The founding members of The Young Lords party grew up in the NYC projects as the children of working class, Puerto Rican migrants. They were known for their proactive social protest and community activities like burning garbage piles and taking over a church to run a free breakfast program.
The Young Lords began as a Puerto Rican turf gang in the Lincoln Park, Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park in the fall of 1960 and as a civil and human rights movement on Grito de Lares, September 23, 1968. During Mayor Daley’s tenure, Puerto Ricans in Lincoln Park and several Mexican communities were completely evicted from areas near the Loop, lakefront, Old Town, Lakeview and Lincoln Park, in order to increase property tax revenues. When they realized that urban renewal was evicting their families from their barrios and witnessed police abuses, some Puerto Ricans became involved in the June 1966 Division Street Riots in Wicker Park and Humboldt Park. They were officially reorganized from the gang into a civil and human rights movement by Jose Cha Cha Jimenez, who was the last president of the former gang and became the founder of the new Young Lords Movement
Latinos of all shades and hair texture came together, not phased by the petty discrimination rife within their community. The Young Lords grew into a national movement through the leadership of activists like Angela Lind Adorno who met with Vietnamese women, Omar López, David Rivera, Field Marshall, Dr. Tony Baez a leader in Bi-lingual, Bi-Cultural Education and Richie Pérez who established the Puerto Rican Student Union (PRSU) in a number of college campuses and high schools.
The Young Lords’ supported independence for Puerto Rico, all Latino nations and oppressed nations of the world and also neighborhood empowerment. This is clear by the original symbol with a map of Puerto Rico and a brown fist holding up a rifle and the purple lettering reading, “Tengo Puerto Rico en mi Corazon” (“I have Puerto Rico in my heart”). They saw themselves as a people’s struggle, a vanguard connected with the masses and it is why they began in Chicago fighting against the displacement of Puerto Ricans from Lincoln Park. While the national symbol and YLO (Young Lords Organization) appeared on buttons, the New York chapter began the local “Garbage Offensive”, which was an organizing vehicle and city-service concern. The Young Lords also addressed the local issues of police injustice, health care, tenants’ rights, free breakfast for children, free day care, and more accurate Latino education. The urban renewal campaign was framed by the Chicago office as the modern day land question, since Emiliano Zapata, who said, “all revolutions are based on land”
Young Lords Party
13-Point Program and Platform:
1. We want self-determination for Puerto Ricans–Liberation of the Island and inside the United States.
For 500 years, first spain and then united states have colonized our country. Billions of dollars in profits leave our country for the united states every year. In every way we are slaves of the gringo. We want liberation and the Power in the hands of the People, not Puerto Rican exploiters.
Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre!
2. We want self-determination for all Latinos.
Our Latin Brothers and Sisters, inside and outside the united states, are oppressed by amerikkkan business. The Chicano people built the Southwest, and we support their right to control their lives and their land. The people of Santo Domingo continue to fight against gringo domination and its puppet generals. The armed liberation struggles in Latin America are part of the war of Latinos against imperialism.
Que Viva La Raza!
3. We want liberation of all third world people.
Just as Latins first slaved under spain and the yanquis, Black people, Indians, and Asians slaved to build the wealth of this country. For 400 years they have fought for freedom and dignity against racist Babylon (decadent empire). Third World people have led the fight for freedom. All the colored and oppressed peoples of the world are one nation under oppression.
No Puerto Rican Is Free Until All People Are Free!
4. We are revolutionary nationalists and oppose racism.
The Latin, Black, Indian and Asian people inside the u.s. are colonies fighting for liberation. We know that washington, wall street and city hall will try to make our nationalism into racism; but Puerto Ricans are of all colors and we resist racism. Millions of poor white people are rising up to demand freedom and we support them. These are the ones in the u.s. that are stepped on by the rules and the government. We each organize our people, but our fights are against the same oppression and we will defeat it together.
Power To All Oppressed People!
5. We want community control of our institutions and land.
We want control of our communities by our people and programs to guarantee that all institutions serve the needs of our people. People’s control of police, health services, churches, schools, housing, transportation and welfare are needed. We want an end to attacks on our land by urban removal, highway destruction, universities and corporations.
Land Belongs To All The People!
6. We want a true education of our Creole culture and Spanish language.
We must learn our history of fighting against cultural, as well as economic genocide by the yanqui. Revolutionary culture, culture of our people, is the only true teaching.
7. We oppose capitalists and alliances with traitors.
Puerto Rican rulers, or puppets of the oppressor, do not help our people. They are paid by the system to lead our people down blind alleys, just like the thousands of poverty pimps who keep our communities peaceful for business, or the street workers who keep gangs divided and blowing each other away. We want a society where the people socialistically control their labor.
8. We oppose the Amerikkkan military.
We demand immediate withdrawal of u.s. military forces and bases from Puerto Rico, Vietnam and all oppressed communities inside and outside the u.s. No Puerto Rican should serve in the u.s. army against his Brothers and Sisters, for the only true army of oppressed people is the people’s army to fight all rulers.
U.S. Out Of Vietnam, Free Puerto Rico!
9. We want freedom for all political prisoners.
We want all Puerto Ricans freed because they have been tried by the racist courts of the colonizers, and not by their own people and peers. We want all freedom fighters released from jail.
Free All Political Prisoners!
10. We want equality for women. Machismo must be revolutionary… not oppressive.
Under capitalism, our women have been oppressed by both the society and our own men. The doctrine of machismo has been used by our men to take out their frustrations against their wives, sisters, mothers, and children. Our men must support their women in their fight for economic and social equality, and must recognize that our women are equals in every way within the revolutionary ranks.
Forward, Sisters, In The Struggle!
11. We fight anti-communism with international unity.
Anyone who resists injustice is called a communist by “the man” and condemned. Our people are brainwashed by television, radio, newspapers, schools, and books to oppose people in other countries fighting for their freedom. No longer will our people believe attacks and slanders, because they have learned who the real enemy is and who their real friends are. We will defend our Brothers and Sisters around the world who fight for justice against the rich rulers of this country.
12. We believe armed self-defense and armed struggle are the only means to liberation.
We are opposed to violence–the violence of hungry children, illiterate adults, diseased old people, and the violence of poverty and profit. We have asked, petitioned, gone to courts, demonstrated peacefully, and voted for politicians full of empty promises. But we still ain’t free. The time has come to defend the lives of our people against repression and for revolutionary war against the businessman, politician, and police. When a government oppresses our people, we have the right to abolish it and create a new one.
Boricua Is Awake! All Pigs Beware!
13. We want a socialist society.
We want liberation, clothing, free food, education, health care, transportation, utilities, and employment for all. We want a society where the needs of our people come first, and where we give solidarity and aid to the peoples of the world, not oppression and racism.
Hasta La Victoria Siempre!
The Young Lords were a target of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, which had long harassed Puerto Rican independence groups. The New York-Chicago schism mirrored the “Divide and Conquer” divisions within other New Left groups like the Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society, Brown Berets and many other new left movements. All of these organizations were repressed. At first, the splits were believed to be the result of growing pains, as this movement was very young and spread quickly. But it is now documented that it was primarily due to police infiltration by informants and provocateurs, and planned and shaped by the ongoing undercover work of the FBI’s COINTELPRO.
The leaders were framed, beaten, given high bonds, imprisoned, harassed, and discredited. The entire Chicago leadership was forced underground in order to reorganize itself. Tactics against the movements included negative rumor campaigns, pitting groups against each other and the creation of factionalism, distrust and personality conflicts. In Chicago, COINTELPRO created an official anti-Rainbow Coalition component. Members were interviewed in public view in front of the church. The Red Squad was also parked 24 hours a day in front of the national headquarters. Other harassment included inciting quarrels between spouses and between members and allies. The founder and chairman, Jose Cha Cha Jimenez not only was indicted 18 times in a six-week period for felony charges such as assault and battery on police to mob action; he was kept in the county jail, or in court rooms fighting the charges, and received constant death threats.
While the Young Lords advocated armed strategies similar to those advocated by the Black Panthers, it was as a right of self-defense and rarely arose. It did after the shooting of Manuel Ramos and the implications of police foul play in the circumstances surrounding the beating death of José (Pancho) Lind, the supposed suicide of Julio Roldán in the custody of the NYPD and the fatal stabbings in Chicago of the United Methodist Church Rev. Bruce Johnson and his wife Eugenia, who pastored in Lincoln Park at the Young Lord’s first People’s Church in Chicago.
The documentary Palante, Siempre Palante! The Young Lords, produced by Young Lord Iris Morales, aired on PBS in 1996. Palante, Siempre Palante! The Young Lords, documents the period from 1969 through the organization’s demise in 1976. The Young Lords represented another cycle of militancy, write Andres Torres and Jose Velasquez in The Puerto Rican Movement: Voices From the Diaspora, a collection of personal narratives from activists of the period.
In 2015, The Young Lords was the focus of a new art exhibit organized by The Bronx Museum of the Arts called “¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York.” It is on view at three different cultural institutions in New York.