Ian Ray, an early member of Slingshot and a Berkeley activist in the late 1980s, died on August 24. He was 33 years old.
Ian was remarkable both for his commitment to radical political movements and for the way he lived his life. In the late 80s he organized the Berkeley chapter of the Rainforest Action Network. He was arrested repeatedly protesting militarism, injustice and environmental destruction. Ian always pushed toward greater awareness of environmental issues at a time when those issues seemed less prominent.
After moving to Berkeley in 1986 to attend UC Berkeley, he almost immediately moved to the fringes of Southside wingnut culture. Ian had such a creative mind and liberated spirit that the confines of hierarchical, industrial education couldn’t hold him. He turned not only his dorm room, but his entire floor in the uptight dorm, into a musical, pharmacological and artistic experiment.
Ian later moved to Barrington Hall, a large and extremely weird University cooperative in South Berkeley. It is hard to explain to someone who never saw Barrington what it was all about. It was a liberated zone within puritan America. Every surface in Barrington was covered with psychedelic murals and layer upon layer of graffiti. The graffiti wasn’t just tags–it contained long debates about revolution, religion, art, everything. Ian’s handwriting was often visible in the long graffiti debates, which would go on for years.
Most of the people in Barrington were outside of mainstream culture in one way or another. Often, residents were outside the mainstream in almost every way. Ian became part of an informal Nudity Liberation Front at Barrington and would often go entire days without clothes. If you visited him at Barrington, you might find him coming out of the shower. After drying off, he would just walk away and go about his business.
When conservative coop officials campaigned to shut Barrington down in 1989-90, Ian was in the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to save it. Ultimately he was one of the squatters who stayed until police moved in.
Ian was a drummer who loved music. He studied bugs (entomology) at UC Berkeley. He dropped out of school because he loved bugs so much: he had to kill bugs for his classes and after a while, he just couldn’t do it anymore.
He wrote numerous articles for Slingshot, some under the pen-name Dinsdale Pirranha. He was one of 4 Slingshoters featured naked on the back of issue #28. He loved being silly and he loved life, living things and being alive. He hugged everyone he met. He will be missed and remembered. After years of struggling against illness, Ian took his own life.