Thursday, September 03, 2009

The spirit of the Young Lords lives on

It was 1969, the year remembered by many as when the New York Mets won the World Series. It was also the year that a group of Puerto Rican activists formed the New York chapter of the Young Lords.

The revolutionary Young Lords Party, which led protests against conditions faced by Puerto Ricans and led to the takeover of the First Spanish Methodist “The People’s” Church in East Harlem in December 1969, definitely has its place in history for their activism to bring change in the Puerto Rican community in New York and elsewhere. Last month, the former Young Lords came together to celebrate the 40th anniversary at the old East Harlem church. While the group doesn’t exist today, the legacy of the Young Lords continues. 

On that hot August Sunday, more than 20 former members of the Lords gathered at the church to share their experiences, inspiring a current and future generation of young activists to take action against injustices affecting their community. 

The church in El Barrio was standing room only. Several former Young Lords -- who at one time were street gang members and drug users -- shared stories of how they turned their lives around because of their activism. A beautiful part of the event was that Young Lords from other cities attended in solidarity. They included representatives from Philadelphia, Connecticut, and Chicago. 

Among the attendees was the man who, inspired by the Black Panther Party, first created the Young Lords in Chicago: Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez. “Seeing the community here and seeing some these comrades shows we did a lot of good,” he said. “It shows our love for the people.”

The young people in attendance were encouraged to take advantage of things they have access to such as the Internet to stay informed, active and involved in community development.

After the event, the group celebrated at the nearby Julia De Burgos Latino Cultural Center in East Harlem. Rosa Clemente, a college student who wrote a thesis on the Young Lords, stated: “Today’s activity was a educational experience not just for me for all youth and people; they are my inspiration, my sisters and brothers. The Lords are still alive. PALANTE!” – Ismael Nunez

Ismael Nunez is a contributing writer to Puerto Rico Sun.



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