Hi there,

If you think Democracy Now!’s reporting is a critical line of defense against war, climate catastrophe and authoritarianism, please make your donation of $10 or more right now. Today, a generous donor will DOUBLE your donation, which means it’ll go 2x as far to support our independent journalism. Democracy Now! is funded by you, and that’s why we’re counting on your donation to keep us going strong. Please give today. Every dollar makes a difference—in fact, gets doubled! Thank you so much.
-Amy Goodman

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.


Influential Puerto Rican Activist Group the Young Lords Marks 40th Anniversary

StoryAugust 21, 2009
Watch Full Show

This weekend marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the revolutionary community organizing group the Young Lords. The group called for self-determination for all Puerto Ricans, community control of institutions and land, freedom for all political prisoners and the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, Puerto Rico and other areas. The Young Lords would also play a pivotal role in spreading awareness of Puerto Rican culture and history, leaving a legacy still felt today. We play excerpts of the documentary Palante, Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords and speak to three of the group’s original members: Luis Garden Acosta, Mickey Melendez, and Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez. [includes rush transcript]

Related Story

StoryNov 28, 2023Remembering Pablo Yoruba Guzmán, Young Lords Co-Founder, Afro-Latino Leader, Legendary NYC Journalist
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The year was 1969, remembered by many as the summer of Woodstock and the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was also the year when a group of young Puerto Rican activists formed the New York chapter of the Young Lords Organization. The Young Lords were a revolutionary group modeled on the Black Panther Party.

In late July 1969, the group staged their first action in an effort to force the City of New York to increase garbage pick-up in East Harlem. The Young Lords would go on to inspire activists around the country as they occupied churches and hospitals in an attempt to open the spaces to community projects.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The group called for self-determination for all Puerto Ricans; for independence for the island of Puerto Rico; community control of institutions and land; freedom for all political prisoners; and the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, Puerto Rico and other areas. The Young Lords would also play a pivotal role in spreading awareness of Puerto Rican culture and history. While the group disintegrated in the mid-1970s, its impact is still felt today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, this Sunday, members of the Young Lords are planning to come together to mark the fortieth anniversary of the group’s founding. The event will take place at the First Spanish Methodist Church in East Harlem, the same church on East 111th Street that the group took over in late 1969 to house free breakfast and clothing programs, health services, a daycare center, a liberation school and community dinners. The occupation ended in January 1970, when police raided the church, arresting 105 members of the Young Lords.

Attendees on Sunday will include Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez, who served as the first Minister of Education for the Young Lords.

We’ll speak with Juan and two other former members of the Young Lords in a few minutes, but first we want to turn to excerpts of a documentary called ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords by filmmaker Iris Morales.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: Inspired by world events and their experiences in the civil rights, antiwar and student movements, Latinos responded with direct action and political organization.

    MICKEY MELENDEZ: I was one of the original five or six people in New York City that started the Sociedad de Albizu Campos, that eventually became the Young Lords organization and then the Young Lords Party.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: The Sociedad had been meeting since the winter of ’68, ’69, to try to form some kind of a political group for Puerto Ricans.

    DENISE OLIVER: Around about that time, the Panthers were in existence in New York, and we were all reading The Black Panther paper. We were sort of fascinated with what they were doing. In that issue of the Panther paper was a very interesting article about this group of Puerto Ricans in Chicago, the Young Lords.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The Chicago Young Lords pressured institutions to respond to concerns of the surrounding Latino community. Led by Cha Cha Jimenez, they occupied a local church in the fall of 1968.

    CHA CHA JIMENEZ: We’re starting opening up a daycare center for welfare mothers, mothers that are on welfare that want to work, or just mothers whether they’re on welfare or not and want to work, you know, something like that. So we take care of the children. We go out — we’re planning to go out in the morning and pick them up, you know, because of the wintertime, the snow and that, and take them back.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: In New York, young Latinos were inspired by the Chicago Young Lords.

    DENISE OLIVER: And a decision was made by some of the guys to hop in a car and drive to Chicago and go and meet Cha Cha. And when they got back from Chicago, they were very excited. They had met Cha Cha. They were very impressed with him. And they had made an agreement to start an East Coast branch of the Young Lords organization at that time.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The organization followed a military structure.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: We then chose a central committee of five people, which at that time was Felipe Luciano was Chairman, Pablo Guzman as the Minister of Information, myself as the Minister of Education, David Perez as the Minister of Defense, and Juan Fi Ortiz as the Minister of Finance.

    To me, the most amazing thing about everything that happened afterwards is that a group of young people, young Puerto Ricans, could have the kind of impact and effect the kind of changes that were done in the city, I think, speaks, one, to the tremendous potential that any young people have, once they decide to do something.

    At a certain point, after the Young Lords had developed and we were beginning to become known, Pablo started saying, “We need a program.”

    PABLO GUZMAN: We needed to have something that we could constantly refer to, a point of reference, not only for the people out there that we were organizing around, but for ourselves.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The thirteen-point program was written. It called for self-determination, an end to racism, community control of institutions, armed self-defense, and a socialist society. The Young Lords expanded their activities to provide free breakfast programs and free clothing drives. Through serve-the-people programs, they developed a strong relationship with the community.

    PABLO GUZMAN: We went very innocently looking for space for our breakfast programs and some of our other programs that were beginning to expand, and we needed more space. And there was this building that was empty pretty much most of the time in El Barrio, and we just went knocking on the door, saying, “Excuse me. I mean” — and we figured it’s a church, you know, and they’re going to, you know, greet us with open arms. Felipe found out that there was a Sunday coming up that was a testimonial Sunday. And knowing how this worked in these churches, in Protestant churches, he knew that anybody could get up and testify.

    FELIPE LUCIANO: When I stood up to speak and asked them why they refused, I went to the front of the altar. I remember women trying to hit me with candelabras. One guy, who we now know was an agent, pulled the plug off the organ. They were playing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and as they were playing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” six policemen beat me from the front of the altar all the way to the end. I remember I was slipping on my own blood. Thirteen of us, I think, were arrested, handcuffed and thrown into police cars. The police don’t know this, but at that point we already knew that we had won. We literally kidnapped the church.

    FELIPE LUCIANO: Now, we want to make it very clear once again why the Young Lords have occupied the church. One, the First Spanish Methodist Church is empty six days a week. Two, it has the largest space available for community service programs. Let it be understood that we never asked — and these are the myths that must be destroyed right now — we never asked to take over the institution. We never asked to control the church. We only asked for cooperation in terms of running a breakfast program for needy children. We’d like to make it very clear, however, that this is going to happen to any institution in any oppressed community that does not respond to the needs of the people.

    CROWD: Right on!

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: In New York, the Young Lords continued to grow and directed their efforts to community health issues. They launched a lead poisoning detection program.

    DENISE OLIVER: Ultimately, we found out that about a third of the children in East Harlem had high levels. And as a result of this program, legislation was passed here in New York City banning the use of lead-based paints in tenements and in apartment buildings, and also a law was put into effect that landlords would have to go back and take that lead paint out of the apartments, which has not been followed up on.

    MICKEY MELENDEZ: We had been doing TB testing throughout the community, in the projects, in housing and in apartments. And what we found out was that there was a high percentage of people testing positive. The city at the time had this TB truck that it would park in very obscure places, and maybe they would see twenty, thirty, forty people a day. We got into negotiations with the city, of saying, “Why park it there? We have a location. We’ll get the people that have tested positive the week before,” because we would go out every Saturday and do the TB testing. Anyway, to no avail. They wanted to park the car — the truck where they had been parking it, and they were ready to budge from that. We planned an action. We took over the TB truck.

    MINERVA SOLLA: And we brought it into the community, because they were not servicing the committee at that time. They were servicing other areas in the city.

    MICKEY MELENDEZ: That day, we had over 150 people taking x-rays. The technicians stayed there and were very pleased on how we dealt with the situation.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The Young Lords and the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement, a group of hospital workers and doctors, joined forces to organize for decent conditions. They targeted Lincoln Hospital, the sole facility available to the people of the South Bronx.

    UNIDENTIFIED: That building was condemned twenty-five years ago. Condemned because it was unsafe for human habitation. Condemned for rich people and opened up for poor people. That’s what always happens.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: The Young Lords took over Lincoln Hospital to address community health issues.

    MICKEY MELENDEZ: The politicians and the city administration had earmarked monies for a new hospital. It was taking ten or fifteen years. In the South Bronx at the time, in 1970, the statistics were something like one out of every five people were addicted to heroin.

    VICENTE ALBA: We all took over Lincoln Hospital. And the second time we took it over, we started a drug program called the Lincoln detox.

    MICKEY MELENDEZ: We would see an average of 600 to 700 people a week at Lincoln Hospital for those first couple of years that we were doing it. We would put people on a ten-day detox.

    PATRICIA RODRIGUEZ: In 1976, a new Lincoln Hospital was finally built in the South Bronx.

AMY GOODMAN: Excerpts from the documentary ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords by filmmaker Iris Morales, a former Young Lord herself. Well, for more on the film, you can go to the website <a href=http://www.palante.org.

But to talk more about the Young Lords on this fortieth anniversary, we are joined by three of its members. Juan Gonzalez, co-host here at Democracy Now!, served as the group’s first Minister of Education. We’re also joined by Luis Garden Acosta. He is the founder, president and CEO of El Puente, community human rights institution in Brooklyn, New York. And Mickey Melendez is also with us. He is the author of the book We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords.

Mickey, talk about the beginning.

MICKEY MELENDEZ: You know, I think that the beginning goes back to our individual stories as first-generation Puerto Ricans born, raised and educated in this country, you know, our parents living out their — the dream through us, and us being exposed to this country — the assassination of Kennedy, Malcolm, and Don Pedro died in ’65, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Kennedy, and just the groundswell of civil rights movement in this country. And we were part of that. You know, I think we were part of an international youth movement that was going on at the time.

I think if we did anything, we changed everything about ourselves. We defined how we wanted to be looked at, and we defined to the rest of the world how we wanted to be looked at as Puerto Ricans.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Mickey, of course, you were the — you’ve always been known as the convener, as the person who brought everyone together. Many of us did not know each other at the time. And the difficulties, because it was an extremely — as I’ve always said, a brilliant group, but very disparate in their viewpoints and their outlooks. The work of bringing people together, could you talk about that some?

MICKEY MELENDEZ: Well, you know, it’s like I had known these people from different parts of my life. And to me, I felt thought they were the, you know, brightest, young, energetic bunch of guys that I had known. I met Felipe at Queens College when I was at the SEEK Program, and he was just coming out of jail. I met Juan Gonzalez on the steps of Columbia University, the Low Library. I had played baseball with his two cousins, so that gave me some credibility with him. Pablo, I met at Westbury. David Perez, I met when I went to Chicago to recruit for the state university at Westbury.

And, you know, we started off as a study group. We started off as a study group trying to get connected to our history, because we were actually a generation disconnected from our history. And by “our history,” I’m talking about the history of struggle going back to 1868, anti-colonialism, anti-slavery, the rise of the Nationalist Party, the struggles of independence for Puerto Rico, understanding, you know, colonialism.

And once we got a hold of that history, it was — you know, this group of young men began to understand that history and began to talk about, well, what do we do? What’s going to be our expression? You know, the Black Panthers were there. The Brown Berets were there. And we then basically modeled ourselves around those organizations with a platform and a program.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and then Luis Garden Acosta and Juan, we’re going to come back to all of you, as we talk on this fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Young Lords. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I want to play some archival footage of you speaking at a Young Lords rally in the early 1970s.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: We entered this church a year ago. We were evicted. A hundred and five of us were arrested, and nothing has changed.

    We seized a tuberculosis truck that the city was misusing. We used that tuberculosis truck to test our people, one of the diseases of oppression they suffer the most. That was taken away from us. And again, our people still have a highest incidence of TB.

    And now, finally, not only do they continually slap in our faces basic reforms that we ask for, now they have killed one of our members. And we’ve seen what’s happened to political parties in the past. We’ve seen what happened to the Nationalist Party in Puerto Rico that was wiped out by the United States. We’ve seen what’s happened to the Black Panther Party, as, year in and year out, police departments across this country has little by little killed, until now it’s thirty Black Panthers. And so, we asked ourselves after the death of Julio, do we have to wait for number two or number three or number five or number fifteen, before we realize that that’s all that this system has in store for us?

    So we felt now is the time for us to say exactly how we’re going to respond to the killings of our people. We’re not going to sit by and allow more Julios and allow more Carmen Rodriguez abortion deaths. We have to begin to stand up as a people, the Puerto Rican people, and say, “That’s enough.” That’s enough.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that’s Juan Gonzalez almost forty years ago. Juan, set the context.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, that was the Second People’s Church in October of 1970, when one of our members who had been arrested on a minor charge, Julio Roldan, was found hanged in his cell in the Tombs, and mysteriously hanged, because supposedly he should have had his belt removed before he was put into this particular wing. And this had been after a period when about, I think it was fifteen or sixteen blacks and Latinos had been found hanged in their cells in a variety of jails in New York City. It was a rash that many suspected were actually guards actually hanging black and Latino inmates.

So we then did a second takeover or occupation of the People’s Church. This time it was an armed takeover of the church, and it lasted for several days, and demanding justice in the case of Julio Roldan.

Eventually, what happened is the Lindsay administration agreed to establish a commission. It was called the Vanden Heuvel Commission. William vanden Heuvel was chosen as the head of the commission.

AMY GOODMAN: Katrina vanden Heuvel’s father.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Katrina vanden Heuvel’s father, exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: Head of The Nation.

JUAN GONZALEZ: He was chosen to head the Vanden Heuvel Commission to investigate the conditions in the New York City prisons. That was a direct result of our protest.

And we actually were able to negotiate with the Lindsay administration and the police department for us to remove the weapons from the church and leave the church, and no one actually was arrested.

And I’m often reminded by Ray Kelly, the current police commissioner of New York, who was a sergeant in the East Harlem police precinct at the time, that he remembers all of us from those days and that he’s known us for forty years, even though we didn’t know him for forty years. And so that — yeah, Kelly was just a sergeant then in East Harlem at the time and was part of the police detail that was assigned to the Second People’s Church at the time.

AMY GOODMAN: Many of you went on to become journalists. You’re a columnist in the New York Daily News, were at the Philadelphia Daily News; Felipe Luciano on the networks in New York; Pablo Guzman.

Luis Garden Acosta, you started the Young Lords chapter in Massachusetts —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- when you were at Harvard Medical School?

LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Yes, yes. You know, I was part of the Health Ministry of the Young Lords. I joined — you know, I’m a Catholic social activist, antiwar person who had spent time as part of John Lindsay’s Mayor’s Office. So I come to —-

AMY GOODMAN: The mayor.

LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: —- this movement seeing the inadequacies of government and also looking at the antiwar movement as being rather segregated and not connecting to the issue of racism and poverty and the dehumanizing services by government institutions in our communities.

So, I went to Harvard Medical School, because I felt, well, I really can’t do it in New York. I can’t go to medical school in a city that has so much need and so much struggle. Let me go to Boston, where there are no Puerto Ricans.

And lo and behold — and he didn’t warn me either. I think Juan knew. There were 40,000 Puerto Ricans, no doctor, no services. Only three had graduated from high school in the previous four years. Total abandonment. And, of course, I knew immediately that we had to continue our movement there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Luis, talk a little bit about how you got involved, because the People’s Church was really — you weren’t there with the group that originally formed, but then you joined —-


JUAN GONZALEZ: —- soon after the People’s Church.

LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: Here I am, very much involved in Catholic Social Action. I am a former seminarian for the Catholic priesthood, a former monk. And so, the question of liberation theology was very much a part of my life, and my whole struggle was against this war in Vietnam. But at the same time, as I said, there were many missing issues that weren’t connecting, I thought.

And then I heard that young people, who were trying to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, deal with the imprisoned, who were actually trying to perform the Christian mandate of what we call the Corporal Works of Mercy, had been bloodied in a church by police officers who had come in. That is an unprecedented thing. It sent chills up my spine. In a church! A sacred space.

So I immediately, the next Sunday, went to investigate and be part of it. I remember Richie Perez also went, and both of us sat in the same pew. By the end of that morning, afternoon, I turned to Richie and said, “Richie, are you thinking of joining?” And he says, “I’m thinking about it.” I said, Well, if you join, I’m joining.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you mention Richie Perez, who has since died.


AMY GOODMAN: A well-known human rights activist —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- Puerto Rican activist, activist against police brutality —-


AMY GOODMAN: —- here in New York. Let’s go back to the documentary for a minute, ¡Palante, Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords, a film by the Young Lords member herself, Iris Morales. This is the late Richie Perez.

    RICHIE PEREZ: One of the things that distinguished us was our constant insistence that the independence of Puerto Rico was a primary concern of Puerto Ricans in this country. Our button said, “Tengo Puerto Rico en mi Corazon.” We always talked about independence. Our role models and people we saw as our leaders were the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico.

    IRIS MORALES: Concretely, what that meant for us was that in all of our political undertaking, we sought to connect with the struggle for independence for Puerto Rico. We held a student conference where we organized students from all around the New York area and students from outside the New York area to come. And the specific purpose was to develop Free Puerto Rico Now committees on every campus.

    RICHIE PEREZ: It could not have been done had there not already existed a network of Puerto Rican clubs on campus, the Puerto Rican Student Union. Without that group, we couldn’t have done this. And we got a sense of how strong the potential of them was, and we had a demonstration at the United Nations calling for the independence of Puerto Rico, freedom of the Puerto Rican Nationalists, and an end to police brutality in our communities.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Richie Perez.

Juan, how did you get involved? I mean, Mickey was just talking about seeing you at Columbia. You were a key leader of the Columbia University strike of 1968.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, this was actually in the summer of ’69, when — actually, the spring of ’69, when Mickey started contacting me. And I was still a member of SDS at Columbia in ’69, but that was the period when SDS was going through all of these internal battles and which eventually ended up with the creation of the Weathermen faction and of a variety of other factions. And I pretty much had decided to leave SDS and go back to my own community, where I had been raised as a child, in East Harlem.

And as Mickey said, he knew both my cousins, who still lived in East Harlem. They played ball together, were all great ball players — on the Billikens, was it?

MICKEY MELENDEZ: That’s right.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And so, Mickey convinced me to start going to a group of meetings in East Harlem with Felipe Luciano and with Pablo Guzman and several other folks in something called the Sociedad de Albizu Campos. We then read about this group in Chicago, the Chicago Young Lords, in an SDS newspaper, and they decided to take a trip out there to meet with Cha Cha Jimenez, the leader of the Young Lords. And basically —-

AMY GOODMAN: Who had met Fred Hampton, the Black Panther, in prison?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Who had been inspired initially and politicized by Fred Hampton while he was in prison, while Cha Cha was in prison. And Cha Cha was trying to turn the Young Lords gang in Chicago into a political organization. So we then -— he sort of gave us the go-ahead to start the East Coast branch of the Young Lords, which we did on July 25th of 1969.

But then the group grew dramatically. Within a year, there were branches in Philadelphia; in Newark; in Bridgeport, Connecticut; in Boston, the one that Luis started in Boston; and Detroit; and the New York group grew into hundreds and hundreds of full-time members throughout the East Coast.

But I often say that probably the most audacious and long-lasting action that we ever took was the occupation of Lincoln Hospital in — was it August of 1970?

MICKEY MELENDEZ: That was the first one, yeah.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, and the first occupation of it, where we actually took over a whole — I think it was a fourteen-story building, including the emergency room area. And we gathered about sixty or seventy Young Lords in the middle of the night, piled them all into a truck, drove the truck about 4:00 in the morning up the ramp of the emergency exit, all piled out, and barricaded and seized the whole wing of the hospital.

This was a hospital that had been condemned for twenty-five years, that was known as a place where Puerto Ricans went to die. And the city was delaying the building of a new hospital. So we took over the hospital in protest, demanding the construction, final construction, of the new Lincoln Hospital. And the Lindsay administration, by then, was so embarrassed by all of our various occupations that they actually negotiated within a day.

AMY GOODMAN: Mickey Melendez, you hijacked a TB truck?

MICKEY MELENDEZ: That was — yeah, that was before that. That was all part of our work that we used to do in the community around TB testing. At the time, there wasn’t, you know, translation and, you know, people sometimes couldn’t get downtown. We would do TB testing and would come back two or three days to see if it was negative or positive. The ones that were positive needed a follow-up x-ray.

AMY GOODMAN: For tuberculosis?

MICKEY MELENDEZ: For tuberculosis. The city had this grey truck that would, you know, go around the city, park and do these x-rays. And, you know, we tried to negotiate with the city, which we always did. We always tried to, you know, deal with the powers to be and, you know, again, as I said, you know, to no avail. We then started to watch the truck and see how the — where the truck parked and what was the routine. Never more than twenty, thirty people a day.

So, on one particular day, when we called, and we knew they were going to be in East Harlem, myself and two of the defense people, Jose Pai Diaz and Huey, took over the truck. And we parked it in front of the office. And that day, on the way there, the task of the two other people — I was driving the truck. I had never driven anything bigger than a Volkswagen up until point. Their task was to convince these two technicians to stay on. And, in fact, by the time we got to our office, the technicians stayed on, and over 150 people — unprecedented — had been x-rayed with positive TB tests as a result of some of the medical work that we did in our community.

LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: What I think was very important about that was the fact that —-

AMY GOODMAN: Luis Garden Acosta.

LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: —- the people themselves who were hijacked, at the end of it all, when reporters asked them — this is filmed and documented, by the way — “What do you feel about being hijacked?” they said, “You know what? They were right. We were in the wrong place. We should have been here.” And so, a sort of a myth grew about us being the polite revolutionaries, because we would actually, “Excuse me, we’re about to hijack your truck. Everyone, be safe now.” So, but almost in every instance, whenever we did anything, people would actually come out and say, “You know, they’re absolutely right. Someone should take a stand.” So I think that differentiated the Young Lords from a lot of different groups.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Luis, talk about — because Mickey mentioned at the beginning it was a bunch of young men who got together and organized the group, but women played a very important role in the Young Lords. Can you talk about some of the battles and —-

LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: You know, I came out of a seminary, so I never went to a prom, I never went on dates, I never had any of that kind of usual social interaction. So the world of feminism, of women’s liberation, was absolutely new to me.

But let me tell you, Iris Morales, particularly, and Denise, they led a movement to really challenge our thinking. I went into the Young Lords thinking that I was a very liberated male, you know, open to everything, you know? And they forced me to sort of challenge and look at my sort of attitudes. And I, in that weekly -— weekly — session on women’s liberation in the Young Lords, began to really understand some of the ingrained aspects of my culture that really was a barrier to that equality.

AMY GOODMAN: Sonia Sotomayor, the new Supreme Court justice, Juan, she was what? At Princeton at the time?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, she was in the early ’70s, I think, a student at Princeton. And I have to think that she, like many of the major political figures in the Puerto Rican and Latino community today, were heavily influenced by what the Young Lords did. In fact, her senior thesis at Princeton was on the Puerto Rican — the Puerto Rican political movement on the island and the whole question of the island’s self-determination. But I’ve also, you know, talk to Congressman Jose Serrano often and Fernando Ferrer, who ran for mayor of New York. All of them were deeply influenced, because they were all around the same age or even younger than some of us, and they were in high school or in college at the height of the Young Lords. And they all say that they were deeply influenced by the awareness that the Young Lords created, in general.

LUIS GARDEN ACOSTA: I think Juan said it once, I think for our twentieth anniversary or twenty-fifth. He said, “You know, we have accomplished a lot. We may have not made the kind of revolution that we were talking about totally, but one thing we did, we liberated our minds.” And that was a clear manifestation of the impact of the Young Lords.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will leave it on that note on this fortieth anniversary of the founding of Young Lords. Sunday, a big event, Democracy Now! will be filming up at the First Spanish Methodist Church, the scene of the takeover on East 111th Street. It begins around 11:30-12:00, goes ’til about 3:30. You’ll have a march, the Young Lords, to the church. With the minister?



JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, with the current minister.

AMY GOODMAN: With the current minister.


AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us. Mickey Melendez has written a book about the Young Lords called We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords. Luis Garden Acosta is the head of El Puente. And Juan Gonzalez, co-host here on Democracy Now!

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Up Next

Remembering Pablo Yoruba Guzmán, Young Lords Co-Founder, Afro-Latino Leader, Legendary NYC Journalist

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation