Black Bart Brigade

Issue #1 - November 1971

The Background

From a seed that was planted (and forgotten) many months earlier, I made the connection with a collective group of youngsters called Vocations for Social Change (VSC), less than a week* after calling it quits, on my prior life. An arrangement was made with them: I would live in their woodsy collective, in the redwood hills behind Oakland, and turn out a first issue, which they would finance and post to their mailing list of 4000 -- but no income for me was in the package. And after that, I'd be on my own.

I was excited at the prospect. It was an instant entre to the counter-culture -- an open sesame that was really important to me. And an exquisite demonstration of the gulf that separated this fresh, youth culture from the one I had matured in. They had accepted me as a publication developer, just on my say-so that I could do it -- no proofs, no background check, and no references. Suddenly, my horizons opened wide.

I plumbed their resource files for features and graphics that I thought an older age audience could relate to, did some material of my own, and strung it together in a 56-page issue. The theme was revolt for the middle-aged, tipping into anything current in the counter culture that would support it. Using VSC's own bi-monthly publication as a model, I projected a similar frequency and pitched for donations of $5 per year, along with providing every possible suggestion for sharing and spreading the issue around.

The name, Black Bart, was more than a whim, though it came as a sudden inspiration. As one of the articles indicates, that old western outlaw fairly well embodied the theme of middle-aged rebellion against an incorrigibly oppressive system. But even more than that, he has always been a personal icon for me, and you'll find references to that in other parts of the site. I've admired Black Bart ever since I was a kid.

I was living with the Canyon Collective when this issue came out, learning the ways of collective living, and unlearning many of the household conventions I had grown up with. I dwell on it, too, in other parts of the site, and a good account of the personal experience is in a column later written for the UW Daily.

The articles in this first issue covered a number of innovative projects for alternative living that were thriving at that time in San Francisco (Project One, an instance of turning old warehouses into living/working quarters; the New Vocations Project at AFSC, and the Fort Help counseling project) none of which have remained in existence, along with articles on community development. It was a packed and ambitious issue, but little of it has remained relevant. I am including, here, two short introductory pieces, and the first of the Black Bart Philosophy articles that were to become a regular fixture, in every issue I produced.


In addition to the above links, you can return to

Opening of the Black Bart section (for more in the Black Bart series)

or to the Main Staging Area (for going anywhere on the site)

*("...less than a week...") Footnote on the magic of the VSC connection 

This was the very first of many such seemingly magical happenings. It struck me only as an amazing coincidence at the time, but I later realized that such things do not happen "by accident."

Within a week after I walked off my job, and out of my prior world -- which happened on Friday, the 13th of August, 1971, a date obviously worthy of remembrance -- I found a letter in my post office box from the VSC collective in Canyon, apologizing for the very long delay, and inviting me out to dinner, for a requested discussion. (I had written to them a good six months earlier, in response to a 'brainstorm session' that had been detailed in their publication; I wanted to discuss one of their brainstorms: an idea for a VSC-type publication for older folks).

This letter was postmarked, from Canyon, on August 13, 1971! They had sent it precisely as I was creating the opening in my life that allowed me to press ahead on their 'brainstorm' idea. The timing certified that my departure had not been based on any outside temptation, it was generated entirely from internal necessity; yet the letter gave me an immediate bridge toward my subsequent activity. Synchronicities do not come any more perfectly than this.