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The Young Lords, later Young Lords Organization and in New York (notably Spanish Harlem), Young Lords Party, was a Puerto Rican nationalist group in several United States cities, notably New York City and Chicago.

Contents

Founding

The Young Lords began as a Chicago turf gang in the 1960s in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. When they realized that urban renewal was evicting their families and saw police abuses, some became involved in June 1966, in the Division Street Riots. Gentrification became a primary focus early in Chicago due to Mayor Daley's ruthless patronage machine which evicted the entire Puerto Rican community of that city, from the prime real estate, downtown and lakefront areas.

While incarcerated, the President and one of the seven founding gang members of 1959, user:Jose(Cha-Cha)Jimenez [1] began to read everything from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X to Lenin and Mao. Nine years later on September 23, 1968, Jimenez reorganized the now defunct gang into a political human rights movement. Cha-Cha Jimenez was then approached by Illinois Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton, who was involved in the covert founding and organization of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. The meeting took place in January 1969, right after the Young Lords took over the Chicago Avenue Police Station's Workshop Meeting. Soon after, the Young Lords were restructured into ministries in an attempt to build better organization and to model themselves after the Black Panther Party. They became known as the Young Lords Organization (YLO).

In July 26, 1969, the New York regional chapter was founded.[2] The New York Chapter rapidly grew to become a regional center of the Young Lords, after the organization gained national prominence leading protests against conditions faced by Puerto Ricans and leading to the takeover of the First Spanish Methodist Church in East Harlem on December 28, 1969.[2] Earlier in September 1969, the United Methodist pastor, Rev. Bruce Johnson, and his wife Eugenia of the Chicago People's Church, where the Young Lords national headquarters was located, were both discoverd stabbed repeatedly in their parsonage home. There was much resentment toward them because they were strong supporters of the Lords. A major service was led by Bishop Pryor, the Northside Cooperative Ministry, Lincoln Park Poor People's Coalition and the Young Lords. According to a reporter, William C. Henzlik, Jose(Cha-Cha) Jimenez was in Cook County Jail at the time of the murders, but a bail bond drive among churchmen in the area enabled him to leave in time to tell worshipers: "Rev. Bruce Johnson came down from the mountaintops of the rich to be with the poor people... most people are like boats in a harbor, always tied up to the dock. Bruce and Eugenia Johnson left the safe harbor and tried to cross the ocean."

The organization drew front page headlines in new left tabloids and the national and local media due to the Young Lords ability to organize and bring thousands of people to their actions, and the existence of chapters in various cities. The growth of the New York chapter and the Chicago national office led to the opening of new branches in Philadelphia, Bridgeport, Newark, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Hayward and other Puerto Rican hub cities.

By March 1970, the Young Lords opened a South Bronx Information Center establishing its first operational headquarters for Pa'lante, the newspaper later printed and distributed by the New York Young Lords. Geraldo Rivera a lawyer and later a journalist who while never an official member was committed to supporting the Young Lords Party.

By May 1970, the New York section under the leadership of its Chairman Felipe Luciano; David Perez, Minister of Defense; Juan González, Minister of Education; Pablo "Yoruba" Guzmán, Minister of Information; Juan Fi Ortiz, Minister of Finance; and Denise Oliver, Field Marshall, decided to separate from the Chicago Young Lords. This had begun as a personal difference and was then explained as an ideological difference. In fact, to this day there are no differences in politics or actions, except regional. The new organization was called the Young Lords Party. While the separation was not a hostile one, New York was the eastern regional chapter and collected several east coast groups. All other groups remained with Chicago. A similar situation was taking place within the Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society and many other new left groups. Most believed to be growing pains,shaped also in place by the ongoing work of the FBI's Cointelpro. Repression was rampant in all these organizations during this same period with frame-ups, beatings, killings, jailings, infiltrations, negative rumour campaigns against the leadership, high bonds and the creation of divisions.

The Young Lords as a movement continued to focus its activity around Independence for Puerto Rico and the struggle for democratic rights for Puerto Ricans, along with the empowerment of Puerto Rican barrios within the United States. The local aspect of mission was significant because the Young Lords saw themselves as a people's struggle. Therefore the original issue that turned the Young Lords street gang in Chicago into a human rights movement was the complete displacement of the Puerto Rican community in Lincoln Park, Chicago. This was the neighborhood of the first Puerto Rican immigrants to Chicago. New York used the "Garbage Offensive" as their city service local issue. Other key issues brought forward by the Young Lords included police injustice, health care, tenant's rights and education. The Young Lords grew in numbers and influence from 1968 to 1983.

Their influence extended beyond politics as the Young Lords inspired a Puerto Rican cultural renaissance in the 1970s, particularly with respect to poetry and music. Felipe Luciano, already a well known poet within black liberation circles in Harlem, recited many of his well-known poems he wrote while a member of the Last Poet: Jibaro, Un Rifle Oración, Hey Now. Pedro Pietri wrote and publicly recited his best known poems, "Puerto Rican Obituary" and "Suicide Note of a Cockroach in a Low Income Project", at Young Lord events. The song Que Bonita Bandera ("What a Beautiful Flag") was written by Pepe Y Flora in Puerto Rico and was adopted by Chicago's national office as the Young Lords national anthem. It was sung live many times during the take-over of the People's Church in Spanish Harlem. The impact on music was even more significant as groups such as Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barreto, Willie Colón, and others began to write and perform songs that addressed the Puerto Rican experience.

Expansion

Subsequent branches were also organized in Philadelphia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Boston, Milwaukee, Hayward, California, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico. The Young Lords set up many community projects similar to those of the Black Panthers but with a Latino flavor, such as the free breakfast program for children, Emeterio Betances free health clinic, community testing for tuberculosis, lead poisoning testing, free clothing drives, cultural events and Puerto Rican history classes. In Chicago,they also set up a free dental clinic and a free community day care center. There was also work on prison solidarity for incarcerated Puerto Ricans and for the rights of Vietnam War veterans. The female leadership in New York pushed the Young Lords to fight for women's rights. In Chicago, it was a sub-group within the Young Lords led by Hilda Ignatin, Judy Cordero and Angela Adorno called Mothers And Others, that organized around women's rights and helped to educate the male members and the community at large.

Their newspapers, The Young Lord, Pitirre, and Palante (a contraction of "Para adelante", "Forward"), reported on their increasingly militant activities. The Young Lords carried out many direct action occupations of vacant land, hospitals, churches and other institutions to demand that they operate programs for the poor. This included a campaign to force the City of New York to increase garbage pick-up in Spanish Harlem .In Chicago, the seven dayMcCormick Theological Seminary take-over, won the Lincoln Park residents $650,000 to be used for low income housing. The four month People's Park camp out/take over, at Halsted and Armitage Ave. by 350 community residents, prevented the construction of a for profit tennis court where low income persons once lived. In New York, much of their health care activism was carried out by a mass organization they formed with the Black Panthers known as the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (HRUM). in Chicago, the Young Lords health program was coordinated by Dr. Jack Johns, Dr. Quentin Young, Ana Lucas, and Alberto and Marta Chavarria whom also worked with a Black Panther led coalition to recruit medical student organizations, and to advocate for health care for the poor.

Besides the Black Panthers, the Young Lords were also influenced by groups such as the Chicano Brown Berets, Crusade for Justice, Black Berets, Rising Up Angry, SDS, M.P.I., Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, P.I.P., the Communist Party USA, the East Asian-American Red Guards, Damas y Caballeros de San Juan, as well as many local community activists. As for the Puerto Rican island, the Young Lords began organizing conferences and marches calling for Puerto Rican independence, which was always related back to their natural operating bases and the gentrification that they were fighting within it, in the streets of Lincoln Park, Chicago, Manhattan and other cities.

The Young Lords grew into a national movement, through the leadership of activists like Angela Adorno who met with Vietnamese women, Omar Lopez (currently involved nationally with immigrant rights), and Richie Perez who established the Puerto Rican Student Union (PRSU) in a number of college campuses and high schools. They also became one of the leading targets of the FBI's COINTELPRO, which had long harassed Puerto Rican groups.[3] The founder and Chairman, Jose(Cha-Cha) Jimenez was indicted 18 times in a six week period ranging from assaults and battery on police to mob actions. He was kept in the county jail, or in court rooms fighting the charges,and lived with constant death threats. While the Young Lords advocated similar armed strategies to those advocated by the Black Panthers, it was as a right of self defense that rarely arose, as it did after the shooting of Manuel Ramos,the supposed suicide of Julio Roldan in the custody of the NYPD and the fatal stabbings in Chicago of the Methodist, Rev.Bruce Johnson and his wife Eugenia who pastored the Lincoln Park Community,at the Young Lord's first People's Church.

Decline and aftermath

By 1973, the Young Lords had been crippled and had all but been destroyed by the FBI's discreditations and divide-and-conquer tactics.[citation needed] Still, many members continued to pursue their vision for self-determination for Puerto Rico and other nations, as well as neighborhood empowerment. In Chicago, the Young Lords resurfaced after two and a half years of being forced underground by repression from groups like the Gang Intelligence Unit, the Red Squad and Cointelpro. Jimenez turned himself in to police on December 4 1972, exactly three years after the infamous police raid that killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He then began serving a one-year sentence, but not before helping to run an underground training school for Young Lords leadership. Immediately after his release from jail, the Young Lords ran the 1975 wikt:aldermanic campaign for Cha-Cha Jimenez which garnered 39% of the vote against Mayor Richard J. Daley's political machine candidate. The campaign followed the example of Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers, and was viewed only as an organizing vehicle, to bring out the urban renewal displacement concerns of the community. After the aldermanic campaign, Cha-Cha Jimenez was incarcerated for another nine months awaiting trial, on an alleged hostage charge, to show support for the FALN.

The Young Lords, then in 1982, became the first Latino group to join and organize a major event for the successful mayoral campaign of Harold Washington. Soon after Harold Washington won, Cha-Cha Jimenez introduced the new mayor before a June, 1983 crowd of 100,000 Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park. That day the Young Lords gave out 30,000 buttons with "Tengo Puerto Rico En Mi Corazon" inscribed on them. In the fall of 1995, Young Lords' Tony Baez, Carlos Flores, Angel Del Rivero, Omar Lopez and Angie Adorno were brought together again by Cha-Cha Jimenez, to form the Lincoln Park Project. They began to archive Young Lords history and to document the displaced Latinos and poor of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. To show support for the Puerto Rican Vieques campers and to continue the struggle for Puerto Rican independence and against internal displacement of Puerto Ricans and other poor within the Diaspora, the Young Lords organized Lincoln Park Camp on September 23, 2002.

Many Young Lords showed support for the freed Puerto Rican nationalist leaders and urban guerrilla groups like the Macheteros; others moved on to more explicitly Maoist formations, like the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Party, and others went on to provide the leadership of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights (NCPRR). Some worked within the media,such as Juan González of the New York Daily News and Democracy Now!, Pablo "Yoruba" Guzman at WCBS-TV New York, Felipe Luciano, Miguel "Mickey" Melendez of WBAI-FM New York and Geraldo Rivera. The documentary Palente, Siempre Palente! The Young Lords, was produced by Young Lord, Iris Morales, aired on PBS in 1996. The play El Bloque ("The Block") by Jacqueline Lazu, about the initial transformation of the Young Lords gang in Lincoln Park, Chicago into a national human rights movement, premiered in Chicago at De Paul University on April 20, 2007. It depicts times of joy and sadness as a Ma and Pa grocery store owner chased fruit thefting Young Lords and the Methodist supporter, Rev. Bruce Johnson and his wife Eugenia were being murdered in their home. The next venue for the play is hoped to be in New York City.

See also

Further reading

  • Abramson, Michael et al. Palante: Young Lords Party McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1971. (out of print) ISBN 978-0070001572.
  • González, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America, Penguin, 2001. ISBN 978-0140255393.
  • Melendez, Miguel "Mickey," We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords, St. Martin's Press, 2003. ISBN 0-312-26701-0.

References

  1. ^ Jose(Cha-Cha)Jimenez,[1]
  2. ^ a b Jennifer 8. Lee, "The Young Lords' Legacy of Puerto Rican Activism", New York Times, City Room blog, Aug. 24 2009.
  3. ^ Origins of the Young Lords, nationalyounglords.com

External links

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