David Lotz of LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) SUNCO (Sunshine State Cooperative)
What was the youth group to which you belonged (also city, and congregation if you care to identify it), region, and what were the years?
LRY of Miami, Florida. First Unitarian Church of Miami, SUNCO federation 1969-74.
Was your family UU (or Unitarian or Universalist) and what was their generational history as far as involvement in UU? Had family members been involved in former UU or Unitarian or Universalist youth groups and do you know what their experience might have been? If you were from outside UU, what was your religious/spiritual/social upbringing?
My father and to a lesser degree my mother were active in the First Unitarian Church of Miami. My sister (seven years my senior) was involved with LRY and the congregation. She left for college when I was 9. My father had joined the church after the family moved from Hartford Connecticut to Miami in 1950. My fathers family was solidly Episcopal while my mother identified herself as a Quaker prior to the move south. My father was very involved in church business and was a mover who found a new home for the church after I-95 ripped through the area and displaced us and the core of the historic black community in downtown Miami. Our new home was near South Miami and designed by locally prominent architect Earl Starnes, also a member of the congregation. Earl's sons were both my friends and LRYer's. One older than I the other the same age. My father was the tenor in the church choir and was president of the congregation in 1964. That same year the local KKK burned a cross only 20 yards from our pulpit. The FBI called our house at 2AM that Saturday night and my father woke me up and took me to the church that night to see the crime scene. To say the least this memory burns bright as the moment I really understood what hate and discrimination were all about.
How did you learn of the youth group, or what attracted you to it? What kept you there? Why and when did you leave? Did it provide an environment that was missing elsewhere in your life? Were you looking for spiritual experience, social consciousness activities, intellectual stimulation, personal friendships? How were these things fulfilled or not? What growth/change did you feel?
I was a legacy since my sister was a former president of the Miami LRY. I could not wait until I was 13 so I could join LRY. I was the little brother of my sister Sandra who always seemed to be so busy and so popular. many LRY events during her tenure in the 60's were held at our family home so I got the whole treatment; community service and awareness, political issues and UU themed activities IE; Migrant Workers advocacy, and other civil rights movement causes. None of these activities were available in school or any other youth group like the Boy Scouts for instance. LRY shaped my political, social and intellectual life in ways I can only begin to express in a questionnaire! By the time I was 14 I was elected President of The Miami LRY group and held that office until I was 18 and timed out. During that period I discovered and honed my leadership skills and became active on the state regional and national levels. I also was elected the first youth representative to the church board of directors and spearheaded a controversial campaign to get the church to divest themselves of mutual funds that had the Honeywell Corporation and others who manufactured anti-personnel weapons during the Vietnam War. The local LRY picketed the Christmas Sunday service which led to the resignation of the Minister and the divestiture of the investment funds. It also led to a heated debate on whether the church had the right to pick or at least ratify advisors. This issue was debated by parents and church elders who felt that the local LRY was out of control. The fact was they did not care for a radical advisor (chosen by this author) and wanted to rein in our independence. I realized that liberty and righteousness came at a cost and soon realized that peace was not just a word. The damage had been done and I took some of the blame. I made peace with the board, but not before educating them that LRY according to the charter was only affiliated nationally with The UUA and thus they could not tell us who we wanted as an advisor. I did relent by meeting with a couple who the board liked and, like wow they were cool too. So we moved on with lessons learned by all of us. All of these experiences contributed to my growth and development as an aware compassionate human being who cares about social justice and our world.
What were your experiences local and non-local (conferences)? Did you prefer one over the other or did they complement each other well? Was non-local experience accessible?
LRY Conferences were the bomb! We hosted many statewide conferences at the Miami Church. During my tenure, I did much of the organizing, I loved it. Arranging for seminars and speakers on a variety of mostly socially based issues was great. I was lucky to have very liberal parents who were cool with me traveling all over the country to attend LRY conferences. All over Florida for SUNCO conferences, FROGMORE, SC for Tri-Fed and continental conferences in; Guthrie Center Iowa, Debenniville Pines, a UUA conference center in San Bernadino, CA., and Cherry Hill, NC where we all watched as Richard Nixon Resigned from office. The NIXON RESIGNS party went on for days and brought out local law enforcement as most LRY conferences did going back to the 50's era! Speaking of partying, besides social and political awareness and all that great stuff, sex drugs and rock and roll were mainstays of virtually all the really good conferences. I lost my virginity at my second Frogmore tri-fed and all of my girl friends during that era of my life were LRYer's. A lot of criticism over the years of drug use at LRY conferences and other events should be taken in context of the times. Even now you can light up a joint legally in Colorado and Washington and other states if you have a prescription. Yes there was Pot and LSD and a smattering of other substances but believe me I know this was not the point for most of us. Some of my fellow LRYer's who encountered the guy from Miami might disagree but we had fun and this was a major part of conferences. Getting away from the "MAN" which sometimes meant parents or teachers and others who were against young people's freedom, was paramount for many to express themselves. The Woodstock generation grew up in the seventies and many of us actually voted! Some of us still do (see Colorado and Washington above). Transportation to conferences was readily available. Bus's, carpooling w/ advisors hitchhiking all brought us together. Social networking was probably invented by LRY and the need to get to a conference. I met my best friend, a former LRY and SRLer because the girls parents required an advisor to ride with us to Frogmore. I was 14 then. He is 70 now and I am 57. He lives one street over from me in Miami. I am still in contact with several friends from LRY day's and speak with them often. I have also lost some close friends recently as time marches on. I find myself at the old Church now known as the UU society of Miami only for memorial services. The memories are still there. Once in a while I will visit the Church and the old "LRY room" and remember the good times. Cooking three meals a day for 100 people was actually fun! I did kitchen duty at every conference I ever went to.
How did your experiences affect your life in the short term and long term? Were you UU as an adult--why or why not?
When I was twenty I started working at a job with a community based mental health program. I worked there for 13 years. Since then I have devoted most of my career to helping disadvantaged people through the non-profit world in Miami. I was elected a Delegate from the 17th Congressional district to the 1984 Democratic convention in San Francisco and remain active in politics to a lesser degree today. LRY definitely had a great influence on my career choices and political views. I am still a social liberal and consider myself a progressive member of the Democratic party. I have not been a member of the local church for some time. I do consider it my church and I consider myself a Unitarian. In fact I am an Emersonian transcendentalist and an atheist. The local church is not as cutting edge as it used to be.
What was your awareness of the group and its activities as far as being youth-directed and the history of youth-direction in UU youth groups? If you hadn't much awareness of the history of UU youth groups, would you have been interested in learning more? If you hadn't awareness of the history of the UU youth groups, would education in that history have further molded your experience and expectations of yourself and others? Would it have affected a sense of legacy? If you were interested in legacy, did you feel you were able to contribute beneficially or not?
Because I was a legacy my awareness was very high. I think we all left a legacy which live's on in the memories of experiences few youths have the opportunity to be a part of.
What was your sense of youth-adult relations between the youth group and the host congregation? The youth group and advisors?
It seems to me it would be useful to not just learn what individuals found beneficial or not about their experience in the youth group, but to contextualize it generationally. What was going on in your area outside the group in other formal and informal groups of individuals of similar ages? What was going on societally that you feel affected your experience of and participation in the youth group?
I do not know of any group youth or otherwise that provided the insight and experiences that I was fortunate enough to experience through LRY. My teen years well into my life have been molded by my experience, the friends I made, the insights I acquired, the people I loved. The seventies for me was initiated by LRY. All the political upheaval from the Vietnam War to Watergate and beyond mirrored our struggles to fight the good fight for social and civil justice. There was a lot of Peace and Love within LRY but it was life not fantasy that made us who we really are. If you are reading this, peace be with you my LRY friend.
If you care to do so, you may submit a picture of yourself, present or as a teen.
I have a number of old pictures mostly from Frogmore and mostly girlfriends. Highly incriminating stuff so no pictures, confidentiality man!
Added 2014 Jan 5.