A Page Out of BFC History

This newsletter isn’t the Clinic’s first.  A long, long time ago, before smartphones, home computers and email, in an era before copy machines were in every office, the Berkeley Free Clinic produced a hand-typed newsletter on a regular basis. The newsletter, called The Inner Leaf, was cut and pasted together, duplicated on colored paper, and distributed in hard copy within the Clinic as a way of updating members about the goings on in our Collective.  Copies of these newsletters exist in drawers and boxes of Clinic archives, and Clay Carter of the Dental Section has been one of the most recent adventurers to dive into them. Here’s our conversation with Clay:

The Leaflet: What was The Inner Leaf and when was it printed?

Clay: The Inner Leaf was the Berkeley Free Clinic’s internal newsletter from 1975-2003. A typical issue contained meeting minutes, announcements, relevant newspaper articles, and editorials.

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Quote from the April 22, 1980 edition of

The Inner Leaf


If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again! And now they is asking us to do it, the men better let them.

-Sojourner Truth

The Leaflet: How did you happen to look at them?

Clay: Last spring I dug through this archive while researching my history thesis. The articles and stories preserved in The Inner Leaf helped me understand the values and actions of the BFC in the late 1970’s.

The Leaflet: In copies we looked at we saw things like new volunteer introductions, birth announcements, quotes from famous writers and political leaders, all mixed in with section updates and ACCM votes.  What do you feel we gain by having these past publications?  

Clay: The Inner Leaf is dense with fascinating characters and narratives, and they give great insight into Berkeley’s legendary counterculture. The older publications reflect the radical political culture cultivated by the old Administrative Collective (AC). The first issue of The Inner Leaf, printed on July 2, 1975, included an article from the Weather Underground praising the capture of Saigon by Communist forces as a watershed moment in the global communist revolution. An April 1977 issue of the Inner Leaf included correspondence from a doctor who was working with the anti-imperialist and Cuban-backed MPLA in Angola. The doctor had consulted BFC medics to help establish a low-cost, high-efficiency community health system for the new nation.

The Leaflet: Wow, that’s amazing. Do you think the new publication would have similar value?

Clay: After 2003, the content that had previously been included in The Inner Leaf dissipated into countless untraceable emails, texts, calls and unarchived fliers. I’m excited that the volunteers with the campaign for the new building are reviving the clinic newsletter. As a historian who benefitted from The Inner Leaf, I hope that this new incarnation will help us record the unique culture and practices of the BFC in an easily archived print form.  Once again, the fabric of American society appears to be tearing. It’s important for us to preserve the character of our resistance in these historic times so future historians may learn from our failures and successes.