PHOTOS: GEORGE ROCKETT
EDIT & WORDS: ZOE LONDON
MEET THE CASTRO, AND HAIGHT-ASHBURY DISTRICTS OF SAN FRANCISCO.
“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.” – Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk’s life is a topic that i’ve constantly been interested and inspired by for as long as I can remember, leading back to right in my teens, about 17 or 18. To summarise, Harvey Milk was an openly gay politician in an area of San Francisco called the Castro, back in the 70s. Having moved to the area in 1972 he fought not only for the local community of the Castro, lobbying for the local neighbourhood against the conservative politicians that ran the neighbourhood, and San Francisco in general but began being more openly forward about his sexual orientation and pushing forward the movement of LGBT in the Castro area later on in his career, which had started to become a safe haven and hub for the LGBT community. He won a seat on the board of directors in San Francisco, marking a huge political shift in the city but also in America, and was then assassinated in 1978 after ten months of being sworn in by another city supervisor.
In his short time not only on this planet but as a city supervisor, he already made such a shift in the treatment of LGBT people and helped the country to further understand the need for rights without even realising what he was doing almost. He campaigned tirelessly out of his home on Castro Street, and his small store – Castro Camera – soon became the hub for the campaign activity. He was a beautiful man inside and out and never gave up on his vision of a planet with better rights for all. Im not part of the LGBT community as a straight female but since I was a kid i’ve always had creative and interesting friends who were, and i’ve always felt a close connection to the wonderful people who always welcomed me into their community, taking me out to their bars and clubs and being close, lifelong friends of mine. I’ve blogged a few campaigns on here helping promote LGBT rights and things before, and I regularly donate to foundations that support the movement and the young kids growing up into it. So the story of Harvey Milk has always been one very close to my heart.
On our trip to San Francisco, I told George I simply had to see Castro Camera in the flesh for myself. Unfortunately, it’s not Castro Camera anymore, however it is now an amazing store owned by the HRC – Human Rights Campaign. They work closely with The Trevor Project, a great foundation for LGBT youngsters, whom you may have heard about from one of it’s ambassadors, Tyler Oakley. The store is still the same as it was when it was Castro Camera, and there’s a wonderful painting on the side of the building depicting Harvey leaning out of the window. There’s also now a ‘rainbow crosswalk’ built into the road, flying the flag for the LGBT community.
Round the corner from the Castro is the infamous Haight-Ashbury district, the home of the 60s hippies and the flower power movement. Back in the 60s it earned the name ‘Hashbury’ and the media were prevalent on reporting it’s somewhat ‘outrageous’ activities almost daily. The ‘hippie’ culture was born out of counterculture ideals based around drugs and music. The neighbourhood of the Haight-Ashbury offered a place for them to start their movement that soon spread throughout the world, creating the ‘Summer of Love’ and the now infamous 60s’ ‘flower-power’ fashion, music, art and drug culture.
The Grateful Dead band was born in the Haight-Ashbury, and I managed to track down the house in which they moved to and formed the band, which you can see in the photo above. It’s tucked away down a side street off the main Haight street, but it’s actually quite distinctive due to it’s dark, ominous grey painted exterior. Weirdly enough just as we walked up, the couple who now live there were walking into the property. A very regular, normal middle aged man and woman. Mad how history passes and life moves on, isn’t it?
So the song ‘ San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)’ is definitely one of the most famous hit singles of the time, and most people recognise the tune. In 1967, the locals organised a ‘mock funeral’ of the death of the hippie community after it became overcrowded and run in with homelessness and drug abuse, and the area has been in redevelopment ever since. The 60s ‘revolution’ might be over, but the shop fronts still largely remain, and there’s still a huge hippie community there.
George and I explored a bunch of stores, ranging from upmarket (and very expensive) vintage stores, to homemade tie dye stores like the amazing ‘Jammin’ On Haight’ above of which I bought this awesome homemade top from. There’s an Amoeba record store as well as several old vinyl stores, and there’s quite a few of the old ‘smoke’ shops still about too. It’s a bit like Camden, but 60s hippie architecture and vibe instead of 70s punk.
For an afternoon’s exploring something a bit different on a trip to San Francisco, head to the Haight-Ashbury. There’s plenty of places to get a coffee/spot of lunch, and if you’re like me you’ll love wandering around the vintage stores, and if you’re like George you’ll have your head in the sky looking up at everything and photographing everything in sight! I loved it here for an explore into the history, and it was great to get some clothes that are a bit different.
Have you been to San Francisco? What do you think of the Haight-Ashbury, Castro and story of Harvey Milk?