So my reframed question is: How have the sixties lasted so long? That shining star that never fades.

When I was compiling and editing histories of individual underground papers in the late eighties-early nineties for the first edition of my Voices from the Underground Series, I was chided by at least one friend, himself a veteran of the underground press, for putting so much effort into such an esoteric topic. Fortunately, I didn’t know what “esoteric” meant, so I was undeterred. Since then, it has become a major part of my life’s work.

While working on that first edition, my most gratifying discovery was that my contributors were still politically active. This was no small feat. We were fifteen years after the war’s end. The country had veered dramatically to the right. We were living in Reagan’s America. A major percentage of our peers were becoming Yuppified. They were hiding from their own kids what they did to help us accomplish all that we did because they were paranoid of losing their jobs, even though the period had produced the broadest, most diverse antiwar movement in the history of our country.

Now we’re 25 years beyond that time. I know all of you are still politically active. And the country is starting to swing around to our side. I know it still looks bad, but the arc is curving in our direction. We were persistent. We were patient. And we were right all along.

And I discovered something else: Our friend Jerry Rubin said it best: “We are everywhere.” Underground papers were everywhere. They were in urban, suburban, rural, ghetto, barrio, tribal, and other communities in every state of the Union and in countries around the world. They represented the gay, lesbian, feminist, black, Native American, Puerto Rican, Asian American, Chicano, senior citizen, high school, campus, community, anarchist, socialist, psychedelic, counterculture, new age, prisoners’ rights, rank and file, Southern consciousness, and other alternative voices of the day. They were found in every branch of the military—over 900 GI underground papers published by or directed to members of the military. Support the troops? You’re damn right we supported the troops. No one supported the troops like we did. Underground papers were everywhere. Each one spoke to its own unique audience. But they were united against the war.

So here we are celebrating Berkeley Barb, one of the greats, one of the legends, one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, the first nationwide network of countercultural underground newspapers. My hat’s off to all of you who played a role in that history. You really are a remarkable family of heroes and legends and friends. I’m honored to be sharing this historic moment with you.

And congratulations to all of you who came of age in the eighties and nineties and have carried on our struggles, which we carried on from generations before us. You’re the new leadership.

We still have goals to achieve, fantasies to live, as Abbie [Hoffman] would have said, but the torch has been passed to the next generation. Our mission now is to share our experiences and lessons with current and future leaders.

Here’s the first thing, people of my generation, you’re going to find: Too many young folks have no idea what happened back when. A journalist wrote to me recently. He said: “It is interesting how little the underground press plays into our popular conception of the 60s and 70s, given how vibrant the scene seemed to be.”

We can debate the reasons but he’s right. Young, progressive bloggers, our political heirs, for the most part, have no idea of their journalistic roots.

So I’m issuing you all a challenge. We’re in the middle of a celebration and I’m issuing a challenge. Here’s my challenge: Record your stories. Now. Produce a movie. Publish a book. Post a blog entry. Write a letter to your kids. Get it down—because if you don’t, someone else will do it for you and it won’t be the way you remember it or the way you want others to remember it. Teach your children and your children’s children.

I’m grateful to the reunion committee for inviting me here to share my latest effort to preserve the greatest writings of our generation, including the Barb, and make them accessible to current and future generations of activists, artists, and historians. When we’re done, we will have digitized over 1,000 titles, representing over three-quarters of a million pages of exact, keyword-searchable, digital reproductions of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties covering all of the genres I mentioned earlier. We even have four papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement. With more funding, we could do more. So all of you wealthy heirs here today, let’s talk.

We heard Trina Robbins, in her keynote, talk about women in the underground press. The digital collection includes nearly 120 feminist and lesbian papers including the Bay Area’s own It Aint Me Babe, the first nationwide feminist underground newspaper in the United States, and one fortunate enough to have had many of Trina’s covers and inside cartoons. Sometime after January 2017, the collection will go into open access, which means the entire collection will be accessible to anyone through a simple keyword search.

While it is still in development, only patrons of supporting libraries can get into it, but one of them is Berkeley. In fact, the entire UC system is a supporter so anyone with access to any of the UC libraries can view the complete evolving collection. We have about 400,000 pages uploaded so far.

And if your library isn’t on board, here are two thoughts to keep in mind:

  1. Please introduce me to your acquisitions librarian.
  2. We have put aside a select list of twenty-two titles that are open access from the beginning so you can get a feel for the site and endorse it glowingly to your acquisitions librarian. One of them, in honor of this wonderful celebration, is Berkeley Barb.

We’re working with a growing team of sourcing libraries and individuals, including some of you here today, who are sending us original copies of papers from their collections that we scan and digitize and then return to them. In this way, we are able to create complete runs of titles where the individual sourcing libraries had gaps in theirs. When we’re done, we will have, as far as we can tell, the only complete collection of the Barb anywhere and it will be fully keyword-searchable. Thanks to all of you who have shared your original issues.

I became aware of the Barb before Kent State, which is when I became radicalized. I remember the day. I was visiting my brother in Manhattan Beach. I was listening to Johnny Rivers sing “Going Back to Big Sur” and I realized that Big Sur was only about 400 miles north on Highway 1. So the next morning I filled my laundry bag with two days worth of clothing and camping gear, slung it over my left shoulder, and rode my right thumb up Highway 1. I know it was 1969 because that was my first of what would turn out to be a decade of hitchhiking adventures and it was the year, I learned later, that Jack Kerouac died. So naturally, I drew a karmic connection between the two of us, two generations of hitchhikers. Three short rides brought me out of the Los Angeles area, and then I got picked up by four long-haired hippies, two male and two female, in—cliché alert—a VW microbus with multi-colored swirls and shooting stars on the sides. There was so much smoke coming out of the car I was high before I sat down. Some time before I passed out with a big grin on my face, they introduced me to the latest copy of the Barb. I’m pretty sure that was why I had a grin.

For a kid from the eastside suburbs of Cleveland who wasn’t ready yet for the politics, the Barb was outrageous with its cartoons, graphics, and layout that told me there was something different out there that I couldn’t ignore. Later, when I came of age at Michigan State and realized that The Paper, East Lansing’s underground newspaper, was one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, I discovered that the Barb had been another. Berkeley was the epicenter of the counterculture. The Barb was the voice of Berkeley.

The sixties was an amazing era, one of the most dynamic, colorful, significant—and divisive—eras in our young country’s history. I’ve never been one to apologize for the period’s supposed excesses and I’ll bet none of you have either. Were we excessive? Of course we were. We changed the world, for the better, and it’s still changing, for the better, because of what we did—and what we continue to do.

Congratulations to the Berkeley Barb for being such a major player in this historic era that never fades.

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Hitchhiking to the Revolution: A Hitchhiker’s Tale from the Seventies

Last month I posted the talk that I gave at the “Women’s History in the Digital World 2015” conference at Bryn Mawr College. Given the narrow scope of the conference, women’s studies, the scope of my talk was limited to the feminist and lesbian underground papers. The week after, I spoke at Left Forum 2015. There, the scope was “the political Left”—including national, international, any topic at all. So, my talk, adapted from two previous talks and reproduced below, was on the broader definition of the underground press, beyond the women’s papers, beyond the thread that begins with the Los Angeles Free Press. All of the definitions need to be known, their stories celebrated and shared widely especially with the current and future generations of activists, our intergenerational peers.

* * *

Emily, Ken, and Ernestine Hemingway hitchhiking in Austin, Texas, 1978. From wedding invitation. Caption: "Emily and Ken are finally getting hitched"

Emily, Ken, and Ernestine Hemingway hitchhiking in Austin, Texas, 1978. From wedding invitation. Caption: “Emily and Ken are finally getting hitched”

In the late sixties and throughout the seventies, I was a hitchhiker. I hitchhiked not only around town but to all ends of the country. Everywhere I went, I met folks who either were on their local underground newspapers or read one on a regular basis.

I met ex-cons working on Penal Digest International, a prisoners’ rights paper in Iowa City. I hitchhiked to a women’s liberation march in DC with five women from Lansing who all read Her-self, a women’s paper out of Ann Arbor. In 1972, I hitchhiked to Madison and stayed with a staffer for their paper, Takeover, who I met through their local crash pad file, and I helped the local Yippies organize a Smoke-In. Later, after they bailed me out of jail following a street demonstration, I drove down to Miami with them to organize against the Democrats and Republicans, who both held their nominating conventions there that summer. While there I contributed a piece to the Daily Planet and worked with the Underground Press Syndicate. Everywhere I went, I met gays and lesbians who tried to convert me to their agenda, which was basically “Live and let live.” They had their favorite papers that emerged after the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969, including Gay Liberator in Detroit, Gay Sunshine in San Francisco, and Fag Rag in Boston.

In my foreword to the first edition of Voices from the Underground I wrote:

The period was a vision as much as a reality. It was a time of experimentation. We made mistakes and learned from them. In the beginning, men attacked sexism while women typed their articles. In the end, women founded the feminist and lesbian press and men learned that it was okay to cry. For all its faults, the sixties was a magical period. A time warp opened up and those who stepped inside glimpsed the new paradigm that brought together the best visions of the visionaries and showed us, on a small scale, how to make them work. On the pages of the underground press, writers tried to reduce the vision to the written word and apply the strategies to a larger scale. Those who were touched remain touched.

It was a fleeting vision for sure. We were offered the fruits of so many liberation movements to harvest that it’s no mystery why there was a return to the land. But not everybody embraced the changes. The period divided and traumatized our country like no period since the civil war.

By the time the war ended, activists of the antiwar movement had turned inward and embraced the Me Decade. Meanwhile, the country swung dramatically to the right. Vietnam was pretty much written out of public discourse. Few high school or college courses studied it honestly.

By 1993, when I published the first edition of Voices from the Underground, my anthology of underground press histories as written by key people on each of the papers, we were living in Reagan’s America. The country had shifted so dramatically to the right, veterans of the antiwar movement, who were now having children and looking for career jobs, were scared to talk about their experiences, even with their kids, even though they had proudly been part of the broadest, most diverse antiwar movement in the history of our country. Those who wrote their stories with me displayed courage.

Voices from the Underground, first edition, volume 1

Voices from the Underground, first edition, volume 1

Today the underground press is becoming better known, though it has not nearly reached the level of recognition that accurate history requires. Scholars like John McMillian (Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America) and James Lewes (Protest and Survive: Underground GI Newspapers during the Vietnam War) are writing dissertations on it and publishing them. James, in fact, is the world expert on the GI underground press as well as a major supporter of Independent Voices, the underground press digital project that I’m talking about here. Young librarians like Suzanne Parenti Sink (from Florida Atlantic University) and Laurie Charnigo (from Jacksonville State University) are compiling major collections for their libraries and speaking about the underground press at conferences.

So what was the underground press?

The underground press was the independent, non-corporate, antiwar alternative to the corporate press of the Civil Rights and Vietnam eras. The traditional history of the underground press focuses on the Los Angeles Free Press, which was founded in 1964, as being the first underground paper of what was known as the counterculture. It might have been.

But in my vision and based on my work, I’ve expanded the term to include the papers of the liberation movements, whose roots go back earlier. Major gay and lesbian papers came out of the fifties: ONE, Mattachine Review, The Ladder. The first lesbian paper of our era, Vice Versa, goes back even further, to 1947. Important black papers also pre-dated the Free Press. The Student Voice, the paper of SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee), began publishing in 1960. Freedomways, founded by W.E.B. Du Bois and others, began the next year. Paul Robeson founded his paper, Freedom, during the Korean War.

All of these papers already are or will be, by the way, in Independent Voices.

But these papers were sporadic. After the Free Press, and thanks to the advanced technology of offset printing, underground papers in tabloid format focusing on the antiwar movement and the emerging counterculture and its related liberation movements flourished. They were found everywhere you looked: on campus and off, in urban, suburban, rural, ghetto, barrio, and other communities in every state of the Union and in countries around the world. They represented the gay, lesbian, feminist, black, Native American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Asian American, prisoners’ rights, military, New Age, socialist, anarchist, psychedelic, high school, senior citizen, rank and file, Southern consciousness, and other alternative voices of the day. They spoke to their own unique audiences. But they were united against the war.

Many of them were members of Underground Press Syndicate, the first nationwide network of underground papers from the sixties and seventies.

The underground press was such a major, all-encompassing part of my life in the early seventies that I still find it hard to believe that not everyone knows about its role in ending the war. But today when I talk about it with young folks who are the age now that we were then, who I call our intergenerational peers, I get blank stares.

It’s no surprise. Students today still are seldom taught the truth about the Vietnam War. History classes too often still gloss over it while ignoring the role of the antiwar movement in bringing it to an end. Journalism classes still traditionally ignore or downplay the place of the underground press in the history of journalism.

Today, political blogs have taken up the tradition that we carried on in the fifties through the eighties but most young bloggers themselves have no idea of their political roots. One of the best sites, in my opinion, is Daily Kos. “Kos” is Markos Moulitsas, who founded it. So I wrote to Markos and asked him to write a foreword to volume 1 of my series as a way to link our generations. I sent him a few sample chapters. He wrote back to me and said, “Ken, I’d love to but—I have to admit—I don’t know anything about the underground press.” I said, “I know that, Markos. I read your last book. You don’t even mention it.”

But I wasn’t criticizing Markos. He’s a college graduate, even has a law degree. But he never learned about the underground press. I told him that’s why I wrote to him. I said I wanted him to write from the perspective of someone who had just discovered his own political predecessor. He agreed and he wrote a remarkable piece.

When the first edition of Voices was coming out, Art Levin, who was the general manager of Michigan State University’s State News during the time I wrote for Joint Issue, the Lansing-area underground paper, wrote:

The period of the late sixties and early seventies was a high water mark for American journalism. For the first time in American history, the vision of Justices Holmes and Brandeis blossomed and bore fruit. A multitude of voices, the essence of democracy, resounded through the land providing a compelling alternative against the stifling banality of the establishment press. What this nation had during the Vietnam War was exactly what the founding fathers understood the press to be all about when they wrote the First Amendment.

Since those days, it’s been a personal mission of mine, I admit, to make sure that that history is not forgotten and to educate others on how they can learn more about it to prevent future Vietnams from happening. So it was a karmic blessing when I was approached by Jeff Moyer one day five years back to lead the effort to digitize underground, alternative, and literary papers from the fifties through the eighties.

Jeff was the former head of the digitizing department at ProQuest. With a partner, he bought out the department and founded IDC, Image Data Conversion. But on his own he also started Reveal Digital because he had an idea for an economic model that would create wondrous keyword-searchable digital collections in a way that was friendly to library budgets and would end up with the collections going into open access, the holy grail for librarians. The first collection he wanted to create was of underground newspapers. He approached me after discovering the first edition of Voices from the Underground at the library of Eastern Michigan University, where I used to teach. He brought me on board as a consultant and not long after that he hired me full time.

What attracted me to the project, besides the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the underground press, was Jeff’s economic model, what he calls “cost recovery = open access.” Basically, we promote upcoming projects to libraries through our crowd-funding website, where we describe each project, explain its significance, lay out the proposed contents as well as the sourcing libraries, and list the line-item expenses. Then we invite libraries to make non-binding commitments to purchase the collection but we don’t yet invoice them. When we have enough commitments to recover the costs, what we call our “sales threshold,” we go into full production, including rights gathering, sourcing from libraries, and scanning and digitizing.

Projects that are looking for funding include

Libraries pay according to a tiered structure but it amounts to about 20% of what they would pay one of the larger digital publishing companies for a comparable project that the company would keep behind a pay wall forever. Those libraries that support us have immediate access to the evolving collection while it is in development. Soon after it is completed, it goes into open access where even those libraries that didn’t support it have access to it. Meanwhile we’ll be working on other projects with the same model. No library pays for every collection but everyone benefits from every collection.

This is a righteous model that deserves library and foundation support. In an earlier life I worked for many years as managing editor of Reference Services Review and Serials Review, two journals that were read widely by reference librarians and serials librarians. I read countless articles and heard countless librarian laments about rising costs and decreasing budgets. But I also remembered the community feeling that librarians shared. The focus was always on increasing and facilitating user access. Usually it was the larger libraries that made the big investments and then the benefits would trickle down to the smaller libraries. With Reveal’s tiered structure, everyone can help.

With Independent Voices, the underground press collection, we’re still looking for funding but we are already actively working on it because we wanted to get one live collection out into the public. Our goal was to get over 1,000 titles. We already have more than that including some 120 women’s papers, 130 literary magazines—what were known as “little” magazines back then, some 20 gay papers, 60 minority papers, over 100 campus, community, high school, and other underground and alternative newspapers, 900 papers published by and for members of the military in all branches of the service, and even 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement.

Reveal Digital's Independent Voices digital collection

Reveal Digital’s Independent Voices digital collection

So far we’re about 40% of the way to being fully funded. We could include a lot more titles, and we would like to, if we had the funding.

We’re working with a growing team of libraries that are sending us original papers from their collections that we scan and digitize and then return safely to them along with keyword-searchable digital files and metadata of the papers that we scan.

Our goal is to upload a million pages of exact keyword-searchable digital reproductions by the end of January 2017. So far we have uploaded about 250,000 pages. Currently the collection is accessible only to patrons of our supporting libraries. After we reach our sales threshold, we’ll go into open access, which is the vision. However, libraries can make the files that we send them accessible immediately.

So this is where we are now.

In the sixties, we of the antiwar movement discovered philosopher George Santayana, who said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Yippie Abbie Hoffman added, “The only way to support a revolution is to make your own.” So we studied the first wave of feminism from the 1800s, the anarchists at the turn of the last century, the union struggles of the thirties, and much more, while we created and wrote about our present.

We’re still out there, organizing and teaching and keeping our visions alive. But as a generation we’ve peaked. Those of you who are college age and recently beyond, it’s your turn now to lead the struggle that we carried on from generations before us.

Our two generations and our struggles are intimately connected. In my generation, we flooded the colleges for at least two reasons: tuition was low and staying in college gave you a 2-S draft deferment. While we were in the college atmosphere, we learned how to think logically and critically, we met with other thinkers, and we organized to end a vicious war. It was the spawning ground for gender, minority, environmental, and other liberation movements. The underground press absorbed our thoughts and preserved them for you to study and critique.

The right has waged a relentless war against education since then—and make no mistake they want you to be either dumb and mindless—apparently truth is liberal—or so in debt you are a slave to your job, which, thanks to them, pays less and provides fewer benefits. So they have actively and enthusiastically waged war on public schools, attacked teachers’ unions, and cut aid for higher education.

The issues that we raised, the struggles we fought, were analyzed and documented in the pages of the underground and alternative press. Some of it was pretty crazy. One night I dropped acid with a fellow staffer and we went to a revival meeting to hear Leighton Ford, the son-in-law of Billy Graham. I took voracious notes—there was speed in the acid. On the way back, I read aloud some of what I wrote and my friend thought it was funny so I published my notes and called the article “I Dropped Acid and Saw God.” Another article I wrote was about a game a couple of my friends made up where they followed police cars and tried to not get busted. I called the article “Got One on the Pig-O-Scope.” I was attacked for being irresponsible because high schoolers read our paper. I was.

"I Dropped Acid and Saw God," from Joint Issue 3:16 (10/30/72)

“I Dropped Acid and Saw God,” from Joint Issue 3:16 (10/30/72)

But we also attacked the government’s atrocities in Vietnam and other countries and connected them to injustices at home as we worked to create a peace community. Your battle, one of them, is to take back the schools and colleges by ensuring the right to a decent, low-cost education that leads to a good job. Join the movement to eliminate student debt. If we can wipe bank debts clean and give billionaires tax breaks, we can wipe student debts clean also.

Today we’re doing okay on some of the social issues that emerged back then: gay rights, legalized marijuana, health care. Public awareness is starting to turn the corner on the environment and the Middle East. We’re getting trounced, but raising awareness, on women’s rights, immigrant rights, voting rights. Economically we’ve got our work cut out for us with union rights, student tuition, the wealth gap, campaign finance laws, expanding Social Security. There are other issues, and they’re all connected. Learn how. Don’t accept simplistic solutions that pit potential allies against each other. And don’t give in to despair.

We made lots of mistakes back when but we made some brilliant analyses, changed the world, and had fun. We quoted the words of anarchist Emma Goldman, who said, “A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.” Stew Albert, who was one of the legendary founders of the Yippies, said to me one day words that I have never forgotten. He said, “We can’t lose. We’re having too much fun.” It was summer 1972 in Miami Beach, where the Democrats and Republicans were holding their presidential conventions. We were at that moment on our way to the Yippie Puke-In.

Study this period. There has never been a more exciting, outrageous, mythological, liberating, artistic, magical period in our country’s history.

Begin by scouring the pages of the underground press.

Challenge everything you learn, including everything I just said.

Then create your own myths.

Remembering the First Vietnam Antiwar Teach-in

Ann Arbor-area friends, please join Vietnam-era and current antiwar activists and academics at the University of Michigan campus this coming Tuesday-Thursday, March 24-26, for a Teach-In for Peace to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the nation’s first antiwar teach-in, which was held at UM in 1965. It will be a time to look back to the events and lessons of the Vietnam era and an opportunity to discuss ways to apply those lessons to the current atmosphere.

The three days of panel discussions will be followed by “Teach-In +50: End the War Against the Planet” at Angell Hall on Friday and Saturday.

I’ll be speaking on Wednesday from 3:00-5:30 p.m. at the School of Social Work Commons on a panel with John Marciano, Jack Rothman, Bert Garskof, Bernardine Dohrn, and Bill Ayers.

I hope to see you there.

Feminist and Lesbian Periodicals in the Digital Age

I’m pleased to report that my proposal to speak at the “Women’s History in the Digital World 2015” conference at Bryn Mawr College on May 21-22 to talk about my underground press digital project has been accepted. The project, at its projected completion date at the end of January 2017, will include some one million pages—exact keyword-searchable digital reproductions—of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties, of which the women’s papers are one major part.

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So far we have on board some 150 women’s papers, 130 literary magazines, 900 GI underground papers representing every branch of the military, and some 170 papers representing the campus, community, high school, minority, gay, prisoners’ rights, new age, and other independent voices from the period. We even have 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement. Joining me on my panel will be

  • legendary feminist activist and archivist Laura X, who was a contributor to the history of It Aint Me Babe, one of the histories in my Voices from the Underground Series and now one of the papers on board the digital collection;
  • Andrée J. Rathemacher, professor and head of acquisitions in the University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island, as well as a long-time advocate for open access; and
  • Julie Enszer, long-time feminist and lesbian scholar and activist as well as editor of Sinister Wisdom, another of the papers on board the digital collection.

Following is the proposal that was submitted and accepted:

 Feminist and Lesbian Periodicals in the Digital Age … Rebroadcasting Our Voices

Overview of panel: This panel is about the work that Reveal Digital has been doing for the past four years to digitize important feminist and lesbian archives as a way to preserve women’s history and make it accessible to the current and future generations of activists. It’s no secret among academics that young scholars today look first and primarily to the Internet for sources of information and may be totally unaware of the vast treasures that await them in the back shelves of special collections libraries. Digitizing these treasures is a first step toward making them accessible. But digitizing alone isn’t enough to ensure accessibility, especially if the resulting digital collections are priced beyond the reaches of academic libraries, which are the primary purchasers of these collections. This is the predicament that libraries face under the traditional economic model employed by traditional publishing companies, which offer digital collections at prices so high that only a small number of libraries can purchase them ever and therefore only their clients have access to them ever. In addition, researchers increasingly want the ability to text-mine digitized content, which requires access to the entire full-text corpus of digitized collections, something that is typically unavailable under the traditional publication model due to intellectual property concerns. Meanwhile, library budgets strain to keep up with rising prices for print and digital collections. Reveal Digital has entered this arena with a unique new economic model called “cost recovery = open access.” Briefly, what we promise is to sell any one collection only until we have earned back enough money to recoup our expenses and salaries and then, after a brief period of exclusivity for those libraries that buy into it, we make that product open access, which means it will be freely available to anyone through simple Internet searching and the full-text content will be available for text mining. The work described above to digitize women’s papers is part of a larger project—that we call Independent Voices—to digitize a million pages of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties by the end of January 2017. Our motivations are two-fold: to preserve the most important writings of our generation, which are now hidden in dark shelves of special collections libraries and beginning to yellow and crumble with age; and to make them available to current and future generations of scholars and activists. We originally aimed to include a thousand publications in the collection but we already have surpassed that number. In addition to the approximately 150 feminist and lesbian papers included so far (see list below following bios), we also have some 130 literary magazines, 900 military underground papers, and 170 campus, community, high school, gay, minority, prisoners’ rights, and other underground and alternative papers. We even have 4 papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement. With each paper, we are creating an exact keyword-searchable digital reproduction of every page. So far we’ve uploaded about 125,000 pages. Our goal is to have digitized and uploaded 450,000 pages by the end of January 2015 and a million pages by the end of January 2017. This work couldn’t be done without the immense help of a growing team of sourcing libraries that loan us original copies of these papers from their collections after we clear permission from the intellectual property rights holders. Libraries that are on board already include Duke, Northwestern, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, Georgia State University, University of Texas-Austin (UT-Austin), University of Buffalo, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Washington, New York University, Bowling Green State University, University of Kansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Sequoyah National Research Center), William Way LGBT Center, University of California-San Diego (UCSD), and University of Illinois, Chicago Public Library, University of Michigan, Oberlin College, University of Connecticut, and California Historical Society. It is not uncommon that for some titles no single library owns a complete run. In those cases, we patch together complete runs from our sourcing libraries that have partial collections. This ability to create aggregate collections is another advantage of digitizing. Our sourcing libraries receive from us keyword-searchable digital files and the metadata of all titles that they share with us, to do with as they wish, including making them searchable through their websites. We reimburse them for all shipping and handling costs. Independent Voices is the first collection to be funded through Reveal Digital’s cost recovery = open access model. Beyond the Independent Voices project, we are working with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) to create a SNCC Digital Archive, with Highlander Folk School to digitize their papers from its founding through the Civil Rights era, and with Liberation News Service, the AP-UPI of the underground press, to create a collection that includes their photos and news packets. Other projects are in the conceptual stage. In the tradition of Kickstarter, Reveal Digital has created a crowd-funding website at http://revealdigital.com/ . There, we introduce every new project that is under consideration, lay out the individual costs to create the site, reduce the total cost to a per-library cost based on a tiered pricing structure (approximately 20 percent of what libraries would pay a typical digitizing company for a similar collection), and ask for non-binding commitments of support. Once the total of commitments reaches the cost-recovery threshold, we begin the permission-clearance phase. Libraries that fund any one collection receive early access to that collection, free MARC records, COUNTER compliant usage metrics, and full support for mass text downloading, as well as initial consideration for ideas to make their own collections more widely available through the cost recovery = open access economic model, without giving up ownership of the resulting digital files. Libraries have a long tradition of working together for the greater good of the broader library community. In that same tradition, no library is expected to support every Reveal Digital project but every library will have access to every project once they become open access. Thus, libraries supporting this unique new approach to funding the digitization of special collections ensure that access to important cultural material is free and available to all. You can learn more at http://voices.revealdigital.com/voices. Because we aren’t yet open access, you can only view the papers on that site if you have access to one of our supporting libraries. However, you can still review a sample of our work at our demo site, http://demo.revealdigital.com/voices. Panel of presenters:      

  •  Julie R. Enszer: Chair/Comment
  •  Ken Wachsberger will introduce and explain the cost recovery = open access economic model—how it works, why it is needed, why it is important for libraries to support it— for digitizing library and other special collections with a focus on the Independent Voices collection of feminist and lesbian papers. He will introduce some of the upcoming projects and the Kickstarter site.
  •  Laura X is known far and wide for her extensive archives that document the women’s movement of the late-1960s and early 1970s. This material has been cataloged and microfilmed but is not keyword-searchable. Subsequent materials from Laura’s archives have not yet even been cataloged and are not easily accessible despite their immense value to researchers. Laura will talk about the challenges she has had in maintaining her collection, storing the 600 hardcopy boxes, raising funds to have her collection cataloged and then digitized, and how Reveal Digital’s cost recovery = open access economic model could bring her that funding.
  • Andrée Rathemacher, acquisitions librarian at the University of Rhode Island, advocates for the University Libraries’ support of several collaborative open access initiatives including Reveal Digital. She will talk about her commitment to open access as well as the reasons why it is crucial that libraries channel their resources to support and facilitate open access to scholarship and unique primary source materials.

Bios: Julie R Enszer is a poet and Visiting Assistant Scholar, Department of Women’s Studies, at University of Maryland. Her scholarship is at the intersection of U.S. history and literature with particular attention to twentieth century U.S. feminist and lesbian histories, literatures, and cultures. By examining lesbian print culture with the tools of history and literary studies, she reconsiders histories of the Women’s Liberation Movement and gay liberation. Her book manuscript, A Fine Bind: Lesbian-Feminist Publishing from 1969 through 2009, tells stories of a dozen lesbian-feminist publishers to consider the meaning of the theoretical and political formations of lesbian-feminism, separatism, and cultural feminism. Enszer is the author of two collections of poetry, Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013) and Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2010). She is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2011). Milk & Honey was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry. She is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. Ken Wachsberger is an internationally known author, editor, and speaker as well as a renowned expert on the Vietnam era underground and alternative press. Ken is a book contract advisor with the National Writers Union and a frequent lecturer on the topics of contracts and copyright. He is the former editor or managing editor of several peer-reviewed publications from Pierian Press and MCB University Press. During his tenure as Contracts and Copyright Manager with Reveal Digital, Ken has led the drive to identify and obtain permission for over 1,200 underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties to be part of Reveal’s Independent Voices digital project, including some 150 feminist and lesbian papers. Laura X began collecting first political materials in 1964 as part of her activist archivist work during the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and then primarily literature on women and women’s health and legal issues starting in 1968. Two years later she founded the Women’s History Research Center, which maintained the International Women’s History Archive, an internationally recognized collection of periodicals, pamphlets, songs, leaflets, and other materials that document the women’s movement of the late-1960s until July 1974. Laura published SPAZM, the only national women’s liberation newsletter from April through December 1969; and was an original member of It Aint Me Babe, the first national newspaper of the Women’s Liberation Movement. She founded the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape in 1978 and the next year led the successful campaign to criminalize marital rape in California. She served as consultant coordinator to campaigns that by 1993 successfully eradicated exemptions from prosecution for marital, date, and cohabitation rape in the remaining 44 states (there were five before California). Last year she founded the Laura X Institute http://www.lauraxinstitute.org/ to house her Social Movements Archives from the women’s movement and overlapping social movements, which she has never stopped collecting. Andrée J. Rathemacher is Professor and Head of Acquisitions in the University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island, where she manages the materials budget of approximately $4 million. An advocate of open access and scholarly communication reform, she chaired the University’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Open Access in 2012-2013 and played an instrumental role in the passage of an open access policy by the University of Rhode Island faculty. She currently serves as the Faculty Senate Designate for the URI Open Access Policy. In 2013-2014 she initiated the creation of the URI Open Access Fund and is the fund administrator. She advocates for the University Libraries’ support of collaborative open access initiatives such as SCOAP3, Knowledge Unlatched, Reveal Digital, and the Open Library of Humanities. She is currently Co-Chair of the ACRL New England Chapter Scholarly Communications Special Interest Group.

* * *

Feminist and lesbian papers already on board the Independent Voices digital collection: Papers that already are on board for the feminist and lesbian collections include 13th Moon, Aegis; Ain’t I a Woman (Iowa City); Amazon; Amazon Quarterly: A Lesbian Feminist Arts Journal; And Aint I a Woman (Seattle); Aphra; B.A.D. (Big Apple Dyke) News; BattleActs; Big Mama Rag; Black Belt Woman: The Magazine for Women in the Martial Arts and Self Defense; Black Maria; Black Woman’s Voice; Branching Out; Bread & Roses; Chrysalis, Common Lives/Lesbian Lives; Conditions; Connexions: An International Women’s Quarterly; Country Women; CWLU News: Newsletter of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (and three papers associated with CWLU: Womankind, Blazing Star, and Secret Storm); Dayton Women’s Liberation Newsletter, Distaff; Dyke, A Quarterly; Dykes & Gorgons; Echo of Sappho, Everywoman; The Eye; Female Studies Series; Feminary; Feminist Alliance Against Rape; Feminist Art Journal, Feminist Bookstore News/Feminist Bookstore Newsletter; Feminist Voice; Feminist Women’s Health Center Newsletter; From the Ground Up: A Seattle Feminist Newspaper; The Furies; Heresies: A Feminist Journal on Arts and Politics; Her-self; HOT WIRE: The Journal of Women’s Music and Culture; Houston Breakthrough: Where Women Are News; Hysteria; IKON; It Aint Me Babe; Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, Killer Dyke; KNOW; The Ladder; Lady Unique Inclination of the Night; Lavender Vision; Lavender Woman; Lesbian Connection; The Lesbian Insider/Inside Her/Inciter; Lesbian News; Lesbian Tide; Lilith; Marin Women’s Newsletter/News Journal; The Matriarchist; Matrices; Media Report to Women; Meeting Ground; Mom’s Apple Pie; Motive (feminist issue, lesbian issue); National Communication Network for the Elimination of Violence against Women, New Directions for Women; New Women’s Times; New York Radical Feminists Newsletter; Newsreport; No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation; Notes from the [First/Second/Third]Year; off our backs; On Our Backs; Paid My Dues, Pandora, Quest/a feminist quarterly; Radical Chick; The Second Page, Second Wave: A Magazine for the New Feminism; Sinister Wisdom; Sojourner; SPAZM; The Spokeswoman; Tell-a-Woman; Tooth and Nail; Tribad; Triple Jeopardy; Union W.A.G.E., Up From Under, Voices of the Women’s Liberation Movement; WomaNews; Woman’s World; WomanSpirit; Women: A Journal of Liberation; Women and Art; Women and Their Bodies/Our Bodies Ourselves; Women in Print Newsletter; Women Organizing; Women’s News…For a Change; The Women’s Page; and Women’s Press. Also to be included is the groundbreaking paper “a kind of memo” (later published in Liberation as “Sex and Caste”), written by Mary King and Casey Hayden.

Volume 3 of landmark Vietnam antiwar opus out in time to oppose Iran War

At long last, volume 3 of my Voices from the Underground Press Series is out. The timing couldn’t be better as the drums beat louder for war in Iran.

The Voices from the Underground Series is a four-volume collection of histories of underground papers from the Vietnam era as told by key people on each of the papers, all of them just regular folks from varied backgrounds who answered the patriotic call to resist war and now share their heroic adventures. The underground press was the independent, antiwar press of the Vietnam era that told the true story, which the corporate papers suppressed, of what our government was doing behind our backs to the Vietnamese people in our name and with our tax dollars.

Stories in the series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, military, prisoners’ rights, socialist, new age, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, psychedelic, and other independent antiwar voices of the era as never before told. The foreword in volume 3 is by feminist pioneer Susan Brownmiller.

If you experienced the Vietnam era but for some reason are now hazy on the details, or if you could never describe the intensity of the politics when your kids (and now grandkids) asked what life was like then, or if you succumbed to the fear that followed our country’s dramatic post-war shift to the right and covered up your experiences, as too many of our generation did, this book is for you.

If you are a progressive blogger, this book, and the entire series, is about the folks who did what you’re doing now by using what was then the new technology of offset printing. Marcos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, one of the most important progressive blog sites today, connected the two generations in his foreword that appeared in volume 1.

And, especially, if you are of military age—this book is dedicated to you, our intergenerational peers, who have been called upon already to defend two sham causes in Iraq and Afghanistan and soon will be called upon—unless we start mobilizing now—to shed your lives in Iran. In this amazing book you will see how others who were your age but from a different era created a new society while finding the courage to refuse to fight even when those who would profit from war called them cowards and traitors for not submitting quietly.

Begin with Harry Haines’ story of the widespread GI antiwar movement, now largely hidden from the public debate, and in particular Aboveground, an antiwar paper directed at soldiers stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Two appendices, by Haines and James Lewes, without a doubt the world expert on the military underground press, identify nearly 500 underground newspapers produced by or aimed at members of the U.S. armed forces, all branches, during the Vietnam War.

When those who want endless war cry “Support the troops,” remember that there is only one way to support the troops and that is to bring them home, away from foreign entanglements where they don’t belong; or not ship them there in the first place.

Does anyone really think the age of racism is over just because we have a black president? For background, read stories of the Black Panther newspaper by JoNina Abron, the paper’s last editor; and Palante, the newspaper of the Puerto Rican liberation group Young Lords Organization, by Pablo “Yorúba” Guzmán.

As anyone who breathes air knows, the Republicans’ war on women and the GLBT community is accelerating. Read stories of

  • It Aint Me Babe, the first national newspaper of the emerging women’s liberation movement, by members of the collective;
  • The Furies, published by twelve self-proclaimed revolutionary lesbian feminists from Washington, D.C., by Ginny Berson; and
  • Fag Rag, one of the most important Gay Liberation Front newspapers to arise after the Stonewall Rebellion, by Charley Shively.

Reflect on the war against union workers being fought in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, and everywhere else where Republicans have seized control of government. Then remember why labor unions are essential for a strong middle class as you read Paul Krehbiel’s story of New Age, an antiwar paper published by rank-and-file union workers in upstate New York.

These wars that are being fought now were all fought during the Vietnam era. Too many of us thought we had won. Could it be we relaxed? The lesson, and I’m not the first to declare it, is that freedom has to be won in every generation. It helps to know how allies from an earlier period did it.

Other stories in volume 3 of the 4-volume Voices from the Underground Series:

  • Bob Hippler recalls fast times in the Motor City with his history of the first ten years of Detroit’s Fifth Estate, the longest-running underground paper to emerge from the sixties.
  • Peter Jensen takes us to the end of the Oregon Trail where an alien force had taken over our country; it talked peace and made vicious war; it owned both political parties; its media reported inflated, daily body counts for generals in Saigon and Washington; and the Eugene AUGUR was all that was left of the opposition.
  • David Doggett tackles the question of how a bunch of Mississippi white kids, descended from rednecks, slave owners, and Bible-thumpers, published for four years in the state’s capital The Kudzu, a running diatribe of social, economic, and political revolution, a proclamation of sexual liberation, illegal drugs, and heretical mysticism.
  • Tim Wong reflects on his own eight and a half years of alternative journalism in Madison, Wisconsin, the Midwest city most closely associated with the antiwar movement and counterculture of the Vietnam era, and how it chronicled the transition from the sixties to the eighties.
  • and more.

I’m the editor of the series, as well as a contributor. My story on the East Lansing-Lansing, Michigan, underground press, which was my base during the early seventies, appeared in volume 1 and I wrote editor prefaces to all four volumes.

To learn more about the Voices from the Underground Series, read more testimonials, view the entire four-volume table of contents, watch a few cool videos, read some funny stories, and order your copy of volume 3— as well as volumes 1 and 2 if you don’t yet have them, visit www.voicesfromtheunderground.com.

While you’re at it, order a set for your local school library. Besides helping them stretch their shrinking budget, you’ll get a tax write-off for supporting your favorite educational institution. (Don’t trust me. Ask your favorite tax preparer for specifics.)

Volume 4 is due out in August with a foreword by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Reserve your copy now.