In 1970, five gay activists took a road trip to meet with the Black
Panther Party. Here, historian Hugh Ryan collects their memories of
communes, free love, coming out, getting arrested, consciousness-
raising rap sessions, gun shooting, acid dropping, and trying to be
macrobiotic at McDonald’s.
In the fall of 1970, as the Vietnam War raged, five guys from the
New York City Gay Liberation Front took a meandering road trip
through the South in a maroon-and-white Volkswagen Bus. Their
mission? To inspire gay people to attend the second Black Panther–
organized Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in
Washington, D.C., where they would join other liberationists from
all around the country in writing a new American constitution.
Together, they spent six weeks on the road—Diana Ross and Mick
Jagger on the radio, freedom and fear in the air. Joel was the
radical; Richard, the lover; Giles, the organizer; Jimmy, the enfant
terrible; and Doug, the cipher.
Before they even got underway, the government was watching them,
worried about “a connection between the homosexual movement and the
Black Panther Party,” a federal document shows.
The FBI was sowing discord among radicals, and it was easy for
mistrust to take root. Once, these guys were lovers and comrades;
now, some of them can’t even be in a Zoom with one another. But
briefly, in the autumn of 1970, they saw a chance for a
revolutionary future, and they struck out for it together.
Doug died of AIDS-related lymphoma in ’93, and I was never able to
agree to the terms Jimmy set for an on-record interview, but Joel,
Richard, and Giles were eager to share their memories.
"Them black panther niggers fucked our assholes raw all day long!"