Judy Gumbo struck a martial pose in this cover photo of the Berkeley Tribe almost 50 years ago. She now lives in the Berkeley Cohousing community in West Berkeley.
Berkeley Cohousing lies on what was a family farm dating back to near 1900, with a farmer’s daughter’s cottage added. When the Coop Supermarket (more recently Andronico’s) on University Avenue was built in the 1950s, several small houses were moved to the property and rented out.
The cohousing community began in 1984. There are 14 households. All decisions are made by consensus, as in general agreement. Each member is expected to cook four times a quarter and to perform K.P. (kitchen patrol) duty six times a quarter. The common area looks warm and friendly. And neat and clean and tidy and no broken nothing — a grown-up version of the houses that we knew in the 1960s and 1970s: communes or collectives or crash pads or just plain group homes. There is a Very Good vibe here.
This is Judy Gumbo today. Who the hell is Judy Gumbo? The FBI in 1972 described her as “the most vicious, the most anti-American, the most anti-establishment, and the most dangerous to the internal security of the United States.”
Gumbo has written extensively. Her Facebook page and her Yippie Girl website are full of information and photos. Spend time with them. Hers is an extraordinary life, lived and told with humor and a lively voice. We can only hope that in the future we will see a full-blown memoir, for hers is a fascinating life lived for many years with her husband Stew Albert.
Gumbo came to Berkeley from Canada in 1967, a red diaper daughter of members of the Communist Party of Canada. She quickly became part of the vanguard of radical youth culture. She was friends and worked with the Big Names of the era — Eldridge Cleaver (who bestowed “Gumbo” upon her as a last name when she complained about him referring to her in terms of her husband), Don Duncan of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, William Kuntsler, Jerry Rubin, and Anne Weills to name a few.
She was an early supporter of the Oakland 7, worked for the Berkeley Barb and then the Tribe; lived in the Tribe collective on Ashby, was front and center in the demonstrations at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, was a founder of People’s Park, with Anne Weills was a leader of the early women’s movement in Berkeley, visited Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria twice, was involved in the defense of the Chicago Seven/Eight, visited North Vietnam in 1970, visited Cuba in 1970, took part in the Mayday demonstrations in Washington in 1971, and the demonstrations at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Miami in 1972. She was everywhere. And she was married to Stew Albert, a Berkeley revolutionary with twinkling eyes and a deadly sense of humor.
Her home is filled with political posters and photographs and newspapers and buttons from the late 1960s and early 1970s. In no particular order, here is some of what is to be seen in her house:
The Berkeley Liberation Program was written by various Bay Area radicals and first made public at the time of the People’s Park intifada in May, 1969. Listed are 13 “points,” each expanded as a paragraph of text on the poster reverse. The 13 points include “We Will Actively Support The 10 Point Program Of The Black Panther Program…”
Andy Hoffman, oldest son of Abbie, made this flag. Abbie, a good friend of Gumbo’s in the 1960s and 1970s, shocked the nation when he wore shirts made from the American flag.
“Blows Against the Empire” is a concept album by Paul Kantner, released under the name Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship, the first album to use the “Starship” name. Use of the Jefferson Starship album name in the poster for a march in Washington illustrates the close relationship between Yippie politics and radical youth culture.
Gumbo’s late husband, Stew Albert, ran for Sheriff of Alameda against Frank Madigan in 1970. Madigan had been Sheriff since 1963 and played an important role in the law enforcement suppression of Telegraph Avenue. Bob Scheer, Big Bill Miller, and Jerry Rubin – all radicals – had run for office locally. Scheer did fairly well but lost, but Miller and Rubin were distant also-rans. Albert’s 1970 campaign for Sheriff was the typical Yippie blend – part prank, part oh-so serious politics.
In the end, the People’s Pig (as Albert called himself) won 65,000 votes, almost ten times as many votes as Jerry Rubin had received three years earlier when he ran for mayor of Berkeley.
Made in 1972, “Cry Out” was one of the first posters produced by the Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective, a project of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union. It was organized in 1970 to create posters for the growing women’s liberation movement.
John Sinclair (born 1931) is a poet, writer, and political activist. In the 1960s, he was associated with the rock band the MC5 and the White Panther Party. He was arrested for marijuana possession in 1969 and given a ten-year sentence. After popular protest and legal challenge, Sinclair was released in 1971. The White Panther Party was primarily active in Detroit and Ann Arbor; it was not a major force in Berkeley. It worked out of the Peoples Office on Grove, an office where Gumbo and other Berkeley Tribe staff sometimes worked
This poster advertised planned Yippie actions at the Democratic National Convention in July 1972 and the Republican National Convention in August 1972, both in Miami. The demonstrations included Zippies, a short-lived off-shoot of the Yippies. Contingents at the demonstrations included the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and a large contingent of women.
Gumbo was front and center in the women’s group, banging the drum.
Copies of the Barb and Tribe remind of an era when the underground press was vital and robust. Both Gumbo and Albert worked for the Barb and then the Tribe.
Gumbo has a modest collection of buttons from the 1960s and 1970s, including this original People’s Park button. Gumbo and her husband Albert were founders of People’s Park.
There is a large photo of Albert in his youthful glory – happy, amused, optimistic, hopeful.
And there is a photo of him near his death. He died of liver cancer on Jan. 30, 2006. Two days earlier, he dictated a blog entry: “My politics have not changed.” Gumbo left Portland after Albert died. They had lived there since 1984.
Her politics have not changed. She is still a Yippie Girl – committed, passionate, pure, with a sense of humor. Gumbo has not given up on love. She married David Dobkin, a founder of the co-housing community where she lives; he died in 2014. She has just married Arthur Eckstein, a Distinguished Professor of History at University of Maryland-College Park and author of the recent Bad Moon Rising: How the Weather Underground Beat the FBI and Lost the Revolution. It is a brilliant book, not what one would expect from a classicist. It is one part meticulous documentation, one part an intriguing narrative, and one part skilled storytelling.
Of Berkeley today, she says “Berkeley remains a wonderful place to live, where a counter-culture of resistance thrives in all its many manifestations. I for one would not want to live anywhere else.”
She is a living and breathing and hell-raising reminder of what we were, who we were. We cannot all live the life that she has lived, but we can read and hear her stories and be better for it.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone, some with follow-up professional photographs by John Storey. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 33-year resident muses on what it all means.
A longer and more idiosyncratic version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.