In the early 70's I was the coordinator for the People's Ballroom, a program of the Bay Area chapter of the White Panther Party. The Ballroom was a community coalition of musicians, artists, activists and community members formed to produce rock & roll based community events ( mostly outdoors) in the Haight Asbury neighborhood of San Francisco. We had three main principles:
Provide music, art and political information in an atmosphere supportive of women, children and gay/lesbians as opposed to the alcohol based bar/venue scene
No admission charge but utilization of donations to provide equal pay for all workers
Community ownership of the means of production used to put on cultural events
We had a modular stage and sound system, ran our own security and all production work was done by the Ballroom. All events combined music with political and cultural speakers.
A key funding model was to put on large scale events with well known bands to produce revenues that were used to put on numerous smaller events with neighborhood bands and artists. It took some courage for bands like Airplane/Starship, Journey, Dead, Hot Tuna, Sons of Chaplin to work with us because of significant opposition to the Ballroom from the city government, particularly the police and the parks department and from the capitalistic music promoters lead by Bill Graham.
In 1975, we planned to put on our largest event ever in Golden Gate Park, in order to raise funds for the People's Ballroom. In late summer, I went over to the Starship House on Fulton Street to ask the band if they would play. I got into a very bitter argument with the band's manger Bill Thompson, who opposed them playing specifically because of the opposition to the Ballroom by the Bill Graham organization. Graham had threatened to blacklist any band that played for us and insure that they would not be able to play in the Bay Area. ( A threat that was definitely serious and real).
It looked pretty bad for us getting support from the Starship, when suddenly in walks Paul. After rolling a big joint, he looked at Thompson and said, we are doing this, we support our community and I dare any promoters to try to blacklist us. He asked me details about the event and shook my hand and said he would see me there.
It was a huge success, the Starship and Dead played for 50,000 people on a stage we built, with a sound system we set up, and in an atmosphere where security was provided by our community. The money raised went directly back to people and bands in the neighborhood.
I will never forget the solidarity and support Paul gave me and the Ballroom. I am proud to call him brother, much love Paul wherever you are now.