SELF DETERMINATION MUSIC!
Ann Arbor Community Parks Program
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part of a two part article describing the history of the Ann Arbor Community Parks Program, six years of struggle exemplifying the self determination of the Ann Arbor Rainbow community. The concerts this year will be held at Otis Spann Memorial Field, next to Huron High School, site of the former Ann Arbor Blues Festival. There will be Rock & Roll every Sunday from 2-6 pm throughout the summer. To get to the concerts, just go out Fuller Rd. or take the Geddes Rd. exit f rom US 23. Part I left off after the first concert of 1969, the last concert to be held at West Park. Part I can be found in the last issue (& 33) of the SUN.]
The free concerts were immediately switched back to Gallup Park and continued while the negotiations went on over a period of two or three weeks. Again, the people's position, as represented by the White Panthers, was that although what went on at the concerts- raucous music, plenty tokes, beer & wine, people taking their clothes off, bands saying nasty words, political raps about the police and other community concerns- was offensive to straight people, it wasn't offensive for rainbow people, in fact it was just the way our people were, and although the honkies had legitimate complaints that we were violating their rights in pursuit of our own, it had to be considered that our needs were legitimate and had to be dealt with just as much as the needs of honkies for some peace and quiet on Sunday afternoon had to be delat with too.
The official position up to that point had been that our demands for a park to have the free concerts in were wholly Ilegitimate and undeserving of their attention, that the city was more or less doing us a favor by letting us use the parks if we were good boys and girls, and that we were essentially crazy people who only had to be dealt with because we were getting out of line and making trouble.
The people's representative insisted, on the other hand, that our needs were absolutely legitimate because we were individually and collectively members of the community, that our needs had to be dealt with by the city not just because we were making it hot for them but mainly because they were legitimate needs of an identifiable sector of the Ann Arbor community and had to be treated just like the needs of any other recognizable sector of the community, and that it was the city's responsibility not just to stop harassing the people and the free concert program but also to provide sites, police protection (as opposed to harassment), facilities on the site for the people there to use, money for expenses and for the bands, etc etc.
It was never as a luxury but as a need that the free concerts were projected, and the WPP represented to the negotiators for the city that unless the people were able to assemble peacefully in the parks on Suncay afternoons to dig some rock and roll and get together with each other, they would give the city no peace n return. The South University uprising was explained as an example of what people on the streets would do when exposed to harassment and repression by the authorities, and the additional demand that no pólice be allowed inside the parks during the concerts was advanced as a minimal conditon of cooperation by the people. The negtiators for the people allowed that the honkies had rights too, admmitted that the West Park affair had been too far out under the condLiions there, and agreed that the problem might best be solved by holding the free concerts on sites outside the city's neighborhoods so that the noise and the people's culture would offend as few straight people as possible.
The city was convinced that it had a common interest with the rest of us in the free concert series, if only because it would not be able to carry on business as usual f the park concerts were doused, and we began to work together on that basis to reach a position acceptable to both sides. One of the city's problems was that its straight constituency (.e., most of its voting constituency, since people under 21 students from other towns were not allowed to vote in city elections) would not stand for the concerts to continue under the overt sponsorship of the Whith PantherTrans-Love group, so that a front group of some kind had to be established to keep the City Council from getting fronted off by the dinosaur reactionaries in town.
The Council negotiators agreed with the analysis advanced by the WPP, considered it very reasonable, but insisted that nobody would believe that the White Panthers could be so reasonable given their public image, which was as "radicals" or something. The people's negotiators agreed to submerge the WPP's involvement in the free concert series as far as the honkie public was concerned, as long as no compromise in terms of the content of the concert program was ordered; that is to say, the band and speaker policy instituted by the WPP would continue even though the formal sponsorship ot the events was attributed to a more "legitimate" group.
Consequently, a united-front group of progressive people from the Ann Arbor community was organized primarily by Skip Taube to assume the responsibility of fronting for the WPP and the free concert program, and the sites were rotated between Gallup Park, the Fuller Flatlands, and the Huron High site where this year's free concerts are held. The Fuller Flatlands site (and later the Huron High site) was christened "James Rector Memorial Park" after the brother who was murdered by Alameda County Sheriff's Deputies in the Battle of People's Park in Berkeley that spring, a bandstand was furnished by the city, pig roasts and other feasts were held along with the concerts from time to time, more and more bands started to participate in the program, and the free rock and roll continued throughout the rest of the summer without further incident. The police were relegated to the parking sites and kept out of the rock and roll area altogether, and what policing was needed was done by people from the rainbow community on an informal basis. The ad-hoc "people's peace force" called itself the "Psychedelic Rangers", referring back to the original people's peace keepers at the Belle Isle Love-ln of April 30, 1967 organized by Trans-Love Energies, but it was more of an idea the first year that an actual reality.
It was during the 1969 summer concert season that John Sinclair was ripped off by the State of Michigan and sent to prison for possession of two joints of weed. Then Woodstock, the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, the Days of Rage staged by Weatherman in Chicago, Pun Plamondon going underground in October, the murder of Fred Hampton and other atrocities culminating in the Kent Statt Jackson State Massacre and the nation-wide Cambodia Strike, all combined to set the stage for the 1970 season. Things were grim for a lot of people, and the free concerts were needed worse than ever when summer started to roll around once more.
The city administration wanted to begin the yearly park negotiations with their traditional line- no concerts at all listing possible "trouble" and "invasion" by hordes of Woodstock -seeking maniacs as their main reservations. They also advanced the line of the year before, that the White Panther Party could not be allowed to sponsor the free concerts up front because of their "image," and that a "responsible" front group should formally sponsor the series. They further wanted things to be much more organized and predictable than in the previous years, with traffic and parking assistance, a stable staging area, and other improvements on the loosely-run concerts of the past.
The people's negotiating team, including Dave Sinclair and Skip Taube of the WPP, was augmented signigicantly by the involvement of brother Peter Andrews, who had participated the year before in his capacity as manager of the SRC but had never taken an active role previously in organizing the events. This year Andrews was in the forefront of the park program, with the active assistance of sister Sue Young and brother James Griffin and their concerted effort to establish an organizational base for the free concerts changed the whole course of the park program.
Andrews served as the "voice of reason" in the park negotiations, striking a middle course between the intransigentodemands of the "there will be free concerts or there will be war in the streets of this city"- and the slightly less inflexible position the city administrators, represented by then Assistant City Administrator Don Borut. (It should be recalled that the 1970 concert series followed shortly behind the smashing Republican victory in the April City Council elections, where they swept four out of five seats on a platform of "running the revolutionaries out of town." This put the Democratic Party administration up tighter than usual and set the context for the park negotiations a Mttle further to the right than would otherwise have been expected.)
Andrews and his staff pledged moderation and a much higher degree of organization than had ever existed previously, and when the concert series started they were quick to deliver on their pledges. For the first time there was an adequate p.a. system available for the bands every Sunday, compliments of Andrews and the SRC; there qas an adequate stage and a competent stage crew, toilet facilities, water, and other niceties were readily available; and there was the beginning of a organized people's peace force in the new Psychedelic Rangers headed by Jame Griffin.
The Rangers handled parking lot duties and maintained good order inside the grounds as well, insuring that no city police would be present at the site and making a few bucks ($3-5 Per Sunday each) in the process. Genie Plamondon worked with the Rangers inside the concert site to deal with bogus dope problems, particularly the presence of smack and downers and the prevalence of blatant dealing all over the grounds, and the parking lot crew handled the steadily-increasing inf lux of cars without a hitch. Emergency medical facilities, staffed by volunteers from the community, were made available regularly at the Gallup Park site, which was re-christened "Diana Oughton Memorial Park" in the late spring to commemorate the Weather sister who died in a bomb explosion in New York City in March. Diana, along with Skip Taube and Bill Ayres, founded the Children's Community School in Ann Arbor before leaving town with Ayrês to join the Weather people.
The 1970 season opened with the Up, Catfish, and SRC and rocked and rolled all summer long. One of the special features of the 1970 season was the mysterious tapes sent back to Ann Arbor from secret locations around the world by the dangerous fugitive Pun Plamondon, whose words could be heard blasting out from contraband cassettes on the park's p.a. system etween bands. Written messages from John Sinclair in Marquette Prison were also read to the people in the park whenever they would come though the mail.
One of the most significant developments during the 1970 season was the initial attempt by the park concert organizers to create what they called a "Tribal Council" which could carry the sponsorship of the free concert series and which could develop further into a stable, on-going community coordinating body. A series of exciting meetings were held during the same period that the preseason negotiations went on, but the effort putted out before anything got together and the Tribal Council existed in name only as one of the sponsoring organizations.
There was a whole raft of sponsoring organizations, from many different sectors of the community and representing many different interests within the community, and although mostly a ruse the long list of approving parties to the free concerts was a powerful bargaining tool with the city administration, who could no longer point at the concert organizers as a handful of radicals and nitwits who represented no legitimate body of people in the city. This show of the people's essential unity- because unity s was one of the weightiest factors in securing the existence of the 1970 free concert series and the community parks program in general, as it demonstrated unmistakably the broad base of support the concert program enjoyed among many diverse elements of the overall community and exposed the bullshit line the city administration was trying to advance..
Based on that unity in the community, the 1970 program was the most successful yet, and the high level of organization, efficiency, and responsibility demonstrated by Peter Andrews and his staff laid an even stronger basis for the continuation of the community parks program to the future, The city administration was duly impressed with the changes that had taken place during the summer and began to speak of their expertise in dealing with the "youth culture" and its most troublesome exponents, as if they had come up with some hell of a solution when in reality they were only following the lead that had been laid down by the " irresponsible" White Panthers and other community elements.
During the course of the summer film footage of the free concerts was shot for a 16-mm movie of the community parks program, and when mixed with footage from the 2nd Ann Arbor Blues Festival came out as "Ann Arbor Summer 70," which the city administration now wishes to use as an instructional guide for governments in ether cities around the country. The film was screened earlier this year at the national conference of city managers to show the chronos from across the USA how progressive the Ann Arbor city government is.
It was during the next year's program that the community parks program was established as a viable community institution with a high level of stability. The 1970 concert organizers were joined by a really substantial group of people who had been involved in various aspects of the functioning of the events the year before, people who had been active in the Rangers, gained valuable experience, and wanted to take on more responsibility for the 1971 season. In addition to Peter Andrews, Sue Young, and James Griffin there were now Karen Young, Frank Duff, Steve Josephson, Bill Smith, Andye Fulton, and to her brother and sisters who had never before been involved in what had become such a monumental task.
The Community Parks Program was formalized as a function oi the still mostly non-existent Ann Arbor Tribal Council had full sponsorship of the free concert program for the first time. The Community Parks Program was incorporated as a non-profit service organization, and a large-scale local fund drive was undertaken prior to the opening of the season. Benefit dances and concerts were held to raise over $2000.00 for operating expenses in the park, and people like Bob Seger, Teegarden & VanWinkle, the Up, and many other bands helped raise the bread so they could come back and play for the people for free in the open air.
The concert series opened the 6th of June, with the first concert marking the opening of the massive PREE JOHN NOW! campaign that eventually resulted in John Sinclair's release from prison on December I3th, 1971. The site was again Diana Oughton Memorial Park, and organization of all the series went even more smoothly than it had the year before, due to the superior organizational efforts of the Community Parks Program Committee and the increased cooperation from the city government. With the people's energies free from police and government Harassment as far as the concerts were concerned, the program was able to begin to realize some of its incredible potential as a model for community development, and the people who worked on the Committee could devote all their time and effort to producing the best possible events.
One problem which arose in the 1971 season was the quality and or the energy level of the music that was offered in the park -people began complaining, and rightfully so, that the bands being scheduled by the Committee were just not getting them off on Sunday Afternoons, but the problem didn't get straightened out until the season was almost over. It would seem that more attention was paid to the form of the concerts while the content suffered somewhat, but we hope to remedy that problem this year through a more discriminating booking policy. It would be killer to just let every band that wants to play for the people to get up and do their thing on Sundays in the park, but on the other hand the people deserve the very best music that's available to them, and that has to be considered as well as the need for beginning hands to have a chance to perform in front of a decent audience. This year we are reserving the opening spot on each concert for bands that are not yet fully mature which feature musical forms other that rock and roll this way we can achieve some diversity and give some of the newest bands in the community a chance to heard while at the same time sparing everyone embarrassment the old way often created.
During the 1971 season, the Psychedelic Rangers also developed to a much higher level to the year before, achieving great successes in the area of combatting heroin use and other death drug abuse on the part of people in our community. The outside-the park Ranger unit acquired walkie-talkies and developed into a highly efficient operation, working closely with Lt. Robert Conn of the Ann Arbor Police on traffic control and other logistical hassles. Frank Duff took over from Jame Grif fin the responsibility for this unit, while Genie Plamondon directed the work of the Rangers inside the park area.
The whole season carne off without one major hassle, which was due both to the efforts of the concert program organizers and the cooperation of the people who participated in the concerts as listeners and dancers. Crowds of up to 10,000 people gathered peacefully on Sunday afternoons and had a killer old time, leaving nothing but good feeling in the air and bearing out the truth of the claims made for the people and the program by the former "radical," "irresponsible" elements whose solutions had been rejected two and three years . before as being "too far out." With the change in the political climate generally and in the Ann Arbor political climate particularly (after the resounding defeat of dinosaur Republican mayoral candidate Jack Garris), the Park Program was able to come into its own as a stable community institution with a solid political base and the firmest of support from the entire rainbow community.
Other innovations instituted in 1971 that will be repeated and expanded in the 1972 season are the crunchy munchies concession; the food and good drinks stand run by the People's Food Committee of the Tribal Council, which is now becoming a reality; the weekly provision of a professional p.a. system by Curt Andrews and Wulcan Sound, who work for expenses only every Sunday afternoon; the presence of a monster generator on a regular basis; adequate toilet facilities, water supply, and other facilities substantial medical and drug-help services on the site and an even more together Psychedelic Ranger team to deal with whatever problems come up during the concerts.
The biggest advance by far, though, is the allocation of $4000.00 in city money, as a budget appropriation, for the Community Parks Program, and the possibility of continued on next page Self Determination Music having the free concerts broadcast throughout the community every Sunday afternoon by WNRZ-FM. The budget allocation was on the agenda even before the election of the two people's cand dates, Jerry DeGrieck and Nancy Wechsler, but their presence on Council assured the funding without a doubt, as well as the allocation of a total of $28,000 for the Community Center, Ozone House, and the Free People's Clinic. This is not nearly enough yet, but it is a progressive step and the city is to be congratulated on its increasing good sense.
The WNRZ offer was made a week or two ago and s being considered by the Park Committee as a means to provide more people with the jams that go down n the park. There has also been an offer f rom a cable TV company to video-tape the concerts for presentation during the winter months, but the proposal is just now being studied.
If we look back over the years the park program has been in operation we can see how our entire community has developed from a small, scattered collection of individuals to an embryonic collectivity of people who work together in an organized manner to deal with the community's needs. The development of the park program shows what we can accomplish if we establish a strong basis of community unity and move together from the base to get what we need, and it demonstrates how much we can get done if we remove the threat of police interference from our community programs so we can concentrate on getting the job done.
The Community Parks Program is now a strong, growing community institution which is controlled by people from the community and which s operated only in the interest of providing the poeple with the best free music they can get here in this community. If you have any questions about the park program or any of its aspects, please let us know at the SUN and we'll try to find. and answer for you. Starting in the next issue we'll be running a regular feature on the park program, including a question and -answer column which will be edited by Frank Duff in an effort to faciliate and increase Communications within the community.
There is always much work to be done, especially in the Rangers, and people are urged to contact the following park program organizers if you want to ha!b in any way: Karen Young; Booking-John Sinclair (cali 761-2780 and leave a message); Publicity-Andye Fulton; Stage Manager- Sue Young; Assistant Stage Manager-Craig Blazier; Ranger-Frank Duff or Genie Plamondon (Ranger meetings are held at the park sit, Otis Spann Memorial Field next to Huron High, every Sunday morning at 11:30 for everybody who wants to work with the Rangers); Field Director-Bill Smitt; Food-Jeanie Walsh. You can talk to these people in the park on Sunday afternoon if you want to.
All Power to the People! Long live the Community Parks Program!