VANGUARD 1965 documents the true history and origins of Vanguard, one of the first LGBT organizations in the United States, founded in San Francisco in 1965.
VANGUARD Gay Liberation Youth Movement and Organization 1965-1967
VANGUARD 1965 Gay Liberation Youth Movement and Organization 1965-1967
From August 1965 until December 1966 Vanguard was a seventeen month old independent gay youth organization formed and originally organized by the adult Adrian Ravarour who was a Mormon priest and full-time staff member at Intersection Center for [Religion and] the Arts. However Ravarour only instructed and led Vanguard for the first ten months, August 1965 until May 1966 when he resigned as its teacher and leader. Then Jean-Paul Marat joined Vanguard as its firebrand spokesperson and president until December 1966 when the Vanguard organization fragmented and fell apart. Fortuitously Glide re-organized the Vanguard Tenderloin Youth Organization as a Service Agency in January 1967 but it only lasted for a few months, and then morphed into Glide’s long intended service agency The Hospitality House and with the help of others into Ravarour 's and Russo’s gay rights intended organization The Gay and Lesbian Center.
Ravarour had created Vanguard for the express purpose to 1) Educate the San Francisco Tenderloin Gay* (* meaning all LGBT) youth that being Gay was a natural human expression and nothing to be ashamed; 2) That they as human beings and citizens of the United States were entitled to respect and the same rights and treatment of all people, noting that "all [people] are created equal" entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" and, 3) to prepare the youth to demonstrate for equal treatment, acceptance and to end discrimination in the belief that it could change how the Gay youth and all Gay people are perceived and treated leading to further transformations.
August 1965: Creation of Vanguard by Adrian Ravarour, Joel Williams & Billy Garrison
In the summer of 1965 Adrian Ravarour and Joel Thomas Williams began organizing what would become Vanguard. Williams introduced him to gay street youth saying that Ravarour was a Mormon priest who had changed Williams’ life and that Ravarour had an idea that might change their lives. Ravarour asked the youth, "Are you willing to demonstrate for equal treatment, acceptance and to end discrimination?" Responses varied from refusal to mild interest, but the gay youth were curious to hear why Ravarour insisted they deserved respect and should demonstrate when society and Tenderloin business opposed their presence and lives.
A neighbor Billy Garrison liked that Ravarour was recognized as a priest and organizing the youth but he insisted upon a different message of peaceful co-existence. So they developed two opposing proposals. Ravarour and Garrison sought Intersection as a meeting venue but Reverend Laird Sutton recommended Glide was a better venue.(1) Glide’s Co-Director Janice Mirikitani identified Reverend Sutton as the person that sent the youth who started Vanguard at Glide.(2) Since Phyllis Lyon knew Ravarour was a staff member of the Glide co-sponsored Intersection she vouched for a one-time use of Glide’s community meeting room if Ravarour would be financially responsible for any damages. Reverend Cecil Williams was at the first meeting and Reverend Williams offered the use of Glide as long as needed as this was a population that interested Glide. So Ravarour began leading Vanguard meetings at Glide in August 1965.
By the third Vanguard meeting the youth voted to accept Ravarour’s proposal and Gay Rights mission. Since the mission was to be a leading-edge movement Ravarour named it Vanguard to demonstrate for equality, acceptance, to end discrimination and to foster change. Garrison quit as he vehemently opposed demonstrations. Ravarour persuaded him to return on several occasions, but a year later Garrison disassociated from Vanguard when a new leader insulted him.
Now that Vanguard was meeting regularly Ravarour had to determine a plan of action and how to implement it. It seemed logical to teach the youth tenets of Democracy in the belief that it might catch on and some of the youth succeed in affecting the consciousness and attitudes that surrounded the youth in the Tenderloin, San Francisco and Society. So Ravarour spent ten months laying out the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings and organizational groundwork to prepare the youth to demonstrate for equality. Ravarour engaged the youth in daily Vanguard meetings utilizing the Socratic Method where he engaged them in discussions citing Rosseau’s The Social Contact, Payne’s The Rights of Man, and examples of Gandhi and the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Junior. He acknowledged their insights and praised them in order to assist them to develop the same perspectives and to become a self-motivated force of their own.
As a priest Ravarour felt obligated to enliven their hearts, souls, and minds in his personal belief that being Gay was a natural human emotion and that discrimination against the youth for being Gay was unjustified. And he saw this as a spiritual mission where he presented the Bible tale of David and Jonathan, gave historical examples of Greece, Rome, Alexander the Great, and countless rulers, artists, painters, poets, and politicians who were Gay. Curiously, the youth seemed to enjoy his occasional references to The French Revolution where destitute people launched a Republic despite the prior ruling class.
Ravarour’s Vanguard meetings were open to the community that interested public attended such as SF Ballet costumer David Barnard and future SIR president and Vector editor, the then reporter Leo Laurence. (3) Plus other people have early memories concerning Ravarour and Vanguard.(4) By the holidays Vanguard members had bonded and wanted a family-style holiday dinner, so Ravarour suggested asking Glide’s youth minister Reverend Ed Hansen who was not associated with Vanguard, if Vanguard could use Glide’s basement for a Vanguard Thanksgiving and Christmas 1965 holiday dinner.(5)
In April 1966, Ravarour led Vanguard demonstrations in front of businesses that had refused to serve the youth and news spread throughout the Tenderloin that attracted South of Market activist Mark Forrester who visited Vanguard with a request that it demonstrate for the seniors in run down hotels, but Ravarour denied the request citing that Vanguard must maintain its Gay Right focus and not be agitators for any cause. A Berkeley activist heard about Vanguard’s demonstrations and asked it to join the forthcoming Anti-War protest at the Federal Building.
In May, Ravarour led the youth in more protests in front of stores that attracted a radio truck that broadcast a live interview on San Francisco radio on Friday May 27th where Ravarour and his mate Joel Thomas Williams contextualized homosexuality as normal human emotions motivated by love and that Vanguard had been demonstrating to end discrimination. The next day Reverend Williams congratulated Ravarour upon his astute choice of words.
Since Vanguard had been meeting at Glide for ten months, when Glide learned the Tenderloin had been designated as a poverty area qualified for EOC War on Poverty funds, Reverend Cecil Williams asked Ravarour to apply for a War On Poverty grant. But Ravarour declined and resigned as Vanguard teacher and leader. So Vanguard advertised elections that attracted Jean-Paul Marat who joined Vanguard and was elected its president and firebrand spokesperson. On May 31st Glide offered to sponsor the ten month old Vanguard organization, promising to gain funding for Vanguard, so Vanguard members accepted Glide sponsorship that would begin at the next Vanguard meeting.
June 1966: Vanguard accepts Glide as its sponsor
Glide’s official sponsorship began in June 1966 with the Glide ministers who oversaw Vanguard as Reverend Cecil Williams, Reverend Vaughn Smith and Reverend Louis Durham. Vanguard’s membership remained relatively the same thirty to fifty-some teenagers with only a small increase in Vanguard membership. The Reverend Ed Hansen who had been leading other youth programs not related to Vanguard, began to attend Vanguard meetings where his role was bringing portions of the non-profit and EOC applications that Glide had arranged to be created for Vanguard members’ approval. (6) For example, when he brought the last portion of the non-profit application he recommended that Vanguard re-elect its officers for the non-profit list of officers and so Marat was re-elected unanimously as president. Reverend Hansen was only officially involved with Vanguard in June and July and then he returned to Claremont School of Theology to complete his doctorate.(7)
During these two months Glide hired EOC Consultant Mark Forrester to write a War On Poverty EOC grant on the proviso that Vanguard repay the loan when War On Poverty funds arrived. A youth who had been associated with Rev Hansen’s ministry,(7) Joel Roberts joined Vanguard in June and he assisted Forrester in representing Vanguard to the EOC.
In June a minor protest was led by Marat in response to problems at Compton’s Restaurant; and then, that was followed by the July 14th major picketing of Compton’s restaurant organized by Mark Forrester and Joel Roberts in response due to discriminatory additional charges and time restraints at Compton’s restaurant that Vanguard members objected.
After Reverend Hansen’s departure, Marat praised Hansen lavishly for what Glide had done. Glide hired the Reverend Larry Mamiya as its first Advisor to Vanguard. Rev Mamiya obtained an office, furniture, telephone and mimeograph machine for Vanguard. He used his car as collateral to bail distressed youth, guarded and protected members, and created his own programs for Vanguard in answer to the needs he saw such as his creation of the popular Friday and Saturday night, 10 PM to 2 AM Vanguard Dance "Socials" that Reverend Mamiya founded and held in Glide’s basement was attended by gay, lesbian, bi, transgender and straight youth from San Francisco and the Bay area. Reverend Mamiya’s Vanguard Dances were the first LGBT dances in a church; and they added social dimensions to Vanguard that later carried into Vanguard’s later incarnation as The Gay and Lesbian Center (1967-mid-1980s). Reverend Mamiya also remembered Ravarour was always introduced at Vanguard events as Vanguard’s founder rather than being a member of Vanguard.(8)
In August, a spontaneous morning sit-in occurred at the Doggie Diner when the clerk refused to serve Vanguard member Dixie Russo. A half dozen Vanguard members were surrounded in a stand-off that lasted several hours and was the talk of the Tenderloin because it felt as if new liberties had been won. That evening Vanguard member Dixie Russo was inside Compton’s s and had been recognized for the morning stand-off. Hours later, when a street queen was disrespected she hit the clerk with a tray that launched Compton’s Riot and uprising.
Marat was instrumental in changing the previous newsletter into Vanguard Magazine where he espoused the goals and hopes for Vanguard. Forrester added articles in the first two issues, and both men were featured in other publications claiming they had created Vanguard. Joel Roberts also presented himself as having organized Vanguard. Unquestionably both Marat and Roberts made very significant contributions maintaining Vanguard’s existence. During Marat’s tenure he was very vocal about rights for hustlers, prostitutes and pill heads; whereas, Ravarour as a priest had focused upon the intrinsic spiritual nature of each individual and their right to equality.
In September Marat organized a "Street Sweep" to show the value of the youth who were not trash. In October Marat wanted to continue the momentum of demonstrating the value of the youth, but Vanguard members refused to seek publicity by replanting a park outside of the Tenderloin. They also earmarked the dance receipts for an education fund instead of voting a salary for Marat that caused friction and irritation. So Marat resigned as Vanguard Magazine editor, resulting in a new member Keith Oliver St.Clair becoming editor of Vanguard Magazine for the November issue. Also in October Joel Thomas Williams left the state following threats.
In November and December Marat continued to request a salary so he could focus full-time on Vanguard. Embittered by refusals in December Marat withdrew Vanguard (9) from Glide’s campus and led it to a pre-arranged theater. However the Vanguard members were dissatisfied with the theater conditions and charges for ever use of the building and so they disassociated from Marat. Since Vanguard was in shambles, on December 29th 1966 the Reverend Cecil Williams held an open house inviting Tenderloin residents to be involved in the creation of a new re-organized Vanguard. Reverend Williams presented Glide’s plan to create the long intended Service Agency for the Tenderloin youth.
January 1967: The re-organized Vanguard Tenderloin Youth Organization
In January 1967 Glide oversaw the creation a new re-organized Vanguard Tenderloin Youth Organization. The majority of the officers and members were mostly youth who had attended the dances with several older members remaining. The February 1967 issue of Vanguard Magazine vol. 1, number 3, edited by Keith Oliver St.Clair and poet Mark Miller, gave January 24, 1967 as the date Vanguard received non-profit status. By then the officers were different. Unfortunately, Vanguard had lost its previous leaders, Ravarour and Marat, who had given it direction and maintained its equal rights mission. Now that Vanguard was solely a service agency the focus had changed and so had many members. (10) Sadly in-fighting among officers and members fractionalized the new organization because as there was no unifying principle or philosophy among the youth. Each person or group had his/her/their own interests.
Unfortunately the WOP grant to hire and pay a staff and to develop and fund the programs of a service agency had not been received. Glide offered counselling as always, and a street minister Ray Broshears began to be involved by offering job counseling. The Reverend Mamiya who was now working in the Haight-Ashbury brought The Diggers food program to Glide for Thursday meals that inspired Glide’s later food program. Even CRH became involved by donating funds toward creating The Hospitality House. (11) But despite all the valiant efforts in a few months the Vanguard Magazine announced it was no longer affiliated with the defunct Vanguard youth organization. Keith Oliver St.Clair maintained his position as Vanguard Magazine editor; and, when Vanguard collapsed in 1967 he privatized and published Vanguard Magazine at 203 Clayton Street as an Avant Guard (LGBT) themed magazine until 1978.(#)
Dixie Russo sought Ravarour to resolve Vanguard’s problems, but Ravarour advised re-forming as a new organization free of conflicts that he recommended be named as The Gay and Lesbian Center which Russo and other orphaned original Vanguard members started in 1967. In 1971 The Gay and Lesbian Center had a legend on the wall that, "Adrian Ravarour and Tenderloin youth founded Vanguard that became the Gay and Lesbian Center." Sadly The Gay and Lesbian Center only existed until the mid-1980s because most of its staff had died.
Finally, in November 1967, EOC War On Poverty funds became available and the Reverend Cecil Williams was instrumental in forming a committee with others and Tenderloin residents to redirect the Vanguard funds to create The Hospitality House as Glide’s long intended service agency for the Tenderloin youth that exists today as Glide’s progeny and Vanguard’s heir.