Instead of simply delivering history to youth, the Vanguard Revisited project sought to enlist today’s queer homeless youth to document history, to enter into conversation with that history, and ultimately to position themselves as part of it.

From July 2010 to July 2011, homeless queer youth in San Francisco broadcasted their own stories and organized their own political actions in the spirit of Vanguard, an organization founded in 1966 by homeless queer youth with the support of urban ministers and homophile organizers in San Francisco’s Tenderloin.

Listen to 1960s Vanguard youth tell their stories:

 

Tenderloin youth protest police sweeps with a tongue-in-cheek "street sweep" protest. Fall 1966.

The Vanguard Revisited project was a partnership between the GLBT Historical Society; Larkin Street Youth, the city’s largest homeless youth service provider; WELCOME: a Communal Response to Poverty; the GLBT Center’s youth program; and Faithful Fools, a Tenderloin faith-based homelessness nonprofit.

Find additional information at Megan Rohrer's Vanguard Revisited blog.

Outcomes:

  • sixty-page magazine
  • weekly discussions, intergenerational conversations, and walking tours
  • direct actions
  • speaking tour of GLBT homeless youth shelters and faith communities in Portland, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco
  • radio documentary

Press:

Youth Participants Speak:

The project sought to replicate the bottom-up community organizing model that produced Vanguard by providing a platform for youth, urban ministers, and people living in poverty to cultivate leadership skills, learn from the history of Vanguard, and create a political base from which GLBT people living in poverty can advocate for their own needs.

“The Vanguard youth of the ‘60s were just trying to fight for a way to actually be allowed to be themselves. And if you look at us now, the queer youth now, we’re still fighting. But they were the first, they were the advance party doing this. The fact that they have been fighting for so long means that I just have to fight that much harder.” --Taylor, Vanguard Revisited youth organizer

“[The Vanguard of the 1960s] got their stories heard, and their struggles, and their artwork. And it was good that we got to do the same thing in 2011. We worked on zines, we had different community trainings, people from the community came. My story isn’t that much different than what [the Vanguard youth] went through a long time ago. I was really lucky to be involved in Vanguard…to be part of that story, of that history in some way.” --Rob, Vanguard Revisited youth organizer

“A lot of people don’t even think of the Tenderloin as having any connection to their queerness or to their history, and I think that serves a huge disservice to our queer youth who are still poor and are homeless and are living there. And also to our elders who fought in the Tenderloin, in the Compton’s Cafeteria riot, and in daily forms of resilience and resistance.” --Mia, Vanguard Revisited youth organizer

“Vanguard was my first serious art and writing venture. [The 1960s Vanguard] writing was vulgar and some of it was really whimsical. And I thought yes, this is where I can actually write how I think instead of copying and editing or just trying to make it really cookie cutter, that I could actually say things how I felt about them.” --Gotti, Vanguard Revisited artist and writer

“It made the youth look at our struggles in this field and how far we have come with rights and services in the LGBT community. When the youth were getting involved and commenting and relating to the information you were giving them, I love hearing them get something out of it.” --Andrew Garside, Youth Advocate, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

“The most significant moment in the presentation for me was when I realized that being homosexual was not only frowned on [in the 1960s], but actually illegal. The recounting of life in the Tenderloin by the people who were there made it sink in for me that the LGBT culture has not ever been approved of, and we're going to have to work hard and fight tooth and nail for every step we can get. Whether or not I life in SF, that was the beginning of the movement that allows me to be true to myself today.” -- Shawn Michael Bean, youth participant at Portland shelter

Funders:

This project was supported by the San Francisco Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, the St. Francis Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the Horizons Foundation.


About the Coordinators
           
Advisers
  • Martin Meeker, Academic Specialist, UC Berkeley Regional Oral History Office
  • Bernard Schlager, Executive Director, CLGS, Pacific School of Religion
  • Sharon Groves, Deputy Director, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program
Partner Organizations