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Denise Oliver and the Women of the Young Lords Party
The Young Lords organized in New York’s Puerto Rican communities starting in 1969. They sought self-determination and justice for those living in New York and independence for the island of Puerto Rico, which was then (and is now) a “territory” of the United States. This meant that Puerto Ricans were US citizens, but they had less control over their own island and less influence in the US government than people in US states. Many Puerto Ricans had migrated to New York City after World War II in search of jobs. Many found employment, but also experienced racism, resistance to their Spanish language, and continued poverty.
The Young Lords were first founded in Chicago by Cha Cha Jimeniz and a group of young Puerto Rican men. The organization then spread to New York, where leaders including Denise Oliver, Felipe Luciano, Pablo Guzman, and David Perez launched their branch of the movement. The Young Lords targeted a range of issues that they saw affecting Puerto Ricans in New York. These included: poor sanitation services from the city (which they responded to with a “garbage strike” demonstration); poor health care from the city (which they responded to with community-based health services); hunger (which they responded to with free breakfast programs); insensitive and insufficient education (which they responded to by making educational spaces of their own); and more. The Young Lords Party outlined their goals in a 13-point platform..
Education was central both to how the Young Lords organized and to what they hoped to achieve. The Young Lords made political education part of their organizing, and they made increasing educational opportunities for Puerto Rican children one of their main goals. Their work was recently documented by historian Johanna Fernandez, whose book The Young Lords: A Radical History informs this document set.1 For a dramatization of the Young Lords’ work in health care in New York, see the film Takeover.2
Johanna Fernández, The Young Lords: A Radical History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), and Matthew Kautz, Christina Martin, and Johanna Fernandez, “The Reimaginers: The Young Lords.” Accessed April 20.2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4umn9iLsYs ↩︎
Iris Morales Leads Political Education Class
The Young Lords party creates spaces for members to study history and politics.