Kathy Kelly moved into the Hill Street houses when she was very young, but she recalls her life there as a member of the White Panther Party as a positive, life-changing personal experience and social experiment. Kathy talks about daily life in the commune with her friends and colleagues, some of the events she participated in, including the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, as well as her apprenticeship as a graphic artist under legendary rock poster artist, Gary Grimshaw. Kathy's experience with the White Panther Party and Rainbow People's Party led to a successful career in art direction for publishing with magazines such as Chicago, Outside, CREEM, and most especially in educational publishing with Weekly Reader Corporation and Scholastic.
In this episode, former Washtenaw County Sheriff Doug Harvey shares his memories of the turbulent 1960s in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. He recalls some of the personal, political, and law enforcement challenges he encountered during his years as sheriff - from the 1966 UFO sightings and the South University Riots, to the Coed murders and the John Norman Collins case. He also responds to some of the controversy surrounding his reputation and he speaks candidly about the community leaders and colleagues he admired during these years - and those he did not.
George Frayne, aka Commander Cody, formed Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in 1967 while attending the University of Michigan. We had the opportunity to chat with George backstage at the Ark before the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally (Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen performed at the original Rally in 1971). George spoke about the formation of the band, his memories of some of Ann Arbor's musical hot spots, as well as his introduction to boogie-woogie piano, to pot, and to John Sinclair and the White Panther Party.
While he was in town during the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, we had the chance to sit down with David Fenton, CEO and founder of fenton.com, about his time in Ann Arbor during the late 1960s and early 1970s. During these years David lived at the Hill Street Commune, worked on the Ann Arbor Sun, and helped with the campaign to free John Sinclair. David discusses Sinclair's influence on his personal and professional life; reflects on the excesses - both good and bad - of the countercultural movement as he experienced it, and its legacy 40 years later in its modern counterparts, including moveon.org and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
David also participated in our panel discussion, Culture Jamming: A Long View Back.
While he was in town for the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, Wayne Kramer, lead guitarist and co-founder of the seminal Detroit/Ann Arbor band, MC5, sat down to talk with us. Wayne discusses the early years of the band and the influence of jazz, Sinclair, and Detroit culture on their music. He also talks about his troubles in the years following the band's dissolution; his current work with Jail Guitar Doors and fondly recalls the concerts in West Park.
Photo by Robert Matheu
Culture Jamming: A Long View Back - A Panel Discussion With John Sinclair, Leni Sinclair, Pun Plamondon, David Fenton, and Genie Parker
On December 10, 2011, the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, AADL invited former White Panther Party and Rainbow People's Party members John Sinclair, Leni Sinclair, Pun Plamondon, David Fenton, and Genie Parker to the Michigan Union for a panel discussion moderated by Professor Bruce Conforth of the University of Michigan Program in American Culture. These five panelists, central to the actions and ideals surrounding Ann Arbor's late-1960s counter-culture, reflect on what they called their "total assault on culture" during the late 1960s and early 1970s - what worked, what didn't, and what it means today.
View the video here or in other formats.
Photograph courtesy of Barbara Weinberg Barefield.
(Click image for a larger view.)
In this interview from May 3, 2011, John Sinclair elaborates on the importance of black culture and, in particular, the Black Panther Party, in the formation of both the White Panther and Rainbow People's Parties in Ann Arbor; as well as the more humorous and theatrical elements of their antics during those years. He also reflects on his brother David Sinclair, his ex-wife Leni Sinclair, White Panther co-founder, Pun Plamondon, and artist Gary Grimshaw.
Genie Parker was the former "Minister of Foreign Affairs" for the White Panther Party, a leader in the Rainbow People's Party, and a candidate for the Human Rights Party in Ann Arbor's 3rd Ward in 1972. In this interview, Genie recalls life at the Hill St. commune where she lived from the late 1960s through early 1970s and reflects on the personalities of some of the people she lived and worked with, including Leni Sinclair, David Sinclair, artist Gary Grimshaw, and White Panther co-founder, Pun Plamondon.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Hugh M. "Buck" Davis, a lawyer with the Detroit National Lawyers Guild, worked with Chicago Seven Trial lawyers William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass to represent John Sinclair, Pun Plamondon, and Jack Forrest in Ann Arbor's CIA Bombing Conspiracy case. In this interview, Davis talks about his life as an unrepentant radical lawyer; the importance of Judge Damon J. Keith's famous "Keith Decision"; and reflects on the personalities of former White Panther friends and clients.
Read Buck's People's History of the CIA Bombing Conspiracy.
Gary Grimshaw is one of the most renowned and recognizable poster artists to come out of the 1960s. His most prolific period as a graphic artist was his time spent with John and Leni Sinclair in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, first in the Detroit-based Trans-Love Energies commune and then in Ann Arbor with the White Panther Party/Rainbow People's Party. In this interview we talk with the former White Panther Party" Minister of Art about creating art for the Grande Ballroom and the White Panther Party, the night John Sinclair met both him and the MC5, and how he made his art then and now.