Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot     index     <prev     next>


"We need new friends, we need new allies. We need to expand the civil rights struggle to a higher level - to the level of human rights."

--Malcolm X, 1964

"We believe we can end police brutality in our black community by organizing black self-defense groups that are dedicated to defending our black community from racist police oppression and brutality. The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States gives a right to bear arms. We therefore believe that all black people should arm themselves for self-defense."

--Huey Newton, Secretary of Defense, The Black Panther Party, 1966

As the card of enterprise and effort, the Three of Wands puts feet on the ground. What is thought without action? What is a movement without mobilization? The Movement, as it came to be called, began in 1960 when white college students joined the black Civil Rights movement sweeping through the American South. By 1967, the Movement - a moniker for a river of New Left action that floated radical political change - had spread from college campuses and into city streets. Crowds of protesters mobilized for marches against the Vietnam War. But student activism was rooted in issues of social justice, a fact of its birth in the Civil Rights era. The Civil Rights movement had strong student support. As northern cities confronted the festering racism and poverty in black communities, student activists mobilized.

The creation of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in the fall of 1966 created enormous excitement on the Left. It was Newton's clever self-defense program that generated controversy. Exercising the Constitution's Second Amendment right to bear arms, Black Panthers patrolled their neighborhoods carrying rifles to protect residents from police harassment. When the state Assembly in Sacramento considered a law banning the possession of loaded weapons in public, Black Panthers marched with their guns into the capitol's legislative chamber, taking up positions around alarmed lawmakers before leaving peacefully. In October 1967 Newton was involved in a shoot-out with police that left an Oakland police officer dead. Newton faced murder charges and was jailed.

Newton's arrest electrified student activists in the Bay Area and thousands marched to "Free Huey." On this day the streets of Oakland advertised a broad, if fragile, coalition that linked black power with thousands of young white Leftists. Activists had become skilled in organizing protests and in 1967 the Movement's mobilization was at its zenith. The 18th century Tarotist Eteillia described the Three of Wands as symbolic of an "audacious temerity." To later Tarotists like Waite and Crowley, this translated into the fiery energy that sparks successful business ventures, ones predicated on felicitous collaboration. Mobilization was the business of the New Left, which did not have the votes to change policy, only the audacious temerity to challenge it. The source of its strength might have been found in what Jungian psychologist Robert Assagioli has described as psychosynthesis in which the creation of a collective conscience mirrors the larger collective unconscious. The Movement expression for this experience was "solidarity" and in marching for a black revolutionary hero, white students embraced a black experience that, since the first foot-tapping rhythms of rock n roll, had mystified and intrigued them.

And this is just what the black community feared. The Panthers did welcome white support. But as the decade passed many black organizations chose not to welcome it, afraid that white supporters were insincere, naïve, or too entrenched in a heritage of mortal racism to be of any lasting help. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), once allied with SDS, decided in 1966 not to accept any more white members. The rise of Black Power signaled a change in the Civil Rights struggle. While in some ways Black Power was effective in mobilizing local communities, it had a narrow appeal to the public. The Civil Rights coalition began to splinter, just as would the white New Left's: its once broad student movement broken eventually into small cadres of Yippies, White Panthers, and Weathermen.