Vanguard (organization)

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Vanguard was a gay rights youth organization active from 1965 to 1967 in San Francisco. The organization dissolved due to internal clashes in late 1966 and early 1967. Vanguard Magazine, originally and later loosely affiliated with the organization, continued the organization's spirit and was published through 1978 by Keith St Clare.[1]


In the fall of 1965, Adrian Ravarour and Billy Garrison founded Vanguard, an LGBT gay liberation youth organization in San Francisco, California. Joel Williams asked Ravarour as an educated adult and former priest to help the Tenderloin LGBT youth who suffered discrimination. Seeing their conditions, Ravarour began organizing and asked the LGBT youth if they were willing to demonstrate for equal rights to end discrimination. But Billy Garrison thought it was dangerous, so they developed two proposals: Garrison proposed peaceful co-existence; and, Ravarour proposed demonstrations for LGBT rights. Since Ravarour was a staff member of Intersection, he asked its director Reverend Laird Sutton for the use of the Intersection as a venue. Reverend Sutton recalled that Adrian asked about "using Intersection as a meeting place for a proposed new organization of LGBT youth of the Tenderloin…I knew that the proposal which Adrian and Billy had, while having great merit was not directly in keeping with the purpose of Intersection…therefore I said no… but urged them to take it to Glide.[2]" In "Beyond The Possible," Janice Mirikitani confirmed that Reverend Laird Sutton was the person who had sent the youth who started Vanguard at Glide. [3]

Since they were not affiliated with Glide, Phyllis Lyon provided Glide's community meeting room for the first meeting because she knew Ravarour from Intersection. Reverend Cecil Williams welcomed Ravarour and Garrison and offered the use of Glide as a venue for as long as needed. On the third meeting Ravarour and Garrison presented their proposals to the LGBT youth, who chose Ravarour's plan. As the adult leader and founder, Ravarour named Vanguard and led the Vanguard meetings throughout the fall of 1965 into spring 1966. Ravarour realized the best chance to succeed would be through unity, so he taught the LGBT youth philosophical and historical principles of their rights to equality and the examples of Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., so they would gain a philosophy to act from and to become a force of its own. Decades later Reverend Larry Mamiya recalled his own role as Glide's Advisor to Vanguard in his "Memoir" that:

Vanguard was the first group of largely gay young people in the nation organized by Adrian Ravarour (later the Rev. Dr. Ravarour). He would always be introduced at Vanguard events as the "founder." At that time, I did not know about the background of Adrian's founding philosophy, which included Mohandas Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. among others. But it certainly was in harmony with my own views about the role of nonviolence in social change movements. In retrospect, Vanguard can be seen as the spearhead of a nonviolent social change movement of young gay people, the first in the nation dedicated to bringing about social justice and equal rights.[4]

During the first ten months of Vanguard, Fall 1965 to Spring 1966, the prominent members of Vanguard were Juan Elorreaga, Dixie Russo, Billy Garrison, Joel Williams, January Ferguson, plus transient youth intrigued by the idea that the LGBT tenderloin youth deserved respect and equal rights. Ravarour was its adult founder and leader. Since Glide did not as yet advise it, Vanguard contacted Glide's minister Ed Hansen with a request to use Glide's basement for the 1965 Vanguard Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners- that he attended. Reverend Hansen remembered his contact with Vanguard as minimal, "Rather than being "assigned" to meet with Vanguard...I don't remember how many times I met with Vanguard, except that it was certainly more than once and likely only a few times before I left to return to Claremont."[5]

In the spring of 1966, Vanguard members picketed small business that refused to serve the LGBT youth. When others asked Vanguard to demonstrate their causes, Ravarour insisted Vanguard maintains its focus on LGBT rights. In May Reverend Williams asked Ravarour as the person who started Vanguard to apply for the War On Poverty grant but Ravarour declined and resigned as leader. And so, Vanguard advertised elections that attracted JP Marat who joined Vanguard and was elected president and firebrand spokesperson. With Marat's election Ravarour ceased in his leadership role. On May 30, 1966 Reverend Hansen visited Vanguard with Glide's offer to sponsor Vanguard, and the Vanguard members voted in approval and accepted Glide's sponsorship.

Glide began to sponsor Vanguard in June 1966. Glide encouraged Vanguard to apply for non-profit status. Reverend Hansen began to attend meetings and walked them through the non-profit application engendering enormous gratitude. JP Marat was unanimously re-elected for the non-profit application. Reverend Larry Mamiya was appointed as Glide's first Advisor to Vanguard and he was recognized and loved for his selfless generosity and astute handing of any problems that he navigated on behalf of Vanguard youth. Reverend Mamiya founded the popular and lucrative weekend Vanguard Dances that added social dimensions and transformed Vanguard.

Vanguard was open-ended to which everyone added their talents. A consultant, Mark Forrester assisted it to apply for War on Poverty EOC funds. Joel Roberts, joined in June, and he assisted consultant Mark Forrester. In June, Vanguard briefly responded to minor complaints about Compton's; but in July, Roberts and Forrester organized a major picketing of Compton's Cafeteria for LGBT rights. Hundreds of LGBT people attended the weekend Friday and Saturday Vanguard dances that Mr Friday contributed his talents as the DJ. Once Vanguard was sponsored, Reverend Larry Mamiya identified Reverends Louis Durham, Vaughn Smith and Cecil Williams as the ministers overseeing Vanguard.[6] And, he witnessed numerous times that Ravarour was "called the founder of Vanguard by the DJ at the dances and JP and the kids."[6] Despite hundreds attending the dances, the individuals in the membership remained relatively the same, with only small gains.

In August, the Doggie Diner Stand-off and Compton's Riot in San Francisco occurred. In the morning of the Compton's Riot, Dixie Russo- who headed Vanguard's street queen coalition- ordered coffee at the Doggie Diner, and when refused service, broke the sugar container. For the next five hours, seventeen police in riot-gear surrounded Russo, Williams, Ravarour and others. When the police finally withdrew it felt as if new freedom had been won. Word spread throughout the day that diminished fears of reprisal and gave hope for freedom. It seemed that many people were emboldened by Dixie's confrontation and victory. That night when one of the Tenderloin street queens was insulted inside Compton's Cafeteria, all Hell broke loose as they revolted in their demand for respect, which is historically known as the Compton's Riot. [7] Vanguard protested several times in the fall; but the last months of 1966 were problematic as Marat's requests for a salary were denied, so he lessened his activities. When he resigned as magazine editor, a new member Keith St Clare[8] was elected editor in November. Finally, Marat withdrew Vanguard from Glide, but it fell apart. During January 1967, Vanguard was granted non-profit status and its incorporation papers arrived so Glide attempted to revive Vanguard. But in a few months the magazine stated that Vanguard was dysfunctional, and that the magazine no longer represented the defunct organization. Dixie Russo initially led some of the Vanguard members to form the first Gay and Lesbian Center that lasted until the 1980s. The WOP monies earmarked for The Vanguard Tenderloin Youth Organization went on to form The Hospitality House that exists today as Vanguard's progeny and heir.


  1. ^ Bernadicou, August. "Keith St Clare". August Nation. The LGBTQ History Project. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  2. ^ Ravarour, Adrian (2019). Synopsis and Appendix the Vanguard LGBT Youth Movement and Organization: 1965-1967 (1 ed.). Los Angeles: One Institute. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  3. ^ Williams, Cecil; Mirikitani, Janice (2013). Beyond the Possible. HarperOne. pp. 336. ISBN 006210506X. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  4. ^ Memoir of My Intern Year (1966-1967) as the Minister of Young Adults at the Glide Memorial Methodist Church by Dr. Larry Mamiya. 2013
  5. ^ Hansen, September 7, 2011 (Email from Ed Hansen to Adrian Ravarour)
  6. ^ a b Mamiya, ltr, 1-12-11 (Email from Larry Mamiya to Adrian Ravarour}
  7. ^ Bernadicou, August. "Adrian Ravarour". August Nation. The LGBTQ History Project. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  8. ^ Bernadicou, August. "Keith St Clare". August Nation. The LGBTQ History Project. Retrieved 27 June 2019.

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