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.
In July 26, 1969, the New York regional chapter was founded. 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. 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 discovered 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."
"Our cry is a very simple and logical one. Puerto Ricans came to this country hoping to get a decent job and to provide for their families; but it didn't take long to find out that the American dream that was publicized so nicely on our island turned out to eb the amerikkkan nightmare" - Union Estudiantil Boricua
The Puerto Rican Student's Union evolved into the student front of the Young Lords organizing in college campuses and their communities (Melendez, 190). Don Pedro Albizu Campos' political views about the Puerto Rican national identity needing to rid itself of U.S. imperialism and oppression had a profound impact on the Puerto Rican student activism in the late 1960s and 1970s. The Young Lords and other Nuyorican arts and activists saw that generations of Puerto Ricans were being taught they had no history, were alienated from their culture, and had no national identity aside from second class citizenship. Thus the struggle of the Young Lords was to link Nuyoricans with thier past as means for combating community problems with police brutality, public housing crisis, unemployment, education, and health care.
The Young Lords militant tactics were in part, built on Don Pedro's model of a nationalist revolutionary opposed to the repression imposed by the facist powers that be. However, the Young Lords coupled their anti-oppression framework with issue based mass mobilizations that again, addressed the needs of Nuyorican communities in NYC and other working class communities at large.
Below is the 13 Point Program and Platform of the Young Lords:
1. We want self-determination for Puerto Ricans. Liberation on the Island and inside the United States.
2.We want self-determination for all Latinos.
3.We want liberation of all Third World people.
4.We are revolutionary nationalists and oppose racism.
5.We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male chauvanism.
6.We want community control of our institutions and land.
7.We want a true education of our Afro-Indio culture and Spanish language.
8.We oppose capitalists and alliances with traitors.
9.We oppose the Amer'kkkan military.
10.We want freedom for all political prisoners and prisoners of war.
11.We are internationalists.
12.We believe armed self-defense and armed struggle are the only means to liberation.
13.We want a socialist society.
Young Lord Quotes
"Whereever a Puerto Rican is, the duty of a Puerto Rican is to make the revolution." - Gloria Gonzalez
"Revolution means change from the top to the bottom, and that includes the way we deal with eachother as human beings." - Richie Perez
"We're saying that...it would be healthy for a man, if he wanted to cry, to go ahead and cry. It would also be healthy for a woman to pick up a gun." - Pablo "Yoruba" Guzman
"We're trying to make a society where opportunity is the rule for everybody." - Pablo "Yoruba" Guzman
- Jennifer 8. Lee, "The Young Lords' Legacy of Puerto Rican Activism", New York Times, City Room blog, Aug. 24 2009.