Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Vanguard youth were ahead of their time!

I say that the Vanguard youth were ahead of their time, even though the age of their members ranged from 15 to 35. The Rev. Ray Broshears was the oldest member of the organization. Larry Mamiya who was a Glide intern from Union Seminary and worked with the Vanguard youth,describes Ray as seemingly jealous that the youth did not choose him as their president. Instead it was the extremely intelligent youth or the really good dancers that were chosen to be the leaders.

Perhaps the reason the 35 year old Broshears was not elected to the leadership of the groups, was because he was behind the times. The Gay Liberation spirit that Vanguard was pioneering supported the more aggressive tactics of liberation, such as those employed by the Black Panthers.

This letter from Broshears to the Rt. Rev. Michael Itkin, about Itkin's recent visit to a Vanguard meeting can show the difference between the youth and Broshears:

[courtesy the GLBT Historical Society Archives, Ray Broshears Papers, 96-3 Carton 4, Bishop Michael Francis Itkin] Learn more about David Hilliard (whose trial in Oakland is discussed in this letter).

It takes Broshears another 4 years before he begins to embrace the direction that the Vanguard youth were going in 1969. However, by the time Broshears gets to this space, Vanguard has already moved to a more transcendental space at a new location in the Haight Ashbury and disbanded completely.

This not only shows that the Vanguard youth are ahead of their time, but begs the question: What happens in Broshears life and ministry that moves him from opposed to organizations like the Black Panthers to recreating their organization? This Examiner article argues that it is attacks on Broshears (seemingly by youth) that pushes him over the edge.

[courtesy the GLBT Historical Society Archives, Ray Broshears Papers, 96-3 Carton 2, News Clippings]

If this is true, it would suggest that the catalyst for Broshears is the same as the Vanguard youth: vulnerability. The vulnerability of someone is a huslter, a runaway, throwaway, homeless, transgender in 1969 is very different then that of the pastors who attend their meetings. As Broshears begins to experience more vulnerability in his personal life, he seems to come to some of the same conclusions as the Vanguard youth.

As a pastor studying and hoping to possibly create the work done around Vanguard this is a call for me to see the ways that my power, privilege and ever changing vulnerability will limit what I can understand or be a catalyst moving me forward.

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